DIY Concrete vs. Hiring a Professional

Can you afford a novice mistake? The demolition and removal of a botched concrete project may cost more than a contractor.

Posted by Caryn Colgan | Jan 20, 2010
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Do-it-yourself homeowners are often fearless when it comes to projects around the house. However, there are some home improvements that are best left to the professionals. One example of those is concrete work. Successful concrete projects require time, patience, careful calculations and measurements because failures can be costly to repair or demolish and haul away. Hiring a contractor to install concrete tends to be more cost effective than risking botched DIY concrete projects.

DIY Concrete Projects vs Professional Work

So let’s say you’re a competent do-it-yourselfer. What type of DIY concrete projects can you tackle and what do you hand over to a pro?

Concrete projects such as a small patio are perfect for weekend warriors. Why? You’ll be working on a small-scale, ground level installation.

However, for foundations, footings, and larger projects, your best choice is probably to hire concrete professionals. They are experts in all the right areas:

  • pulling permits for concrete work (usually not necessary for the patio project mentioned previously)

  • proper mixing

  • building concrete forms

  • assessing whether or not the project requires reinforcements such as rebar

  • applying decorative concrete finishes like staining, stamping, engraving, or polishing

  • allowing for the concrete curing process

  • calculating optimal drying times

Common DIY Concrete Projects Mistakes

  1. Before pouring concrete, a form must be built for the project. Knowing the maximum dimensions of the forms is critical to prevent the slumping and cracking of the final project. One common amateur mistake is to make the pad too large.

  2. Another DIY mistake is failing to make the concrete template or form level. The sides of the forms must be carefully laid out in order for the finished project to be level. Also, the foundation must be leveled so that the concrete won’t be too deep in some spots, which will cause uneven drying and deformation.

  3. In a rush to get the job done, it can be tempting to bypass careful measuring and instead, add water to a dry concrete mix until it "looks about right." Unfortunately, improperly mixed concrete is more likely to crack. Some cracks can be filled and repaired, but if the foundation of a building cracks, it requires a major expenditure to fix. Foundation cracks can also significantly decrease the value of a home or building. It takes time to plan, measure, pour, and finish the concrete correctly. Professionals know the value of doing this right. 

Concrete Professionals are Quick and Equipped

Since professional concrete contractors know the characteristics of their medium, they are able to complete the project much more quickly than those with less experience can. When hiring concrete contractors, be sure they guarantee their results and will take care of any problems right away.

Not only can professional contractors complete a project faster, they have all of the equipment. A wheelbarrow is not sufficient for larger concrete projects. They generally require a concrete mixer, which can be expensive to rent. The pros also have the necessary tools to properly apply a smooth or textured finish to the concrete's surface.

There are some projects that do-it-yourself homeowners should consider hiring professionals to complete. Concrete work can be expensive to demolish and haul away. By hiring a concrete professional, homeowners can be sure that the work actually adds value to their home.

This article was updated November 8, 2017.

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