Site Preparation For Decorative Concrete Installation

Unknown Costs

It’s easy to get a meterage rate for how much it’s going to cost to have your decorative concrete installed, but does that price include preparing the site so it’s ready for installation? The short answer is, usually not.

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew what was required before getting your quote so you could discuss it with your contractor when they come out to measure up.

But how do you know what to look for let alone which are the right questions to ask? Well, unless you have experience in installing concrete, you probably don’t.

If you are a home or property owner and have built or are building a new home you’ll want to read on. Or maybe you are renovating your existing home or investment property, either way, this information could save you money and unnecessary frustration.


The Impact

Most people don’t know what to look for before installing decorative concrete, which is why it’s important to get the right advice before you start your project.

Preparation of the sub base (ground or area where the concrete will be installed) plays an important role in the quality and finished look of the concrete.

Incorrect levels, falls, drainage and overall preparation have the potential to cause flooding, trip hazards and lead to an increased risk of cracking (all concrete cracks but steps can be taken to minimize and control cracking).

Sadly we frequently hear stories from people who have received and accepted a quote only to be told once the job is finished that there is now an additional cost to be paid for site preparation or earthworks.

The impact to the client is a financial one and these costs haven’t been budgeted for.

Unfortunately contractors will sometimes use this as a tactic to ‘win’ a job – their quote looks like the cheapest but it’s not always the case in the end.

Or some contractors simply won’t carry out proper sub base preparation, in order to offer a cheaper quote to ‘win’ a job, but the client is then missing out on a quality installation.

What to Consider

To avoid surprise expenses and poor sub base preparation there are some things to consider.

Where is the concrete going?

We recommend drawing a plan of the areas you want concreted. Alternatively if you have site plans, clearly mark the areas you want concreted on a copy of the plans.

This will help you work out if any drains or channels need to be installed. You may have drains installed already that simply require a height adjustment.

This will also help with knowing which way the concrete should fall so water can run off in the right direction. Trying to install drainage after concrete has been installed is usually costly, messy and inconvenient.

What is it being used for?

You’ll need to determine whether the areas are going to have vehicles driven over them. Concrete in traffic areas should be installed at a depth of 100mm and pedestrian areas to a depth of 80mm.

Traffic areas may also require the installation of a road base depending on the quality of the sub base that’s already there.

If the concrete is butting up against the house the you will need to dig out the sub base to either 100mm or 80mm below FFL (finish floor level) of the house.

You will need to dig out pool areas to 80mm below either the finish level of the pool edge or if you are installing a pool header, to 80mm below finish height of the header. This doesn’t apply to seamless pool edging.

You might be able to do this by hand or it may require the use of a bobcat.

In some cases buying extra sand will be necessary to bring the levels up.

What to ask at the quote stage

When your contractor makes their site visit you might like to ask some of the following questions:

At what depth will you install the concrete?

Do I need a drain installed (or do I need to adjust the height of the drains I already have)?

What direction will the fall of the concrete be set?

Will we need a bobcat to dig out levels or bring in extra sand?

What site preparation is included in the quoted price?

Communication is key

Site preparation is an important component of installing decorative concrete. There are many factors to consider and while you don’t need to be an expert yourself, it is good to know what to ask when getting and comparing quotes.

As the property owner you are required to inform the contractor of any underground services, site restrictions or council requirements that apply to your property. It’s a great idea to inform the contractor with any of this information at the time of quoting so they can consider all requirements that may relate to the job.

Basic site preparation is usually included in the meterage rate and may include the following if/where required:

  • Drain Height Adjustment
  • Watering & compaction
  • Final Sand Leveling
  • Basic Form Work

Anything that requires additional materials, equipment or excessive time to complete will usually incur an extra cost. You may be able to complete some or all of the preparation by yourself (if you have the time) with the advice from your contractor, which could be a great way to save money.

Getting an all-inclusive quote up front is a great way to minimize the risk of costly surprises so it’s great to have a conversation with your contractor at the quote stage and advise them if anything changes.

We specialize in quoting our clients for a complete solution. Call us today on (08) 9534 3022 to book in your site assessment.

"Rather than imitate, we innovate"


Lifestone Paving Head Office
PO Box 5135, Falcon
Western Australia 6210

Phone: (08) 9534 3022
Mobile: 0418 906 127


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