How to Properly Mix Concrete

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Video: How to Mix Concrete

Gary Wentz, editor-and-chief at The Family Handyman, will show you how to mix concrete. These hints and tips will save you time and energy.

The Family HandymanHow to Mix Concrete
Overview: Materials and Tools

safety gear

Protect your skin and eyes! The cement in concrete is caustic and can cause burns if it gets on your skin.

Mixing bags of concrete isn’t complicated. You add some water, stir it up and pour it out. But to get the most strength from the concrete, you have to recognize when it has just the right amount of water mixed in.

Too little water and the particles in the mix won’t stick together.
Too much water weakens the concrete.

In this article, we’ll show you what the perfect mix looks like. We’ll also show you a mixing technique that will ensure thoroughly mixed concrete with a minimum of effort.

Before you begin mixing concrete

For most small jobs around the home, bagged concrete mix is the most convenient and least expensive way to go. You can use it for fence post footings, deck footings and even small concrete pads. For jobs requiring more than about 30 bags, consider ordering “ready-mix” concrete from a truck instead.

Sixty- or 80-lb. bags of concrete mix are readily available at home centers, lumberyards and hardware stores. Don’t confuse concrete mix with sand mix or mortar mix. They don’t contain the aggregate (stones or gravel) that’s necessary to make a pour thicker than about 3/4 in. You’re likely to find more than one kind of concrete mix on the shelf, including “fast setting,” “high early strength” and “fiber reinforced.” But for most jobs, standard concrete mix is fine. Read the recommendations on the bags or check manufacturers’ Web sites to find out if one of the special mixes would work better for your project.

Whether you hand mix concrete in a plastic tub, homemade mixing tub or wheelbarrow, the technique is the same to find the right concrete mix ratio. However, it’s easier to move and dump concrete that’s mixed in a wheelbarrow. For larger jobs, you could rent a mixer ($35 per day), but it may be more economical to simply order ready-mix concrete. In addition to a mixing container, you’ll need a sturdy hoe and a large bucket as well as a stiff-bristle scrub brush to clean the equipment. Wear waterproof gloves and safety glasses because the cement mixing in the concrete mix is caustic and can burn skin. Wash it off with water if it gets on your skin.

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