Welcome back, friends! For those of you who are following along our back patio renovation, thank you so much for your support and encouragement! In the last a few posts, I’ve showed you how we removed the ugly metal awnings covering the patio, demo-ed of existing porches and the new patio plans, and replaced an old window well. All these effort led to today – when the concrete was poured and our patio appeared in front of our eyes!
In the afternoon of the day we replaced the window well, the concrete guys showed up around 5 PM to double check the level of the ground and remove large debris. They had scheduled the concrete trunk for 5:30 PM sharp, at which time our future patio was completely in shade and the outdoor temperature has cooled down a bit. This condition allows the concrete to dry fast enough to pull the frame off the same day, but slow enough for the crew to finish it before it was too hard to work on.
We removed a good portion of the chain link fence so the concrete trunk could drive right next to the work site.
It is interesting for us to learn how the business works – our contractor, who demos, frames and finishes concrete actually does not own the concrete truck nor mix the concrete themselves. They order just right amount of the concrete from another local business, whose worker drives in this truck with concrete mix and water tank equipped. The concrete business does not do any demo nor framing – all they privide is X amount of the concrete. As soon as the concrete was mixed in the truck and spilled down the slide into our contractor’s wheelbarrow, it became our contractor’s responsibility.
See the young guy in construction vest standing next to the concrete slide? He is the driver of the concrete trunk and all he is responsible for was to turn on the mixture, let out X amount of the concrete (one wheelbarrow at a time), and clean up his trunk afterwards. That is why it is so important to order just right amount of the concrete – any leftover concrete mix needs to be washed out of the trunk and disposes at the job site (on our lawn for example). So if our contractor had ordered too much concrete, they would have to haul the leftover away after it had dried on our lawn.
First wheelbarrow went into the future stair in front of the backdoor:
And as soon as it was full, one of our guys went in and compacted it with a small trowel:
Then barrows after barrows of concrete were poured carefully into the frame, starting on the far end of the patio. Two guys were transporting the wet concrete mix with two wheelbarrows non-stop while the third contractor of ours leveled it with a shovel.
After a couple minutes, one of the guys stopped transporting concrete mix and started packed down from the far end:
As this point, one of our contractors was pouring wet mix in to the frame, another leveled the wet mix with a shovel, and the third person packed every bits down. The whole action was well-coordinated.
It is amazing how fast the pouring process went. Before the whole thing started, our contractors, the father, son, and son-in-law trio all got ready as if they were in a race. And soon I realized why: it was indeed a race – a race to achieve a solid and leveled base before the concrete started to dry.
As soon as the whole frame was filled, while the other two of our guys were still busy packing down the last corner, one guys already started smoothing the surface:
See the small portion of wet concrete on a piece of plywood? That is how much leftover we had. It was THAT precise. And even this tiny bit of concrete did not go to waste – they were later used to fill the holes after the framing around the stairs were removed.
After the whole surface was packed down and smoothed out, one of our contractors started to further smooth it with a smaller trowel:
From end to end:
At this point, the surface was already pretty nice. It was still too soft for the broom finish, so our guys caught a moment to rinse off the wet mix on their tools and in the wheelbarrows, and paid for the concrete delivery truck.
As soon as the surface got a bit harder, the framing around the step were taken off and the holes from the vertical studs were filled with leftover concrete mix. The whole stair were then finished on all sides.
This was also the time to put in the expansion joints, which are these straight lines to allow the concrete to swell and shrink in different outdoor temperatures.
The final step was finishing the surface with a big broom. For a broom dedicated to concrete work, it was surprisingly clean and well maintained. Apparently these guys rinse it off carefully after each job. Watching them rinsing their tools reminds me the paint brushes we inherited from my late father-in-law, who was an experience contractor – his used paint brushes were all clean and soft, carefully wrapped in their original packaging to protect the bristles, and neatly organized in a soft-bottom brush bag. Good workmanship requires good care of your tools.
The broom finish step took a long time. It was done in multiple passes. It was just amazing to see how detailed this part was – all the edges and seams requires very precised movement of the corner of the broom, which means that the guy moving the broom sometimes needed to hold it up while rotating it gently. This part definitely needed muscle strength!
From the time concrete trunk arrived to a finished surface, it took about two hours. Most of the time was spent on finishing and detailing. While our contractor had some spare time, they also patched some gaps in the existing concrete walk way with leftover concrete. We appreciated it!
The new patio will continue to cure for a few days before we could walk on it. To prevent dogs from scratching the patio, we locked the backdoor and completely fenced off the patio. It was a paws-off zone here!
This is how the patio looked the next morning – it was so hard not to walk on it!