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Concrete is nothing more than a mixture of portland cement, gravel, sand and water. It is used for sidewalks, patios, driveways, setting posts and much, much more. When concrete is wet it is a caustic so when working with it always be sure to wear goggles, long pants, water proof gloves, long sleeves and rubber boots. You can purchase the items to mix your own concrete for smaller projects at most hardware stores. You will also need a container to mix the concrete in, a tool to stir the mixture and a trowel.

When mixing concrete for small projects you will only need to buy a 90 pound bag of dry mixed concrete. This will cover an area of 2\3 cubic feet. You will need a plastic or metal bucket to mix the concrete in or you can use a wheelbarrow. If you do not have a wheel barrow for mixing one can be rented from a tool rental store. Begin by pouring part of the dry mix into the container and add a little water. Stir with a shovel or hoe to see if the mix is too dry. Add more water until the concrete is the right consistency. You can tell when the concrete is ready for pouring when it will hold a mound shape and the smoothed surface will retain a slash mark made by your trowel. If the job you are doing requires more concrete it is wise to rent a portable mixer. Be careful not to exceed its capacity, which will usually be about half its total volume. For a driveway or sidewalk you will need one part cement, 2 parts sand, 4 parts aggregate or gravel and 1\2 part water. Be sure to place your mixer so it is located at the site where you will be working so you will not have to transport the concrete long distances. After you have mixed each batch use a water hose to clean out the drum of the mixer and wash the cement from your tools.

Be sure when working with concrete that you are working on a dry day. If doing small jobs, such as setting fence posts, you can simply add the mixture to the hole around the post. In this case be sure to leave enough room when you dig your post hole to all the cement to completely encase the bottom of the post. For larger jobs you will need a level gravel bed to pour on or a slightly damp level ground. Sidewalks and driveways will need to be framed out on the sides before you mix your concrete. This should be done with boards to ensure the concrete will set up in the shape you expect. Each load of concrete should be dumped against the previous load and you should always begin at the corner of your project. If you are making a slab be sure to spread the concrete with your shovel or hoe. If you are working on a wall type structure use your hoe or shovel to work the concrete to remove air bubbles.

After all the concrete is poured it should be smoothed by using a strike off board which is placed across the side forms. Shift the excess concrete into the voids by shifting the board back and forth. When the concrete has a smooth level surface, allow it to set until it will hold its shape. Using an edger run back and forth between the side forms and the concrete. To allow for expansion, cut control joints every 4 feet for sidewalks and 10 feet for driveways. Level any lumps with a wooden float and smooth the surface with your trowel. If you prefer a non-skid surface, simply brush the concrete with a damp broom. You can remove the forms after the concrete has set for 24 hours but do no walk on the surface for at least five days.