On this page:
- How Pros Estimate the Cost of a Concrete Installation
- A Material With Many Uses
- What Affects the Cost of Concrete Installation?
- Types of Concrete Installations
- Getting Ready
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
- Find a Pro
No matter what concrete installation project you’re undertaking, you need concrete, and the cost for that is fairly standard throughout the country. The prices of most of the reinforcing materials, such as steel mesh and rebar, as well as the materials needed for forming, are also standard. The cost of the labor involved with excavating, grading and forming, however, varies not only with the type and scope of the installation, but with the characteristics of the soil and terrain.
How Pros Estimate the Cost of a Concrete Installation
Contractors typically divide a concrete job into stages and price each stage individually. They add these costs together to arrive at an overall quote.
Grading and Excavating
Before you can pour a pad, set a foundation or build a wall, the land has to be cleared and leveled, and holes may have to be dug. Heavy equipment operators generally charge by the hour, and rates are somewhere between $50 and $90 per hour. As far as excavation is concerned, it’s also common to charge by the amount of material moved, in cubic yards. Typical rates fall in a range from $90 to $150 per cubic yard.
You need to build a form to hold the concrete it while it’s setting. The materials commonly used include construction-grade lumber and plywood, although it’s also common to form with insulating materials designed to stay in place after the concrete sets. Forming and finishing are often priced together.e
Concrete cracks without proper reinforcement, so before pouring a slab or building a wall, concrete installers build a substructure with mesh or lengths of reinforcing steel bar -- which is usually referred to as re-bar. Typical rates for reinforcement fall in a range between $0.15 and $0.80 per square foot.
For small projects, such as a shed foundation or garden wall, you might buy concrete mix by the bag, but for large projects, it gets delivered by truck and is priced by the cubic yard. The average nationwide cost for a cubic yard of concrete is $90. There is also a delivery fee -- usually around $60.
Removing the forms and smoothing the surface of the concrete before it has completely set are important parts of the installation. For standard, non-decorative concrete work, the cost for forming and finishing falls in a range from $1.50 to $3.50 per square foot. Decorative touches, such as stamping and staining, cost extra.
A Material With Many Uses
Foundations and Substructures
Concrete doesn’t rot or deteriorate -- even when in contact with the ground -- so it’s the perfect material for structural foundations and slabs. Because of its solidity and resistance to lateral stresses, it’s the material from which more than half of the low-rise buildings in the United States are constructed.
Septic and Water Tanks
Concrete is not only solid, it’s highly resistant to water seepage, and is one of the main materials used for septic tanks. In addition, many well casings and water storage tanks are made from concrete.
Decorative Pads and Patios
Because it’s durable and self-leveling, concrete is an ideal material for indoor and outdoor floors, especially those in garages, because it can be sealed and buffed to a smooth finish that repels automotive fluids. You can dye or acid-stain concrete to produce a variety of colors and effects, and you can stamp patterns into it to create decorative walkways, patios and interior floors.
What Affects the Cost of Concrete Installation?
Topography and Drainage
When installing a pad or foundation, a certain amount of earth movement is necessary. If you’re building on a steeply sloped or hilly site, extensive excavation may be required, and you may have to transport soil or fill materials on- or off-site.
Pouring a pad, building a wall or undertaking any comparable project involves hiring workers, because it’s virtually impossible to do large jobs yourself. Worker rates vary across the country; labor tends to cost more in large metropolitan areas than it does in small rural communities. No matter where you live, you’ll save by hiring semi-skilled workers and overseeing the project yourself, but you won’t have the security of a guarantee that large contracting firms provide.
Project Scope and Materials
With the exception of small projects -- such as setting fence posts -- every large concrete project involves forming and reinforcing, and the work and materials involved vary with the project. Sealing, staining and stamping also add to the cost, and the cost varies with complexity. For example, a basic single-color stamped patio may cost as little as $8 per square foot whereas a highly complex pattern can cost in excess of $18 per square foot.
Types of Concrete Installations
Foundations and Footings
Whether it’s a entire perimeter or posts for wooden beams, constructing a foundation requires extensive digging and leveling. Re-bar has to be bent and strapped together and walls extensively formed before pouring the concrete. Finish work usually isn’t extensive, although a waterproofing sealer or membrane may be applied to foundation walls.
Floors and Patios
After leveling the ground and constructing a form, installers reinforce a floor or patio with steel or fiberglass mesh before pouring. Finish work is usually an important part of the process, and much of it is time sensitive because it needs to be completed while the concrete is stiff but not solid. Staining and sealing happen after the pad has cured.
Driveways and Walkways
Driveways and walkways follow the lay of the land and don’t have to be level, but the ground must flattened and compacted, and installers usually add a layer of base rock after forming. Before pouring, the installers add reinforcement, and if the installation is a heated driveway, the heating elements are installed at this time.
Walls and Other Structures
Some large projects, such as retaining walls or walls for buildings and fences, require extensive forming and reinforcement, and that phase of the installation might take several days. Reinforcement for structures that must withstand unusual amounts of stress, such as retaining walls, also requires extra time, labor and materials.
Consult with Experts and Make a Plan
Large concrete installations take a lot of planning, and soil inspections and topography reports are an important part of the planning process. Depending on the soil composition, you may have to add drainage amendments to prevent erosion and settling. If you have to remove a large amount of soil, you’ll need to find a place to put it before the work starts.
It’s important to have the materials you need on hand before workers arrive, or you’ll waste their time and your money. There are several ways to base the calculations, and you usually do this in conjunction with a contractor. It’s fairly easy to determine the square footage of reinforcing mesh you need for a pad, but calculating the forming and reinforcing materials you need for a wall or foundation isn’t as straightforward, and you’ll probably need help.
Call Ahead for Concrete
Depending on the size of your project, you may need several truckloads of concrete, and you’ll need it all delivered on the day you pour. Give the concrete vendor several days notice to be sure the trucks and concrete are available.
Check the Weather
Ideally, you should pour on a warm, dry day. It’s possible to do it in cold weather, but you need a special concrete mix to accelerate setting and prevent cracking. Because the concrete sets faster, you have to pour it more quickly, and that may require you to divide a large pour into sections that can be completed on different days.
|$1,700 - $2,200||$2,400 - $7,200||$7,200 - $13,000|
The number of possible concrete installation scenarios is almost infinite. These examples show the costs involved with pouring a 600 square-foot patio that is 4 inches thick.
Basic Patio on Flat Ground: $1,700-$2,200
- • Grading: The amount of grading and compacting work is minimal and can be accomplished by hand.
- • Forming and Reinforcement: Forming consists of a wooden perimeter that is removed when the concrete hardens. The pad is reinforced with galvanized steel mesh.
- • Concrete: The project requires 7.5 cubic yards of concrete that is delivered by truck. The job only takes one truckload.
- • Finishing: The surface of the pad is either smoothed over with a trowel or roughened with a brush. No other finishing techniques are used.
Finished Patio on Sloped Terrain: $2,400-$7,200
- • Grading: The site needs to be graded and compacted with heavy machinery. The job takes from 4 to 8 hours and includes trucking in and spreading base rock.
- • Forming and Reinforcement: Installers construct a wooden perimeter and place steel remesh.
- • Concrete: Installers pour 7.5 yards of concrete. They include latex additives to prevent cracking in freezing weather.
- • Finishing: The pad is smoothed with a trowel and sealed with a waterproofing sealer when the concrete sets.
Professional Installation with Complications: $450 - $1,200
- • Grading: Besides extensive grading and earth removal, the site requires installation of drainage pipes to prevent erosion and settling. This is typical for a installation at the base of a slope. The site also requires a sublayer of base rock.
- • Forming and Reinforcement: Installers form with pavers or some other material designed to remain in place and act as a border. They reinforce with galvanized steel mesh.
- • Concrete: Installers pour 7.5 yards of concrete with a latex additive.
- • Finishing: The pad is stamped while stiff then stained and sealed when dry. Decorative installations involving multiple colors or designed to resemble stone are the most expensive.
Level of Difficulty
Because of the amount of digging and shoveling involved, it usually takes more than one worker to complete a concrete installation, especially when you need heavy equipment. Pouring must proceed quickly, and it often takes several workers to spread it while the pour is in progress. When undertaking large projects that involve more than a cubic yard of concrete, it’s better to work with a crew than it is to try to do the job yourself.
Find a Concrete Installation Pro
When you need a pro for your concrete installation, connect with one or more concrete installation contractors who can help you plan and execute your job from start to finish. Working with seasoned pros gives you peace of mind and assurance the job is done right.