Flatwork Services Houston TX
Concrete Flatwork Provides a Safe, Durable Surface for Pedestrians
Flatwork refers to sidewalks, walkways, patios, driveways – anywhere you need a flat slab of concrete for pedestrians or the occasional vehicle. You can’t go outside without seeing flatwork, and it’s one of the more common jobs for pavement contractors.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute, though. Like with any concrete structure, flatwork requires extensive planning and careful site preparation before pouring can begin.
If done right, though, your flatwork will provide a reliable walking surface for decades, and it will improve your property’s appearance, too.
Why is Concrete the Material of Choice for Flatwork?
With very few exceptions, concrete is the first option in flatwork. If you’re looking for a flatwork contractor, you’ll likely end up working with a concrete expert. Here’s why concrete is king when it comes to flatwork:
- Durability – Concrete possesses excellent durability and is appropriate for nearly any environment as a result. It resists abrasions, compressive forces, most forms of chemical attack, and can withstand weather-related wear better than any other material that would be considered for flatwork.
- Low maintenance – Concrete does not require frequent maintenance, other than the occasional cleaning and sealing. Once installed, the expectation is that the concrete can last up to 30 years. You may need to address some cracking at some point, but if the concrete is poured and jointed correctly, it will last.
- Appearance – Some property owners prefer pavers over poured concrete for appearance purposes. And it’s true, pavers look nice. However, you can get the same look from poured concrete using simple stamping tools. Concrete can be designed with intricate patterns and colored to look like brick or stone, so you don’t have to settle on appearance with concrete.
- Efficient project timelines – Concrete flatwork can be formed, poured, finished and cured within days. If your property needs walkways as soon as possible, concrete is a time-efficient option.
- Multiple concrete mix options – Although concrete is extremely durable and long-lasting, sulfate-rich soils can be a problem. Sulfate ions react with the calcium hydroxide in the concrete, producing ettringite and gypsum as a result. Both of these compounds will eventually compromise the concrete, but there are cement mixes (Type II and Type V) that are designed to resist sulfate attack. This is particularly helpful in southern and southwestern states like Texas, where sulfates are more common in the soils.
A Step-By-Step Look at the Flatwork Installation Process
Concrete is the top choice for flatwork, but how is it installed? Here’s what a typical flatwork project looks like, from start to finish:
- Subgrade preparation – There’s some planning to do before pouring any concrete, and it starts with preparing the subgrade layers. The subgrade is essentially the soil under the pavement and provides the stable base for the flatwork.
During subgrade preparation, the soil is shaped and graded to provide this stable base, within predefined tolerances.
- Soil analysis – The subgrade’s composition is an important piece of information. Depending on its composition, stabilizers or alternative cement grades may be required.
That’s why the pavement contractor will send out a soil sample for analysis prior to pouring concrete. The resulting analysis will ensure the contractor can make any needed adjustments prior to pouring.
- Hydrating and compacting – If the subgrade is viable for the project, it will need to be hydrated first and then compacted. Compacting the soil increases friction between particles and helps it resist shear stress.
- Forming – The subgrade is ready, so now it’s time to set up the concrete forms. Concrete forms act like wooden molds, as they’re used to define the pavement’s shape before the concrete is poured. They’re slightly sloped to account for water runoff and set up to ensure level, square flatwork.
- Pouring – The process of forming has led up to the pouring. The mixers back up to the concrete forms and the concrete is poured out down a chute. The pavement team will help it along with shovels and ensure the concrete is poured evenly. This part of the job has to be done quickly, before the concrete has a chance to start setting.
- Leveling and finishing – Once the concrete is in place, it’s leveled out using a screed (a metal blade or piece of wood) and then smoothed out with floats (similar to trowels but made of wood and with a thicker base). The concrete can then be finished with stamping or any other ornamentation to achieve the final look.
An Experienced Houston Pavement Contractor Can Also Provide Flatwork Maintenance and Repair
As mentioned, concrete flatwork doesn’t require extensive maintenance all that often. If installed properly, your flatwork may live out its life without issues. Proper installation is key, though, because if your flatwork isn’t placed correctly, that will eventually become clear.
If your flatwork is showing signs of underlying issues, a paving contractor can help. For example, concrete repair methods include:
- Epoxy injection – Wider cracks can be handled using an epoxy injection, as long as the issues causing the crack are also addressed. Otherwise, the crack may form again. During epoxy injection, the pavement crew will clean the area, insert ports for the epoxy and inject deep into the crack. Epoxy is pushed into the crack until it’s completely sealed and the ports can be removed.
- Routing and crack sealing – During routing and sealing, the crack is first widened using a router that cuts a V-shaped groove into the concrete’s surface. Once the crack is routed open in this way, a crack sealer is used to fill the gap and protect from water intrusion.
- Dry packing – Dry packing is a simple method for fixing cracks and involves the use of low-water mortar. The mortar is pushed into the cracks and provides a tight bond between concrete surfaces. Because the mortar contains little water, shrinkage is minimal.
- Stitching – Stitching is reserved for severe cracking and provides a durable, long-lasting solution. During stitching, the pavement crew will drill ports along both sides of the crack. Thick wire is run through these ports and set in place using epoxy or grout.
Flatwork Requires An Experienced Houston Contractor To Get It Right
For experienced contractors, flatwork is a basic project. For everyone else, it’s anything but. That’s why property owners typically rely on a trusted pavement contractor to do the job right. A reputable contractor will do much more than just pour concrete. They’ll have a plan in place, account for soil and drainage conditions, establish a stable base for the flatwork, form and pour the concrete properly, and provide professional-looking finishing that will last.