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Q: I'm preparing to pour a 30' x 30' patio for a basketball court for the kids. I'm planning on putting 2" of gravel on my compacted clay soil and then 2" of sand before I put my forms in place. I'm planning to use 2"x4" forms around the outside. Since a 2x4 is really only 3.5 inches wide will this be thick enough for my patio? How should I pour my patio? I was planning on doing it in one day. Do I need to use stop boards about every 10' of length and smooth the concrete and then remove the stop boards and continue with the next 10' section? What do you suggest?
A: I would recommend using 3 or 4 inches of gravel under your slab, and forget about the sand. I can see no benefit from using the sand, and it will make your preparation a little easier.
Using a 2 x 4 form should be fine - I would recommend thickening the edge of the slab by raking the gravel away from the inside edge of the form to allow the concrete to be about 6 inches deep all the way around the perimeter of the slab. The width of thickend edge only needs to be about six inches, or perhaps one shovel width wide. (This may mean it would be easier to use a 2 x 6 for the edge form so that the concrete will not try to run out underneath the form)
Be sure when you are grading the gravel that you maintain 3 1/2 to 4 inches of depth all the way across the slab - in other words, don't let the gravel get too high in the middle of the slab.
You should be able to pour the patio in one day, if you have plenty of help and some experience in placing concrete.At four inches deep, you need about 11.25 cubic yards of concrete (I would recommend at least a 4000 psi mix, with 6% air entrainment since this is an exterior slab). Since this will probably require two truckloads of material, you might consider only pouring 1/2 of the slab, especially if you are not experienced in handling concrete. Better to do this than to get a poor job because you took on too much concrete at once.
Your 30 x 30 slab should be jointed into 10 x 10 squares to control cracking. I would recommend using a metal stay-in-place joint that will also serve as a screed to help you strike off the concrete and keep the slab level. (One brand name is Form-a-Key) This material comes in 10' lengths, so you would need 120 lineal feet of material to divide your slab into 10 x 10 squares.
Check with ready mix supplier regarding where to purchase this material, and for tips on how to install it. If you have never finished concrete before, I would recommend visiting with your ready mix supplier to get some basic instructions, or to get the names of some local concrete finishers.
Keep in mind that you will not be able to wheelbarrow your concrete across the slab once you install this material, so make sure that the concrete truck can reach the entire slab with the chutes. If this is not possible, consider installing the metal joint material in only one direction (this would form 3, 10 x 30 lanes in your slab) so you can use a wheelbarrow to transport the concrete from one end of the slab to the other. If you use this method, you can install the rest of the metal joints as you pour the slab, or you can rent a concrete saw and sawcut the joints after the concrete hardens.