Concrete Curbing Machines

Concrete Curbs uses from a female homeowner’s point of view:

I have a passion for making yard focal points out of concrete.  I have dug holes in the ground, layered them with magnolia leaves, and then filled the hole with concrete for one of a kind bird baths. Made small benches in the same fashion using different materials around the house for imprinted designs; sundials were also part of the endeavor. However, when I looked around my yard at what I wrought, I realized my little areas of creativity needed boarders to keep out the ever encroaching grass and weeds.  I knew I could not just build a floating curb as the grass or weeds would just crawl under it within a season- I needed to sink it a few inches, and that’s where I ran into trouble.

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After my success with concrete molds, I thought I could do anything until I tried making curbing. Tried is probably not a good word more liked attempted-  it did not look good.  I attempted to dig the channel for the boarder, which was harder than anything I’ve ever attempted, trying to keep the ground level is in a word time consuming especially since I have about 40%  clay for soil in my yard. First, I tried using a square shovel, after laying some rope down for where I wanted the boarder. No matter how hard I tried I could not with any sort of skill push that shovel down several inches unless I jumped on it like a Pogo stick, we had those when I was a kid. Even if I wanted to jump my way down the line of rope, it was hard to get several jumps of turned over soil in a row looking remotely even.  My husband has Parkinson; he did try and help, but just couldn’t get his body to do what the mind wanted so he became a one man inspirational orator from a lawn chair, but I got tired of listening so he started up an audio book which made the hours fly by.

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I realized my strength was not adequate for the job so I enlisted my teenage son. Good lord! did he complain, but he dug the channel with the help of a sod cutter saying every time he took a break “This is for the next 10 Mothers days!”  I tried making the curb by pouring enough concrete into the channel to give overflow to build up a boarder as I wanted it to look like an old log.  It was a mess- it looked like some kid trying to make mud pies.  This was the point, I realized that I had to educate myself on Concrete Curbs and Concrete Curb Machines-  what follows is some of what I learned:

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While there are many different materials that you can use for curbing, like metals, wood, and plastic (I know we’ve all seen the black plastic on a lawn at some point), concrete is a very popular option and many consider it to be the best. It’s the perfect solution for a long-standing problem. Concrete is durable and stays in place, unlike plastic and metal. Concrete curbs are also easy to mold into any shape, unlike metals. And unlike anything else, concrete can be mixed on site and you can choose custom colors or patterns to match brick, stone, or any other particular color in your garden! It’s the chameleon of curbing materials.

The first use of Curbs can be traced back to the Romans who use them to control street traffic keeping it separate from pedestrian walkways, and to define the road. They even used forms of asphalt paving. Curbs also helped send the water runoff from the road down the gutter to the sewer. Just as important, Curbs worked well to raise the walkway up from the street level which helped move traffic along the road faster than the sidewalks where commerce slows things down.  The Romans would not allow the use of carts in urban areas, exceptions were made for Married women, and Government officials on business could ride.  “All Roads lead to Rome” no one really knows how old this metaphor is as it was already in use during the 11th century, and certainly back then was very true as the Romans were the most prolific road builders among Ancient Civilizations.  However, widespread construction and use of curbs began in the 18th century- specifically in the streets of London.

In the years preceding 1980, making curbs was a very labor intensive and exacting process that required much skill. Today curbing machines have evolved into fantastic do-it-all machines. These machines have helped revolutionized the landscaping business by starting a lot of entrepreneurs into very successful careers. With a sod cutting machine and a curbing machine, the very labor intensive process of installing a cement border around a flower bed became just a memory as the process today allows for almost limitless designs on offer to anyone seeking to beautify their property.

The early curb and gutter machines were difficult for the average Concrete contractor to work with as they did not have the knowledge to keep them running so they were slow to gain a foothold in the “I must have that machine category”.  However, in the last several years the evolution has been towards simplifying the machines and increasing the number of tasks it will perform. The machines now target a larger market of contractors who can easily adapt to a machine that will do what is required with a single pull of a switch. Even though, they still need to have the factory fix them when they stop working, many times it’s better for them to upgrade rather than have a busy machine out of service.    Thorough cleaning of the curb machine at the end of the day is the best way to extend its life.  The number one reason for premature failure is not cleaning the machine properly.

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Installing Landscape Borders

First is planning, deciding what mixture of cement, size of boarder, shape of boarder, whether it has a mowers edge or an angled one. Then comes ground preparation. Using a garden hose or rope lay it out where you want the boarder to be, then using a sod cutter and cut a 6 to 9-inch-wide strip of sod following along the garden hose or rope. Next comes the digging with a square shovel all along the strip made previously by the sod cutter, and leveling the channel.

When the ground preparation is done, the concrete is mixed using cement sand, Portland cement, reinforcing fiber, and the desired color in a cement mixture or wheelbarrow.  The mixture is more of a dry mix then wet- looking more like wet sand than mud. Using a reinforcing fiber, will help strengthen the cement boarder so if a crack appears it will stay just a crack instead of breaking off a chunk and ruining the look of the Boarder.

It is best to have help when using a curbing machine as one can feed the hopper as the other runs the machine. Once the boarder is extruded, you can beautify with the use of trowels or stamps. A control joint cut 1/2 into the curb every 12 to 18 inches will add flexibility to dampen ground movement; sort of allowing it a little movement to move with the heaving of the ground as it freezes and thaws.

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A Classen sod cutter rental from Home Depot advertised to “deliver the precise cut you need. Whether your project is relocating or repositioning sod, expanding or establishing flower beds, or creating walkways and patios, Classen Sod Cutters get the job done fast! Powerful and easy to use. Classen… serious lawn care made easy!”

Sod cutting machines can save a lot of time when installing a concrete curb. In order to rent the right one, you need know what kind of soil you have as you’ll need a heavier one for clay or compact soil.  The one I rented from Home Depot, for about 60 dollars, weighed about 300 pounds so I needed help from my teenage son as I just wasn’t strong enough to handle it.  Please have the rental agents start the Machine before you take it so you don’t have to bring back one that won’t start, and lose a lot of time- like we did.

Sod cutters will cut across the unwanted grass at the root level which is necessary to prevent the grass from growing back. They can generally cut a ribbon anywhere from 6 to 10 inches which is enough room for a boarder curb. We then rolled up the cut sod and used it on bare spots after breaking up the soil some. Just a note, I could roll up the sod without too much trouble, but it was difficult for me to carry so I used a Hand-truck to move it.