Although it is possible for a homeowner to pour a concrete driveway themselves, it is quite hard work. Time is a critical element because once the concrete is poured, it begins to harden very quickly. For this reason, it is usually left to professionals who can excavate, prepare forms, pour the concrete, and finish the surface quickly. A professional crew can do the entire project in a couple of days, while a homeowner takes usually a week or more for excavation and preparation alone, and another very long day for pouring and finishing. For the homeowner intrepid enough to pour his own concrete, having a group of willing and able-bodied helpers on hand is essential.
Installing a concrete driveway starts with removing grass and other vegetation and ensuring a stable soil foundation. Wood forms are then installed around the perimeter of the intended driveway. A base of class-5 gravel at least 4 inches thick is added, graded, and compacted. Reinforcement material is added just above the packed gravel base, consisting of a steel wire grid or metal rebar laid in a criss-cross pattern across the area.
The driveway is now ready for the concrete pour. This generally involves a crew of several people working quickly to fill the forms with wet concrete as it is delivered from a ready-mix vendor and then to quickly finish the surface. The finishing crew should also ensure an adequate number of expansion joints—grooves formed across the wet surface at prescribed intervals to allow the slab to shift and break at controlled places. Without expansion grooves, a slab can fragment randomly under the effect of natural settling and shifting.
A key part of the finishing process is floating the concrete. After the concrete is poured and smoothed, the finishing crew uses a variety of tools to work the surface of the concrete, drawing the cement and finer particles to the surface through capillary action to create an attractive, smoother surface. The amount of floating determined how smooth the surface will be, and there is considerable craft involved in doing so because excessive floating will weaken the surface and cause it to flake, while too little will leave the slab with a rough, industrial look. This is also the time when a skilled crew can impart decorative finishes and colors to the surface of the slab.