How to lay a concrete path

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Pouring your own concrete path is not nearly as difficult as some would think. In fact, this is a great do-it-yourself project for the first time homeowner. Concrete paths can lead from the sidewalk to your front door or anywhere else in your yard. You can plant grass next to the concrete path or you can garden around it. Digging your own path also allows you to determine the best width. This is a weekend project. Take your time and your new concrete path will look wonderful.

Mark where the edges of the concrete path will be with either garden hoses or spray paint. Straight paths will be easier to frame than curvy paths, however the process will be the same no matter the shape of your path. Make sure the path is the same width all the way down.

Use a sod cutter to remove the sod from the dirt. Remove the sod approximately 75 mm (3 inches) past where the edge of your concrete path will be, to allow for the wooden form.

Use a shovel to dig out the rest of the trench. The trench should be 150 to 200 mm (6 to 8 inches) deep and should be a uniform depth both across the width and down the length.

Screw wooden stakes to the ends of 75 mm (3 inch) wooden garden edging. Keep the top of the stakes below the top of the garden edging. Place the garden edging along the edge of the path.

Pound the stakes into the ground until the top of the garden edging is level with where the surface of the concrete path will be. Place a board across the two sides of the path. Place a level on the board to make sure both sides are equal height. Re-check this every 450 mm (18 inches).

Compact the soil within the path, using a plate compactor. Pour gravel over the compacted soil. Spread the gravel evenly over the path with a rake. The depth of the gravel should be approximately 100 mm (4 inches).

Place a roll of concrete mesh at one end of the path. Unroll the mesh down the entire path. Cut the excess mesh off with a bolt cutters, when you get to the end of your path. Cut the sides of the mesh off until it is about 75 mm (3 inches) away from the frame on either side.

Pour concrete onto the gravel. Work in 90 to 120 cm (3 to 4 foot) sections at a time. Use a metal rake to spread it. Continue until you have poured the entire length of the path.

Lay a 50 by 100 mm (2 by 4 inch) board across the path. Push the board forward along the path while at the same time pulling it back and forth in a sawing motion. This will smooth the surface of the concrete. Fill in any low areas with more concrete and go over the area with the 50 by 100 mm (2 by 4 inch) again.

Stand on one side of the concrete path. Place a bull float onto the surface of the path. Push the float forward while slightly lifting the leading edge. Pull it back towards you while slightly lifting the back edge. Continue this down the length of the path.

Wait for any excess water to dry up from the surface of the concrete. Place a mag float onto the surface of the concrete. Move the mag float back and forth across the surface of the concrete, in long, sweeping motions. Lift the leading edge of the mag float as you do this.

Round the outside corners of the path with an edging tool. Place the tool between the concrete and the wood form. Move the edging tool back and forth over the concrete. Work in a 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 foot) area at a time. Make your way down the entire length of the path and then repeat on the other side.

Measure the length of your path. Divide it as evenly as possible to determine where to place the segment cuts. You will need a cut every 150 to 180 cm (5 to 6 feet).

Lay a straight edge, such as a 50 by 100 mm (2 by 4 inch), across the path at the first cut site. Put the side edge of a groover against the straight edge, with the cutting strip pushing into the concrete. Slide the groover along the straight edge. Repeat at all the cut sites.

Rest a push broom gently on the surface of the concrete, on the side opposite the side you are standing on. Pull the broom towards you. Continue down the entire length of the path. Overlap the broom strokes by 150 mm (6 inches) each time.

Allow the concrete to dry until it is firm to the touch. Spread a sheet of 4mm plastic over the surface of the concrete. Hold the sheet in place off the path, with large rocks or bricks. Leave the plastic in place for 24 hours.

Remove the plastic. Use a shovel as leverage to pull the stakes in the wood frame out of the ground. Do not push the shovel against the newly poured path. Instead, push the back of the shovel against the dirt as you pull the stakes out.

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