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3 Tips to Getting the Best Results from Concrete Forms

New cement steps being poured with heat cable
Concrete remains one of the most popular building materials for residential projects like new patios, driveways, or sidewalks. This popularity could be because of the incredible durability of concrete. Yet, in order to end up with a concrete that lasts as long as it should, each phase of the installation must be accomplished correctly.

One of the most important phases of concrete installation involves setting up the forms that will give the slab its shape. If you would like to learn more about what makes the difference between good and bad form-work, read on. This article will outline three important factors that a contractor must consider when setting up concrete forms.

1. Dimensions of the Wooden Boards

Wooden boards have always been the go-to choice for concrete forms. However, not just any boards will do. A contractor must carefully consider the dimensions of the wood they use, otherwise, the results may not meet expectations. If the concrete spills out of the forms, then it will make a huge mess, while also potentially impacting the strength of the resulting slab.

As far as thickness goes, 2-inches will be sufficient for most concrete projects. After all, the main boards will be reinforced with a series of stakes along the exterior. Board length, on the other hand, should be tailored to dimensions of the project whenever possible.

Many contractors use boards that exceed the length of the slab by a few inches. This excess length makes it easier to attach the perpendicular boards. The extending edges can then be trimmed down if desired. If a slab's dimensions exceed available board length, then multiple boards may be attached together lengthwise using clamps.

Finally, a contractor must consider board height. Most projects use one of two common board sizes: 2 by 6 inches or 2 by 12 inches. 2 by 6 boards should suffice for most slabs up to 5 inches thick.
However, if a contractor intends to install a slab with thickened edges, then 2 by 12 boards will be required to contain the extra-deep concrete. Such thickened edges offer greater stability, by forming a protective wall around the concrete's sub-base.

2. Distance Between Stakes

On their own, the form boards would be unable to contain the huge weight of the wet concrete. In order to ensure that they do not bend, buckle, or even collapse, wooden stakes must be installed around the perimeter. These stakes reinforce the boards, giving them the stability necessary to maintain the proper shape once the concrete is poured into place.

A contractor must be careful to maintain appropriate spacing between stakes. Stakes should not be more than 3 feet apart from each another. In cases of especially deep or large slabs, contractors may choose to place the stakes even closer together for additional stability.  

3. Attachment of the Stakes

Even with appropriately spaced stakes, things can go wrong. Depending on the type of soil, a stake simply may not have the stability to withstand the force of the concrete on the forms. If the stake pushes outward even an inch or two, then the forms will bulge, resulting in a misshapen slab.

For optimal stability, a professional contractor always attaches the stakes to the form boards. Screws make a much better fastener than nails. If the edges of the concrete slab will be visible, then it's important that the screw not pass all the way through the form.

A high-quality concrete slab owes much of its shape and stability to its forms. Experienced contractors know this, and always ensure that their forms meet the highest standards. For more information about what it takes to install a slab that will last for many years, contact our concrete professionals at Accu-Krete.