DIY Concrete is hard work!
DIY concrete work isn't difficult, but it can be very hard work. The amount of concrete you have to mix and transport will determine just how much effort the DIY concrete project will take, and therefore how much hard and strenuous work there will be. And there is another factor that will make or break a DIY concrete project, and that is the concrete mix you use. So before you get started on a project involving concrete, do a bit of homework first.
Concrete is a very strong building material and it's one that we use both inside and outside our homes. For example we use concrete to build the foundations that we build our brick or masonry walls on; we use concrete for floor slabs; but we also use concrete for garden paths and other garden structures.
But concrete is a bit different to other building materials, because it's made up of several other materials - namely cement, sand and crushed stone - that we mix together with just enough water to form a pliable fresh concrete material that we place and then compact to get rid of air bubbles. So before you start any DIY work that involves concrete, you need to be sure that you know which type of cement, sand and stone you need.
You'll get cement from your local building store and they will advise which is best for a concrete mix (often what they label as a common cement). Your store may also sell bags of sand and stone. For very small jobs you can buy a single bag with all the raw materials you need. Then all you do is mix these together and add the water. But even a garden path is likely to require more materials than this. Also the mix that you use will depend on the size stone you use - and the bigger the stone, the more difficult it'll be to mix. A good quality cement will have mix ratio information printed on the sack.
When it comes to sand, you will notice that this looks quite a lot like beach sand, although the colour and texture will vary from area to area, even within a single country. But don?t even be tempted to use beach or dune sand because this contains salt - apart from which it is illegal to remove beach sand.
Many of the concrete mix tables that DIY builders use are based on what we call nominal proportions that we measure by volume. So, for example, you might be told to use a 1:4:4 mix for a low strength concrete suitable for a garden path. What this means is for every measure of cement (1) you will need four times the amount of both sand and stone. You can use a drum or a wheelbarrow to measure this out, but be sure to use the same container for each dry material.
Then you?ll have to mix the concrete. Mixing by hand really can be hard work. Otherwise you can use a concrete mixer. But if you are mixing a lot of concrete, for foundations or a floor slab, the best plan is to order your concrete ready mixed. You will still have to transport, place and compact the concrete, so it will still qualify as a project involving DIY concrete.