Recycling an old broken concrete patio

By on September 11, 2016
recycle concrete patio

Some years back our sister Margaret was married and she and her husband David had their wedding reception at Margaret’s boss’s house in Carmel, California. The wedding and the reception were great, but touring her boss’s whole house renovation was an additional delight that held our interest for much of the afternoon. Needless to say, Margaret works for a remodeling contractor.

Anyway, and to make a long story short, that evening we left with a couple of remodeling ideas that we feel you might find unusual, interesting and very cost effective too.

Our favorite was reusing the old concrete from a cracked up old patio that we were told had been so bad before its demolition that walking was actually an acrobatic event. We were told that the old concrete patio had more cracks than solid areas?!? How do you reuse an old, cracked, concrete patio and make it look better than when it was originally poured? Easy, read on.

First, a secret. After standing on the remodeled patio for over an hour — we still had no idea that it had been made from concrete. We both thought the tiles were real stone. Not until after Maggy’s boss described how he had done the job, did we finally realize that we were standing on pieces of broken concrete — all mortared together to look like stone. He said that he had decided to break the old concrete into small pieces (about a foot square — or so), dig out the dirt below, add a sturdy subbase and then mortar together the broken pieces of concrete as if they were pieces of natural stone. We could not believe our eyes. The finished product was magnificent — beautiful, artistic and best of all……super inexpensive — comparatively speaking. This is a rustic look and may not work with all types of architecture, but is sure is a neat way of recycling and saving!

Naturally, there is some expense involved in reusing old concrete, but not nearly the cost of complete replacement. Using a sledge hammer to break out the old patio may prove to produce pieces of concrete that are non-uniform in size. This is where the rental of a small electric jack hammer can make all the difference. It can be used to create pieces that are relatively uniform in size.

Once the concrete pieces have been broken up into relatively uniform sized “concrete tiles” they will have to be set aside so that the work of digging out a layer of earth can be done. The earth removal adds space for a bedding layer — usually sand. The sand bedding layer is used to support the underside of the newly created tiles, also making it easier to get an evenly finished top surface. Besides making placement easier the sand is very stable and does not radically expand when wet, or contract when dry — which is what most soil does. Oh, and sand is easy to work with and inexpensive too!

Although a great deal of time can be spent trying to fit each of the randomly shaped pieces together, the patio we saw utilized mortar joints that averaged one-inch in width and varied from about half that width to some areas that were about twice as wide.

The sand subbase should be about four-inches in depth. Any kind of sand will do. Using a garden hose, wet the sand thoroughly to gently compact it and then wait several days for the area to dry out. Apply a shovel full of mortar directly onto the sand base and lay the first tile directly into the mortar. Place the thickest piece first. Doing this will insure that you won’t have to dig deeply into your sand base to insure that all pieces will fit flush on top. After several pieces have been laid in place be sure to scrape away excess mortar. Don’t use water to remove the excess mortar. Doing so can result in a mess that could take hours to clean up. The idea is to uniformly place each piece so that the patio is level — or better yet — graded to slope for best drainage. Can you imagine that — a silk purse from a sow’s ear — recycling an old broken concrete patio.

 

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