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Tips To Help You Successfully Mix Your Own Concrete

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When you need to do your own concrete work, you can order ready-made concrete or mix your own in a rented concrete mixer or your wheelbarrow. When you have a small concrete job to complete, such as pouring concrete for a porch stoop, a small patio, or concrete fence post footings, your wheelbarrow is the right size for the job. Rent a concrete mixer for larger jobs. Here are some tips and instructions to help you prepare for concrete work, mix the concrete, correct any mixture mistakes, and clean-up.

Preparing for Your Concrete Work

Make sure you wear protective gloves, safety glasses, long sleeves, and long pants to help protect your skin from being burned by the concrete. The cement in the concrete mixture is caustic and can burn your skin if it comes in contact with it. Be sure to immediately wash off any that does come in contact with your skin.

Position your wheelbarrow and other tools next to where you will be pouring the concrete before you begin mixing. You don't want to have to move a wet concrete-filled wheelbarrow, as it can be heavy. Then, you run the risk of accidentally spilling the concrete and making a mess in your yard. 

Mixing Your Concrete

Determine how much water you will need to combine with one bag of ready-to-use concrete mix by following the package's instructions. Fill a bucket or large plastic container with the proper amount of water and use a permanent marker to mark the inside of the container with a line. This will help you to measure and add the right amount of water to each additional bag of concrete mix. When you add too much or too little water, your concrete won't be strong enough and your concrete work will fail as it crumbles, flakes, and cracks apart.

Place a bag of concrete mix into the wheelbarrow, cut open the bag with a knife to release the mixture, and remove the empty concrete bag. Depending on the size of the bagged concrete, you can add several at one time to the wheelbarrow to mix up together. 

Pour the correct amount of water for the mixture into one end of the wheelbarrow. Then, using a shovel or spade, combine the concrete with the water a little at a time so you incorporate all dry clumps into the mixture. Leaving any unincorporated dry mixture in the concrete mix will create weak areas in your concrete. 

Brace the side of the wheelbarrow against your leg to keep the wheelbarrow from tipping over as you mix the concrete. Then, pour the concrete mix from the wheelbarrow or use your shovel to distribute it for use.

Fixing a Poorly Combined Concrete Mix

If you accidentally mix the wrong amount of water into your concrete mixture, you can do a slump test to determine if your concrete needs more dry mix or more water. To do this, you can use a Styrofoam cup with its bottom cut off. 

  1. First, hold the cup in your gloved hand, with the cut-out bottom placed against your hand. Pack concrete into the cup so it is void of any air pockets. 
  2. Place the concrete-filled cup upside-down on a flat surface and slowly pull the cup straight up, leaving the concrete behind. 
  3. Set the empty cup next to the cone of concrete to measure how far down the cone-shaped wet concrete mix has slumped compared to the height of the cup.

Properly mixed concrete should slump 1/2 to 3/4 of the height of the cup. If the concrete slumps less than 3/4 or more than 50 percent, it has not enough or too much water, respectively. 

If your concrete is too dry, slowly mix in small amounts of water until you reach the right consistency to pass the slump test. If your concrete mixture is too wet, add in small amounts of dry concrete mixture until you reach the right consistency to pass the slump test.

Cleaning Up

After you have finished your concrete job, make sure to wash off all your tools and any accidental concrete drips before it dries. Use your garden hose to spray out your wheelbarrow and any tools covered with concrete. 

If you are going to take a break for more than a half hour during your concrete work, it is a good idea to rinse out your wheelbarrow and concrete tools. It is easier to rinse off wet concrete than to chip off hardened concrete from your tools and wheelbarrow.

With these tips and instructions, your concrete job can be easier.