Building Concrete Patios 101: Rebar, Gravel, Permits and More!

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    Before building a concrete patio yourself, it’s crucial that you do your research. Research from what materials are necessary to build a concrete foundation to keeping law regulations in place, it’s important to follow all guidelines necessary to build concrete patios.

    Building Concrete Patios 101: Rebar, Gravel, Permits and More! 

    In this article, you will learn the fundamentals of what you need to know to build a concrete patio. Carry on if you want to know the ten basic steps of building a concrete patio, if you need a permit to do so, and if you need gravel or rebar when building concrete patios. 

    Do concrete patios need rebar?

    Rebar is a steel bar that is used in concrete construction for reinforcement purposes. Also known as reinforcing steel, rebar is composed of steel wires used as a tension device to strengthen and aid concrete under tension. It provides structural strength to projects and helps control where and the extent of the concrete cracks 

    Even though it’s possible to build a concrete patio without rebar, it’s not recommended. All concrete is subject to cracks, but rebar holds all the cracks together and keeps the slab level and even. Without rebar, the cracks would become quite wide and the concrete would become uneven. This would cause the concrete to be replaced much sooner.

    Do I need a permit to build a concrete patio?

    The short answer is, ‘It depends’. If the concrete patio you’re building is on-grade (ground level floor) or less than 30 inches from the ground, you will most likely not need a permit. There is a chance that you might need to pull an excavation permit in that case to make sure you’re not digging in any utility pipes or cables. 

    However if the concrete patio you’re building is above-grade, you will likely need a permit. Other cases where a permit might be required are if you are located in an area with development restrictions, if external structural changes that will be made to the house interfere with land zoning regulations, if you decide to cover a concrete patio, and if you decide to add lighting provisions.

    It’s always important to adhere to regulations when remodeling your outdoor space. With All Pro Deck’s, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re following all local regulations. Our team is fully trained and up-to-date on the safety regulations that must be followed in order to build a patio.

    (Wondering if this applies to building a deck? Check out this article to find out if you need a permit to build a deck in San Antonio.)

    Do you need gravel under a concrete patio?

    Yes! A strong gravel base is required when building a concrete patio in order to prevent the concrete from shifting or cracking. Adding gravel under the concrete also provides a level surface for your foundation and adds proper drainage when there is pooling water. 

    What are the 10 basic steps of building a concrete patio?

    The Home Depot gathered the 10 basic steps of building a concrete patio. Here are these 10 steps: 

    Step 1 – Lay Out and Excavate the Patio

    “Lay out the patio with batterboards and mason’s line. Remove the sod, dig out 8 inches of soil, and compact the exposed surface. Spread gravel on the surface in 2-inch layers, compacting each layer and adding gravel for a bed 4 inches deep.

    Install a second set of layout lines on stakes. Position the stakes outside the first set of lines, offset from the first set by the width of the forms you’ll use. Level the lines with a line level or water level.”

    Step 2 – Drive Stakes Along the New Layout Lines

    “Drive stakes along the layout lines, putting them at the corners of the patio and every 2 feet in between. Drive the stakes straight up and down, firmly embedding them in the ground, trim them to height later.

    The patio must slope away from the house at a rate of 1/8 to ¼ inch per foot-check local code for the proper rate.

    Measure down from the batterboards and mark the two end stakes at the finished height of the patio. Hold a chalk like tight at the marks you made and snap it to mark the rest of the stakes.”

    Step 3 – Nail the First Form in Place

    “Align a 2×4 with the marks on the stakes and nail it in place with two duplex nails. Brace the form board with a 3-pound sledgehammer while you pound in the nails.

    Nail the rest of the stakes to the form board the same way. Cut the stakes flush with or slightly below the tops of the forms. You will use the tops as guide to level the surface of the concrete, and any stake sticking above the surface will keep you from keeping a smooth surface.

    Cut a 2×4 long enough to span each of the remaining sides. Put each board in place so the top is level with the marks you made earlier on the stakes. Attach stakes to forms with duplex nails. Nail in the remaining forms.”

    Step 4 – Splice Boards Together, if Necessary

    “On sides too long for a single board, butt two boards together. Cut a strip of ½-inch plywood and nail it across the joint. Drive a 2-stake at each end of the plywood strip and nail it to the form with duplex nails.

    Place a 1/2×4-inch expansion joint against the foundation of the house and any other existing concrete that meets the patio. This will prevent the pad and foundation from bonding and then cracking if they settle at different rates.

    Coat the form boards with a coat of commercial release agent or vegetable oil to prevent the concrete from sticking to the form boards, motor oil—an early substitute for the release agent—doesn’t work as well and contaminates the ground.”

    Step 5 – Place the Mesh

    “Reinforce the concrete with 6×6-10/10 wire mesh.

    Put the mesh on wire supports, sold separately, so it sits roughly in the middle of the slab’s thickness. Leave a few inches of space between the mesh and the edges of the forms to prevent rust.

    Overlay sections by 4 inches and tie them together with wire. Wire the mesh to the supports.”

    Step 6 – Pour the Concrete Into the Forms

    “If you’re using a wheelbarrow, build a temporary ramp over the forms so that the wheelbarrow won’t knock them out of place. Start in a corner and dump the loads of concrete against each other. Have a helper with a shovel spread the concrete into corners and against the forms and expansion joints.

    Lay a wide board across the forms so you can reach the interior of the pour. If the concrete causes the wire mesh to sing, pull it up with a rake so that it’s in the middle of the slab.

    Work a shovel or rake up and down to remove air pockets, especially alongside the forms.”

    Step 7 – Flatten the Surface

    “With a helper pull a screed (a long, straight 2×4) across the forms to level the concrete. Tilt the screed forward and slide it from side to side as you push it forward. Shovel off excess concrete in front of the screed or fill in low spots.

    Make a second pass with the screed tilted the opposite direction. Work a bull float back and forth with the blade flat against the surface to smooth and compact the concrete. For small surfaces use a darby instead of a bull float.

    Work the concrete until water forms on the surface.”

    Step 8 – Round the Edges

    “When you’ve finished floating, separate the concrete from the forms by running the tip of a pointing trowel between the two. Then slide the cutting edge of an edger along the forms to round over the patio edge, making it less likely to chip. Lift the leading edge of the tool to avoid marring the concrete.

    Cut shallow grooves, called control joints, in the wet cement pad. These weaken the spots a little so that if the ground shifts, the resulting crack should form along the control joint. You need a joint every 8 feet, so make marks every 8 feet along the forms.

    Place a jointer at each mark. Guide the jointer against a board that spans the patio. Control joints can also be cut after the concrete has cured using a circular saw with a cement or masonry blade.”

    Step 9 – Float the Surface Again

    “After cutting the control joints, and when any water sheen has left the surface, run a wood or magnesium hand float over the surface to provide a final smoothing. Raise the leading edge of the float slightly as you work to avoid making likes on the surface of the concrete.

    For improved traction, pull a stiff-bristle broom across the surface. Draw the broom in either straight or wavy lines. If you don’t like the pattern or if it is too coarse, trowel, wit, and broom again.

    The longer the concrete dries, the finer the broomed surface. Make another pass along the perimeter with the edger.”

    Step 10 – Let the Concrete Cure

    “Lay plastic sheeting over the finished surface. The moisture trapped inside eliminates the need for watering during the curing stage.

    Let the concrete cure at least 48 hours, then remove the form boards.”

    If you already have a concrete patio, and you are not sure if you can put new concrete over old concrete, we have the answer for you in that article!

    At All Pro Deck’s, we are committed to being the best patio and deck builder in San Antonio. Building your concrete patio the right way is our first priority! You don’t have to worry about following steps, adhering to local regulations, or the correct materials needed to build a concrete patio. You can simply tell us what you’re envisioning, and we’ll be happy to help you create your wonderful outdoor space. Check out this article on concrete patio contractors for more!

    Justin Wylie

    Justin Wylie, owner of All Pro Decks & Patios is a Deckorators® Certified Pro Elite located in the San Antonio Hill Country area. He specializes in building decks, patios, patio covers, pergolas, concrete slabs, fireplaces and more while providing quality and service for his customers.

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