Concrete Paving - A Versatile Solution


Concrete is a widely-used material for various construction projects, such as driveways, walkways, patios, and more. It is known for its strength, durability, and versatility. Concrete can be customized to meet specific needs and requirements, including thickness, reinforcement, and finishes. A well-prepared base and expertly installed concrete surface can result in a long-lasting, functional, and visually appealing paved area.

Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, and aggregate (sand, gravel, or crushed stone). When combined, these materials create a strong and versatile paving solution that can be customized to meet specific project requirements. Concrete can be reinforced with steel, such as wire mesh or rebar, depending on the expected loads and use. Proper installation and maintenance are essential for a successful concrete paving project.


Step by step, how concrete is prepared, formed, poured, and finished:

1.) Prepare the subgrade by ensuring it is suitable, well-graded, and compacted as discussed in this article: (Base Preparation).

2.) Install and secure the formwork, which is the temporary structure that holds the concrete in place until it hardens. Ensure the formwork is properly leveled and braced, with appropriate dimensions for the desired shape and thickness of the concrete slab.

3.) Install any necessary reinforcement, such as steel rebar or wire mesh, to provide additional strength and help prevent cracking. The reinforcement should be properly spaced to prevent movement during the concrete pour or put in to place during the pour.

4.) Mix the concrete by combining the appropriate proportions of cement, aggregate, and water. This can be done either on-site with a portable mixer or at a central mixing plant where the concrete is then transported to the job site using a concrete truck which is referred to as ready-mix.

5.) Pour the concrete into the formwork, starting at one end and working your way across. Use a straightedge or screed to level the surface of the concrete, ensuring it is consistent with the desired thickness and grade. Remove any excess concrete as necessary.

6.) Consolidate the concrete by using a vibrator or other tools (rakes, shoves, or hammers) to eliminate air pockets and ensure even distribution of the concrete throughout the formwork. This step is crucial for achieving the desired strength and durability of the finished product.

7.) Allow the concrete to set for a short period before beginning the finishing process. This typically involves floating the surface with a bull float or hand float to smooth out any imperfections and create a uniform texture.

8.) Apply any desired surface treatments, such as brooming for added traction or decorative stamping for aesthetic purposes. This should be done while the concrete is still wet but has started to set.

9.) Allow time for the curing process to work, extreme temperatures can cause issues so it can be helpful to water the concrete the following day helping the concrete cure slower and more evenly. It takes a month for concrete to achieve its full strength and durability, but after 2 weeks concrete will be at 90% it's rated hardness, because we can't control weather for outdoor work, there is always natural variation in curing.

10.) Remove the formwork after the concrete has sufficiently cured and hardened (generally 1 day is enough, some areas may need stripped earlier to complete work before the concrete has hardened). Inspect the finished product for quality control, ensuring it meets the requirements and will provide a long-lasting product.

11.) Clean up the site, dispose of any waste materials. Block off the newly poured concrete with barriers to prevent damage during the curing process.

12.) Come back on site after enough curing has occurred to saw cut stress relief into the concrete to help control cracking from the natural movement due to changing ground conditions and temperature changes expanding and contracting the concrete. For decorative finishes there can be additional work like exposing the aggregate, washing and sealing, or applying additional surface colour.

Mix of Concrete and Types:

The mix of concrete and its type can greatly influence the strength, durability, and workability of the final product. The primary concrete mix used for outdoor concrete work is a 32MPa C-2 (5% air) mix, which provides a balance of strength, durability, and workability suitable for a wide range of applications. However, other types of concrete mixes can be used based on specific project requirements.

32MPa C-2 (5% air) Concrete Mix:

The 32MPa C-2 (5% air) concrete mix is a common mix for general construction purposes, particularly in outdoor settings. The 32MPa refers to the compressive strength of the concrete, measured in megapascals (MPa), after 28 days of curing. This level of strength is suitable for most residential and commercial applications, such as foundations, slabs, and structural elements.

The "C-2" designation refers to the exposure class, which indicates the level of environmental exposure the concrete is designed to withstand. In this case, the C-2 class indicates a moderate level of exposure to freeze-thaw cycles and deicing chemicals, making it suitable for exterior applications in regions with moderate climate conditions.

The "5% air" component of the mix refers to the air entrainment, which is the intentional creation of small, well-distributed air bubbles within the concrete mix. This helps to improve the concrete's resistance to freeze-thaw cycles and deicing chemicals by providing space for water to expand when it freezes, reducing the likelihood of cracking. A 5% air content is typical for exterior applications where freeze-thaw resistance is a concern.

When using the 32MPa C-2 (5% air) concrete mix, it is essential to follow proper mixing, placement, and curing practices to ensure the concrete achieves its intended strength, durability, and performance characteristics. This includes using the correct proportions of cement, aggregate, and water, as well as ensuring adequate compaction, consolidation, and curing time.

Keep in mind that there are many other types of concrete mixes available, each with specific properties and applications. It is essential to consult with a qualified engineer or concrete professional to determine the appropriate mix for your particular project needs.

Concrete Additives:

Concrete additives are materials that are incorporated into the concrete mix to enhance its performance, workability, or aesthetic properties. The following are some common additives used in concrete mixes for various applications:

Quarry Stone: Also known as coarse aggregate, quarry stone is a vital component of concrete mixes. It provides strength, reduces shrinkage. Additional quarry stone can help increase the compressive strength and ware resistance of concrete, however it can also make the concrete harder to finish.

Pea Stone: Pea stones are small weathered stones with soft edges. Pea stone can be used as a replacement for regular stone in a concrete mix, it allows finishes not possible with normal stone used, such as exposed aggregate.

Fibre: Fibres are added to concrete mixes to improve tensile strength, reduce shrinkage, and minimize cracking. There are several types of fibres, such as steel, glass, and synthetic fibres, each with its unique properties and applications. Fibre-reinforced concrete is commonly used in applications where enhanced durability and crack resistance are required, such as slabs, driveways, and industrial floors.

Calcium: Calcium chloride is a common additive used to accelerate the curing process of concrete, particularly in cold weather conditions. By accelerating the curing process, calcium chloride allows the concrete to achieve its desired strength more quickly, reducing the risk of freeze-thaw damage during the curing period. However, it is essential to use calcium chloride in appropriate amounts, as excessive use can lead to corrosion of steel reinforcement and decreased long-term durability.

Winter-Cure Additives: In addition to calcium chloride, other winter-cure additives can help to ensure proper curing of concrete in cold weather conditions. These additives may include non-chloride accelerators, air-entraining agents, and water-reducing agents. These additives work together to improve the concrete's resistance to freezing temperatures, increase workability, and reduce the risk of cracking during the curing process.

Colour: Colour additives can be added to concrete mixes to create a wide range of colours and patterns for decorative purposes. These additives are typically in the form of pigments, which are available in both liquid and powder forms. Colour additives can be used to create a variety of aesthetic effects, such as stamped concrete, coloured overlays, and acid staining. It is crucial to use colour additives that are specifically designed for use in concrete, as they will not compromise the structural integrity of the mix.

When using concrete additives, it is important to follow the manufacturer's recommendations and ensure that the additives are compatible with the specific concrete mix being used. Consulting with a concrete professional or engineer can help ensure the appropriate additives are selected for your project's requirements.

Concrete Thickness and Reinforcement

The thickness of a concrete surface depends on its intended use. For non-vehicular traffic, such as walkways and patios, a thickness of 4 inches is typically used. For regular vehicular traffic, a thickness of 5-6 inches is recommended. The use of steel reinforcement, such as wire mesh or rebar, can enhance the strength and durability of the concrete surface. Of course for very heavy duty uses or concrete pours which are also meant as structural the thickness and type/quantity of reinforcement used will be chosen dependent on needs.

Concrete Curbs and Borders

Concrete curbs and borders serve as functional and decorative elements in a paved area. They can be used to define edges, separate different areas, or provide structural support. Curbs and borders can be installed in various shapes, sizes, and finishes to suit the specific requirements of a project. In most cases, the installation of concrete curbs and borders is done before other concrete and asphalt work, as they help establish the layout and ensure proper drainage.

When installing curbs and borders, it is essential to ensure that the excavation is deep enough to allow for an adequate layer of gravel beneath the often deeper curbs. This provides a stable foundation and promotes proper drainage, contributing to the overall durability and longevity of the curbs and borders, as well as the surrounding paved surfaces.

Concrete Steps

Concrete steps provide a safe and durable solution for navigating changes in elevation in walkways, patios, and other paved areas. Steps can be designed and installed in a variety of styles, including straight, curved, or spiral configurations. Proper installation and finishing techniques are crucial to ensure a safe and visually appealing result.

When constructing concrete steps, it is essential to reinforce them with steel to provide strength and stability. Often, steps are poured over a mound of gravel or other fill material, rather than being solid. This method helps reduce the weight and volume of concrete needed while still maintaining structural integrity. Furthermore, steps should be separated, at least with a stress relief cut, from other concrete work to help control cracking. This separation allows the steps and surrounding concrete to expand and contract independently, minimizing the potential for damage due to temperature fluctuations and ground movement.


Concrete is a versatile and durable paving solution that can be customized to meet the specific needs of various projects. By considering factors such as thickness, reinforcement, and finishes, you can create a long-lasting and visually appealing concrete surface that meets your requirements. Consulting with a concrete paving professional can help guide you in making the best decision for your project.

Contact our experienced team at O'Brien Paving Inc. for guidance and recommendations on your concrete paving project.


Contact Us.
Tel: (519) 893-2614
O'Brien Paving Inc.
295 Arnold St.
Kitchener, Ontario
N2H 6E8
Serving Residential in:
Waterloo Region
Commercial in: Waterloo Region, Guelph and surrounding areas.
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O'Brien Paving strives to provide the best quality workmanship in all we do! Whether it's an asphalt driveway, a concrete work of art, or a 50,000 sqft. parking lot, we have always used the best engineering practices and given the best value for every penny invested, and we still do today.