HOW TO BUILD A CONCRETE PATH – Building a concrete path is not that difficult to do. Like most DIY jobs it really comes down to careful planning and preparation. The primary considerations are the length, width and if the path with curve and once you have decided on these you set about building your path. In this guide we provide you with easy to follow instructions so you can build a concrete path of any length, any width and if it’s straight or curving.
Decide where you want your path to start and finish. Typically a path should be approximately 3 feet in width as this will allowing two people to walk side by side down the path comfortably. If you want the path wider then simply make it as wide as you need.
The easiest way to determine overall length is to take some marking paint and mark the ground where you want it to go. Include any curves the path may have. Once you have the line of your path you can measure your intended width and then mark out the opposite line. When completed you should have two lines of roughly equal distances apart and you can now clearly see your intended path and any curves you might have.
You now need to dig out the entire length of your path, between the lines that you marked out, to a depth of about 8 inches. This can be hard work, especially if you have a very long path. If you can get a friend or two to help you out. Start by taking a shovel and cutting the edges, once you have completed this on both sides you work along the path removing the turf and then soil. Use a tape measure to make sure you dig out at least 8 inches along the entire length. Don’t worry if it’s a little deeper in some places, you’ll level off the area with sand later.
Now that you have completed digging out the area you need to compact the bottom of the path using a hand tamper or motorized compactor. If you do have a large path then the work can be much easier if you use a motorized compactor and these can be hired from most good Tool Hire companies. When you have finished this step you should have a pathway where the ground, within your markings is very well compacted.
You are now ready to make the forms. These will be fitted to the sides of the path and will help keep the concrete in place once it’s poured. Take some plywood and cut this to a depth of 8 inches. This is the same depth as your path and once installed will provide you with a level where the concrete will come to. Secure the forms along both sides of the path, every 2 feet with wooden stakes.
Where you have curves in the path it is advisable to put in more stakes so that it holds the plywood in place. The main reason for using plywood is due to its flexibility and you can easily form curves with it.
When you have all your plywood forms in place you need to ensure that they are level. Take a length of timber and place it across the path onto both sides of the plywood forms. Now place a spirit level on top and work your way down the entire length of your path and ensure both sides are level. You can use a mallet to tap the forms down, either side until they are level with one another.
Now that your plywood forms are in you want to make sure they cannot move, especially along any areas that are curved. You can do this by screwing the plywood to the stakes with some old screws or even nails. Just make sure that the form work is good and sturdy when you have finished.
You are now ready to add the core base to the path. Add approximately 4 inches of aggregate along the length of the path and rack this over until it is even. Once you have covered the entire area it is time to pour the concrete.
Making and pouring the concrete will depend on the overall size of your path. If you are building a very small path then you can mix the concrete by hand. For paths over 10 feet in length we could suggest you use an electric cement mixer and if you are building a very long path then you can order cement that is ready mixed and will be delivered in a cement truck.
There are different ways to make concrete and these are dependant upon what you are doing. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions on the bags of cement for mixing instructions. If you are having the cement delivered then the cement company will know the right mixture for the job you are doing, once they have the overall measurement.
Pour the concrete over the aggregate to the level of the forms and rake it level and you work. Concrete does start to cure quickly, especially on hot days, so you need to have a hose handy and wet down the area to keep the concrete pliable until you have completed the entire length.
When you have all of your concrete poured, take a length of timber and place this across both sides of the plywood forms. Using a sawing action, start from the top and work your way down, to screed the concrete. This will level off the concrete to the forms. As you do work your way down, use the sawing action and then go back and tamper the concrete. This will help to remove any air bubbles in the cement. Once you have finished screeding the concrete use a trowel to smooth and level off your path.
While the concrete is firming you can add a pattern or texture to make it non-slip and this is a really good idea. You can buy concrete stencils that will form patterns. Check out your local DIY store and ask the staff about concrete stencils and you should find you have a number of patterns to choose from. You can if you wish, at the time of ordering or mixing the cement, apply additives to the concrete, such as a dye in order to add color to your project.
For concrete to be very strong it needs to be cured properly. It is never a good idea to pour concrete on a very hot day because the water evaporates far too quickly, causing the concrete to crack and weaken.
Once you have completed the job use a hose with a fine mist sprinkler head and keep the surface of the concrete under a constant film of water. This may sound a bit strange but this is the proper way to cure concrete. You will, over the next couple of days see your concrete turn from a very dark gray to a very light dusty gray and once it reaches the light dusty gray colour then the concrete is fully cured and it will be extremely strong. Do not use the path for at least 2 or 3 days while the concrete is curing.