I am just going to go there… and brag on my husband, Tyler, for the rest of this post. His skills, knowledge and follow-through astonish me, even after thirteen years of marriage. His attention to detail is spot on, his dedication to our family is something to be admired, and his drive to work (even when he does not want to) is something that has me respect him more and more as the years go on. We tore down our old wooden deck and poured a stamped concrete patio which then added over $12K to our house value.
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Published October 24, 2021
Updated March 21, 2022
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When we first bought our 90’s ranch in 2019, it had an old and worn-out wooden deck. The layout was not ideal, and the wood was buckling and uneven. The scary part was the fact that when we removed the old wooden deck, the foundation sloped right to the basement walls, and it was where all of the water would pool. Right next to our basement foundation near where we just fixed the walls with the egress window remodel. So, the main reason, other than aesthetics, was to keep water away from our walls with the slope of the concrete.
The deck was also a spider haven and housed a stray cat, that tried to kill Lucy our dog, within a week of us living in the house. The cat was less than ideal, and the vet bill was unpleasant. The pieces of deck were bult into a wood crib and tree fort for the kids. Nothing goes to waste in our house. Especially when wood prices are so ridiculous.
Loads of gravel
So last fall we devised a plan for our concrete patio and went about placing gravel down for the underlayment, if not the concrete would not have a sturdy base. Or so I have learned. We lived with a gravel and mud pit of a backyard through a typical Wisconsin winter, and wet spring, and slightly wet summer. I feel like we were always trying to contain the gravel and mud, trying to keep it out of the house.
We had such a blast on those sunny days, hanging by our makeshift firepit, enjoying and dreaming of one day having a patio. A lot of s’mores were eaten on that gravel and firepit! And even more memories and fond moments as our kids said, “dad, this is SO cool”, even while it was still unfinished. He was such a Rockstar on those days where the kids wanted to run around the yard while we had a fire going, and we were able to sit there dreaming of the days when it would be finished. He honestly knew, a year ago, what style, color, shape and finish the patio would be.
Designing a concrete patio is not an easy task, and I did not even help with 99% of the work! There was so much math that was WAY over my head, and I was just thanking God that he gifted Tyler with the ability, skills, and know-how to get this done. Not only did he have to know the amount of gravel to buy, but also how much concrete to order for the two separate pours. He had to measure and make forms, level gravel, and find the color and type of concrete we wanted for the patio. Every time we have a project, and it comes out brilliant, I complement him, and he reminds me “it is his job, why be surprised?”. But it never ceases to amaze me at how skilled this man is!
We had to level the gravel out, compact it down, pound stakes into the ground around a radius that he designed, cut steel forms, cut and make from scratch wood radius forms, make a toe kick angle out of 1-inch foam insulation, lay-measure-cut-tie and place rebar… at that was before the concrete came! All of that work took us a week of nights after Tyler got home from working all day. We were out there in drizzle, with work lights, finishing a few nights after dark because there was just so much to do and so little time to get it done.
As a wife, mom, and self-proclaimed chef, I really do not have the skills to have done a lot (or any) of this myself. Tyler has so much skill. I am, however, ok at driving our trailer behind the van in a straight line from one destination to the next. So, I was able to pick up the compactor, concrete stamps and plate compactor, and a few odds and ends up that we needed; especially when Tyler was not able to get them himself. Having a van, with a hitch, and a trailer is super useful!
Estimate verses actual cost
If we were to hire a company to make this concrete patio, with colored concrete, stamped, and in a radius, we would pay close to $20,000. Really. It is really amazing at what companies can do with concrete! Professionals are so skilled with the colors and stamp designs. If it was a plain concrete pad with a square shape, the cost would have been close to $12,000. Now this is just an estimate that Tyler put together based on the local contractors’ prices, and what he guessed it would cost to hire out; these are not actual costs.
We did our concrete patio in two separate pours. It took two full weekends of work to finish them both. We are exhausted, and yet exhilarated to finally use them and to be done with this job on our house.
The two pours had to be measured by how much concrete we needed. The first pour was four and a half yards and the second was six yards.
The first was under $900 and the second was under $1,200. Just for the concrete, but it was tinted and not just plain gray like a typical driveway or sidewalk. We decided that if there would be scratches, nicks or breaks, we did not want to see the white concrete if we just stained the top. We really wanted this patio to shine! The concrete was tinted dark grey and resulted in the cost being doubled.
Then, we rented the concrete stamps and plate compactor, which was a super heavy plate attached to a long pole so you could basically pound the rubber stamps into the concrete – creating the designs. Bought rebar and iron stakes, bought concrete form release, sealer, foam tear away expansion joint, and rented a gravel compactor. The second week we also rented a power buggy, which is a gas-powered wheelbarrow. This was literally a game changer! It ruined our not-so-nice yard with deep grooves, but it helped get the concrete into the forms and in place so much faster than using wheelbarrows alone.
Total, the cost for everything involved was just shy of $3,000. And the coolest part was we paid cash. Thanks, Dave Ramsey, for teaching us to not go into debt for house projects! Having the cash to pay for this patio was so refreshing and the peace of mind, knowing it is fully paid for, is just reassuring. I highly recommend looking into his Financial Peace University course on how to become debt free! As of spring 2021, we are debt free except the house, and we went on a week-long vacation to Florida and paid cash! Cash is King!
I do not have details on how Tyler came up with his idea for the radius forms or how he went about getting it done. To be frank, I really just have no idea. But I did take some pictures to show how he did some amazing things! As a Journeyman Carpenter, he does have skills building concrete forms, which came in super handy for this project. But by no means is he a concrete finisher; so, this was an ammeter job, and we cannot price it out like we would if a professional company had done it.
Shout-out to all of our helpers!
These concrete patios would not have been done without amazing friends, co-workers, family and neighbors! There was an amazing team of people that came out to help these two separate pours, and Tyler’s dad, Justin, came up to help tie rebar before the second round. My brother Bryan, dad Gary, friends Andy, Jason, neighbor Jared, and handfuls of Tyler’s co-workers came to help on the two separate days. We owe you guys HUGE! I know I thanked you on the day but THANK YOU again! We literally owe you one 🙂 And in Wisconsin, that is like a blood-oath.
The first of the concrete pours
First, Tyler had to compact the gravel that had been sitting for a year. We used levels to make sure it was all set and the same thickness all around. Then, he built the concrete forms out of wood, concrete stakes and more wood. He literally created these forms from scratch. Once the forms were done and sturdy, he used 1-inch insulation to make an angle for a toe-kick on the lip of the concrete.
This was to add the image of a toe-kick to the lip of the concrete, instead of just a flat edge. I forgot to get a picture of it, sorry! Once the forms were done, and the gravel was compacted, he placed rebar to make the concrete stronger. On the day, we had a team of guys over helping move the concrete from the truck to the backyard. Wheelbarrow-by-wheelbarrow, they brought the concrete back into the form. Once all of the concrete was there, our friend Jason was in the wet concrete making sure it was level. To get the concrete level he used a long 2 X 4.
When it was all leveled, we had to wait a few hours before stamping it with the concrete mats. With trowels, Tyler and my dad worked on “maging” and “closing” the concrete. Over and over, they troweled the concrete with various trowels. An edger trowel was used to make the edges smooth and nice and rounded. While we waited for the patio to be ready, we worked on the pad by the side of the garage. Additional jobs were a new front step, and a few dozen pavers.
Once the concrete was ready to be stamped, we sprinkled the form release powder all over and laid stamps on top. Then we used a plate compactor to press the design into the concrete. The form release powder helped to color the concrete and made it easier to remove from the still-wet concrete. We chose the Italian Slate pattern, and it was beautiful, looked just like stone when it was done! After a day or two, we were able to walk on the concrete to sweep off the extra powder.
Pictures from the first concrete patio pour
The second concrete pour
Below are images from the second pour, where we made the wrap-around sidewalk connecting the garage service door with the ramp/sidewalk that leads to the lower patio. Tyler and I decided to make two patios. To go with the new concrete patio, we purchased a portable firepit. The idea of having a fire pit/cooking area at the bottom with the table at the top near the house and patio door was what drove us to not make a permanent firepit.
We rented a power buggy, a gas-powered wheelbarrow, that helped move so much concrete at one time. This literally saved us hours of hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of concrete from the cement truck to the backyard. We also made more steppingstones for a path to get around the yard. This second pour, we made thirty-one! These suckers were thirty-five pounds each, and I felt every pound as I moved them three times. Yup, three times, placing them around the yard after painting the sealer on them.
Pictures from the second concrete patio pour
Just a few tools we used to make our concrete patio
I really do not know the specifics on how to finish concrete. There were carbon steel trowels, finishing trowels, edging trowels, magnesium trowels, a magnesium Bull Float and more. Each trowel has its own finish and metal and will do a separate job. Some bring the liquid to the surface while others make the surface smooth. In addition to trowels, there are concrete vibrators, compactors and stakes, So. Many. Tools.
This compactor helps to press down the gravel down allowing the concrete to be poured on top without the gravel below being loose and causing breaks. Do not go out and buy a compactor, there are so many rental businesses to get one for a day or weekend. However, click the link below to learn more about them on amazon.
This is called a Handheld Electric Concrete Vibrator. You hold the machine, which is not that heavy, and the long tool at the end of the hose gets shoved into the concrete at various spots to help remove any air gaps and bubbles.
We added over $12K to our house’s value with a concrete patio
This is just one example of a concrete trowel that was used on our patio. Having a good quality trowel, with a nice big grip, really helps get the job done. And helps to avoid sore hands! A trowel with a small handle, when held for a long job, can be hard to hold towards the end. If you are looking to do any concrete jobs, make sure to invest in the best tools! Marshalltown makes the best according to Tyler. They make a lot of work tools in this plant, and they are famous for their concrete tools.
All in all, we are SO glad we did this project! Not only did it add an amazing aesthetic to our home, but it was such a learning experience, and most importantly we protected our foundations! We got to learn a new skill and had fantastic help from friends, family and a great neighbor. If you want to add value to your home, look into adding a stamped concrete patio to your yard. All-in-all, we could estimate the value of this stamped concrete patio to be more than $12,000, and under $20,000. If we would have had a professional done it, it would have cost closer, or more, than $20K!