How to make a concrete slab or paver
Make your own concrete slabs or pavers and save some big bucks, with these steps
Looking to revamp your garden with some concrete slabs or maybe you’re trying to dress up your backyard... Either way, concrete pavers or slabs can help you add a bit of oomph to your outdoor spaces. These slabs or pavers can be in varying shapes and sizes to fit your needs and can be found in many hardware stores, however, purchasing these can cost you quite a penny.
If you have no trouble getting your hands dirty, then you should know that making them yourself is really not that difficult and you get to save a lot of money. All you need are a few tools, concrete, your creativity, some time and you can have an impressive garden or backyard in no time.
Now while the procedure is quite simple, follow the instructions carefully to ensure the best results. Let’s get into it!
1: The tools and materials needed
There are two main pieces of equipment that you’re going to need: a vibrating table and a hand power tool mixer. These are the heaviest equipment you’ll need and are also used in other kinds of construction work. You will also need a trowel and a bucket, be sure you have those at hand before you begin.
If you are going to create slabs, you will need some molds. You can buy them online or in many hardware stores. Plastic molds are a lot more inexpensive and resistant, so all you have to do is choose the pattern that you like the most.
And of course you’re also going to need cement, sand, gravel and some water, which is your basic concrete mixture. A wheelbarrow is always useful for transportation, and a rubber mallet to take the slabs from the mold after they’re solid.
Some people might want to try to do this without using a vibrating table, but it’s best to use one if you have it, as the vibrating table plays an essential role on the quality of the concrete. The vibrating table will make sure the mix moves around and easily takes the form of your mold, entering all the nooks and crannies, as well as eliminating any voids.
If you don’t vibrate the concrete, the end result will be less dense, and thus less resistant due to the air present in the mix. It may also lead to failures and blemishes. Vibrating the concrete allows the air bubbles to come to the surface and get expelled from the mix.
2: Mixing the concrete
Mixing your concrete is another delicate issue, if your concrete is already premixed or ready-made then all you have to do is follow the instructions. However if you’re doing the mixing, there are many different formulas out there... but for a great slab you want to stick with this principle:
1 Part cement
2 Part sand
3 Part gravel
Place everything in a good sized bucket and mix it up with your power tool, and only when it is properly mixed, should you pour in the water.
You can add a bit of dishwashing liquid and concrete bonder into the mix, before you add any water. Once you’ve done that, start adding water and begin to mix and repeat. Don’t add all the water at once! Pour it in little by little so you can control the moisture level of your mixture and achieve the perfect results.
Use a trowel to make sure everything is evenly mixed, give it a few twists and mix it again with your power tool. Keep mixing and adding water until you reach the desired consistency.
You’ll notice, when it’s done, that the concrete forms a “hole” around the power mixing tool.
3: Adding the concrete mixture to the mold
After leaving the mold in the sun for a few minutes, place it on the vibrating table and begin to add a few generous scoops of the concrete mix.
Important: before you start adding your concrete mix, give your mold a good coating with some mold-release spray or you’ll have a hard time taking the slab out of the mold. A simple silicon spray will do the trick. You don’t want to break your mold to get the slab out.
Now back to scooping: just add a couple scoops of the mixture and start the vibrating table. You can lift the bucket and pour it in slowly, but if it’s too heavy you can use the trowel to scoop it up.
When you can finally lift the bucket, pour it all down and let the vibrating tool do its work.
Smooth it up and always keep your eyes on the mold. The vibration moves the mold a little bit and it might fall off the table if you aren’t careful.
Once you’re done with that one, cover it up with some plastic and leave it for a day or two. In the meantime, do some more slabs!
After a couple of days curing, your slabs are good to go. Be patient though: if you take them out prematurely, you might ruin the slabs.
Get a rubber mallet (if you don’t have one, a hammer will do) and pound softly on the back of the mold. If you’re using a hammer, don’t pound it head-on! Use the sides and be gentle. Give the corners a few taps, and when you notice they start to demold, finish it with your hands.
But take care not to leave your finger underneath it when it falls.
It’s hard work, but totally worth your time and your sweat. If you did everything right, your slab will be compact, air-bubble-free and with beautiful patterns from the mold.
Now wrap them up again with plastic bags, to keep the moisture and to continue curing it for another month, and they will be ready to use. If needed, pour some water on both sides if they get too dry.
Different molds will grant different patterns and effects like wood planks, some with texture or geometrical shapes that appear like little juxtaposed bricks. This allows you to be creative with your slabs and pavers.
After everything is done, remember to clean up the molds for the next batch and keep up with the hard work - it’s highly rewarding and your garden, backyard or wherever you choose to adorn with your slabs or pavers, will thank you for it.