Man leveling concrete
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Concrete is an essential building material that’s easy to work with, durable and versatile enough for use in everything from structural foundations to patios. For most concrete projects, the largest cost is the concrete itself, so it’s important to accurately calculate how much concrete you need and how much it’s going to cost before you get started.

The cost of concrete

For large projects, ordering a delivery of ready-mix concrete is the most cost-effective and convenient option. The bulk purchase often allows for a discount, and the amount of time you save helps keep your project costs down.

By talking to a local ready-mix supplier, you can get concrete that contains the correct blend of cement, gravel and sand for your project needs.

The cost of concrete varies based on the supplier, geographical region, the size of the order and the mix ratios. But expect to pay about $90 per cubic yard, or around $3.25 to $5.25 per square foot.

Additional cost considerations

While the materials account for the lion’s share of the cost when installing concrete, there are other factors to consider when figuring the overall project budget. Homeowners employing a contractor to prepare and lay a concrete patio pay an average of $2,264.

Some common costs to consider for any concrete project include:

  • Groundwork: Preparing the area by removing dirt and leveling the ground may involve manual labor or hiring a tractor and operator. Costs range from $50 to $70 per hour.
  • Laying the sub-base: The aggregate material beneath the concrete costs from $12 to $18 per cubic yard, including the cost of delivery.
  • Concrete forms: Getting the concrete to settle in the required locations requires forms, which are barriers that channel and hold the concrete in place. The materials are relatively inexpensive, but the work is labor-intensive. Budget for approximately $2 per square foot.
  • Staining: A colored stain gives concrete a more attractive finish. It’s possible to add stain to the concrete mix for as little as 50 cents per square foot. Or, use a colored sealant after the concrete is dry. Hiring a professional to apply a coat of sealant costs from $2 to $4 per square foot.

Estimating the amount to order

Before contacting your supplier, you need to know how much concrete to order. Try to be as accurate as possible when estimating how much you need. Start by calculating the volume in cubic feet by multiplying the length of the area in feet by the width in feet and the depth in feet. Divide that total by 27, which is the number of cubic feet in a cubic yard. This gives you the amount of concrete needed to fill the area, but add approximately 10 percent to cover spills, accidents, depth variations and miscalculations.

For example, when ordering concrete for a concrete slab measuring 10-by-10 feet, with a depth of 0.5 feet, the calculation is: 10 x 10 x 0.5 = 50 cubic feet. Dividing the total by 27 gives a final value of 1.86 cubic yards (2.04 cubic yards with a 10 percent allowance).

There are many companies specializing in mixing and delivering concrete for any type of construction work. Shop around for quotes to find the best value in your area. But bear in mind that you want your concrete to last a long time, so don’t cut corners on the quality, and consider paying slightly more for a better product.

Use Bankrate’s calculator to determine how much you will need for your project.

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