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Old 06-09-2023, 11:56 PM
Scratch Scratch is offline
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Default pouring concrete by myself

I need a cement slab in my pole barn, and I can't afford to have someone else pour it, so I'm going to do it myself. Before you tell me I'm crazy... backstory time. I've always lived by the motto of "It's not that I can't do it, it's just that I haven't done it yet."

I'm 53 right now, back in my 20's, I was a computer geek who never did construction, but with that motto, I built my own house, and it was a dome home so it wasn't just a standard home. I did all my own electrical, did some of the roofing, hung sheetrock, taped and mudded, hung all my windows and doors, insulated it, did all the trim, etc... We've been in this house for 23 years now and have no complaints. Yes, I made mistakes, but I learned a lot and would have no problem building another house for my daughters, which I might actually do.

I've lived by that motto for everything in my life, be it automotive, construction, computers, tree cutting, pretty much everything. I mean someone had to learn how to do things the first time right. If they can do it, so can I. 23 years ago, the internet wasn't what it was now so learning things are much easier these days.

I also built my 40x63 pole barn, but it's time I finished where I wanted the cement floor. I've done some cement before, in fact I used to have a cement mixer. I've done our apron in front of the garage, my 4'x6' slab under my outdoor wood burner, helped my brother do his sidewalk, but they were all small projects, and they didn't need a smooth finish. 15 years ago, I had someone pour a 16'x27' floor for my CNC plasma cutting business. I had more money back then and needed a slab for my CNC table. I had planned on doing more later, but time got away from me... and here we are. I've gotten 4 bids so far and they've all been over 4800.00 to have someone else do it. I found out that I can get the cement delivered for about 1500.00. That got me to doing more research on doing it myself and my mind has been made up, but I have some questions. I've seen many videos of guys pouring slabs completely by themselves but the largest one I've seen done at one time was a 20'x16' and it looked very easy. I'm not concerned pouring it, spreading it, and bull floating it alone, but I've never done a smooth finish. It can't be that much harder than what I've done before though. I don't need it super smooth or close to perfect, I just want to be able to roll a jack around on it. I know it's a waiting game to get a smooth finish, and I am a patient man.

So here's the layout of my pole barn. It's 40'x63' and I want most of it gravel for vehicle storage. You can see that you enter through the overhead door on the left, then there is an existing 16'x27' slab right away. I want to add onto that existing slab so the entire left side of the pole barn is cement. I'm thinking about pouring it in 2 or 3 steps. There is a 75.00 charge from my truck for a small load, but I'm willing to pay that to get it done easier. I’ll be rolling out wire mesh in the concrete.
I also may add a small strip in the future for stairs. (#4)

Even with the 3 small load charges, the total cost for enough concrete for a 5" slab delivered would be about 1500.00. I have a 14' high door so the 13'-6" tall truck can get right to the forms. I've seen lots of people order cement for their formed slab, but have another, smaller slab ready to be poured in. They have the truck dump the leftover in there, then pull the end 2X4 to the end of the leftover concrete, to make a small slab. Some people have ended up getting some big slabs this way, saving a bunch of money.

Here are my questions, feel free to ask for more clarification on any of them:

1. Would I be able to pour and finish one big 16'x36' slab by myself?
2. Would I be able to pour and finish two 12'x16' slabs at one time by myself?
3. Should I pour #3 first, then use the leftover to start #1, or pour #1 and #3 at same time, then pour #2 later?
4. Should I use screed keys and if so, are they flush with surface?
5. Should I drill and install rebar in the old slab that touches #1?
6. I was going to drill holes in the 2x4 forms (sides) of #1 and #3, then insert rebar in those holes for pour #2. Yes I may have to destroy the 2x4 to get the form off, but I could just buy another 2x4. good idea?
7. I was going to drill holes in the 2x4 forms (bottom) of #2 and #3 and insert rebar for possible pour #4 good idea?
8. Do I need to spray water on after pouring?
9. How should I make some knee boards? Plywood, aluminum, foamboard?
10. Should I rent a saw for cuts or put zip strips in while finishing?
11. If after cutting with saw, How big should I divide the slabs down?
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Last edited by Scratch; 06-10-2023 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 06-10-2023, 03:49 AM
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mccutter mccutter is offline
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There used to be a member here, Don something, that was a wizard at the pour. Someone else will probably remember his handle but he did much of what you ask. He hasn't been on for a while that I know of but I KNOW he posted many pour pics and procedures. Reviewing his old posts would be a start, I think...

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Old 06-10-2023, 07:43 AM
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toprecycler toprecycler is offline
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Originally Posted by mccutter View Post
There used to be a member here, Don something, that was a wizard at the pour. Someone else will probably remember his handle but he did much of what you ask. He hasn't been on for a while that I know of but I KNOW he posted many pour pics and procedures. Reviewing his old posts would be a start, I think...


As far as pouring the concrete yourself, I would think you can do it, but be ware. Concrete is a lot of hard work. Especially if you are not used to it. There’s a reason masons are known as cranky drunks. Lol.

Seriously, though, a back story. About 10 years ago I helped my brother pour a floor in his garage on my property. At the time, I also poured an approach pad in front of my pole barn, since the truck had room. I was about 40. I was also used to hard work, or so I thought been a steel fabricator, and installer.

The truck could not get into his garage, so we had to pull the concrete back about 10’ to the back wall. Halfway thru, my brother made me take a rest. He said I looked like I was about to have a heart attack. I really felt like shit too. The concrete driver even felt bad enough, he got out and helped spread the concrete.

When the mud is flowing, there is no time to waste. But do not overdo it. Your heart may not survive.
I would also recommend at least one other person to be around to call for help if needed, or at the very least check in on you often. Dong this work if you are not used to heavy manual work will quickly show how out of shape you are in this area. You will use muscles you did not know you had.

Rant over for that.

As far as doing it yourself, I would probably just keep extending the pad from the existing slab in sections. This will give you a good slab to work from and work the screed board from. Drilling rerod into existing pad will help tie the two together.

One other thought for leftover concrete. I had some 3x4 forms made up ahead of time to have the truck dump the extra into. Made several small pads that I could move later in front of the small entrance doors.

There probably is not as much overages these days as there used to be in the past. I think the batch plants are a lot more accurate in loading the trucks. So calculate your need good and plan for the overage needed. If your prep work for the grade varies much, you could end up very short for your intended pour.

As far as spraying water onto the concrete, this depends on your weather. Since it is being done inside a roofed area, you will be protected against rain, but if it really hot in there, you may need to slow the curing by spraying water on top.

I know there are plenty of utube videos out there. Spend a couple weekends watching all different ones, and you will learn a lot.

“Essential craftsman”had a couple good ones on concrete too. Along with a lot of other building videos.

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Old 06-10-2023, 07:45 AM
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toprecycler toprecycler is offline
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Concrete finishing....all you want to know.

The concrete guy here was DDA52.

This should take you to one of his posts.

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Old 06-10-2023, 07:58 AM
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Scratch, I got to say my hat's off to you for what you have done, and your motto.
What little I know is what I learned from pouring my shop floor. The concrete guy told me that we would need 3 trucks, and he ordered them to be mixed at the same time, then they sit while one is emptying, and then the next has its turn to empty. This way the setting time is all the same, and the power trowel has an easy go of it. Otherwise the last truck mixed and poured will be slop while the first truck poured will be getting hard.

There are chemical retarders and stuff they can add, but isn't the best for a strong floor.
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Old 06-10-2023, 08:16 AM
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midmosandblasting midmosandblasting is offline
Blast this!
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I recommend at least one prefer 2 helpers to pull screed ,while a 3rd person keeps the screed full or drags excess .I poured my 30 x30 by 5.5 in 3 pours .even with help was a tired boy . One new Years day poured a 36x48 roof . Kind of turned into a fiasco . Lost edge board . By the time we got it down and floated with calcium added it was to dry to dry to finish .Dozer pulled trucks in and out .
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Old 06-10-2023, 08:26 AM
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dubby dubby is offline
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I don't know your financial situation, but I've learned with some things that the price is usually worth it. Concrete is one of those things.

I'd suggest expanding your search for a contractor and lowering your expectations of them. You might end up with a superior product than you could DIY but at a cheaper cost. If you call your concrete supplier they might be able to direct you to someone perfectly suited for your needs even.

We've got a guy here that we've used for all 4 of our pads at the range we found exactly that way.
I've always had more time than money.

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Old 06-10-2023, 10:31 PM
slip knot slip knot is offline
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pouring it yourself is doable. I wouldn't advise doing it alone. too much can go wrong and a couple extra hands can make all the difference. Once concrete hits the forms you have a limited timeline to get it finished.
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Old 06-11-2023, 12:25 AM
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arizonian arizonian is offline
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And there is one more thing to think of: Theft.

You know why concrete is not stolen? Once it's set, there is absolutely nothing you can do with it!
Bill in sunny Tucson

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Old 06-11-2023, 02:49 AM
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GWIZ GWIZ is offline
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I would suggest that you try to hire the concrete guy to check your work and for a one day finishing cost with his crew.
Just make sure you have an agreement if something gets canceled you don't have to pay him the full amount for the day of no work.

maybe its me but from what I observed people working concrete they know the timing when to pat down the rocks and float the water by feel, that goes with how hot the day is, and if its a hot day you may have 30min. I did help a friend. two people just to work with the cement truck guy..
one to guide the shoot, another guy to shovel cement around, and two guys finishing and we were in a panic it was a very hot day cement drying to fast to work with.

You did not say anything about a bed of sand or rocks. I think my friend had to have 8" of some sand or rock to start with, as a note about two years later his slab did crack but the rebar is there to prevent one side of a crack lifting above the other.

Don't forget the threaded anchor studs take time to place them in the cement.

The cement guy gives you a short time to empty his truck about 20min IIRC. then he needs your water hose and a place to wash it out.
The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment. ~Warren G. Bennis

Last edited by GWIZ; 06-11-2023 at 03:32 AM.
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