How to Build a Concrete Driveway: 9 Tips from the Pros

It’s not every day you find yourself learning how to mix and pour concrete. But if you’re looking for a cost-effective way to fix up your home, the DIY route is the best way to go!

Creating your own concrete driveway means you can save a lot of money on hiring contractors and added fees. Not to mention, you’re sure to enjoy the final result a lot more knowing that you made it yourself. 

This is a lot easier than it sounds, and you’ll probably end up enjoying yourself more than you might think. Here are all the steps you need to take to transform your current driveway into a smooth, beautiful path.

1. Get a Building Permit 

Before you start rolling up your sleeves, check to see whether or not you’re allowed to do this project. Even if you’ve paid off your mortgage, you may have a few hoops to jump through with your neighborhood home owner’s association or local government. 

This doesn’t mean the project is impossible. It just means you have to get a building permit and maybe notify your neighborhood about the work you’re planning to do. 

2. Remove Your Current Driveway 

Once you have all the paperwork you need, you have to clear a path for the concrete to be poured. This is going to take some heavy machinery. 

Whether you have a dirt road or a stone-paved driveway leading up to your house, you have to get everything out of the way and smooth down the foundation before laying any concrete. It might be a good idea to get some help with this. 

3. Plan Your New Concrete Driveway 

As you’re figuring out what to do about your old driveway, start picturing what you want the new driveway to look like.

Remember, this is your chance to transform the front yard entirely. You may choose to do a half-loop driveway in the front of the house rather than keeping the driveway off to the side. You might want to take the current path you have and make it thinner or wider, too. 

Also, take a moment to consider if you really want to use concrete or if you’d rather work with cement. These two materials create similar results, but they’re different to work with.

Keep in mind that any changes you make will have an effect on your landscaping. Be prepared to do some extra work once the concrete driveway is done or start scheduling for landscapers to come in after everything dries. 

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4. Gather All the Materials 

Don’t forget to establish a budget for your DIY project as you’re planning everything out. This helps you get the most cost-effective result.  It also keeps you from buying things you don’t need – like twice the amount of concrete it would take to create your new driveway!

Once your budget is ready you can start buying all the tools necessary to make this project happen. These will include:

  • sand or clay
  • a shovel
  • a compactor tool
  • wooden panels 
  • steel reinforcing bars (rebar)
  • a rebar grinder and bender
  • nails and a drill
  • concrete mix
  • a wheelbarrow or concrete truck
  • a hose 

You’ll also need to choose the curing materials you want to use. Gloves and protective gear are an absolute must-have in every step of the concrete mixing, pouring, and drying process. 

5. Lay the Foundation 

The foundation of your concrete driveway begins with sand or clay and a compactor tool. You need to evenly distribute the sand over the path you’ve planned out. The compactor tool is used to pad the surface so that it is smooth and sturdy. 

The more sand or clay you add, the stronger your driveway will be. This is what reinforces the dirt on your property to be able to support your new driveway and all the cars that will be parked on top.

After you’ve added enough reinforcement, start establishing the different panels of concrete you plan to pour. This is when the wood panels and steel bars come in. The panels will lay out each different section while the rebar should be set up as a grid under all of your concrete. 

6. Mix and Pour the Concrete 

The next step is to mix and pour the concrete. If you can’t get your hands on a concrete truck, you’ll have to do this manually in a wheelbarrow.

This is hard labor and time extensive, as well as time sensitive. You need to be sure that the concrete doesn’t dry out on you as you move along the course of your new driveway’s path.

Regardless of which approach you take, be careful not to make any concrete or cement pumping mistakes. Go methodically around each panel from the inside to the outside until you’ve reached the edges, and take your time doing so.

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7. Strike and Smooth Wet Concrete 

Once all the concrete has been laid, it’s time to strike and smooth it. Striking means to level it out. It’s a 2-person job, so make sure you have someone ready to help you while you’re pouring and striking each panel. 

Smoothing fills out any air bubbles and creates an even flat surface all the way through. It can be done with a darby or a bull float, both of which you can easily find at a hardware store.

8. Edge the Driveway

Edging is one of the more meticulous parts of the entire process. You have to go around the perimeter of your driveway and curve it with an edger or mason’s trowel. This creates a clean, professional look and it also helps prevents cracks.

9. Cure the Entire Driveway While It Dries

You don’t want to put so much work into pouring and working the concrete only to have it crack while it dries! This is why curing is so important. This process can be done a few different ways, but the main objective is to maintain a bit of moisture on the concrete’s surface during the drying process. 

You can cover your driveway with burlap, sand, or straw. Burlap is the easiest to work with. Make sure you have enough to cover the entire driveway in one piece and go over the edges, too.

Secure the burlap in place in your grass and hold it down where your driveway meets the main road. Then, spray over the entire surface with a hose.

More DIY Home Improvement Tips and Tricks

Whether you want to create a new concrete driveway or simply paint your front door, there are all kinds of DIY projects you can do to amp up your curb appeal. But, whatever you do needs to be carefully planned and executed. This is the best way to ensure the greatest possible outcome without hiring professionals. 

For more home renovation tips and tricks, click here.