Dangers of DIY Concrete Pouring and When to Call in a Professional

The hidden pitfalls to consider when thinking of pouring your next concrete project yourself.

If you’re planning to put in a new concrete driveway, patio, or other surfaces, you might be considering pouring the concrete yourself. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to run into practical and aesthetic issues, or even safety concerns, when pouring concrete yourself.

Keep reading to find out what you need to know before you start your own DIY concrete project and when you should call a professional.

Sand finish concrete steps retaining wall

Pouring Concrete Yourself: What Can Go Wrong

Pouring your own concrete is a lot more complicated than laying pavers, spreading gravel, or even pouring asphalt. Doing it correctly requires knowledge, skill, and careful planning, along with the right materials, tools, and equipment.

While pouring your own concrete is doable in certain situations, it’s important to do plenty of research to make sure it’s something you want to tackle yourself. Here are some common DIY concrete mistakes you’ll want to avoid:

Improper Preparation

Excavating the area with a shovel and clearing plants and debris is not enough to prepare a site for pouring concrete. If your concrete is sitting on top of loose soil, it will quickly start to crack, crumble, and degrade as the soil settles.

Diy dangers excavating with shovel

To achieve a long-lasting concrete surface and avoid cracks, it’s important to create a firm base. This involves using a plate compactor to make sure the soil is tightly packed, carefully leveling the surface, and building, installing, and leveling forms (borders).

Weather Conditions

Weather conditions (like rain and wind) can damage your concrete in the hours and days after you pour it. It’s also important to consider the long-term effects of your area’s climate on your concrete’s durability and appearance.

If you live in an area with freeze/thaw conditions in winter, you’ll want to make sure you use air-entrained concrete to prevent cracking, scaling, and crumbling over time.

Concrete cracking

The Wrong Tools

Using the wrong tools can leave you with an uneven surface and lead to bumps, holes, and cracks. Strong, heavy-duty tools are necessary when working with concrete since wooden or plastic tools can snap while you work. Since pouring concrete is time-sensitive, it’s critical that you have everything you need on hand before you begin mixing your concrete.

Here are the most important tools you need:

  • Large wheelbarrow to transport your concrete
  • Concrete mixer (electric mixers are most efficient)
  • Bull float or darby to flatten the wet surface
  • Magnesium float to smooth bumps
  • Heavy-duty concrete groover for installing control joints
  • Broom or concrete brush to create enough texture to avoid a slippery finish

The Wrong Amount of Water

One of the most common DIY concrete mistakes is using the wrong amounts of water and dry concrete. The ratio of water to dry concrete in your mixture is very important to the appearance and durability of your concrete surface. Wet concrete should not be runny or chunky, but smooth and malleable.

It’s common for homeowners to add too much water to the mixture because softening the concrete makes it easier to work with. But even a small excess of water tends to weaken your concrete mixture, leading to a runny, uneven pour and compromising the strength of your concrete.

Insufficient Safety Precautions

There’s a reason that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific safety standards for construction workers. Any time you’re working with heavy equipment and potentially hazardous tools and materials, it’s important to take safety precautions.

Concrete is a relatively safe material to work with. That being said, it’s important to protect your eyes, ears, respiratory system, and skin when mixing and pouring concrete. You also want to be careful lifting heavy items to prevent injury.

Diy concrete safety precautions
At a minimum, you should have the following when mixing and pouring concrete:
  • Long pants and sleeves
  • Safety glasses, sunglasses, or other eye protection
  • Earplugs or other ear protection (when operating heavy equipment)
  • Alkali-resistant gloves
  • Work or rubber boots
  • Face mask
  • Soap and water nearby to wash skin and rinse eyes if necessary

When to Call a Professional

The best way to make sure you end up with high-quality, durable, and aesthetically pleasing concrete is to work with a team of knowledgeable, experienced professionals who are local to your area and know your climate.

If you’re pouring a basic slab of concrete on level ground in the middle of a mild, dry summer, you may be able to handle it yourself. You’re most likely better off calling a professional if any of the following are true for you:

  • You’re unsure of what you want or need
  • You have a particular (or custom) design, color, or texture in mind
  • You’re dealing with a slope or uneven ground
  • You don’t have the right tools

If you just don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself for any reason, contacting a professional is the way to go!

Are you looking for a professional concrete company you can trust? Have questions about your project?

With more than 75 years of combined experience working with decorative concrete, we offer customized solutions and can promise you a safe, clean, and timely process. Whether you’re looking to replace your old, cracked concrete driveway, install a new pool deck, or design a unique custom porch with incorporated lighting, we’ll give you a beautiful, functional result that will last for years to come.

Call us today at (503) 849-0901 or contact us online to get a free estimate.