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Robert Lamoureux: Even manly men need concrete help

Your Home Improvements

Posted: February 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Hey Robert,
I’ve been reading your column for about three years now. I wrote in a long time ago about the best way to remove oil stains from my driveway. I took your advice and used Dawn dish soap. It worked like a charm. Thank you. Now I’ve got something else going on.

I want to pour a little patio at my place. I’ve done all of the math and have got it all formed out.  It’s 460 square feet and I want to mix all of the concrete by hand — like a man. My wife says I’m crazy, I say not crazy, just a manly man. What do you think? Thanks,

Mack T.

Hey Mack,

Well, wives are always right so I have to say you’re the crazy one. 

You’re talking more than five yards of concrete. I would never pour that much by hand. You’re going to end up with a sore back and a big mess.

My recommendation is to bring in a concrete truck. This job is going to be plenty big enough even if the concrete is already mixed. 

After you put it down, it has to be screeded and then floated. You have to put the expansion joints down. By days end, you’ll feel it. Especially if you’re not doing this kind of work every day. If this is something new, five yards is a lot of concrete and you’ll be exhausted. 

Every yard of wet concrete weighs approximately 4,400 pounds. At five yards, that’s 22,000 pounds that you’re moving and working. You’d never be able to mix that amount of concrete, plus screet and float in a timely manner. It would look like you put it together piecemeal. 

Get it mixed by one of the ready mix companies and have it delivered. You can wheelbarrow or pump it in. If you have it pumped, make sure they know this is for a patio. It’s going to take a pea-gravel mix so it will go through the pump. They can set you up with a pumper. 

The pumper will come out and be paid separately. Most pumpers can pour the concrete so you barely have to move anything. You do still have to screed the concrete, but a good pumper can make your life much easier.    

Another option is to use a wheelbarrow. If your patio is in the back yard, you don’t want to spend time carrying concrete in a wheelbarrow to save money. In the long run, it will cost you money for standing time. 

The first 20 minutes the truck is there is included in the delivery cost. If it’s a full load, they don’t charge you for delivery, only the cost of the concrete. Anything less than a full load, which is usually 10 yards, will have a delivery charge. 

After that first 20 minutes are up, you are charged $90 for every 15 minutes that driver waits. 

If I were you, I’d have some buddies on hand. If they have experience with concrete that’s even better. Get your bull floats and everything you’re going to need and have it ready to go when the truck gets there.

Be sure you have a wash out area for the driver and the pumper. Have a wheelbarrow or a wash out tub out front for the driver to clean his trough. He can’t dump in the street. There is a big fine for the driver and to you. 

The trough is basically a metal scoop that goes to the pumper. The pumper is going to need to wash out also. Many times, they’ll wash it back into the concrete truck, but a certain amount is up to you, the driver and the pumper to clean and it must be kept out of the storm channel. 

If your grading or calculations are off, or if you have low spots, you’re going to want to buy an extra half yard of concrete for insurance. Concrete is so cheap, you don’t want to take any chances. And you certainly don’t want to have to stop and buy more concrete to mix up at the end of a job while the rest of it is banging up. 

I always buy an extra yard with every full load. Always. The $75 you’re paying for an extra yard is pennies to what it will cost if you come up short. 

With all of that said, good luck. Have fun. 

I repaired some drywall in one of our hallways but it’s got a little wave to it. I see it every time I walk down the hallway. Things are a little tight so I’ve been doing most everything on my own lately. Most of the projects turn out — but this hallway looks homemade. I’ve tried using more joint compound and re-refinishing it, but it looks pretty bad. Do you know how to get the wave out of it? 
Daniel C.

Hi Daniel,
Sand it down until it’s straight. Then take an aerosol spray can and using black paint, put just a very light mist on the wall.
With a drywall sanding paddle or a sanding block, (a piece of wood with sandpaper on it), start sanding. If you’ve got high spots, the paint will get rubbed away. Put more texture in the low spots, the shallow areas, and let dry. Then sand it until the paint goes away. 

When all of the paint has been sanded away, you’ll know that wall is perfectly true. 

This is called guidecoat or blocking — depending on who you’re talking to. 

Smooth textured walls are the most difficult to master, so you’re not alone. They show every imperfection and are hard to do right, even if that’s all you do. 

Another thing you could do is to cover it or camouflage the wall with a splatter or knockdown texture. One of the reasons they started using these textures in the first place was to hide all of the problems on smooth surfaces. 

We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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