DIY Arbor Swing: How to Dry Pour Concrete Footings The Easy Way

We’re sharing step by step as we build a DIY arbor swing in a beautiful backyard! This is Step 3: how to dry pour concrete footings for swing posts.

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How to Dry-Pour Concrete Footings for a Wood Post

What is a Dry-Poured Concrete Footing?

Dry poured concrete is a concrete installation where the concrete mix is poured dry, and then water is added afterward. By contrast, for wet poured concrete, the concrete mix is mixed with water prior to pouring the concrete for a footing or cement pad.

Is a Dry-Poured Concrete Footing a Good Idea?

Dry-poured concrete footings are commonly used to set posts and poles such as for an arbor, pergola, mailbox, sign, etc. where the poured concrete footing is below grade anyway. Dry-poured concrete is a good option when water is less available at the pouring site, or when you don’t have the tools to mix concrete and the availability to clean those tools right away.

Dry-poured concrete is not as strong as wet-poured concrete and is more prone to cracking and chipping — but those factors aren’t as important for a below-ground post footing that won’t be exposed to foot traffic and weathering. For a concrete pad, definitely wet-pour concrete like we poured a few years ago.

In areas where there is no water available, many DIYers report dry-pouring concrete without any added water at all, allowing the ground water or rain water to soak the dry concrete over time to help set it. I prefer to add the water and mix the concrete in the post hole, so I can’t vouch for the results of that method.

Why I Like to Dry Pour Concrete Footings for Posts

I’ve done both wet-poured and dry-poured concrete footings and they both have their times and places.

The process I showed for setting and leveling posts can be used for both wet- and dry-poured footings. Just be sure that the post supports leave enough access to pour the concrete in!

One big reason I might choose to dry-pour a concrete footing is the mess and cleanup. Mixing the concrete right in the hole requires less cleanup and makes less mess. (My trick for keeping a wet-poured concrete hole clean does work great, though!)

Pouring The Concrete Footings in Existing Patio (With The Plywood to Protect the Concrete Pad)
how to pour a concrete footing under an existing patio (and keep it clean)

When to Wet-Pour vs. Dry-Pour Concrete for Footings

For a post footing, the soil where the footing is dug can help determine whether you should wet-pour or dry-pour the footing concrete.

  • If the soil is loose or sandy, wet-poured concrete will give a better result.
  • If the soil is denser with more clay, dry-poured concrete can be a good option.

These options are considerations for an in-ground post footing; if you’re using a bracket to attach the post to the footing like this, you will need to wet-pour the concrete before setting the bracket or attaching the bracket to the cured concrete.

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Materials for a Dry Pour Concrete Footing

To dry-pour a concrete post footing like I do, you’ll need:

Step by Step: How to Dry Pour Concrete Post Footings

  1. Prepare the wood posts or poles. I coated these 8×8 cedar posts with a liquid rubber sealant for added longevity.
  2. Dig the post holes to the depth and size needed for your post size and frost depth. Here, mine are 30″ deep and around 16″ wide.
  3. Add gravel and/or a paver stone concrete block to the bottom of the hole for drainage and stability. (You can see where I did this in the last video post.)
    • You could also use a poured concrete foundation block to set the post on. I like to have the post sitting on concrete and surrounded by concrete with little to no direct soil contact, to ensure the post lasts as long as possible.
  4. Place and level the posts with supports to hold them in place (like I described here).
  5. Pour 1-2 bags of dry concrete mix into the hole.
  6. Add water (a little less than 1 gallon per bag of concrete; see bag for specifics), then use the rebar to poke and stir the mixture to saturate the dry mix with the water.
  7. Add another bag of concrete mix (or 2) to the hole. Each of my post holes required roughly 4 bags.
  8. Add more water and stir.

Important: After all the concrete is mixed in the hole, check again that the posts are still plumb and level. It’s easy to bump the post’s position while pouring a mixing.

Because we were finishing this swing arbor area with a paver patio, I only poured the footings until they were about 4 inches below the finish grade. The remaining space (up to where I had coated with the rubber sealant) was filled with the paver base of sand/gravel for the patio so the pavers are all level at the finish grade the client wanted.

Once the concrete has cured the appropriate amount of time (check the instructions from the manufacturer), you can backfill over the concrete with gravel, soil or sod – or you can add a flagstone paver right up the the posts like I’ll show you later!

Stay tuned and subscribe to see how we add the beam and rafters, stain the posts, and more – right up until the finished project reveal!

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How To Dry Pour A Concrete Post Footing For A DIY Swing Arbor, Remodelaholic
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I am the husband of the amazing Cassity of Remodelaholic. I love to problem solve and to design and build things inside and outside the house to make life better. I am a professional Landscape Architect by trade and love the outdoors.

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Lorene has been behind the scenes here at Remodelaholic for more than a decade! She believes that planning projects and actually completing them are two different hobbies, but that doesn't stop her from planning at least a dozen projects at any given time. She spends her free time creating memories with her husband and 5 kids, traveling as far as she can afford, and partaking of books in any form available.

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