There are a number of reasons to select concrete as the material of choice for a given paving project. When done right, concrete can offer a great look, and it can be used in a wide variety of settings where other pavement choices may not be appropriate. Of course, at the same time, concrete can also be difficult to work with and installation can be tricky. To have a concrete project completed successfully on your residential or commercial property, you are going to want to pick a contractor with a long history in this business. There is nothing like experience when it comes to managing a concrete installation job properly, so trust a company that has ‘been there, done that’.
What is it that makes concrete installation such a tricky business? Well, for starters, no concrete project is exactly the same. Since water is used within concrete during the installation process, it is impossible to get exactly the same kind of mix from day to day. Changes in the weather, the raw materials, and more can all affect how the concrete is going to come out when it is mixed. Only an experienced hand will be able to make the fine adjustments necessary to come away with a quality piece of concrete in the end. If you don’t start with good concrete, you aren’t going to wind up with a great finished product – it’s just that simple.
Preparing the Site
Before concrete can even arrive on location, the site itself needs to be prepared for the installation. The details of this prep work are going to depend completely on the type of project at hand. At a very minimum, all of the natural vegetation and plant life that is present within the area to be covered with concrete will need to go. It is crucial that the sub base is formed properly before concrete is poured or the installation may not hold up to the weather over the long run. Again, this is where an experienced, professional contractor will come in handy. A good contractor is not going to allow the project to go forward until the sub base is in perfect condition.
With the sub base work complete, the forms will need to be placed for the job. Forms are like the outline of the concrete installation that is about to take place. This is another part of the process where shortcuts cannot be taken. The way the forms are placed on the ground reflects precisely how the concrete is going to look when it is finished, so care must be taken to get them exactly right. More than just a few pieces of wood tossed down on the ground, the building of a proper form is no different than building any other kind of structure. They are put together in a way that will allow them to hold firm while the concrete is curing, and then be pulled away once the concrete is set.
Pouring and Finishing
There is more to a quality concrete installation than simply pouring concrete into forms and calling it a day. Once the concrete has been poured, it then needs to be properly finished by experienced workers. The method of pouring is going to depend on the job site in question. A site with easy access may allow for pouring straight from the truck, while a crowded site might require that the concrete is walked up to the forms in wheelbarrows. Either way, work will begin almost immediately on the concrete once it has been placed into the forms. Finishing begins by using a board to ‘screed’ the top of the concrete surface. This is done both to compact the concrete as well as to begin to level it off on the top.
Depending on the desired finish for the concrete, it may be necessary to next move on to using a trowel. Troweling is only performed after the concrete has begun to firm up. The troweling finish work is not an easy skill to learn, and it is something that takes plenty of time and practice to master. If you are going to have your concrete installation troweled, make sure the work is being done by someone who is well-qualified to handle the task.
The Curing Process
Once all of the finishing work has been completed, there is nothing left to do but let the concrete cure. As you might expect, this can take a considerable amount of time. Roughly speaking, it can take four weeks for a new concrete installation to fully cure. However, you usually will not need to wait that long to use your concrete surface. Within a few days, you should be able to walk on the surface safely, and you can probably park on the concrete within a week or so of installation.
One of the key elements in the curing process of temperature, so keeping that in mind when deciding how much time you need to give your new concrete. If the work has been done during a warm part of the year, the concrete will cure quickly and you should have no problem sticking with the usage schedule mentioned above. With that said, cold weather is going to slow down the curing process significantly. If for instance, nighttime temperatures are falling below the freezing mark when your concrete is placed, you will want to make sure to give the new concrete as long as possible to cure completely.
Concrete is commonly used for a wide range of applications, but that doesn’t mean that installing concrete is easy work. There are plenty of ways in which this job can go wrong, which is why it should always be trusted to an experienced team. Once you have a clear plan for where you want the concrete to go, and what purpose you want it to serve, be sure to contact an experienced contractor with the staff and equipment needed to get the job done correctly.