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How to Build a Concrete Drive

how to lay a concrete drive

If you’ve recently moved into a home with no off-road parking, or you’ve been without off-road parking for sometime in the home that you own, then it might be time to start thinking about a driveway. As well as being useful for parking, they can also add a bit of character to your home, providing something different from a path or a lawn. Laying a concrete driveway is a process that requires serious care and attention, and the team at iMix have put together this guide to help you through the laying of your new driveway.

Step 1: Planning Makes Perfect

You need to work out what your driveway is going to look like – not just for aesthetic purposes, but for logistic reasons too. For example:

  • Turning of your vehicle onto and off the driveway – if you live on a corner, this can be particularly important to consider.
  • Will the driveway be on a hill? Take this into account for drainage and irrigation purposes, as well as avoiding the risk of scraping your vehicle on the slope!
  • Are there any obstructions to your planned driveway? (Watch out for trees,  underground pipework and drainage systems.)

Step 2: Costing

So you’ve decided what you want it to look like and you’ve accounted for any obstructions/special requirements for your property. The next step is to estimate how much it will cost you. There are several factors that need to be considered when costing your driveway, including:

  • The amount of concrete required and any reinforcements that may be used
  • Hire of any equipment
  • Labour costs, should you require professional assistance
  • Other materials including gravel, fabric underlay, mesh/rebar reinforcements

Step 3: Planning Permission

There may be some permissions required in order to build a driveway on your property. This is because your driveway will most likely encroach upon a county right-of-way, which may impact things like public drains. Contact your local council to discuss more about planning permission before you begin any works.

Step 4: Soil Specifications

Different types of soil require certain types of care before you build on them. If the soil is loamy or loose, you will need to reinforce it before building upon it, so that your driveway is fully supported. Add clay, gravel or sand to these soft soils, and then you don’t have to worry about your drive sinking! If you’re unsure how to find out what kind of soil you have, consult a professional builder, civil engineer or landscaper.

Step 5: Establish the Perimeter

Similar to the steps taken when laying a patio, you should lay out the edges of your driveway using wooden stakes and string or builder’s line. The stakes should be driven into the ground along the sides of the proposed drive, at the point where your drive meets the road, and where it meets your home. If you’re planning to park a single car on the drive, you should be aiming for a width of around 10 or 12 feet.

Step 6: Dig Out the Driveway

Once you’ve set up your perimeter, you’re happy with it and you know it will work, it’s time to get digging. It is important at this point to remember what kind of soil you are working with – if it is soft soil, you’ll need to dig deep enough for you to add a fill layer, such as gravel or crushed rock. A proper base will offer invaluable protection against freezing and cracking in the colder months.

Step 7: Install the Forms

Before you do this, please make sure you are aware of any underground utilities that may be affected by the installation of your drive, and any necessary changes have been made. Install a selection of 2x4s, supported by wooden stakes, along the perimeter lines of your new driveway. If your new driveway is going to be curved, use plywood that can bend to support the concrete and follow the dimensions of your drive, but can do so without snapping.

Step 8: Depth Test

Make sure there is sufficient space between your soil or filling materials and the top of your support forms for the concrete slabs you need. Usually, the slabs should be four inches thick but if your driveway is going to be used by heavier vehicles, thicker concrete might be required. Using string, tie across the forms, above the space where the patio will be poured. Once you have tied the string above the forms, measure down from the string to the soil to work out the depth of the driveway – this will indicate how thick your concrete needs to be. .

Step 9: Compaction

This process is crucial to ensuring that your soil can withstand the weight of the concrete. You can either use compacting machine, which you can rent from a tool hire company, or a hand tamp to compact your soil. For added efficacy, use a small amount of water as you compact.

Step 10: Reinforcements

This is not mandatory, but if you want to have your driveway strengthened even more, you can either use steel bars (number 4 rebar), or you can request fibre reinforcing agents added to your concrete mix when it is created.

Step 11: Pour

This is the main event; the previous 10 steps have lead up to this moment. Pouring your concrete requires precision, the correct equipment and patience. Using a mixing truck and concrete pump, such as the vehicles from iMix’s modern fleet, you can pour your concrete into place quicker than you would using a wheelbarrow to lug the mixture to and from the lorry. Concrete pumps allow for the utmost precision when pouring, as they can go around corners, over walls, and even up and over buildings to the exact location that your concrete needs to be.

Step 12: Finishes

Once it has been poured, you will need to make sure that the concrete is not too slippery – nobody wants tyre marks on their drive from where their wheels have been spinning. Using a brush or even a burlap sack, drag the item back and forth across the concrete whilst it is not fully set, leaving a slightly rugged finish that doesn’t detract from the overall look fo the surface.

Step 13: Curing

Using a plastic sheet or a curing compound, you must let the concrete cure – that is, it needs to set without drying out too quickly. To maximise the efficiency of the curing process, you should protect the concrete for between three and seven days before using – this helps to account for any extreme weather conditions that may occur.

Step 14: The Vehicle Test

You’ve done all the hard work, now to see if your driveway is ready to use. After at least three days of curing, drive your vehicle onto the driveway to test its strength.

Step 15: Farewell Forms

Your driveway has passed the vehicle test, it’s ready to go after one more thing: the removal of the forms. Take them out, taking care to repair any damage to the lawn that may have occurred during your construction project- now you’re good to go!

That’s our handy guide to laying your own driveway at home. Most of it can be done with a bit of dedication and hard work, but for the areas where professional assistance is required, like pumping and pouring concrete – you’ll need the help of iMix. We’re experts in the creation, delivery and pouring of the highest quality concrete mixes – for more information about what we do, please get in touch with us today either by calling our friendly team on 0800 030 9015 or by filling in our handy contact form.

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