How To Pour A Concrete Slab In 5 Easy Steps

Researching how to pour a concrete slab? You’re probably trying to learn more about a home improvement project to understand the process a little more or an amateur getting ready to attempt their first concrete pour.

You can probably do it, but we’ve spent a lot of time tearing out improper work to do the job right. It’s not a complicated idea: you pour the cement and it hardens…but that’s also the problem. How hard can it be, right?

You quite literally get one shot to do the job right, because the cement mixing plant isn’t going to give you a second load for free or demo and remove a bad pour, that’s on the contractor. If you still want that perfect homebrew slab, here are some tips from a pro.

Concrete installers know how to pour a concrete slab for a backyard patio

Step 1: Hire A Concrete Pro, Save Yourself The Trouble

You’ve been warned: if you want professional results you need to hire an experienced contractor. Don’t think you’re going to save money on labor by going with the cheapest crew because that won’t cut the mustard either. More bad work has been done by substandard work and inexperienced contractors than all the DIYers put together.

When you hire a expert, you’ll get great results. When you hire the lowest bidder, you get exactly what you pay for. In the case of a concrete slab, you’ll get moisture control issues, drainage problems, insufficient reinforcement, bad forms and a bad finish. If you’re lucky, the worst part will be the finish because any errors before that will require a full tear out.

Save yourself the heartaches and headaches, hire a pro to build the concrete slab you deserve.

Concrete slab cost for 2023 and how do you pour a concrete slab?

Step 2: If Going DIY, Prepare To Dig

Committing to a DIY concrete project is the sign of determination and gumption. That’s great, because you’re going to work your ass off. Start by grabbing shovel instead of the backhoe so you do less damage. The most important part of any concrete slab well done is the start.

The way to prepare a subbase for a slab on grade is to remove all the organic material and get to your target depth. This will not only include the thickness of your slab but also the subbase required to support it. Without proper subbase, even a perfect pour will end up heaving or cracked. If you don’t want to dig, it’s not too late to find an expert before you make them charge you more to fix a bad job.

Commercial concrete companies install concrete entryways, plazas, courtyards and patios

Step 3: Reinforce It Or Don’t Bother At All

You’ve done the excavating for your concrete slab, you’ve got your subbase, now what? You’ve got to add your reinforcement. This could be steel rebar, steel dowels, wire mesh or fiber reinforcement. This is determined by what the intended use of your slab is. Even the smallest concrete slab should have steel reinforcement because if it doesn’t it will crack and fail.

Reinforcements should be tightly bound and secure to form a single mass of steel. The forms are even more important than the interior reinforcement. Without proper forms, your pour could burst out and you’ll have a real mess on your hands. Don’t forget a proper vapor barrier or  your slab will be doomed to moisture intrusion and cracking in a matter of time.

Pouring concrete slab cost

Step 4: The Pour, You Get One Chance

When Step 4 is over, you’ll feel a huge sigh of relief. The clouds will open up, the sun will shine a little brighter and the birds will fly a little slower once the stress of an upcoming pour is over. Until that moment, you should be worried about double and triple checking your forms, reinforcement, subbase and your order from the cement mixing plant.

When the delivery truck leaves the plant with your mix, it’s your baby. That whole load is bought and paid for. If you’re not ready or find issues with your site…it’s a costly issue to say the least. Once that mix starts to flow, you’re committed and there’s no second chance to get it right. If your forms fail, the nightmare has just begun. Cross your fingers because it’s too late to hire a pro to dig you out of a mess at this point. Your concrete slab is almost ready!

New concrete slab

Step 5: Don’t Ruin Your Finish

If you’ve got a mass of wet cement that didn’t break the forms or come up short from bad math or calculation errors, congratulations! It’s very satisfying and you’re ready to become an artist because finishing can be the most critical step to complete a job well done. There’s still plenty of opportunity to run your project at this moment. 

If you’ve opted to go with the easiest finishing option, you’ll be using a stiff brush to create a broom finish. This will give it that classic texture that works for most applications. If you’re attempting stamped concrete, you’ll get halfway across your concrete slab canvas before you get a good rhythm down, but you’ll always remember your hard work by the footprints that will no doubt be left behind.

It’s all fun and games until you spend a few thousand dollars on a pour that ends up cracking, misshapen or soured by improper preparation. If you’re near Houston or Montgomery County, Texas, we implore you to consider the benefits of hiring a master cement mason for your concrete slab. The extra cost will more than pay for itself by how many extra years of use and enjoyment you’ll get out of your new surface.

Our quotes are zero-pressure and no-obligation. Call us for your 100% free estimate today!