Concrete Project Planning Basics You Need to Know

A set of marble stairs, laid with expert precision thanks to tips from concrete suppliers.

How to Keep Your Concrete Project On (Or Under) Budget

If you’re prepping for a DIY concrete project and aren’t entirely sure what to budget for, don’t worry—it’s not as complicated as it seems.

Planning, pricing, and prep all take a little bit of thought, but it’s not rocket science. When in doubt, you can always contact your local concrete supplier to get the lowdown on how it all works.

It’s important to note that concrete prices vary by type and location, so while there are no hard and fast rules, there are plenty of handy tips and rules of thumb that can help you keep your project on track, and even under budget.

Here’s what you need to know when budgeting for concrete products, as well as tips to help your project stay on-track!

Concrete Budgeting Basics

Make a List of What You’ll Need

Include everything you will need to complete your concrete project. This includes raw materials, tools, equipment, and safety gear.

Once you’ve completed the list, research the costs for each item. To find the best prices, compare prices online and ask for estimates.

If the costs are too high for your budget, consider making adjustments to your project. There are many variables to consider and adjust when calculating the total cost of concrete projects.

Variables to Consider

Size

The size of the area you plan to fill with concrete will determine how much concrete you need.

This could be a large concrete driveway, a basement floor, or a small patio in the backyard. There are no size limitations when it comes to concrete projects.

Type

There are different types of concrete mixes available depending on your preference and project needs.

If you want decorative concrete, this mix will need colour. And it may also need a slow drying time to properly stamp the concrete, so an admixture is necessary.

Admixtures

Your concrete supplier will have various admixtures to add to your concrete mix depending on your project type.

Admixtures can either speed up or slow down the concrete drying process. They can also help concrete withstand the free-thaw cycle and improve workability if you need to move the concrete around once it’s poured.

Shape

Rectangular and square concrete slabs are generally easier and cheaper to pour. Round concrete areas take more time and expertise.

Colour

If you want decorative concrete, you will have to decide on a colour (or colours) to use. Colours will cost more to add compared to plain concrete mixes.

You can either add colour during the mixing process or use chemical washes and sprinkle powders on top after the finishing stage is complete.

Stamps

Whether you choose to stamp the decorative concrete yourself or hire a professional, do expect to pay more for this added detail.

If you don’t hire the pros, you will either have to rent or buy the stamping equipment. Stamping concrete gives the appearance of brick, stone, or tile.

Delivery

If you order ready mix concrete from a local concrete supplier, it will need to be delivered to your home or project site. You may also wish to have the concrete poured professionally at the time of delivery.

Delivery and professional pouring are recommended, especially for large amounts of concrete. The concrete supplier can pour the concrete evenly in one go. This will allow for a consistent drying time and maintain structural integrity.

Mixing

Ready mix concrete from a local supplier will arrive onsite already mixed. But if you choose to buy bags of concrete, you will have to mix it yourself. This can save you some money, but it will take more time.

Sand or Gravel

Concrete slabs need a sub-base for support. This often consists of one or two layers of crushed stone of various sizes.

Depending on your project, you can use sand and/or gravel as sub-bases. These layers, like the soil base, will need to be compacted before pouring the concrete.

Equipment You’ll Need

Land Grading Equipment

Land grading refers to creating a gentle slope that will carry rainwater away from the concrete slab.

This ensures that water won’t build up and soften or degrade the soil underneath, which can cause concrete to crack. It also prevents flooding.

You can either rent this equipment or hire a professional who has their own land grading machinery.

Soil Compaction Equipment

Compacting the soil base before pouring the concrete will prevent cracks from forming in the concrete. You can rent this equipment from your local home renovation store, or hire a pro.

Compaction Vibrators

Concrete compaction ensures a smooth concrete surface and optimal density and strength. Consider renting concrete vibrators to compact your concrete.

Concrete Forms

You will need to set up concrete forms around the perimeter of the area you plan to pour the concrete. These forms hold the liquid concrete in place so it will dry to your preferred shape and size.

Forms are usually made of wood and must be installed properly to prevent concrete from leaking out and bowing the wood.

Rebar

To reinforce concrete and minimize cracking over time, you can install rebar. Rebar is usually made of stainless steel and comes in rods or mesh sheets.

Using A Concrete Calculator

To calculate how much concrete you’ll need, first measure the length, width, and depth of the project area. Then enter these values into an online calculator.

Concrete suppliers will usually give you a price per yard or cubic yard of concrete. You can calculate a cubic yard by multiplying the length by the width by the depth (all in feet) and dividing by 27.

To determine the depth you will need, consider these rules of thumb:

  • 4 inches for patios and driveways; and
  • 5 to 6 inches for concrete slabs that need to carry heavier loads, like dump trucks and heavy machinery.

Do consult with a concrete construction professional if you have a special project and you’re unsure of the required depth for your concrete.

Another rule of thumb when ordering concrete is to add 10% to the total amount to ensure you have enough to complete the project without any interruptions.

Tips and Advice to Keep Projects on Track

Plan for Extra Variables

Sometimes projects take a bit longer and cost a bit more than originally planned. To prepare for the unexpected, include some room in your budget and schedule so you aren’t caught off guard. Add a day or two to your schedule and keep some extra money set aside in case you need to buy more materials.

Use the Right Equipment

Having the proper equipment for the job will ensure your project is completed accurately and efficiently. If you’re not comfortable using certain machinery, get help from the concrete construction pros.

Ask for Help

Even DIY projects may require assistance from the pros, so don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Expert assistance will save you plenty of time and possibly plenty of money by avoiding mistakes and extra work.

Know Your Limits

While it would be nice to be skilled in all the trades, don’t attempt to do something you have no experience with, especially if it’s a dangerous job.

You can account for added labour costs in your budget. What’s more, you get to enjoy peace of mind knowing the job will be completed safely, accurately, and within schedule with a little help from the pros.

DIY Stone Measurements Tips and Tricks

Stones sit in a puddle, found in one of Ottawa's local stone quarries.

A Guide to Measuring Quantities of Crushed Stone for Various Home Projects

Summer is here and home landscaping projects are in full swing. If you’re planning a DIY project with crushed stone this summer, local stone quarries can help you get the products you need to get the job done.

Crushed stone is an excellent material to use for a variety of home projects. From garden pathways to driveways, crushed stone offers a natural look all on its own, and is often used as a base layer for patios and driveways made of poured concrete or patio pavers.

Furthermore, stone also works well as a surface material for roadways, driveways, dog runs, dry creek beds, and other landscaping projects.

It provides a sturdy base for concrete slabs and pavers, and friction for vehicles when used on its own. Stone also allows for proper drainage, making this a versatile and durable material to many home project needs.

Once you’ve decided where to get your quarried stone, you’ve got to figure out how much you actually need for your project.

How Do I Calculate
How Much Stone I Need for My Project?

Crushed stone is generally measured in cubic yards. To calculate the cubic yards of your project area, measure the surface area of your project in feet.

For rectangular or square spaces, multiply the length (L) by the width (W) to get the area in square feet.

Circular locations are a bit more involved, but in general, measure the diameter and divide it by 4. Then multiply this number by 3.14 (or pi) to get the area of the circle in square feet.

(Note: For curved, winding, and other irregularly-shaped surface areas, contact quarried stone suppliers for help with measurements.)

Take the area in square feet and multiply by the depth (D) of the location in feet. Then divide this value by 27 to get the total cubic yardage needed.

The formula used for square and rectangular areas is:

(L x W x D) / 27 = cubic yards of crushed stone needed

The formula used for a circular area is:

(Diameter / 4 x 3.14) x D / 27 = cubic yards of crushed stone needed

As an Example

Say you want to order crushed stone as a base for a new concrete patio. The length of the patio is 20 feet, the width is 10 feet, and the depth is 6 inches (0.5 feet).

Use the formula to calculate the cubic yards for a rectangular area:

20’ x 10’ x 0.5’ / 27 = 3.7 cubic yards

Always round up the number so you have a bit extra to work with. So instead of ordering 3.7 cubic yards of stone, you will order 4 cubic yards of crushed stone.

To accurately measure the area for your project, first spray lawn-marking paint to create an outline of a path, patio, or other spaces designated for crushed stone.

Walkways, Patios, Driveways – Know the Difference

For projects such as walkways and patios, use a 3- to 4-inch depth of crushed stone beneath a 3- to 4-inch depth of surfacing material.

You will need to dig a depth of 6 to 8 inches in total. The total depth of crushed stone needed depends on whether you use it only for a base layer or for both a base layer and a surfacing material.

Since 4 inches is less than a foot, convert this value to a decimal. Divide 4 by 12 (the total number of inches in a foot) to get 0.33 feet.

For larger projects that will support more weight, such as driveways, use at least an 8-inch depth of crushed stone. For the formula, convert 8 inches to feet by dividing 8 by 12 to get 0.67 feet.

Crushed stones bases should provide a level surface, stability, and sufficient drainage

How Deep Should A Gravel Drive Be?

Gravel driveways should have three to four layers. These include:

  • The optional sub-grade—compacted soil at the bottom of the excavated area for the driveway.
  • The sub-base—the bottom layer of crushed stone that sits on top of the sub-grade and consists of larger crushed stone aggregate.
  • The base—a layer of slightly smaller crushed stone that sits on top of the sub-base and may also include stone dust or fines.
  • The surfacing material—the surface layer of gravel that is poured on top of the base layer and completes your crushed stone driveway.

Each layer of your driveway should be about 4 to 6 inches in depth. This means the total crushed stone portion of your driveway should be 12 to 18 inches deep.

How Much Does One Cubic Yard
of Crushed Stone Weigh?

In addition to measuring the amount of crushed stone you’ll need in cubic yards, you may also need to measure the amount you’ll need in tons.

The standard weight contractors use for crushed stone is 2700 pounds per cubic yard. So to calculate the amount in tons, multiply the number of cubic yards you need by 2700, then divide by 2000.

Always Order A Bit More

Remember to always round up the amount of crushed stone you’ll need so you don’t risk running out of material before completing your project.

Ordering a bit extra will account for compaction and ensure you have enough. A general rule of thumb is to add 10 percent of the amount you need to your order.

So, using the formula and dimensions from earlier, say your calculations show that you need 3.7 cubic yards.

Ten percent of 3.7 is 0.37 (3.7 x 0.10), so add this to your total, giving you 4.07. Depending on the quarry you source your gravel from, you may need to round up or down for your order.

If you want to order crushed stone by the ton:

(5 x 2700) / 2000 = 6.75 tons

You could then round up to a total weight of 7 tons.

If you’re don’t like math, try an online calculator. Simply input your measurements and the crushed stone calculator will do the rest of the work for you.

You can also contact your local gravel suppliers for help choosing the right amount and type of crushed stone from stone quarries to suit your project needs.

 

Building Better Concrete Products

Clouds drift over Seattle, as seen from a bird’s eye view.

How Additive Help Create Stronger, More Durable Concrete and Much More

Did you know that you can tailor your concrete mix to suit your specific project needs?

Concrete suppliers mix in additives to batches of concrete to improve specific qualities of the final product. This includes accelerants or retardants to speed up or slow down the concrete’s setting time. Additives help to improve workability, strength, and quality.

Researchers are interested in the role additives play in creating better, more versatile concrete products on a molecular level. This could lead to tailoring concrete products to changing climates and environmental conditions, creating incredibly versatile and eco-friendly concrete that offers a wealth of benefits for construction companies and the finished products they create.

We’re taking a closer look at some of the ways additives help create better concrete products – and what that might mean for concrete of the future.

What Researchers Are Looking For

Two of the biggest challenges of concrete production are durability and sustainability. Researchers are always looking for news way to produce concrete that improves on these qualities.

Using local materials is an obvious solution to help offset the greenhouse gas emissions present during the production process but poses challenges in and of itself. In some cases, durability comes at the cost of sourcing materials elsewhere.

Additives help make “going local” a viable option and can improve on pre-existing mixes in some cases.

Furthermore, the use of sustainable, durable materials with a longer design life means less reliance on concrete production to replace structures in the future.

Researchers have analyzed the individual atoms in concrete that contribute to strength and durability, using this information to develop a computer model that simulates the behaviour of individual atoms, forming molecular building blocks in hardening material.

This research aims to find ways to create concrete products that are strong enough to withstand the increasing pressures of environmental conditions, such as earthquakes and floods, which place stress on concrete buildings and infrastructure.

Researchers are specifically examining how additives (such as volcanic ash from various regions and refinery slag) mixed into cement improve the cohesive and frictional forces of groups of atoms. The effect of these local additives on concrete mixtures could make concrete mixes better suited to specific regions for a more sustainable product.

Common Admixtures

Most concrete mixes today contain chemical additives, also known as admixtures. These help speed up concrete construction projects by making concrete easier to pour and work with. As a result, this increases productivity and cuts costs.

Admixtures also increase the strength and durability of concrete, reduce the amount of water needed in the mix, and speed up or slow down the setting time.

Local suppliers frequently use specific admixtures in your concrete mix based on your concrete project needs.

Let’s take a closer look at five common existing admixtures used in concrete mixes today:

1. Retarding Admixtures

Retarding admixtures slow down the setting rate of concrete by delaying the chemical reaction that starts the setting process. This makes concrete more workable during placement in hot weather.

These admixtures are necessary in hot weather since the heat can increase the concrete’s setting time.

When heat makes concrete harden faster, the concrete’s workability decreases, making placing and finishing the concrete difficult.

2. Accelerating Admixtures

Accelerating admixtures speed up the rate of early strength development in concrete.

This reduces the time needed for proper curing and protection, meaning finishing operations can start earlier.

Accelerating admixtures are especially useful in cold weather since the cold reduces the rate of setting.

3. Air-Entrainment Admixtures

Air-entrainment admixtures increase the durability of concrete during the freeze-thaw cycle. It also increases concrete’s workability and reduces bleeding and segregation.

These mixtures place microscopic air bubbles into the concrete, which prevents cracking from stresses such as water expanding in freezing temperatures.

4. Water-Reducing Admixtures

Water-reducing admixtures reduce the amount of water content required for a concrete mixture by 5 to 10 percent.

Concrete with this admixture will have a lower water-cement ratio, needing less water to reach the desired slump.

This makes it possible to produce higher-strength concrete without increasing the amount of cement used in the concrete. Less reliance on cement is more affordable and sustainable. Lower cement content reduces CO2 emissions and energy use per volume of concrete.

Water-reducing admixtures improve concrete properties, make it easier to place concrete in difficult conditions, and are more stable across a wide range of temperatures.

5. Superplasticizers

Superplasticizers—also known as plasticizers and high-range water reducers (HRWR)—reduce water content by 12 to 30 percent.

Superplasticizers create high-slump flowing concrete out of concrete mixes with low-to-normal slump and water-cement ratios. This increases the workability of concrete, making it highly fluid and easy to place with little to no compaction.

Superplasticizers only increase concrete workability for 30 to 60 minutes, so concrete contractors will usually add superplasticizers to the mixture at the job site instead of at the concrete plant.

What This Could Mean for Concrete In The Future

Concrete additives improve workability and durability. And with the current research into the role additives play on a molecular level, concrete additives could eventually be tailored to changing climates and environmental conditions, such as withstanding natural disasters.

The use of concrete additives sourced locally, such as recycled fly ash, will reduce the carbon footprint of concrete production, especially if this means less reliance on cement for the production of concrete.

Better quality concrete tailored to withstand environment stressors will last longer, requiring less concrete production in the long run. This will result in fewer CO2 emissions and, with any luck, a greener future.

How Are Aggregates Used in Concrete?

A person lets a handful of gravel fall back into a pile of gravel ready for use as an aggregate in a concrete mixture.

A Look at the Role Aggregates, Sand and Gravel Play in Concrete Mixtures

Aggregates play a major role in concrete mixes.

These materials hold the concrete together, influencing the workability of wet concrete and the durability of the finished product.

Furthermore, the characteristics of included aggregates directly affect the performance of a concrete mix.

Everyone knows cement as a concrete ingredient, but it might surprise you to learn that aggregates such as sand and gravel comprise up to 80 percent of most concrete mixes.

Consulting with local gravel and sand suppliers in Ottawa can help you determine the optimal aggregate mixture for your next project,

What Aggregates? How Are They Used In Concrete?

In concrete, aggregates are the granular substances that hold a concrete mix together in its solid form.

Aggregates vary in size and shape, ranging from fine sand to coarse gravel and crushed stone.

When combined with cement and water, aggregates create a bond that holds concrete mixes together.

Optimal Concrete Mixing Tips

The best concrete mixes are low-cost, easy to work with, easy to pump, and don’t shrink once they dry. Easier said than done, in some cases.

The gradation, size, weight, and moisture content of aggregates directly affect the character and performance of your final concrete mix.

If cost-effectiveness is a top-of-mind concern, select the largest allowable aggregate size. Using larger, coarse aggregates typically reduces the total amount of cement (the most expensive ingredient in a given mix) you need to use.

Using less cement also means less water in the final mix, assuming the water-cement ration stays constant. In turn, this helps reduce the risk of shrinkage and cracking during the curing stage.

Aggregate Proportions in Concrete

Concrete mixes usually comprise:

  • 60% to 80% aggregates
  • 14% to 18% water
  • 7% to 15% cement
  • 2% to 8% air

As mentioned earlier, though, not all aggregates are created equal.

The aggregates you choose contribute to overall consistency, strength, workability, and durability.

Quality

High-quality aggregates are clean, hard, and strong with durable particles. Ideally, you want aggregates that are free of clay coatings, harmful chemicals, and other contaminants that affect the hydration of cement and reduce the paste-aggregate bond.

Also avoid using aggregates that:

  • Are susceptible to splitting;
  • Include plenty of soft and porous materials; and
  • Have too much chert, a type of porous aggregate that absorbs water. Chert freezes and expands in the winter, causing concrete to crack. This often results in pop-outs, holes or indentations in the concrete’s surface.

Moisture

Since aggregates absorb water, it’s important to take this into consideration when mixing concrete. The moisture contribution or absorption by aggregates will affect the water-cement ratio and the overall strength of the concrete.

Ready-mix concrete uses aggregates that are in a saturated surface dry (SSD) condition. This means their absorption is satisfied, so the aggregates won’t add or take away moisture from the concrete mix.

Gradations

The proportions of coarse and fine aggregates you use in your concrete mix will depend on the aggregate characteristics, the placement method, and the desired finish.

Fine Aggregates

The fineness of aggregates is measured using the fineness modulus (FM). The FM for fine aggregates should be within the range of 2.3 to 3.1.

Aggregates that are too fine will have a high water demand, and will also result in a sticky concrete mix.

Coarse Aggregates

The largest allowable size of coarse aggregates used in a mix will depend on the size, shape, and reinforcement, and shouldn’t exceed:

  • Three-quarters of the clear spacing between reinforcements (i.e. steel rebar) or between reinforcements and concrete forms;
  • One-third of the depth of the concrete slab; and
  • One-fifth of the narrowest dimension of a reinforcement.

When aggregates are too coarse, they create harsh concrete mixes with low workability. This makes the concrete more difficult to place, consolidate, and finish.

Tips for Mixing and Working With Concrete

The ratio of aggregates to sand to cement determines concrete’s compressive strength.

Compressive strength measures concrete’s resistance to downward force in pounds per square inch (psi). Concrete mixes typically range in compressive strength from 3000 psi to 4000 psi. The higher the compressive strength, the more weight the concrete can support.

The amount of water you use to mix the concrete also affects this strength.

The strength of concrete is inversely proportional to the water-cement ratio, which is to say, the more water you add to mix the concrete, the weaker the final product. Less water leads to a stronger concrete mix but also makes for a more difficult workability.

It normally takes 28 days for concrete to cure and reach its optimal compressive strength, but some mixes cure faster.

Not sure what the ideal compressive strength is for your project? Check out these guidelines:

  • 3000 psi for concrete walls and footings
  • 3500 psi for floors and walkways
  • 4000 psi for driveways

Mixing Ratios

To create a concrete mix of around 3000 psi, you need a concrete mixture ratio of 1-3-3:

  • 1 part cement
  • 3 parts sand
  • 3 parts aggregates

For high-strength concrete (around 4000 psi), use a mixing ratio of 1:2:2:

  • 1 part cement
  • 2 parts sand
  • 2 parts aggregates

Make sure to measure out the dry materials accurately before mixing, and add a bit of water at a time to achieve the desired workability.

Working with aggregates might seem like a headache waiting to happen, but knowing a thing or two goes a long way towards helping your finished concrete project stand the test of time.

What is Concrete Compaction?

Tubs placed in a slab of poured concrete ready mix support internal vibrators to aid in compaction.

How to Ensure Optimal Concrete Ready Mix Strength Through Proper Compaction

You know how to mix and pour concrete. But have you learned how to compact it?

The concrete compaction ensures optimal density and strength, not to mention an excellent surface finish.

That said, a smooth surface does not always mean the concrete underneath is properly compacted.

We’ve put together a helpful guide to teach you how compaction works, and how you to ensure you properly compact a poured concrete ready mix.

What Is Concrete Compaction?

The compaction of concrete removes entrapped air from freshly poured concrete. It also packs the aggregate particles of the concrete mix together. The result is a stronger, denser concrete with low permeability.

How is Compaction Done?

Tamping concrete is a common compaction method on many job sites, but using vibration is by far the most efficient method for long-lasting concrete that looks great. Concrete construction projects often use external, surface, or internal vibrators for concrete compaction.

Internal Vibrators

Internal vibrators are the most common means of compacting concrete through vibration.

These vibrators must be placed vertically into poured concrete. The vibration action helps bring air bubbles to the surface of a poured slab. Once the air bubbles stop surfacing, place the machine in another area of the concrete slab.

You must move systematically throughout the slab until you achieve proper compaction.

External Vibrators

External vibrators are frequently electric or pneumatic devices mounted to the exterior of a work form. These cover a much larger area than other vibrators and are usually spaced 6 feet apart from each other.

External vibrators are ideal for walls and beams and should be run long enough for air bubbles to escape.

Surface Vibrators

Surface vibrators work from the top surface of the concrete, compacting the surface and what’s immediately below it. Contractors may use these with a screed to help level and finish the surface.

Depending on slab thickness, you may use a variety of surface vibrators during a given job.

The Compaction Process

The proper compaction of concrete is a two-stage process that requires slumping and removing trapped air.

Stage 1 – Slumping & Liquefaction

When concrete is first placed, aggregate particles arch against each other. This prevents slumping by internal friction.

But an immersion vibrator will:

  • Move these particles around (liquefy);
  • Consolidate (slump) the concrete to fill its form; and
  • Provide a level surface.

This stage takes about 3 to 5 seconds to complete.

This stage provides a smooth level surface. But the compaction process is not complete until the trapped air has been removed.

Stage 2 – Expel Entrapped Air

Newly placed concrete of normal mixes (not mixes with very low or high workability) contains between 5% and 20% by volume of entrapped air.

An immersion vibrator will bring these trapped air bubbles to the surface of the concrete. This process takes about 7 to 15 seconds to complete since it takes a bit longer for entrapped air to rise to the surface.

Once air bubbles no longer appear on the surface of the concrete, the compaction process for that area of the concrete is complete.

What Can Happen to Concrete That Is Not Properly Compacted?

Both under- and over-vibration of concrete can lead to quality issues. However, under-vibration, or no compaction at all, poses far more problems for poured concrete.

Concrete loses compressive strength and becomes weak if it’s not properly compacted, and the risk of defects in the concrete is greater.

Common defects from poor-quality concrete include cracks, concrete honeycombing, and concrete spalling.

The low compressive strength is unable to withstand heavy weight, such as that from vehicles or structures resting on top of a foundation.

High permeability, meanwhile, allows moisture to seep in and saturate the concrete. This can lead to cracking, especially in winter when the moisture freezes and expands.

How to Avoid Under- and Over-Vibration

To avoid defects in the properties of concrete, you must use the appropriate type and amount of vibration.

The concrete mix needs to be properly proportioned. Mixes lacking fines (stiff mixes) are more difficult to compact and are more porous. Mixes with too high a fines content are prone to segregation and excessive bleeding, especially if they have a high slump.

It’s difficult to over-vibrate mixes that are properly proportioned, but you should take care to not under-vibrate these mixes, either.

Stiff mixes with lower workability need more energy for proper compaction, so use a high-energy vibrator or you should vibrate the concrete for a longer period of time. Either way, the vibrator should have enough power to liquefy the concrete.

Concrete mixes with higher workability need less energy for proper compaction.

The properties of the coarse aggregates in the mix, such as size and angularity, also affect your compaction efforts. Larger and more angular aggregates need more effort to compact than smaller aggregates with smooth or round edges.

When and Why You Should Compact Concrete

You should compact concrete immediately after pouring and placing the concrete in a form.

Freshly placed concrete typically contains 5% to 20% entrapped air (air voids). The higher the percentage of trapped air, the weaker the finished concrete slab will have.

Freshly-placed ready mix concrete that contains 10% entrapped air could have 50% less strength than properly compacted concrete.

The proper compaction of concrete is necessary to maintain the concrete’s structural integrity and gain optimal strength. The many benefits of concrete compaction include:

  • An increased ultimate strength of the concrete product;
  • A stronger bond between the concrete and its reinforcements;
  • Increased durability and resistance to abrasions;
  • Decreased permeability, reducing the risk of cracking and spalling;
  • A reduction in shrinkage characteristics; and
  • A reduction in other forms of cracking.

The proper compaction of concrete will lead to durable, long-lasting concrete.

Keep these tips in mind for your next concrete project, and order proportionately-mixed concrete from your ready mix supplier.

How To Measure Concrete For Any Project

A tape measure, ready for use by a concrete supplier.

Tips to Calculate Enough Concrete to Order from Concrete Suppliers

Now that warmer weather is here, it’s a good time to start planning concrete projects around the home. Maybe you want a new concrete slab for a shed or a backyard patio. Or, maybe you want to redo your garage floor and driveway.

Whatever the project, it’s important that you order enough concrete to get the job done in one pour. The last thing you want when placing concrete is to run out mid-way through.

Concrete slabs placed in one pour are much stronger and will last longer than concrete poured at separate times.

To avoid running out of concrete in the middle of your project, you’ll need to measure the right amount before ordering from your concrete supplier.

Even with a concrete calculator, you need to take a few things into account when measuring the right amount of concrete to pour. And in some cases, you might need to make some measurements on the fly.

To help you order the right amount of concrete for your project, we’ve compiled a few helpful measurement and calculation tips.

Tools You’ll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Notepad and pencil
  • Calculator

Calculating the Amount Of Concrete

Take Measurements

Using the tape measure, measure the area where you plan to place the concrete, writing down the following measurements:

  • The length (L);
  • The width (W); and,
  • The height (H), also referred to as the depth (D).
Use a Concrete Calculator

Concrete calculators are available online from concrete suppliers. Simply input your measurements, whether in millimetres, centimetres, metres, inches, feet, or yards. The calculator will do the work for you to find the volume of concrete you’ll need for your project.

Calculating Cubic Metres

If you took metric measurements, then multiply the length by the width by the depth (L x W x D) to find the volume needed in cubic metres. For measurements in centimetres, multiple the measurements by 100 to find the amount in metres.

Here’s an example of how to calculate area in cubic metres:

15.2 m (L) x 4.6 m (W) x 0.1 m (D) = 6.992 cubic metres

Calculating Cubic Feet

To calculate cubic feet or cubic yards, you first need to convert your measurements in inches to Engineer’s Scale.

Engineer’s Scale takes one foot (12 inches) and converts it into tenths. This scale also eliminates fractions of an inch, converting fractions into decimals (i.e. ½ to 0.5, or ¾ to 0.75).

To illustrate this conversion, the following measurements will be used as an example:

L = 12 feet, 6 inches;

W = 15 feet;

H (D) = 3 and ¾ inches.

Since you only need to convert the inches to feet, any measurement in feet will remain the same.

Converting Length (L) of 12 feet, 6 inches to feet:

  • Take the 6 inches and divide by 12 (since there are 12 inches in one foot).
  • 6 inches / 12 = 0.50 feet
  • Replace inches with feet in the measurement to get the new measurement of L = 12.5 feet.
  • Since the W measurement is only in feet (15 feet), you do not need to convert this. So W = 15 feet.

Converting Height (H) or Depth (D) of 3 and ¾ inches to feet:

  • First convert the fraction (3/4) to a decimal. Divide 3 by 4.
  • 3 / 4 = 0.75 of an inch
  • This results in 3.75 inches.
  • Next, divide 3.75 inches by 12.
  • 3.75 / 12 = 0.31 feet
  • H (D) = 0.31 feet

To measure the cubic feet, multiply the three converted measurements together (L x W x H).

12.5 feet x 15 feet x 0.31 feet = 58.25 cubic feet

Calculating Cubic Yards

To calculate the measurement into cubic yards, take the total cubic feet and divide by 27 (which is the number of cubic feet in a cubic yard).

58.25 cubic feet / 27 = 2.15 cubic yards

Safe Rules of Thumb For Ordering Concrete

When ordering concrete from your local concrete supplier, keep these rules of thumb in mind to ensure you order enough concrete and the right mix for your project needs.

Add 10%

Once you’ve calculated the amount of concrete needed to fill an area, add 10 percent to that amount to account for spillage and possible variations in slab depth.

Multiply the number by 0.10, then add this value to your total amount.

For example: 2.15 cubic yards x 0.10 = 0.215

0.215 + 2.15 cubic yards = 2.365 cubic yards

Concrete Strength

Concrete mixes come in various strengths for various uses. For example, a concrete driveway will require more strength than a shed since it will be holding the weight load of vehicles. The strength of concrete is measured in pounds per square inch (psi).

So when you order concrete from your concrete supplier, make sure to tell them what the concrete is being used for. Depending on your project needs, they will recommend a specific strength of concrete mix. And if you live in Ottawa, or any other temperate location with a freeze/thaw cycle, your concrete supplier will also suggest a specific percentage (i.e. 5%) of air-entrained concrete to withstand the fluctuating temperatures without being damaged.

Keep these measurement, calculation, and ordering tips in mind so you can pour the right amount of quality concrete during your home projects this summer.

Why Stone Works for Your Home

Natural stone in a river next to stone quarries, ready for sourcing for home construction.

A Remarkably Versatile and Sustainable Material Sourced from Local Stone Quarries

When you think of building a home, what materials come to mind? Most likely your mind goes to concrete, brick, and wood.

Have you ever thought about using natural stone for construction?

Stone is a durable, low-maintenance building material that lasts for years. It’s remarkably versatile and eminently sustainable when it comes to home construction, especially if you’re sourcing from local stone quarries. Best of all, the look is unbeatable.

Not sold on stone? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled a few reasons for you to give it a second chance.

Let’s take a closer look at why you should consider using stone as a building material:

Longevity and Sustainability

Due to its long-lasting qualities, stone is one of the most sustainable building materials. It won’t need replacement for years, nor will it end up in landfills as often as other materials. Other building, such as wood, brick, manufactured stone, and synthetic materials, wear down much faster than natural stone.

It’s tough, too. Natural stone doesn’t show the same wear and tear as other materials will and is less likely to be damaged by moisture. Keeping it clean is easy, too; chances are, stone materials won’t easily show dirt, scratches, and stains. A stone kitchen countertop won’t show the same damage as wood or synthetic materials. And stone is perfect for enduring the constant moisture in bathrooms.

Perfect for use both inside and outside the home, stone actually looks better with age. Hard to beat that!

And because of that longevity, stone’s recyclable. Stone from deconstructed buildings can be reused in several ways, including retaining walls in gardens or mosaic wall designs if the stone is broken down.

Processing – What Processing?

Unlike other building materials that need processing after sourcing, natural stone can be used as is. Once extracted, stone is a fully formed and finished product that doesn’t need to be baked or heated. Without processing, it won’t emit more CO2 into the air.

Synthetic materials, such as carpet and vinyl, release toxic chemicals in homes. Their volatile organic compounds (VOCs) release vapours or gas in a process called off-gassing. Off-gassing materials give your home a “new home smell,” but actually compromise your indoor air quality.

Stone is a natural and abundant earth material that can be found nearby. You can source stone products from local stone quarries to reduce the overall carbon footprint of a build.

Passive Heating and Cooling Benefits

Natural stone can passively heat and cool homes with strategic placement based on the sun’s position in the sky in the winter and summer.

For heating, stone captures the sun’s heat and release it into the home gradually during the day and night. This keeps homes evenly heated throughout the colder months, resulting in fewer cold drafts and less strain on heating systems.

Since the sun is higher in the summer, the sun doesn’t beam directly on a stone wall and the stone doesn’t capture the sun’s heat. Instead, it captures heat from the home’s interior, helping regulate indoor air temperatures in the warmer months.

This passive heating and cooling reduces energy consumption and costs and places less of a demand on heating, air conditioning, and energy grids.

Home Décor Options

Natural stone is attractive and versatile, offering numerous design and décor options in the home. Several of these actually help boost curb appeal, and can even add to property value.

Kitchens & Bathrooms

Since stone is impervious to moisture, this material is extremely useful in bathrooms and kitchens. Stone floors, showers, countertops, and sinks add durability and luxury to these designs.

Kitchen countertops take a lot of stress, from hot cookware and chopping to water and moisture from foods. This regular wear and tear will damage synthetic countertops over time.

But stone countertops, such as granite and marble, can handle the heat, scratches, and moisture in a kitchen. And since they are easy to clean and hard to scratch, you won’t have to worry about bacteria buildup, making them safer for food preparation.

The cool, flat surface is also ideal for rolling out pastries and pizza crusts. And the counter will never warp if you place a hot pot or pan on top.

Flooring & Walls

The durability and slip-resistance of stone make it a great flooring material, especially in high-traffic areas of the home. Scratches and dullness are rarely seen, and stone floors are easily cleaned with sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming.

If you ever want to add radiant heating to your floors, stone is the best material for this heating system since it absorbs and retains heat.

Like stone floors, stone walls are resilient and attractive. And as mentioned before, they can work in favour of your home comfort with passive heating and cooling.

Landscaping

Stone is a practical landscaping material since it is strong, weather-resistant, strong, and offers drainage. Common uses for stone in landscaping include walkways, patios, retaining walls, and planters.

When it comes to outdoor landscaping and patio materials, stone fits right in with the natural outdoors. Insects, such as termites, can’t eat away at stone. And stone will withstand the stresses of the weather and environment. It won’t warp or crack from extreme heat or cold, nor will it rot from too much water. It can take prolonged exposure to the elements without disintegrating over time.

For a versatile, attractive, and sustainable building material, opt for natural stone from your local stone quarries. Natural stone is worth the investment since it will boost your home value and last a lifetime.

How to Properly Mix Concrete

Learn techniques for properly mixing concrete products.

Tips for Mixing Quality Concrete Products that Last

Mixing concrete may seem pretty straightforward. But there are certain mixing techniques that will ensure you get the most out of your concrete products.

Properly mixing concrete gives you a strong finished product and saves you from frustrating problems in the future. Too much water will weaken the concrete, while too little will prevent the concrete mix from sticking together.

If you’re doing a small job, bagged concrete mix should be enough. But for larger concrete projects, you’re better off ordering ready-mix concrete delivered in a mixing truck. This will ensure your concrete is mixed thoroughly and with expertise.

To use strong, durable concrete products that will last a lifetime, follow these mixing and curing tips.

Mixing Concrete

If you plan to hand mix small batches of concrete, wear the proper safety gear and use sturdy tools.

Tools and Supplies You’ll Need

For ease of use, mix concrete in a wheelbarrow if you have one. If not, a large plastic tub will do. Along with a mixing container, you will need:

  • Waterproof (i.e. rubber) gloves;
  • Safety glasses;
  • A dust mask;
  • A sturdy hoe;
  • A large bucket;
  • A plastic sheet or piece of plastic; and,
  • A stiff-bristle scrub brush.

Step 1: Add Water to the Concrete Mix

Place the bag of concrete mix in a wheelbarrow (or other mixing container) on one end, and slice open with the hoe. Dump out the mix into your mixing container while pulling out the bag. Scoop out a few cups of dry mix and set aside.

Measure out the specified amount of water into a bucket. You will find the recommended amount on the mix bag. Pour most of the water (except for about 4 cups) into the end opposite the concrete mix in the wheelbarrow.

Using the hoe, pull a small amount of the dry mix into the water, mixing it completely. Keep pulling dry mix into the water and mixing well until all the dry mix is wet and piled on the water side of the wheelbarrow.

Go to the other end of the wheelbarrow, and start pulling the mix back toward you, mixing completely as you go.

Tip: When mixing in a wheelbarrow, brace it with your knee to keep it sturdy.

Step 2: Mix to the Perfect Consistency

Pull the hoe through the mix to create a trench. If the sides of this trench crumble and the concrete falls in chunks, then the mix is too dry. Or, if the mix sags into the trench and is soupy, then the mix is too wet.

The mix will have the right consistency when the sides of the trench stand, the mix is thoroughly wetted, and the concrete has a slight shiny surface when patted with the hoe.

For a mix that is too dry, add one cup of water, mix, and repeat if needed.

If the mix is too wet, add more dry concrete and mix well until it achieves the right consistency.

Step 3: Clean the Equipment

Once you’ve poured the concrete, clean the wheelbarrow, hoe, and any other mixing tools with a scrub brush and water. The longer you leave the residual concrete to dry, the harder it will be to clean.

Before cleaning the wheelbarrow, scrape off any leftover concrete and place it on a plastic sheet or a piece of plastic. For a large pile of excess concrete, break it up into chunks before it hardens so it will be easier to move.

Use a hose and a brush to wash your wheelbarrow (or mixing container) and hoe. Since the rinse water can kill grass, dump the water in a hidden spot on your property. Or dig a hole, pour the water in, wait for it to drain, and then cover with soil.

Curing Concrete

After placing concrete, you must cover it, keep it moist, and allow it time to cure. The curing process is how concrete develops strength. Through a chemical reaction with water called hydration, the concrete aggregates bind together, becoming stronger, harder, and denser. But the concrete must stay covered and moist to prevent evaporation and prematurely halting the hydration process.

Freshly poured concrete is very porous, which makes it more vulnerable to rapid evaporation and stopping hydration. But as the concrete becomes denser with time, it will become less porous. Since it can take months for concrete to fully hydrate and cure, you will only let it cure for as long as needed to attain the required compressive strength.

If you use bagged concrete mix for your project, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for curing. And if you order ready-mixed concrete from a local supplier, the concrete experts will inform you of the curing process for your specific mix. Expect to wait between 2 to 28 days for the concrete to cure, depending on the mix.

Keep the following tips in mind to ensure your concrete hydrates well and cures to a durable strength:

  • Keep it covered with a moist curing blanket—made of canvas or burlap;
  • Keep the curing blanket moist at all times;
  • If it’s very hot out and the concrete is in the direct sun, mist spray the concrete with water, or sprinkle with water using a watering can or sprinkler; and,
  • Cold concrete cures (gains strength) slower than warm concrete, so if you want your concrete project to cure faster, wait until the warmer months to complete your concrete project.

Why Curing And The Water-Cement Ratio Are So Important

Both the water-cement ratio and curing will affect the strength and lifespan of concrete. Concrete with too much water will be weaker since the particles in the mix will be diluted and further apart from each other, making it harder to bond together and form a strong concrete matrix. Instead, the concrete will take longer to cure and will have a lower strength. As a result, weak concrete will be at risk of cracking and curling.

Properly curing concrete ensures the concrete strengthens. It also prevents drying shrinkage. Once the concrete cures well and is strong enough, it will be more resistant to cracking and curling from drying shrinkage.

A properly mixed and cured concrete will improve its strength, durability, water tightness, and resistance to wear. Contact your local concrete suppliers for professionally mixed concrete and curing advice. With a strong concrete and proper care, your concrete products can last a lifetime.

Spring Maintenance for Concrete Products: Parking Lots and Driveways

Concrete products take a beating from winter weather so a bit of maintenance in the spring goes a long way, especially for parking lots and driveways.

The Importance of Booking Spring Maintenance Services to Maintain Asphalt and Concrete Products

With warmer spring weather upon us right around the corner, parking lots and driveways will soon be visible once more. This also means it’s mean time for some much-needed maintenance! The freeze-thaw cycle of the long winter months takes a toll on concrete products like driveways and parking lots. If you had existing issues before the snow fell, there’s a good chance winter made them worse.

Thankfully, the spring thaw is a fantastic opportunity to make much-needed fixes to your concrete products. Now’s the time to take a closer look at your driveway and parking lot!

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Start With an Inspection

Remember, everything starts with an inspection. Assess the winter damage to your pavement. Walk around your driveway or parking lot, taking notes and making sketches of the damage locations.

You can repair minor damage on your own if you want to take the time. But for major issues, you should consider booking a pavement maintenance crew as soon as possible.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

Cracked Pavement

Cracks are a widespread problem in pavement and tend to get bigger over time. To prevent the damage from worsening, consider filling cracks with sealing material.

Fill smaller cracks with a hot-pour rubberized sealer. For cracks larger than 1 ½-inches wide, fill with a fine-grade hot mix asphalt instead.

For excessive or alligator cracking (a series of cracks that look like scales or alligator skin), removing and replacing the damaged pavement is a must. This type of damage is too severe for crack sealing to be effective. Remove pavement with isolated areas of cracking to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Then install full-depth asphalt to strengthen the area.

Heaved Asphalt or Frost Heave

During the freeze-thaw cycle caused by fluctuating winter temperatures, ice lenses form in the soil underneath asphalt. Ice lenses are bodies of ice that form when moisture spreads within soil or rock and builds up in an area.

As ice lenses grow underneath, they eventually push up the surface of the asphalt, resulting in heaved asphalt. As the ground thaws in spring, heaved asphalt should settle back into place. But if it doesn’t return to its level surface, you will need cut out the heaved area and patch it with asphalt patch.

Pavement Settlement

If you notice uneven pavement surface areas, you likely have localized pavement settlement. This is caused by poor compaction during the pavement installation, and/or water washing out the underlying base of the pavement.

Repairing damage from a subsurface washout means the base and pavement area need reconstruction—digging, adding an aggregate base, and filling with asphalt.

But if the settling is only caused by poor compaction, then you can apply a thin surface patch to even out the surface levels. For the edges of this repair, consider using cold mill and overlay.

Raveling Asphalt

Winter tends to intensify this type of asphalt damage. Raveling asphalt occurs when the surface material breaks down over time, exposing and dislodging larger stones in the asphalt. As the pavement wears down, it develops a rough appearance.

If caught early enough, you can control the damage by applying a sand slurry seal to the surface. Or, you can use a small aggregate stone micro-surface.

Depending on the extent of the damage to your pavement, you may want to consider scheduling professional pavement maintenance and repairs instead of trying this work on your own. But if you do plan to book repairs, do so sooner than later so you can have your pavement repaired in a reasonable timeframe.

Booking Pavement Repairs in Spring

Due to Ottawa’s long winters, we have a limited amount of ideal weather to repair pavement and concrete products. Our construction season typically starts in April and goes until November. While that may seem like enough time to get your repairs completed, the busy season books up fast.

The construction season is a busy time for maintenance crews, especially when they are working on carryover projects from last year. And if you own a parking lot, you will likely want to schedule maintenance on a weekend when parking traffic is low. But there are only so many weekends in a construction season. So aim to schedule your maintenance work soon to beat the warm weather rush. You can have your repairs completed during ideal weather, and before winter returns.

By taking care of your pavement damage in the spring, you can keep your driveway or parking lot looking great all summer long. This will boost your property’s curb appeal and prevent safety hazards. Cracks, potholes, and uneven pavement can cause trips, falls, and injuries.

Along with protecting those walking on your pavement, you can protect your pavement from the damaging effects of winter. Taking care of problems now will make your pavement more durable and likely to withstand our long, harsh winter season.

Hot Mix Asphalt Patching Tips

Check out these tips for hot mix asphalt patching!

Your How-To Guide For Patching Potholes with Hot Mix Asphalt

Asphalt patching is a cost-effective solution to repair potholes and cracks. Patching protects asphalt surfaces and foundations from continued damage. If left alone, this damage will worsen over time and become more costly to repair.

Asphalt patching improves the safety and appearance of roads, driveways, and parking lots. It is a quick solution that yields lasting results. And best of all, it’s not too difficult of a job.

Asphalt patching can use either cold or hot asphalt mix. But hot mix asphalt provides a longer-lasting patch. To repair pavement on your property, consider the help of hot mix asphalt suppliers. And read on to learn more about patching techniques.

There are two common types of asphalt patching—surface patching and remove-and-replace patching. Surface patching is popular for residential projects. It is faster and easier than the latter type. When completing a surface patch, you will need to add asphalt glue to the patch area. You will then apply (or have a professional apply) hot mix asphalt on top of the existing asphalt surface.

Remove-and-replace patching takes more time. Although it involves more work, it can result in a longer-lasting patch. If you want to try the remove-and-replace patching method, follow these steps:

Remove Damage & Square the Hole

Remove damaged pavement with an asphalt saw, or with a hammer and a chisel or screwdriver. Square the asphalt, making the edges straight along the sides as well as up and down. This will make it easier to repair and ensure a longer-lasting patch. An asphalt saw is best to use for squaring potholes.

Clean the Pothole

To prevent future damage to the patch, remove any plant life in the pothole. You can pour vinegar on the plants to kill the roots if you are unable to uproot them. Plants left to grow will crack the patch and grow through it over time.

Remove any other debris and chunks of asphalt. Use a stiff broom to sweep out any leftover pieces. And clean as far down as needed to get a solid clean base.

Restore the Foundation

Fill the hole with a coarse gravel and sand mix until it is only one-inch deep. Tamp the aggregates and compress as you fill in the hole. A solid base will provide a long-lasting patch.

Measure the size of the damage—this will determine how much asphalt you will need to patch the holes and/or cracks. Square the edges of the pothole so it will be easier to measure the size of the hole—and multiply the length by the width. For example, a 1-foot by 1-foot hole will be 2 square feet.

Your asphalt supplier can help determine how much asphalt you’ll need.

Patch the Hole

Although cold asphalt mix is easier to use, hot mix asphalt will provide a more durable patch. Hot mix asphalt suppliers will deliver heated asphalt for projects of all sizes. They can even do the final step of the patching for you in a professional and efficient manner.

To fill and patch the hole, add a half- to a full inch of asphalt. Tamp down and repeat until the asphalt is overfilling the hole. If you don’t have a vibrating plate or tamping machine, you can use a metal tamper or a lawn roller.

And if you don’t have these tools either, then you can use a piece of plywood. You may want to oil one side first so it doesn’t stick to the asphalt. Lay the plywood on top of the patch and drive over it with a vehicle.

If you notice the pothole is not completely full after this tamping, add more asphalt. Tamp and repeat until it is level with the surrounding pavement. The quicker you finish patching, the better. You will need to complete the patching before the asphalt sets, dries, and hardens.

Seal the Patch

To prevent the elements and de-icing salt from damaging your patch, make sure to seal it. Wait four hours before sealing the patch so it has time to cure.

Only seal patches in dry warm weather. If you have to patch a pothole in the winter, wait until warmer spring weather to seal it. Use a paintbrush or roller to apply a thin seal coat to the patch. Wait for it to dry before applying the second coat.

If using hot mix asphalt, wait at least 24 hours before driving on the patch so it will have time to harden.

With quality asphalt, you can repair your own potholes and pavement damage. Contact hot mix asphalt suppliers for advice and help with your project. By patching asphalt before the damage worsens, you can add years to the life of your pavement. And you will improve its appearance, safety, and function.

Contact Information

AL Blair Construction
7 Labrosse, P.O Box 220
Moose Creek, ON K0C 1W0, Canada

Phone: 613-538-2271
E-mail: [javascript protected email address]