I’ve decided to start documenting what it is like to be a concrete contractor. Even though it doesn’t really seem very glamorous or exciting, it’s my life, and it is much more difficult than it seems. It takes a special kind of man or woman to work literally ankle deep in this heavy, and dangerous material. So you decide your home is in need of an upgrade. One of the best ways to transform any space whether it's indoors or outdoors, is to just add concrete. It can be plain concrete, it can be stamped concrete, colored concrete, acid washed concrete, polished concrete, the possibilities are endless.
For me there is a lot more that goes into running a concrete business than just the concrete. The biggest difference I think I made in my business that most other business owners do not do, is I have a marketing process in place. It’s pretty amazing how I don’t have to worry about where my next job is coming from, and only focus on the quality and care of my work. This is what makes me successful. I hired a marketing company who puts content out there that attracts customers to my website who are actively looking for someone to help them with installing new concrete, or enhancing concrete they already have, and then they call me. It’s the best thing that I spend money on in my business, and I highly recommend if you are a business owner in any niche that you do the same thing.
Once your marketing is in place, there is the topic of the job itself. Now concrete is tricky when it comes to weather and other variables that might affect the way concrete cures and how it will turn out. So I usually only book jobs during the spring, summer and early fall months and leave the indoor concrete jobs for the winter time, since I am in the Midwest where winters are usually pretty extreme. Of course pouring any outdoor concrete in cold and snow is not only not going to turn out very well, it is also very uncomfortable. But when the time and temperature is right, it is GAME ON! My crew and I usually work from early in the morning to late at night, especially when the days are longer in the middle of the summer, that gives us plenty of time to go in between jobs and take each step with each process carefully. And since I’m on the subject of each step and each process it reminds me of how interesting it is to have multiple jobs going on at one time.
Say I’ve got 3 jobs happening. One is a stamped patio job in one town that my crew and I started digging and framing out at 8 in the morning. The next is a small driveway on the other side of town that is ready to be poured at 1pm. And the third job is a front porch and walkway in the city, that I can try to start framing out after the driveway is poured and the surface has been broom finished. We will have to go back to each of these jobs multiple times to complete each step in the correct order. The digging and preparing requires keeping the surface under where the concrete is poured to be flat and even, which can most times prove to be very difficult depending on where the concrete is going and what needs to be cleared. This can sometimes involve taking out bushes, grass, and large and small trees (a huge job in itself). If there is old concrete or gravel that is needing to be replaced, it all must be dug up and removed before any of the other steps can be performed. Usually the homeowner will take care of this step themselves before they even call us. But sometimes, they want us to do the whole project from start to finish and it is something that we have to factor into our time and schedule. Once the prep work is done it is time to start framing where the fresh concrete is going to be laid. There is usually a specific design that the customer has in mind, so I must work together with the home or business owner to come up with what makes the most sense, and of course what will look the best. And then start laying down the framework. The concrete gets held in by the flexible molds that outline the spot of the dug out area. Then there might be the re-bar that is placed on the floor of the area, this is usually only done where the concrete will need extra support, like a driveway or road area that will most likely have cars driving on it and other heavy objects. Once all of this is in place it is smart to have the concrete ordered right away. And as I say this it occurs to me that you may not know what that means. Well to get concrete ordered, you will have to have the knowledge of where concrete is available in your area, and an idea of what concrete company you prefer. I then give them a call and let them know the square footage of the job that is ready to be poured. And they give me a time of when they can have it be delivered in the big mixer truck. Once the truck arrives there is another possible hurdle to overcome. It may be an easy driveway pour, where the truck can pull right up to the job and start pouring the concrete right where it needs to go. But these trucks are huge and extremely heavy as you can imagine. So you must be calculated in your decision of how to get the concrete where it needs to go. For instance if I’m putting in a backyard patio and there is little to no area where the truck can get through to the yard, the concrete will have to be poured into wheelbarrows and transferred to the back of the house one barrow full at a time. A little more effort and time goes into a process such as this, all of which must be factored into each job you are working on at a time. So now your concrete is poured. It is time to work quickly and efficiently. You only have so much time to get your finishing done before the concrete starts to harden and your project might fail. And I don’t think I have to tell you how costly a failed concrete project would be, so it is imperative that you know your timing on when to do what. Finishing can look a number of different ways. More times than not for an easy residential driveway pour, it is just a matter of brooming the top layer to make the surface textured just enough to look great and not be slippery when wet. But other things that take more time and are therefore requiring more attention and planning, like stamped concrete. Stamped concrete is really cool and very unique to each homeowner or business owner. It sets you apart from your neighbors and really makes a statement. For me though, it is a very calculated and detail oriented part of my job. Each stamp must be timed out with how quickly the truck is pouring the concrete and how long the concrete can even last inside the truck before it starts to harden. Coloring the concrete is another option, that is usually added in to the concrete before it is poured though so it doesn’t have a huge impact on timing, but pretty nonetheless. Once the surface has been finished the concrete has to fully cure. This means, no walking on it, no playing on it and especially no driving on it. It usually takes about a day or 2 before you can walk and play on it, but we tell people no driving on it for about 5-7 days after it is poured. This is also about the time that either we will come back a final time, or hire a concrete cutting company to come out and cut expansion joints into the concrete. This will help ensure that if there is any cracking or separating that could take place, it will ideally happen in the cracks that are cut in. It also helps the concrete have that finished and symmetrical feel to it. This is my favorite step of the process because not only does it mean another job is complete but it just makes me feel so good to see the end result of hard work, not to mention another happy customer. Okay I take it back, I have another favorite part...it’s collecting the money for a job well done. Of course!!