Are you thinking of adding a sturdy, sleek concrete slab to your Melbourne property? 

Laying a small concrete slab might sound like a job for the pros – and most of the time that is the best way to save time, money and headaches.

But if you’re looking to tackle this project, it helps to have a roadmap to follow.

Concrete slabs provide a solid, flat surface that’s perfect for everything from garden sheds to patios, and doing it yourself can save you a chunk of change while giving you a hands-on sense of achievement.

In this article, we’ll explore the crucial considerations, step-by-step instructions, and practical tips for laying a small concrete slab. Whether you’re looking to create a base for a garden shed or lay the foundation for a new outdoor feature, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll dive into everything from the initial planning and ground preparation to the mixing, pouring, and finishing of your slab.

Each step will be broken down to ensure you can follow along with ease – so let’s get started.

Concrete Slabs: The Basics

This is a common structural element of modern construction, consisting of a flat, horizontal surface made from cast concrete.

Typically, it is used as a foundation for various installations like sheds, and patios, or even as a base for air conditioning units.

Why Choose a Concrete Slab?

  1. Durability: Concrete is known for its strength and longevity. It can withstand extreme weather conditions, and heavy loads, and doesn’t succumb easily to wear and tear. This makes it an ideal choice for outdoor and structural applications.
  2. Low Maintenance: Once the slab is laid and cured, it requires minimal upkeep compared to other materials like wood or paving stones, which may shift or degrade over time.
  3. Versatility: Whether you’re looking to create a sleek, modern look or something more traditional, concrete’s versatility allows it to be finished in a variety of textures and colours to match any design aesthetic.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: While the upfront cost may be higher than some other materials, the longevity and low maintenance of concrete make it a cost-effective choice in the long run. Additionally, doing it yourself saves on labour costs and provides a valuable learning experience.
  5. Pest and Fire Resistance: Unlike wood, concrete does not attract termites or other pests and is naturally fire-resistant, enhancing the safety of your property.

Regulations and Environmental Considerations

Environmental Considerations

Concrete production and use can have various environmental impacts, including resource consumption and carbon emissions. When planning to lay a small concrete slab, it’s crucial to consider the following:

  • Sustainable Materials: Opt for environmentally friendly concrete mixes that use recycled materials or have a reduced carbon footprint.
  • Water Use: Concrete requires water for mixing and curing. It’s important to use water efficiently and prevent runoff, which could contaminate local waterways.
  • Waste Management: Plan for the proper disposal of any excess concrete and packaging materials to minimise waste and environmental impact.

Permits and Inspections

Understanding the local council regulations is paramount. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Building Permits: Depending on the size and use of the slab, you may need a building permit from your local council in Melbourne. This is often the case if the slab will support a structure such as a shed or garage.
  • Inspections: If a permit is required, one or more inspections by a certified building inspector might be necessary to ensure the slab complies with local building codes and safety standards.
  • Council Regulations: Contact your local council to get specific details about the requirements for laying a small concrete slab. This can include setback requirements, maximum site coverage, and other zoning laws that might affect your project.

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Tailoring Your Project: Tools, Tips, and Property Needs

Assessing Property Needs

Before purchasing materials or breaking ground, consider what your slab needs to accomplish and how it fits into the broader context of your property.

  • Purpose of the Slab: Are you laying a base for a garden shed, creating a patio, or maybe a foundation for a barbecue area? The intended use will determine the dimensions and the type of concrete mix you need.
  • Location: Choose a location that is level or can be easily made level. Consider how the slab will integrate with other landscape or structural elements in your property.
  • Size and Thickness: The thickness of your slab should be proportionate to its use. For example, slabs for heavy structures like sheds will require more depth compared to decorative patio areas.

Gathering Tools and Materials

Having the right tools and materials is key to successfully laying the slab. Here’s what you’ll typically need:

Basic Tools:

  • Measuring Tape and String Line: For accurate measurements and layout.
  • Shovel and Wheelbarrow: For mixing concrete if doing so manually and moving materials.
  • Wooden Stakes and Timber for Formwork: To shape and hold the concrete in place while it cures.
  • Spirit Level and Screed: For levelling the concrete.
  • Tamper: To compact the base and the concrete.
  • Trowel: For smoothing the concrete surface.


  • Concrete Mix: Quantity depends on the size of the slab; consider using a mix suitable for the environmental conditions of Melbourne.
  • Reinforcement Mesh or Bar: To strengthen the concrete, particularly important in load-bearing slabs.
  • Sand and Gravel: As base materials before pouring the concrete.
  • Water: For mixing the concrete.

Preparing the Site

Proper site preparation is crucial to the longevity and effectiveness of your slab.

  • Clearing and Levelling: Remove any vegetation, debris, and topsoil to reach a stable subsoil. Level the area thoroughly.
  • Compacting the Base: Use a tamper or a plate compactor to compact the base soil, which prevents the concrete from settling unevenly.
  • Creating Formwork: Build a form around the perimeter of the intended slab area with timber, securing it with wooden stakes. Ensure the form is sturdy and level.

Concrete Slab Checklist

Concrete Mix

Choosing the right type of concrete mix is crucial, as it needs to withstand Melbourne’s variable climate conditions.

Recommended Types:

  • General Purpose Cement: Suitable for most home DIY projects. Brands like Boral or Cement Australia are reliable choices.
  • High-Strength Concrete Mix: Essential if the slab will support heavy structures. Look for options that offer greater psi ratings.

Reinforcement Options

Reinforcement increases the strength and durability of your slab, preventing cracking under stress.

  • Steel Mesh: Commonly used in residential projects. It’s easy to handle and provides substantial strength. Well-known brands include ARC and Best Bar.
  • Rebar (Reinforcing Bar): Recommended for heavier-duty applications. It can be sourced from most local hardware stores.
  • Fibreglass Fibres: An alternative to traditional steel, offering resistance to corrosion.
  • Sourcing Tips: Local steel suppliers often offer a variety of options. Ensure the materials comply with Australian Standards for safety and quality.

Formwork Materials

Formwork defines the shape and maintains the integrity of the poured concrete until it cures.

Timber Boards: Commonly used for their ease of assembly and availability.

Recommended Types: Treated pine or hardwood. These materials can withstand the moisture from concrete without warping.


The choice of aggregate affects the texture, strength, and durability of the concrete.


  • Crushed Stone: Provides better interlocking and strength characteristics.
  • Gravel: Less expensive and provides good drainage.

Step-by-Step Guide: Laying Your Concrete Slab

Step 1: Preparation and Safety

Before you begin, ensure you have all the necessary tools and materials ready. Safety is paramount throughout the process.

  • Safety Gear: Always wear protective clothing, including gloves, goggles, and a dust mask, especially when mixing concrete.
  • Clear the Area: Remove any debris, vegetation, and topsoil to reach a stable layer of subsoil.
  • Set Up Formwork: Construct a wooden frame to shape and contain the concrete, ensuring it is level and secure.

Step 2: Laying the Foundation

A solid base is critical for the longevity of your slab.

  • Compact the Subsoil: Use a tamper or plate compactor to firm up the base soil, eliminating any pockets of air or moisture.
  • Add a Sub-base: Lay a 100mm layer of crushed stone or gravel and compact it thoroughly to provide a stable, drainable layer under the concrete.

Step 3: Mixing the Concrete

Mixing concrete can be physically demanding. If mixing by hand is too labour-intensive, consider renting a cement mixer.

  • Calculate the Required Concrete: Use a concrete calculator to estimate how much concrete you’ll need, based on the dimensions of your formwork.
  • Mixing: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the concrete mix. Ensure the mix is consistent and lump-free.

Step 4: Pouring the Concrete

This is a critical phase where speed and precision are crucial.

  • Pouring: Begin at one corner and work your way across the form, pouring the concrete evenly.
  • Spreading: Use a rake or shovel to spread the concrete within the formwork, making sure there are no gaps or low spots.

Step 5: Levelling and Finishing

Proper finishing will determine the appearance and smoothness of your concrete surface.

  • Level the Surface: Use a screed board in a sawing motion over the formwork edges to level the concrete.
  • Smooth the Surface: After levelling, smooth the surface with a concrete float to compact it and bring up a fine layer of cement paste for finishing.
  • Edge and Joint the Concrete: Use an edging tool to create clean edges and control joints every few metres to prevent cracking.

Step 6: Curing the Concrete

Curing concrete is essential for achieving maximum strength and durability.

  • Cover the Slab: Use plastic sheeting to cover the slab, which helps retain moisture and prevents the concrete from drying too quickly.
  • Keep It Moist: Regularly mist the concrete with water over a 7-day period to ensure proper hydration, especially in dry weather.

When to Call a Professional

While DIY is rewarding, certain stages of laying the slab may require professional expertise.

  • If the Area Is Large or Structurally Significant: If the slab is intended to support significant weight or is exceptionally large, consulting a professional is advisable.
  • Encountering Unexpected Issues: If you hit bedrock, water pipes, or electrical lines, or if the formwork repeatedly fails to hold the concrete, it’s time to call in a professional.

Speak to a member of the Concept Concrete team on 1300 366 343 or request a FREE quote online today.

Budgeting for Your Concrete Slab: Costs and Savings

Item Quantity/Size Cost
Concrete Mix Per cubic metre $250 – $300
Reinforcement Mesh Per sheet $30 – $50
Formwork Materials Per linear metre $5 – $10
Sub-base Material Per cubic metre $50 – $70
Tool Rental (Mixer) Per day $40 – $60
Safety Gear Set $30 – $50
Delivery Charges Variable $20 – $100
Professional Consultation Per hour $80 – $150

Budgeting and Cost-Saving Tips

To ensure that you stay within budget while achieving the desired outcome for your slab, consider these tips:

  • Compare Suppliers: Get quotes from multiple suppliers for concrete, reinforcement materials, and other supplies to ensure competitive pricing.
  • DIY Where Possible: Handle aspects of the project yourself, such as formwork construction and mixing concrete, to save on labour costs.
  • Borrow or Rent Tools: Instead of purchasing expensive tools, borrow from friends or rent from local tool libraries or hire shops.
  • Plan Thoroughly: Avoid the cost of errors and wasted materials by ensuring your measurements and calculations are accurate before beginning.

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Save Time and Money with Concept Concrete

Ready to start your concrete project but need a bit more guidance? Or perhaps you’re looking for a professional touch to ensure your project is nothing short of perfect?

Our team of experts is ready to provide you with personalised advice and help you get a detailed quote tailored to your specific needs.

Here’s how we can help:

  • Reach Out for Expert Advice: Don’t hesitate to ask us your burning questions or seek guidance on your DIY project.
  • Request a Quote: Let us provide you with a competitive quote that meets your project requirements without compromising on quality.
  • Experience the Difference: With Concept Concrete, you’re choosing a partner who values excellence and customer satisfaction. Let us help you make your project a resounding success.

Speak to a member of the Concept Concrete team on 1300 366 343 or request a FREE quote online today.