Concrete is a truly amazing and versatile material. It is used in so many applications throughout the world — particularly in construction and engineering — that it’s hard to imagine life without it. From culverts and sewers to skyscrapers and apartment blocks, concrete is everywhere, and we all benefit from it every day. It’s also used for small things, like the walkways and driveways we install around our homes.

It’s no secret that homeowners are doing more with less these days — and a lot of projects that people once assumed they needed to hire a professional to complete, are now being attempted on a DIY basis. This is particularly true in the information age, when endless quantities of instructional content are available 24/7.

But when people do their own concrete work — especially when they don’t have a lot of experience — there are a number of common mistakes that are made. These blunders are only worth knowing about because they cost time and money in the end! Here are 3 of the most common mistakes homeowners make when doing their own concrete work.

1. Not mixing the concrete properly

When it comes to concrete, the mixture is supremely important. There are three possible problems with a concrete mixture. The first is too much water in the mix, and the second is too much concrete. Either extreme will result in concrete that doesn’t cure as it should, and the pavement will be weak as a result. The third possible problem is using poor quality concrete mixture. In this case, even if you get the balance exactly right, your installation will not hold up over time. If you’re mixing your own concrete, be sure to use a high quality product and follow the mixing instructions exactly. This will ensure the best possible results.

2. Not allowing the concrete enough time to cure

The process of curing is very important to the quality of a concrete installation, no matter how big or small the project may be. While it’s true that concrete will become hard anywhere from 1-2 days after the mixture is poured, the curing process takes quite a bit longer. Depending on local weather conditions like humidity and temperature, the curing process could take up to seven days. It might be tempting to jump the gun and start using your concrete before this period, but this is a mistake. A lot of smart DIY homeowners cover the concrete with a plastic tarp to keep it “off limits” during the curing process.

3. Not placing the form properly

In concrete installations, the “form” refers to the lumber that is put together to form the outline of the installation (a driveway, for example). This keeps your mixture in place until it hardens and cures, and prevents spillage into the yard and other outdoor areas. Many DIY homeowners don’t secure the form properly but digging a trench and packing the form into the dirt to hold it steady. An improperly installed form will result in leaking concrete and malformations during the hardening and curing processes.

Who’s installing your concrete?

A great way to avoid these mistakes is to know about them in advance and take steps to prevent them. Another great way is to hire a professional to handle your concrete installation for you! People are often surprised at how affordable this really is, and when you figure in the time and stress saved, it becomes a very compelling option. Just make sure you hire a contractor with a good reputation and a highly professional attitude toward their work, and you can rest assured you’ll be getting a top quality concrete installation — free of mistakes!