Sidewalk Construction: Mistakes to Avoid

Whether your sidewalk construction is to replace an existing sidewalk or to build a new one, if this construction is to provide a dependable surface for your family or visitors to walk on safely, there are certain rules of concrete construction you'll need to follow. There are certain mistakes you'll need to avoid making.  

Mistake No. 1 - Making Uneven Forms

A straight and even sidewalk will require a straight and even form that will shape the concrete of your sidewalk as the concrete hardens. Do not begin pouring your concrete into your form until you know the form is uniform and straight. Don't make the mistake of pouring concrete in forms that have not been measured for uniform width and have not been leveled.

Mistake No. 2 - Making Your Sidewalk the Wrong Height

Until you know whether you'll want your sidewalk height at ground level or at the level of other parallel or nearby sidewalks, driveways, or garden retaining walls, do not begin constructing your forms.

Mistake No. 3 - Pouring Your Concrete Before You Have Prepped Your Base

Pouring wet concrete on a base that has not been prepared can result in a sinking or cracking sidewalk. To prepare your base, you'll need to compact a gravel base consisting of about 2 inches of sand, gravel, or crushed rock. Do not allow your base to be spongy before pouring your concrete.

Mistake No. 4 - Pouring Concrete onto a Base Where Roots are Growing

Growing roots, especially from large nearby trees, will mostly likely continue growing if they are from a live and growing tree. These growing roots will eventually expand. If implanted in your sidewalk, this will inevitably cause your sidewalk to rise or crack.

Mistake No. 5 – Creating a Wrong-Way Slope

Grading your base to slope toward places where draining water will run can create problems. It can result in water leaking through cracks in your basement, can drain water with salt or other chemicals into your gardens, and can create pooling. You should always slope your sidewalk to allow runoff water to drain properly.  

Mistake No. 6 – Butting Your Sidewalk Without Joint Material

In locations where your sidewalk will adjoin with other large concrete surfaces, such as patios, garage floors, driveways, or other sidewalks, you should never allow these abutments without separating them with joint materials. Using these materials between abutments will prevent cracking in your concrete that is caused by expansion and contraction.

Mistake No. 7 – Pouring Concrete Without Control Joints

In all larger concrete surfaces, changes in temperatures will invariably cause expansion and contraction. Without making control joints when you finish your concrete sidewalk, you are inviting future cracks. These control joints should be cut into your concrete surface with a grooving trowel at 4 foot to 5 foot intervals.

Mistake No. 8 – Making Surfaces That Can Become Slippery

If your sidewalk will be used in snowy or icy conditions, you should avoid making its surface smooth. This type of surface promotes slippery conditions when it becomes icy. You can avoid making these slippery surfaces by pulling a broom or stiff-bristle brush across them when your concrete has set up but is not completely hard.