If you are into DIY projects, then you might want to pay attention and add another skill to your repertoire. Mixing concrete is a useful skill to have if you want to carry out projects like making your patio or flooring, or securing fence posts.
The most common way that people do this is by using a shovel and a wheelbarrow, which works in a pinch if you have smaller jobs and tasks that you might need to do. If you want to make it even easier to mix and create the perfect concrete for larger jobs, then you should try using a concrete mixer. This is a faster and better way to get the right concrete mix for any job, no matter how big or small.
Read on as we give you some tips and tricks on how to mix concrete for any job that you might have. Once you understand how easy it is, you will be on your way to laying your concrete instead of hiring a contractor!
What You Need to Mix Concrete
As we said, concrete is super easy to mix and make. With a quick trip to Lowe’s, Home Depot, or any other home improvement store, you can get a hold of everything that you might need. Whether you are securing fence posts, repaving your driveway, or propping up a mailbox, you need all the same methods, tools, and materials.
1. A Way to Mix Your Concrete
Depending on the size of your project, you can do it by hand using a shovel, wheelbarrow, and hard work. If you happen to have a larger project or just want to save yourself time and effort, you could try using a concrete mixer.
2. The Right Concrete Mix
It is important to know how to mix your concrete for the right project. Concrete is a basic mixture of four elements: cement, sand, aggregate, and water. So if you are making a countertop, your ratios might be different compared to making a driveway.
Your mix strength also dictates how long you need to let your concrete cure or set before it is properly dried. If you are planning an outdoor project, it might be a good idea to check your weather forecast to make sure that it isn’t going to rain – you wouldn’t want all your hard work going to waste.
It is also a good idea to mention that the mix strength is shown in megapascals. This tells you how strong your concrete will be and the maximum load that it can take. Once again, a concrete countertop won’t require as much strength as a concrete support column for a building.
To help you understand how to mix concrete appropriately for your task we have included some ratios below:
High strength and density
1 part cement, 2 parts sand, 3 parts aggregate
Paths & Floors
1 part cement, 2.5 parts sand, 4 parts aggregate
1 part cement, 3 parts sand
1 part cement, 6 parts sand, 1 part hydrated lime
Pre-Mix or Make Your Own?
If you take a trip to your home improvement store, you have the option of buying a bag of pre-mixed cement or buying each ingredient separately to make your own mixture. Pre-mixed is the more economical option and is perfectly viable although sometimes you might want to create your own mix for more specialized jobs.
How Much Mix Do I Need?
If you opt to use a pre-mixed bag, then all the information that you need is on the back of the bag. It will give you a rough approximation of how much area it will cover. To give you an example, a 45-pound bag of concrete is enough to create a slab that is about 32x12x5 inches in volume.
To get your concrete to properly mix, you need to add water to it. Most people tend to eyeball the mixture amounts and add more than is necessary. Be advised that the amount of water added will affect the time it takes for your concrete to set and dry.
Creating concrete is a relatively simple concept as it is literally mixing several ingredients with water into a soup. There are other things to consider and to keep in mind to ensure that your concrete laying is easy.
Because you are going to need water to make your mixture, it is a good idea to keep the hose close to you. Instead of having to cart your wheelbarrow or your concrete mixer over to the water source, consider using an extension to make your life easier.
If you happen to be using a concrete mixer, then you will need access to a power supply. Considering that the power cords are pretty short, we recommend that you spring for an extension cord to give you some added reach. As with anything electrically powered, be sure to keep it away from water.
Gas-powered mixers are great for more serious and heavy-duty jobs. To keep the momentum going, you should ensure that you have enough gas to complete your job instead of having to go back and forth all the time. These typically hold up to 1.5 gallons, which is enough to keep you going for up to two hours of constant running time.
Other Equipment and Tools
You might have the mixer ready to go, but there are a few other things that will make your task go along more smoothly.
If you have a regular wheelbarrow on hand it can work, but you should opt for a concrete wheelbarrow if possible. They are properly designed for heavy-duty materials and some even come with a motor to make your job easier. These wheelbarrows can hold an impressive 23 gallons of mixed concrete.
A shovel will be your best friend when mixing concrete. Not only is it useful for putting the contents into the mixer, but you can use it to break open your bags too.
A measuring bucket will ensure that you are adding the right amount of water to the mixer for the job at hand.
If you are mixing concrete, you should take care and follow some basic safety precautions. Be sure to wear safety glasses and gloves when working with the dry mix as cement dust can agitate your skin and cause irritation if it gets into your eyes. You should also wear work boots to protect your feet and save your fancy shoes from being ruined if any cement were to set on them. If you happen to be using a gas-powered mixer, they can get loud so it is recommended that you wear some ear protection to save your hearing. The final and most important thing is to keep your hands clear of the mixer while it is operating.
How To Mix Concrete
To properly mix your concrete, just follow these simple steps:
STEP 1: Read the Instructions
Start by carefully reading the instructions for your mixer and concrete mix. Make sure that you have all the proper safety materials at hand.
STEP 2: Get the Concrete Mixer Ready
After reading the instructions for your concrete mixer, place it on a flat and level surface and have the gas or electric cord ready. Get the hose close enough to ensure that you don’t have to keep going back and forth.
STEP 3: Prepare the Concrete Mix
After reading the instructions on the back of the concrete mix, double-check your ratios to make sure everything is in order. It might be a good idea to only add one bag for your first attempt to make sure that you achieve the desired consistency.
STEP 4: Add Water
This is where your measuring bucket comes into play. Measure the proper amount of water instead of using a hose. If you add too much water, the consistency will become soupy and won’t hold up great. This will make your concrete crack easily and it will be very weak. If it’s too dry, it won’t mix properly and will not properly set.
STEP 5: Start the Concrete Mixer
Add all the ingredients to your mixer, and let it do the hard work. After these steps are done, we will give you an idea of what good concrete looks like before it is laid.
STEP 6: Pour the Concrete
When you have mixed everything up to the proper consistency, pour it into the wheelbarrow and move it to the area that you are trying to cover.
STEP 7: Rinse and Repeat
Once you have laid your concrete, just repeat steps 3-6 until you have completed your job. You should also rinse your wheelbarrow and tools in between each task. Removing wet concrete is significantly easier than when it is dried.
When Is Your Concrete Ready?
It is important to pay attention to the consistency of your concrete when you are mixing it. This will indicate to you if you need to adjust the amount of water to give you the best quality and strongest concrete that you need.
If your concrete is too wet, don’t expect it to hold up well. Wet concrete will lead to cracks and general weakness. If it’s too wet, it won’t stick to the sides of your concrete mixer. If this is the case, add more dry ingredients.
While too much water can weaken your concrete, too little water can also make it extremely difficult to work with. To know if it is too dry, the concrete will stick to the sides and likely won’t fall off when it gets to the top of your mixer.
Perfectly Mixed Concrete
If you have mixed your concrete well, it should move around smoothly without being too thick or too wet. Its texture should resemble that of wet oatmeal. Be sure to maintain the same consistency to ensure that your job is of the best quality with the most durable concrete.
Helpful Tips when Working with Concrete
If you are working with a bag of quick-mix concrete, it typically starts to set and cure between 20 to 40 minutes. Because of this short period, you have to work fairly quickly. Therefore, it is recommended that you mix and pour the concrete in about 20 minutes before it begins to harden.
To make it easier while working under such time constraints, it is recommended that you keep all your necessities close by and work with one or two extra people to make the process more efficient.
If your bucket doesn’t come with markings on the side to indicate volumes, then you should make these marks on your own. Using a Sharpie or permanent marker, measure half gallon increments and mark their position on both the inside and outside of the bucket to make measuring and pouring easier and more accurate.
Clean Your Tools
As soon as you have poured your concrete, you should clean your tools. Spray down everything with water, which includes the spade, hoe, wheelbarrow, and any other mixing tools. It is a lot easier to remove wet concrete from your tools than when it is dry.
What is the Difference Between Cement and Concrete?
Concrete is used for finished and structural projects and contains cement. Cement is the ingredient that makes concrete hard. It consists of several ingredients like limestone, silica, alumina, gypsum, and iron oxide.
How is the Strength of Concrete Measured?
By conducting compression and flexural strength tests, this determines the strength of your concrete. This is measured in concrete PSI units. This is dependent on the water content during the mixing process as well as the quality of the materials when it was being formed.
Does Concrete Gain Strength While Drying Out?
Concrete is made by mixing cement, water, and several other materials together. When this happens, the water triggers a chemical reaction called hydration. This creates new compounds and crystals that lock together and will continue to form and strengthen over several months. When it finally dries out, the concrete will stop gaining strength.
Whether you decide to use a mixer or mix cement in a wheelbarrow with a shovel and hoe, it is a remarkably easy task to perform. One might be more labor-intensive than the other, but achieving the perfect consistency can be difficult. By using the tips and pointers that we have outlined above, you will be sure to get the best quality concrete possible.