How Thick Should a Concrete Patio Be?

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Tired of your dirty or grassy patio? Then don’t worry – you can always install a concrete patio and make it awesome. But building a concrete patio is not easy, especially when it comes to measuring the concrete patio thickness, as it depends on many factors.

Luckily for you, this calculation doesn’t have to take you back to middle-school math. It is actually simple enough to do it in a few minutes. For that, you’ll have to know what to consider and what to overlook.

In this guide, we want to help you measure the ideal thickness of concrete for your patio and help you build your own as necessary.

So, need some help setting up that concrete patio at home? Then below, you’ll find all the help you need. Take a look!

Benefits of a Concrete Patio

Benefits of a Concrete Patio

Before getting into more technical terms and specific details, let’s give you a brief explanation of why a concrete patio is such an excellent idea. Below are some reasons to think about:

1. It’s Cheap

Few materials are cheaper than concrete while still delivering an excellent level of sturdiness. So it is a go-to choice if you’re short on budget.

2. Last a Lifetime

Last a Lifetime

Despite its cheapness, concrete is super-resilient. Most concrete can withstand decades of constant weight and traffic without cracking, breaking, or wearing out.  

3. Requires Little Maintenance

If you’re tired of mowing the grass on your patio lawn, watering the garden, or merely keeping animals out – then you’ll love how a concrete patio prevents all of that. You can clean it with a pressure washer if necessary, but even then, a concrete patio will rarely get dirty enough to need that. 

4. Looks Enticing

Looks Enticing

Even though some people find concrete dull and lifeless, it can actually enhance the looks of your patio. It pairs up nicely with decorations, a nice stain or color, garden pots, tiles, stone, or even wood to add an attractive look to your patio. 

5. Not Hard to Do

Measuring the area, mixing the concrete, pouring, and then leveling out may seem like a titanic task – but it’s not. Building a concrete patio is not necessarily easy, but it is way more accessible than a deck, finished floor, or anything of the like. 

6. Sets Up Fast 

Sets Up Fast

If you pour the concrete on the desired area today, you can have it ready tomorrow. Even in gigantic places, you can get a concrete patio working in 48 hours or less. 

How Much Does A Concrete Patio Cost?

Now that you’re aware of the benefits of building a concrete patio, let’s take a more in-depth look into the costs you can face. Here, we separate the costs depending on what you’re looking to get:

1. DIY Cost

DIY Cost

If you’re a resourceful person, you will likely want to build the concrete patio yourself. In that case, you will probably face a medium cost of $5 per square foot. If you can find cheap cement and additives (gravel, sand, etc.), then you may get the price down to $3 per square foot. 

2. Simple with Expert Installation

Hiring a builder or mason to get the job done may cost you no less than $6 per square foot. If you want extra decorative touches or the place is difficult to work on, you may see a price of up to $10 per foot. 

3. Custom Patio Design

Custom Patio Design

Want an elaborate patio with unique stamping and custom decorations? Then you will probably need to spend at least $10 per foot. In some cases, the price may go up to $20 per square foot or more. 

How Thick Should Concrete Be for Patio?

Well, concrete doesn’t have a standardized concrete patio thickness to follow. But you can find a guide on concrete slabs.

They’re usually 4 inches thick. So that’s the average of most concrete patios nowadays. Even then, some patios may need more thickness than that, especially if they’re going on high-traffic areas or under heavy objects. This could take the thickness up to 8 inches.

But even then, you may still find slabs as thin as 2 inches. These are ideal for decorative uses, yet also work for low-traffic patios.

How to Determine a Concrete Patio Thickness?

How to Determine a Concrete Patio Thickness?

With a clearer idea of the price and thickness of a concrete patio, let’s explain how you can determine concrete patio thickness more easily. Follow these steps:

1. Get the Ideal Ratio

Concrete does not work alone. You usually need at least 1 inch of base. This base is made of sand, gravel, limestone, and other additives. 

When it comes to calculating the ratio, you should consider how stiff you want the concrete to be. The more concrete you have, the stiffer it will be, but also the more expensive. Adding a proper layer of aggregates won’t be a bad idea (depending on what you want).  

2. Find the Ideal Height

Find the Ideal Height

You’re probably setting up the patio close to a lawn, garden, or topsoil. In that case, you’ll want the concrete patio to be at the same level or higher than the rest of the place. 

That’s why it is recommended to measure the height you want for the concrete patio first. You won’t like setting up a concrete patio that eventually looks asymmetric with the rest of the backyard. 

3. Consider the Flatness

If the area you’re looking to build the concrete flat enough? If not, you will probably need to flatten it out first.

This flattening may eventually elevate the area a little, so you will probably not need as much concrete patio thickness as initially thought. And if you’re working slope, then the thickness will change depending on how angled it is. Be careful to consider this before making any final choice. 

4. Think About Overall Size

Think About Overall Size

Lastly, think about how large the whole concrete patio will be. The larger it is, the thicker you should build it. This works to prevent cracking and breakage over time, especially for decks of less than 4 inches in thickness. If you make it at 4 inches or thicker, you won’t have to worry much, no matter the size. 

How to Build a Concrete Patio (DIY Guide)?

So, do you have a general idea of the concrete patio thickness already? Then let’s teach you how to get that concrete patio going in a few steps. Follow these

1. Plan the Patio

Plan the Patio

Before you start pouring the concrete, place some sticks around the area to cover. Then piece them together with some cord. This cord should be at the height or thickness you want the concrete to be. It will work as a guide.

Finally, place some wooden plants and/or separators on the borders of the patio. They should prevent any cement from going out of the working area. 

2. Add the Base

The subbase of the concrete refers to the sand, gravel, limestone, or any other aggregate. You should have at least 1 inch of the subbase.

If the patio is large or located in a high-traffic area, you may need to add a reinforcing mesh or similar material. This reinforcement should go over the sub-base, so it gets covered in concrete. 

Lastly, be sure to dampen the subbase with water at least 1 hour before pouring. This should help compact the base for the concrete to flatten out faster. 

3. Prepare the Mix

Prepare the Mix

Now you can prepare the mix of concrete as necessary. Remember to add the additives (sand, gravel, limestone, etc.) as required. You will probably need about 3/4 of total concrete for a standard patio.

Mix the concrete as necessary. A concrete mixer will obviously be an excellent tool to have for this kind of job. 

4. Pour the Concrete

With the concrete ready, it is time to start pouring. You should begin pouring per section or batch if the area is large. Otherwise, one or two wheelbarrows of concrete should suffice.

Use a mortar hoe or trowel to push and spread the concrete around. Don’t overwork it to prevent bubbling. Then try evening it out by following the cord you installed on the stakes.

Because concrete is heavy, giving form and leveling it should not be too hard. But don’t let it get too stiff, so you should do this with every batch before pouring the rest.

5. Finish the Cement

Finish the Cement

With the concrete already poured and leveled on the area, you need to smooth it out and edge it. This should give it a perfect finish and prevent any unwanted shape later on.

You will need a darby for the finishing of the concrete surface. Move it in arcs. Then repeat the overlapping consistently. 

Don’t push the concrete downwards to prevent an unlevelled patio later on. Be smooth and soft. You just want to remove inconsistencies on the surface. The concrete should end up pristinely flat. 

You can finish by using a trowel to remove the excess and leveling out the edges of the patio.

6. Let It Dry

Finish by just letting the concrete dry for at least 3 days. Some concrete formulas may dry out in 24 hours or so. Either way, you should keep everyone and everything off the concrete. You don’t want paw marks on dry concrete.

To protect it, you can always use plastic sheeting over the concrete. Just be careful not to touch the wet concrete while it dries up, to prevent any damage to the smoothening. 

Once 3 days pass, you can remove the sheeting. After 5 to 10 days, you will have a pristine concrete patio to enjoy, 

Bottom Line

As you can see, finding out the proper concrete patio thickness won’t be the most challenging thing to do. But it can certainly be a little confusing.

Follow our advice and recommendations to find the ideal thickness. You won’t regret doing so before building up that concrete patio.

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