The Art of Shuttering: How to Set Up Shuttering Correctly for a Concrete Base

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Shuttering, also known as formwork, is one of the most critical aspects of any concrete project. It provides the mold into which concrete is poured and subsequently cured. Done correctly, shuttering ensures that your concrete base is of the desired shape, dimensions, and finish. However, any mistake in this process can lead to structural weaknesses, cosmetic issues, or costly repairs. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up shuttering for a concrete base the right way.

Planning & Design

Determine the Dimensions

Before you start, you need to know the dimensions of the concrete base you’re going to build. This will determine the amount of shuttering material you’ll need. The size will ultimately be determined by the size of building you wish to site on it. Remember to follow the building manufacturers guidelines as they will often require a base which is larger than the building size. This helps to spread the load of the building and allow some tolerance in the measurements and squareness of the base.

You should also take into consideration overhangs. Many buildings will have guttering or fascia boards which will overhang the footprint of the building. You do not want your building to overhang a neighbours boundary, or conflict with a wall for example.

Material Selection

Plywood, timber, and metal are commonly used materials for shuttering. Choose a material that is appropriate for your project, taking into account factors like the load it has to bear and if you intend to reuse the shuttering in the future.

Safety Measures

Ensure you have all the safety equipment, including gloves, safety goggles, boots, high visibility jackets and a hard hat, especially if machinery or plant is on site. Safety should never be compromised.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Measuring tape
  • Hammer and nails or screwdriver and screws
  • Spirit level
  • String line or floor marking paint
  • Saw (if you need to cut your material)
  • Shuttering boards
  • Shuttering oil or release agent
  • Corner braces
  • Supporting stakes or props

Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Shuttering

Step 1: Site Preparation

The first step is to prepare the ground where the concrete base will be laid. Remove any debris, roots, or other organic material from the area.

Step 2: Marking the Area

Use string lines or marking paint to outline the area where the concrete will be poured. Make sure the lines are straight and at right angles to ensure a perfect shape.

Step 3: Cutting and Assembling the Boards

Measure and cut your shuttering boards according to the dimensions you’ve determined. Always double-check your measurements before cutting. Assemble the shuttering boards in a square or rectangular shape, as your project demands.

Step 4: Leveling and Alignment

Use a spirit level to ensure that the top of the shuttering boards are perfectly horizontal. This is crucial because the top edge of the shuttering will define the level of the finished concrete surface.

Step 5: Securing the Corners

To ensure that the corners are at right angles, you can use corner braces or clamps. This will help keep the formwork in shape when the concrete is poured.

Step 6: Supporting the Shuttering

Depending on the size of your concrete base, you may need additional supports. Insert supporting stakes or props on the outside of the shuttering to prevent it from bowing out when filled with wet concrete. If it’s a large project, internal supports may also be necessary.

Step 7: Shuttering Oil Application

Before pouring the concrete, apply a layer of shuttering oil or a release agent. This ensures that once the concrete is set, the formwork can be easily removed without damaging the concrete.

Step 8: Final Checks

Before you pour the concrete, do a final check:

  • Is the formwork level?
  • Are the dimensions correct?
  • Are the supports robust enough to hold the weight of the concrete?
  • Have you allowed for overhangs?

Pro Tips

  • Use screws instead of nails if you plan to reuse the shuttering material.
  • If your concrete base is subject to heavy loads, consider using metal formwork for added strength.
  • Consult a structural engineer if you’re unsure about any aspect of the project.


Setting up shuttering for a concrete base might seem like a daunting task, but with meticulous planning, precise measuring, and attention to detail, it’s entirely achievable. Shuttering is more than just creating a mold for concrete; it’s the foundation upon which the quality of your finished project rests. So take the time to do it right, and you’ll be rewarded with a concrete base that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

By following this step-by-step guide, you’re well on your way to mastering the art of shuttering, ensuring that your concrete projects are built to last.

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