When completing a home improvement job that requires concrete, such as adding steps or a patio, driveway, or walkway to your yard, getting ready-mixed concrete delivered can save you a lot of time and hassle. However, there’s a number of factors, from the amount of concrete you need to the particulars of your yard and driveway, that can impact delivery times and costs. Before you schedule that weekend delivery, it’s important to take time to understand the associated challenges and determine exactly how much concrete you need to complete the job efficiently.
One of the primary benefits of concrete, aside from its durability and stability, is its versatility. Ready-mix poured concrete comes in a variety of strengths, but homeowners can also order it in a number of decorative finishes that impart color or textural effects to a space.
Stamped concrete costs vary widely depending on the colors and patterns desired for the final effect. Basic installation costs between $8 and $12per square foot and typically incorporates one pattern and one color. Mid-range installation costs $12 to $18 per square foot and incorporates upgrades such as different border colors and areas of contrasting patterns. High-end stamped concrete costs $18 or moreper square foot and can include several patterns, mixed hues, and hand-colored or hand-scored patterns.
Stained concrete is a less-costly alternative to stamped concrete because color is applied to the surface, not blended into the material. Expect to pay approximately $2 to $4 per square foot for concrete staining that involves application of one stain color and protective sealant. Stain projects can also expand to include border designs, stenciling, and multiple colors, which can increase the price to $15 per square foot.
The amount of concrete you need plays a large role in the final cost of delivery. However, unlike most other home projects, concrete jobs are normally measured in cubic yards rather than square feet.
The basic formula to calculate the size of your project in cubic yards starts with the project's square footage (length x width) and multiplies that by the height/depth of the space. Once you have this figure, which is the project's size in cubic feet, you divide by 27 (the number of cubic feet in a cubic yard) to arrive at your final number. So, for a 10x10 patio at a 6-inch depth, your equation would look like this:
10 * 10 = 100
100 * .5 = 50
50/27 = 1.85 cubic yards
Once you determine how much material your job requires, add 10 percent to that final number to account for waste and spills. It is far better to spend the money on too much concrete than to spend even more money to get a little bit more. For the example above, you need approximately 2 cubic yards of ready-mix concrete. According to the NRMCA - Ready-mix Concrete Industry Data Survey, the average cost of concrete in 2014 was $98.23 per cubic yard, or $196.46 for the 2 cubic yards needed for 10x10 patio project listed above.
Knowing you need 2 cubic yards of concrete and actually getting that material to your worksite are two different things. Cement trucks can’t drive from site to site making deliveries. Rather, each batch of concrete, whether it is 2 cubic yards or 10, is individually formulated, measured, and mixed for the consumer. From the time the mixture is made, a truck has 90 minutes to deliver it or 300 rotations of the barrel, whichever comes first, before the product starts to set.
The amount of concrete you order and the distance that a truck has to travel to deliver it equally affect the final cost and feasibility of delivery. Notably, consumers who order less than a full truck (generally 10 cubic feet) usually have to pay a "short load" fee at an average rate of $17 per cubic yard to compensate for the loss of sending a partially filled truck. In the example scenario, consumers need to add an 8-cubic-yard "short load" fee of $136 to their material costs, making the total $196.46 + $136 or $332.46.
To avoid paying the short load fee and other potential surcharges associated with a full-size concrete truck, many homeowners choose alternate delivery methods that still offer ready-mix concrete, but save time and/or money over the full truck.
Short Load Services
Some companies offer what they call "short load" services in which they mix batches of 1-9 cubic yards of concrete onsite at your home using a freestanding mixer. There is usually a service charge of around $85-$100 for this option, and the cost per cubic yard may be slightly ($5-$10) higher. However, short load services generally offer concrete in ¼-cubic-yard increments, making this an ideal option for smaller (1-3 cubic yard) projects where the short load fees total $100 or more.
Haul Your Own Concrete
Homeowners can also move their own concrete, generally up to 1 cubic yard, using a small mixer or tub attached to a trailer. In this case, the rental of the mixer trailer is added to the price, raising the cost by $10 or more per cubic yard. If you choose to haul your own concrete, it is also important to consider the particulars of your project and whether or not driving back and forth will impact its final result, particularly if more than 1 cubic yard of material is needed.
Once you are ready to order your concrete, there are a few key questions to ask both yourself and the batch plant before settling on a delivery date.
What strength of concrete do you need? Advise the plant of your project and ask for advice on the particular mix you need to get the best results. Additives may increase the per-cubic-foot cost but will also increase durability.
What day of the week do you want the concrete delivered? Many batch plants charge a premium for weekend and holiday deliveries.
How much time will you need to unload it? Generally, companies allot between 5-10 minutes for unload time on a project. Inquire about costs for "overtime" spent on your project site.
How will you unload the concrete? Will you be able to use the cement truck's chute to offload the concrete, or do you need wheelbarrows? In the case of the latter, have two to three people or more ready to help. In especially hard-to-reach areas, you may need the additional help of a concrete pump, which carries with it extra cost.
What will you do with the leftover concrete? Ordering more concrete than needed is always a good idea because it’s less expensive than ordering a second small batch. If you have a plan for the excess, you avoid a disposal fee. Think “mailbox” or “flagpole.”
Unless you’re stuck with overages from large jobs, most people completing small concrete work at their homes are better off using pre-mixed bags. This product is available in 60- and 90-pound sacks at most hardware and home improvement stores. Depending on the type of pre-mixed concrete you buy, these smaller bags may require you to rent a separate mixer to cure the product. These bags are ideal for small-scale jobs such as:
Single steps or stoops
There are also "no-mix" varieties specially formulated for small-pole installation. Homeowners use these products in one of two ways: add the product and then water, or add the water and then product directly into the hole where the post is to set.
With the right preparation and attention to detail, pouring concrete and installing basic structures like a pathway or even basic patio is possible for the DIYer. However, it is important to make sure you set up your project properly and follow these key DIY tips when you do:
Measure carefully Nothing will cost more, take more time, and potentially ruin results as badly as not having enough material to complete your job.
Get the right tools Without the proper tools, the results of installation will be disastrous. Minimally, to properly deliver concrete and create a surface such as a patio you need the following: square mouth shovel, screed board, wooden float, steel trowel, edging tool, grooving tool, mallet or heavy hammer, level, and garden rake.
Cure properly Adding a cure-and-seal compound to your mix ensures that the hardening takes place in a uniform manner throughout the piece to limit cracking.
Clean up carefully Once you’re done with a job, thoroughly rinse tools and wash out the truck, wheelbarrows, and other areas that came in contact with the concrete. Designate a contained area that won't generate runoff and make sure to clean everything completely—removing wet concrete is simple, but dried concrete is a different story.