One of the most common, and appropriate, uses of concrete in landscaping is for walkways. Properly laid, a concrete walkway is a lifetime improvement for your yard and one with huge advantages over the alternative types of walkways: grass requires constant maintenance, gravel migrates into lawn and garden areas and collects dirt and weeds, stone steps are unstable and require maintenance to keep down weeds, pavers require just as much preparation and more regular maintenance.
Concrete also gives you a smooth surface for moving lawn mowers, wheelbarrows, etc. without damaging the surface.
As with all home improvements, a concrete path needs to be properly planned and executed. And, with concrete, like painting, the preparation prior to pouring is critical to a great long-term outcome.
Here are 5 tips that will help ensure that you are happy with your finished product:
- Dig a trench a foot longer than your path is wide every 10 feet of length of your path. Make the trench 6 inches deeper than the top of your base rock under your concrete. Take a 3” ABS or PVC pipe-cut it to about 3-6 inches longer on each side than the width of the forms for your walkway. Cover both ends with duct tape to keep out dirt and weeds. Once the walkway is poured and you wish you had water or electricity on the other side, all you need to do is pull off the duck tape and use the 3” pipe as your conduit to slide in romex or PVC pipe. You will, at some point after the walkway is in wish you had done this. It is far easier and less expensive than sawing out a strip and pouring a patch.
- Once you have set your forms and laid and tamped your gravel, water in the gravel and then water it in again. After getting it good and wet at least twice, tamp it again. Then, just before you pour, make sure it is still wet, or, water it again. If the gravel is only tamped when it is dry it will not stay stable and will not be a good ‘permanent’ base. Didn’t I mention that preparation is critical? If you skimp here, it will show eventually.
- When installing your forms (probably just standard 2 X 4s) keep in mind that you will use the tops of the forms to screed your concrete flat. If you do a sloppy job of placing the forms, it will make the screening that much harder.
- Place the boards for your forms that are away from the house just a hair lower than those closest to the house. You can easily do this with another 2 X 4 and a 2-foot level. Why? You want any drainage off the walkway to go away from the house or landscape feature. It only takes a degree or two and it is hardly noticeable when walking on the walkway.
- Use expansion cuts or joints every 3-5 feet. Without expansion joints, even if your prep work has been really good, you will get cracking in your walkway.
- Bonus tip – Use the local Cart-Away Concrete provider for your concrete. First, most walkway projects are too big to use sacked ready-mix. It takes too long and too many people to do a walkway and you will typically end up spending more, having very sore muscles, and even getting cold joints in your pour which will mean repairs in time. Also, most such projects use less than a load of Readymix from your local Readymix company. That means you will pay a short load fee and the ready-mix truck will come when it needs to, not when you want it to come. It also may have a leftover partial load that is already an hour old. Ever try to lay hour old concrete and finish it? Not fun. With the Cart-Away trailers, you have control of your time and end up doing a better job for less money.
If you are unsure where your local Cart-Away provider is located, go to our Concrete Trailer Locater at https://www.cart-away.com/concrete-trailer-locator/