7 Secrets to Good Concrete with Peter Colquhoun – Part 1

Part 1

Everyone wants to know the secrets to achieving the perfect pour when laying concrete.

So we asked our resident architect Peter Colquhoun for his tips on getting the best results for your project.

He says there are seven key considerations that you should take into account when planning any type of concreting.

Today Geostone brings you Part 1 of this 2-part mini series to help you with your concrete selection and concrete pouring.


Decide if this is a DIY project or if it’s time to call in the experts

Depending on your level of enthusiasm, most of us could tackle a simple garden path or maybe even a modest patio. But it’s important to remember pouring concrete is heavy, thirsty work and it always requires a few hands. Pouring a basic little slab can be a fun project to tackle with friends or family. I remember doing my first pour with my granddad who was an old builder, and our hand prints are still in that garage floor.

However most concrete projects are usually investments in quality. They can be substantial investments and preparation starts not with the technicalities of the pour, but the three principles of any good building and design:

    • Understand why you are using concrete or what your BRIEF is for the concrete.
      What do you want it to achieve? Is it for practical, aesthetic, thermal or structural reasons? Or have you seen a similar concrete finish and you want to replicate it? Any or all of these factors are relevant – but be clear on why you want to use concrete and what effect you are trying to create.


    • The second key point in terms of preparation is BUDGET.
      With the help of Geostone, your builder or concrete installer, have an idea of costs and be realistic about what it will take to achieve the look you want. I have seen many examples of beautiful simple steel troweled finishes that are relatively economical to achieve and look fantastic. But if you are looking at higher finished concrete floors such as
      honed and polished concrete, you’ll need the help of experts.


    • The third key point in preparation is the location of the pour or the SITE on which the pour will take place.
      Concrete can be poured anywhere, in any shape. It can be used to make bench tops and shelves, floors, ceilings, walls and pathways, and it can be poured or precast. While concrete is a versatile material, thought needs to be put into where best in the home it can be used. High traffic areas such as entrances and around kitchens or thresholds can benefit from concrete flooring. Because concrete acts as a thermal sponge, north facing slabs will soak up heat during the day then release that heat when it cools down. In summary, understand the inherent qualities and benefits of concrete and where it can be placed in your home for maximum effect based on your needs.


Why is the weather an important factor when it comes to pouring concrete?

The weather conditions on the day of any concrete pour are very important as the temperature will determine how fast the concrete will dry. You don’t want the concrete to dry or ‘cure’ too fast. Water is an inherent part of the concrete mix and the rate at which that water evaporates effects the end strength, finish and durability of the concrete.

In snowy or colder climates the water in the mix may freeze and concrete set times will be delayed. There are various techniques the experts can use to help manage cold weather set times, while you go build a snowman.

In warmer climates the reverse is true – you don’t want the water in the mix to dry out too quickly and the experts will use a range of techniques to ensure the potential for rapid drying does not become a problem. If it is raining on the day of the scheduled pour, that can also impact the surface finish and potentially the quality of your pour if not expertly managed.

This is why your scheduled pour day should be flexible. If the experts responsible for the end result decide to call off the pour because of poor conditions there should be room to move in the work schedule and contract to allow this to happen. Generally the moderate temperate climates in most parts of Australia are fine to pour. In extreme conditions there are techniques that can be used to help control the ‘curing’ or drying rate of the concrete. I have seen amazing concrete homes from Tasmania to the tropics, and incredible tradespeople and builders who have delivered perfect pours no matter what the conditions.


What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to concreting, and how do customers avoid them?

Concrete is like a fingerprint – no two pours or finishes will be the same and this is part of the appeal. So it’s a mistake to think you can replicate another slab or finish exactly, although experts can get great results across pours. Understand that for most of us, the actual mixing and pouring process will remain a mystery and your input will be on what needs to be achieved in terms of finish. With this in mind, have fun selecting aggregates and the colour of concrete you want.

When engaging a builder, they may sub-contract the concreting. Understand that the concrete pour is a critical part of the schedule and you will need to make decisions on the finish well in advance of the pour so your desired mix can be batched.

Also understand the building contract should have allowances in it for weather delays which may be used if it rains or is too hot or windy on the scheduled concrete pour day.

Get advice on outdoor sealers that can be used over finished concrete to protect it, and get your builder to give you a maintenance guide to keep the concrete looking its best.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of 7 Secrets of Good Concrete with Pete Colquhoun

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