Help estimating concrete patio costs

Written by shane grey
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Help estimating concrete patio costs
Concrete stamps add visual interest and increase the project's cost. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Concrete patio slabs consist of relatively few materials and it's easy to calculate a rough project estimate if you know the size of the patio. Concrete slabs are essentially broad, shallow cubes. To calculate the volume of the cube and its base layers, you must determine patio's length, width and thickness. In most cases, length and width are variable and local building codes dictate a patio slab's required thickness. With an idea of the patio's size and the materials required to complete the project you can estimate costs and set a budget.

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Site preparation

Even before the concrete pour, concrete patio construction requires substantial labour and materials. Site preparation involves staking, layout and excavation. Staking and layout require several hours and the tools and materials required include marking paint, stakes, string line and measuring tools. Although shovels are suitable for excavating small projects, large concrete slabs require excavation equipment. You can hire a contractor to perform grading and excavation or rent equipment from a local equipment yard.


Concrete forms are essentially boxes that create the concrete patio slab's shape. The most common forming material is lumber. Typically 37 mm (1 1/2 inch) thick and laid on edge, the width of forming lumber minus sub base materials determines the finished thickness of the patio slab. For example, lumber 140 mm (5 1/2 inches) wide without gravel or sand infill creates a slab 140 mm (5 1/2 inches) thick. Form carpenters typically connect adjacent form boards with simple butt joints and stabilise the perimeter of the entire form with wood or metal stakes. In addition to lumber, stakes and fasteners, building forms requires levelling and measuring tools.

Sub base and concrete

Sub-base materials and concrete account for the bulk of a concrete patio project's materials costs. Gravel layers separate the finished slab from underlying soil and generally increase in size proportionately to a slab's thickness. Sand layers are typically several inches thick and serve as a smooth, level pouring surface for concrete. Home improvement stores and materials yards sell bulk gravel, sand and concrete by the cubic yard. To estimate your requirements, calculate the volume of each material's layer. Added to the cost of concrete, many jurisdictions require rebar embedded within patio slabs. Concrete delivered by truck costs substantially more than concrete mixed on-site, however, pre-mixed, delivered concrete greatly reduces labour costs.

Free assistance

Provided that you express interest in making a purchase, most home improvement stores will provide free estimates of materials costs based on your custom building plans. Approach the contractor or commercial sales associates with blueprints or, at the least, a detailed set of dimensions for your project. Likewise, building contractors routinely provide quotes. Although home improvement stores will not estimate labour, it's wise to obtain quotes from both materials suppliers and contractors; you might find discrepancies worth investing or discover that your source of materials is less expensive than the contractor's.

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