DEAR MIKE: I was browsing through the home center and I noticed a project that would be ideal for a walkway I want. It is a form that you fill with concrete. It would give my weed-strewn yard a little elegance. How difficult is this project? -- Rebecca B.
DEAR REBECCA: It's concrete. It's difficult and dirty. It sounds like you are describing products made by Quikrete.
This company makes plastic forms that you can use to make walkways that resemble brick or even stone. You can add color to make the walkway stand out, and you can form it to go in a straight line, turn corners, or weave through a garden.
The plastic form measures 2 feet by 2 feet and the concrete mix (or fiber-reinforced concrete mix) costs around $3 per bag. You can fill three of the forms using either four 60-pound bags or three 80-pound bags of the company's concrete mix.
You will need some mixing supplies. That means either a wheelbarrow or tub, and a shovel. You can also buy a concrete mixer that looks like a small water cooler. It's plastic and costs around $20. Pour the dry concrete mix inside the mixer, add water, turn it on its side and roll it. The mixer has ridges inside of it that blend the mixture.
Before you start mixing, make sure the ground is fairly level. Remove any grass in the path of the walkway and level the mold.
If you want to add color, you can buy cement colorant. If you are mixing by hand or in a tub, mix the colorant with the water first, and then add it to the dry mix. For every 10-ounce bottle of colorant, add 1 1/4 gallons of water. This is enough for about two bags of concrete mix.
Blend it all together. Make sure it is thoroughly mixed to get a uniform color.
Dump the concrete mix on top of the form. Use a flat-head shovel or a trowel and fill each cavity in the mold. Tap the sides of the mold to settle the mixture into the cavities. Screed any extra concrete off of the mold.
Remove the mold and use a trowel to smooth the concrete edges to get the look you want. Place the mold back against the completed section and do it all again.
If you want to turn a 90-degree corner, just butt the form against the completed section and start a new run.
Making curves is challenging. Take the mold and butt the outside corner into the existing wet concrete at the point where you want the radius to begin. This will slice the wet concrete and allow you to change direction.
Pull off the mold and refinish the cut portion of the concrete. You will have to take a trowel and touch up the area. Fill in the mold cavities with concrete around the area of the curve.
This is easy to do with the cobblestone mold because it is already staggered. With the brick mold, there is more touch-up work because the mold is square.
When you have completed the walkway, let the concrete cure. Sprinkle the walk several times a day for four or five days so that it cures slowly and reaches its full strength (which will take about a month).
Fill the joints (the spaces the mold left) with sand mix and broom it off so that it is even with the top of the walkway. Wet it down so that it compacts and repeat as necessary.
Now go pick the weeds.