Millions of people from all walks of life are re-discovering the joy that comes from working on and maintaining their own homes. With the rising cost of contract labor and real estate, now more than ever is the time to maintain and improve what you already own. It can sometimes be a challenge figuring out which projects are ones that you can tackle on your own over a weekend and which ones are better left to a professional. The ideal situation of course, is made up of projects that you can do on your own, simply because of expense.
With the variety and availability of professional products that are on the market now from most retailers, pouring a concrete walkway is definitely on the list of things that you can do yourself. If you don't mind breaking a sweat and getting a little dirty, the technical aspects of this job are quickly learned, and the step by step instructions are not difficult to follow. This is a project that you can tackle with confidence and one that you can finish with pride.
When I was a kid, it appeared that I was going to make a career out of starting projects that I could not finish. Looking back, I can attribute most of those failures to a lack of preparation. I perpetually drove my father nuts because he is a detail oriented person who plans every facet of a project down to the last penny nail before he even thinks about beginning. I was more prone to fly by the seat of my pants and if things didn't go well, I'd adjust on the run or more often than not, just quit.
That being said, this is a project that does require a little planning. Be like my dad. Take the time to draw a picture of exactly what you want to do. Write down the steps that you are going to follow and then stick to it.
One of the main reasons you want to do this is so you have an accurate shopping list, and so you don't spend half your time running back and forth to the home improvement store to get supplies. Nothing adds time, expense and frustration to a project more than not being adequately prepared. As you sit down to draw your picture and prepare your list, here are some things that you definitely want to make sure are on it.
Lumber: 1x4 and 2x4. You will need the 1x4 to build the form that the concrete will be poured into. Depending on the size of your project, make sure you have enough to go all the way around the outside of your proposed walkway. The 2x4 will be used to screed the wet concrete. One 2 x 4 x 8 should be sufficient.
Screws: The screw will be used to attach the 1x4 to the stakes. Make sure you get screws that require a tip that you have for your screw gun.
Wire mesh: This usually comes in rolls. It is big, and dirty and a pain, but will add a lot of strength to your walkway. Don't get lazy and skip this step; it's just not worth it.
Concrete: We'll discuss this in greater detail later on, but for now, just get basic concrete mix.
Mixing Tub/Wheelbarrow: I always use a wheelbarrow because I don't have to shovel the concrete twice that way. If you want to save some expense and get a cheap mixing tub it will work fine, you just have to handle the wet concrete one more time when you shovel it out of the tub and into the pour.
Trowels: Pointing, edging and a float. The trowels and floats come in a variety of qualities. If you are a do-it-yourselfer who isn't going to use them everyday, I would suggest going middle of the road on price. You don't need the very best since you don't use it daily, but you also get what you pay for and the lower quality tools may directly affect the finished product.
Stiff Broom: This will be used to add the no slip texture to your walkway.
Rake: You will need a rake to level the dirt or gravel surface underneath your walkway before you begin pouring.
String 500': The string will be used to lay out your walkway and will be very valuable as you try to ensure that your form is square.
Wooden Stakes: These will be driven into the ground and used to fasten the 1x4 that makes up the form.
Hand tamper: Also used to ensure that the ground is flat and level underneath the pour.
Sledge hammer: Used to drive the stakes for the form.
Brian Simkins is a freelance writer living in Chicago. He enjoys using his 14 years of home improvement experience to educate and equip new home owners.