Concrete: The Dangers of DIY

When it comes to building something, there’s nothing more satisfying than doing the job yourself. With all the added expenses of owning a home, it’s also tempting to think that a DIY job will not only be quicker but also a lot cheaper in the long run – especially when it comes to concrete.

Whether you’re putting in a driveway or thinking of installing a concrete patio, working with concrete is actually a lot more difficult than it looks. Read through these common dangers and annoyances and you’ll soon ask yourself: is it really worth it?

construction worker on his job

It Takes More Preparation Than You Think

Doing a DIY job isn’t just a matter of setting aside a few spare hours. Like anything in life, success takes both thorough preparation and a lot of commitment. While a qualified builder can do the work with their eyes closed, you’re going to be pushing yourself deep into unfamiliar territory.

Design

The first essential step would be to put your ideas onto paper. You can’t just work from a mental image of the finished product – you’re going to have to think about both structure and aesthetics. What shape will the final concrete slab look like? Will you cover it with tiles or decking? How are you going to reinforce it?

Equipment

You’ll also have to think about all the tools you’ll need for the job. And trust us – when it comes to concreting, there’s far more than you think. It’s not just the standard tools like saws and shovels that you have lying around, but also specialized equipment like trowels, edgers, and floats that you’ll need to invest in.

Time

Laying down concrete is a combination of time and patience. It’s not a material that you can work on in bits and pieces – unless you’re incredibly experienced, finishing a job in more than one sitting can result in an uneven and unsafe end result.

Permits

Unless you’re living far out in back country, most cities, counties and townships will have rules about what you can build and where. Sometimes this extends to patio designs and driveways and sheds, and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, finding this information out, getting permits, and conforming to any regulations is going to be a whole other mission entirely.

You’ll Have to Watch the Weather

Weather may normally be a boring topic, but not when it comes to concrete. While concrete is designed to be durable and tough, that’s only when it has been poured and set correctly. Until that process is over, you’re going to spend a lot of time worrying about the conditions.

It’s not just rain while you’re working that you have to think about. Concrete can shrink, expand, and warp due to temperature variation, and even minor details like humidity can greatly affect how and when the concrete sets. Concrete also generates its own heat while it sets, which can react to weather conditions and has to be taken into account to avoid later issues.

Old Cracked Yellow Plaster on the Cement Wall

Demolishing

If you’re thinking about laying down a concrete slab like a driveway, there’s every chance that there’s already something there. Have you thought about how you’re going to get rid of that? Demolishing an existing structure is a dirty, risky job, and usually something best left to the professionals.

Here’s just a few of the things you’ll have to deal with in a demolition job:

  • Removing and disposing of heavy rubble
  • Handling unfamiliar and potentially dangerous machinery, like jackhammers
  • Existing infrastructure, like water or gas pipes
  • Maintaining the integrity of surrounding structures

And that’s before you even get started mixing the new concrete!

Thinking About Reinforcement

Most people who don’t work in the industry will assume that making something out of concrete is as simple as pouring it out and smoothing it flat. It’s not that simple, though. To withstand any kind of repeated load – like people or cars – concrete needs to be reinforced, and reinforced properly.

This throws up another set of problems. What kind of material are you going to use? Steel is the obvious (and most cost-effective) choice, but steel will rust, expand, and eventually cause degradation and rust. And how are you going to hold that reinforcement in place while you set the concrete?

Keeping Yourself Safe

So far, we’ve only talked about the potential problems affecting the quality of your DIY concrete project. But when undertaking such a job, you’ll also have to consider your own personal safety. Concrete is a tricky material to work with – and could well be a fatal one too.

Dust

Inhaling even a small amount of concrete dust can cause long-term damage to your lungs and respiratory functions. You’ll need to be extra careful and use a safety breathing mask at all times, not only while mixing it but also if you’re demolishing an old slab.

Lime

It may seem like a simple substance, but concrete actually contains a large mix of different chemicals and minerals. One of these, lime, provides the calcium in the cement and is also highly corrosive when used improperly. Bare skin must be covered at all times and care must be taken to avoid serious burns or even permanent disability.

Debris

Loose debris can be a major hazard on any worksite, causing injuries such as cuts and bruises during demolition jobs. Even if you’re simply building something instead of tearing it apart, debris that hasn’t been properly disposed of can lead to trips, falls, and an unwanted visit to the hospital.

What Happens If It Goes Wrong?

We’ve underlined many of the pitfalls in attempting a DIY concrete job. But what happens if you go ahead with it anyway? In the best case scenario, you’ve got a driveway, slab, or concrete patio that looks and feels okay, but will keep you up at night worrying about whether it will hold. Even then, you’re likely to see cracking and crumbling well before you expect it.

And in the worst case? Your pride and joy collapses right when all of your family and friends are standing on it, leaving you red-faced and with a major headache on your hands.

The Hidden Costs

One of the biggest draws of all when it comes to do-it-yourself projects is the chance to save a lot of money. Believing that they can do it themselves, many people will try to cut out the middleman and put those savings straight in their pockets.

landscaping plant

What many people don’t realize, though, is that if you don’t know what you’re doing, cutting those who do out of the equation can end up costing you far more money in the long run. You won’t know how much concrete to buy, or what other materials are needed – and you’ll be paying retail rates.

Not only that, but if anything goes wrong and you have to redo your work, those initial costs are going to quickly escalate, leaving you wishing that you just hired someone to get it right in the first place.

Should You Leave It to the Professionals?

Doing some concreting yourself can be rewarding, but it does require time, patience, preparation, and knowledge – all of which a qualified builder already has. The wisest course of action, of course, is to hire a professional and save yourself the hassle and potential danger.

Cross Construction Services are experts in designing and building tough, durable, and stylish concrete patios and driveways. For the best concrete contractor in Houston, contact us today!

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