Shortly before we bought the house the previous owners had to do some unexpected septic repair which entailed removing an eight foot section of the sidewalk. The buying and purchasing of this property was in the fall/winter months so replacing the sidewalk was not a top priority on anyone’s list at the time. The previous owners had built a sturdy walkway out of wood to make due for the time being. While this worked temporarily I did not want to have a slippery wooden walkway with a toddler for this upcoming winter, so I enlisted my Dad’s help to ensure that it would be fixed and safe for this upcoming winter!
I had a basic idea of how to pour concrete but was pretty sure there had to be some background info that I did not know. My Dad has done construction since before I was alive and now works as the maintenance director for a local school so he has a great background with things of this nature, very handy!
Gather all of your tools:
shovel, wooden 2 x 4’s cut to the length you need- my local hardware store cut it to length for me, wooden ground stakes, small nails, hammer, garden hoe, wheelbarrow, hose and water source, trowel, edger, a cement broom and an extra 2 x 4 to skim the top, cement-calculate correctly to ensure you have enough, I used the website: https://www.concretenetwork.com/concrete/howmuch/calculator.htm to determine how much cement to get. I’m sure your hardware store will be happy to help as long as you have the measurements of the area you are going to be cementing.
Here’s the Steps:
- Dig the ground to create a good base for concrete, 4″ in the center and 5″ around the edge.
- Figure out the “mold” using 2 x 4’s remembering that the cement is going to fill those entire forms which will result in the final shape
- Stake the 2 x 4’s into place and nail the 2 x 4 to the stake ensuring stability when you pour in the cement
- Mix the cement. I assumed there was a certain ratio of cement to water but we literally just dumped the concrete bag into the wheelbarrow, made a hole in the center using the hoe, similar to adding liquid to cake batter and added a fair amount of water and mixed. The dry cement mixture needed more water then I would have guessed initially and quickly soaked it up.
- Mix well ensuring there are no dry spots in the mixture
- dump cement inside your 2 x 4 form
- Once you fill in the form use the extra 2 x 4 to level off the cement inside the form using a seesaw back and forth motion. There may be sections that are too low, just shovel in extra cement and re-do that section with the 2 x 4. I did notice that tapping this extra cement down in these areas with the shovel helped to settle the cement to ensure every crack and crevice was filled. Before doing this step the cement was really rocky on top and uneven which made me nervous. This step helped “push” those rocks down and made the surface smooth.
- After everything was smoothed my Dad took the magnesium trowel and started to fine tune the surface of the cement. He said you can use a metal trowel as well but he personally prefers a magnesium trowel as he feels it gets the moisture in the cement to rise better and drive the rocks down.
- He then handed it off to me and it was surprisingly easy. Use the very edge of the trowel held at a 30-45 degree angle and smooth the surface. This will bring the “butter” to the top. The butter is the liquid, it was surprising to me how much moisture came to the surface.
- He kept telling me to take my time and I was, but apparently started to take too much time. He pointed out that once the shine on the surface dulls and you can start to see the texture of the cement it’s starting to dry.
- He then used the edger to run it along the side of the cement to give it a nice rounded edge.
- The last step in pouring the cement was to take the cement broom and add a little more texture. My Dad wanted to add swirly designs in it with the broom but the rest of our sidewalk is pretty basic so he literally just swept it forward in a straight line.
- Ok, so maybe one more step, we had to add Scarlett’s handprint into the cement! Since I was rather slow at the troweling step it was a little more difficult to do this step due to the cement hardening.
My Dad said I could do this last bit of the process after 24 hours but we honestly didn’t have time until two weeks after pouring the cement. I took a claw hammer and busted the cement that had overflowed the edges of the 2 x 4’s. I picked these up and disposed of them. I then used the hammer to easily pull up the 2 x 4’s and stakes from the ground. I thought this was going to be difficult and that the cement would adhere to the wood but it didn’t at all. I grabbed a shovel and leveled the dirt that we had dug out for the base to the new sidewalk. After that Scarlett and I spread grass seed around the area by hand.
I am so pleased with the sidewalk and am almost excited for winter to get here to test it out! I hope this makes the task of pouring a sidewalk a little less daunting. I was certainly surprised by how much I learned and how comfortable I became with the process, besides taking too much time perfecting the surface, cement was pretty forgiving to work with if you plan everything out well! It isn’t perfect by any means, blending it to the existing sidewalk works well but you can definitely see it but I am still so happy with myself for taking on this surprisingly easy DIY project! Good luck and I hope you are just as pleased with your project, I am sure it will be amazing!