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Beginners Guide to mixing Concrete

Updated on June 21, 2012

Beginners guide to mixing Concrete and what to use it for.

Need to mix some concrete? Don't know where to start?It's all to confusing? Not really, just come and have a look how easy it is once you know a little bit more.

You have more then just one option. It really all depends on how big or small the job is you want to do and how much you are prepared to do your self.

A very big job, like pouring a big house slap, you prefer to get someone in and getting it done for you. Smaller jobs such as post holes could be done with premix concrete which come in 20 premix concrete bags, just add water and you are done. Premix concrete bags generally have information on the volume of concrete that the contents of the bag will produce.

Many people may think of concrete as hard, boring, grey and possibly uninviting. When I got interested in concrete I had only one thing in mind and that was to make some pavers for my garden. Why did I want to make pavers? The answer is very simple. They are very expensive to buy.

Little did I know on how much interesting stuff i would discover on my quest to find answers to my question i had. Out of all this came the thought of making this beginners guide to mixing concrete lens.

Many of you have heart of the 3:2:1 ratio of mixing concrete and add water. This is all good and well if you know what you are doing. What about the guy or girl with no knowledge at all and me. Well just keep reading and all will be revealed.

In this lens I'll try to explain in detail on how to mix concrete, what to material to use, what tools to use and at the end where to use it. I'll try to follow that up with some more lenes going into the different types of applications for using concrete.

I hope you are going to enjoy this lens and find it informative and helpful. Lets begin

P.S. Feel free, if you think its good and helpful, to share this lens on facebook and twitter

Where to start when it comes to mixing concrete

What tools you need would be a good start

When it comes to tools you basically only need a shovel or spade for mixing the ingredients gravel, sand and cement. The only other thing you need is a bucket and you are ready to mix your concrete.

Right as if it would be just so easy and in principal it is.

First question: What am I using the concrete for and how much do I need to make?

Lets say you want to make pavers, just like i did and you have just one mold ( I'll make another lens on mold making) you can mix it in a bucket, depending on the size of your paver.

You need:

A Bucket or a plastic dish

A container to measure ingredients

small trowel

or if worse comes to worse you put on a pair of gloves and mixing concrete it by hand.

A little tip here: work out how much you need for the paver and if its more then a third to half a bucket full, go to the next level

I like to point out that it is best to work out everything by volume not by weight

What does volume mean? very simple a 10 liter bucket has a volume of 10 liters. It doesn't matter if you fill it with sand, stone ,water or feathers in there it will always be 10 liters. If you take the same ingredients and weigh them, you find they are all different. Of course silly I hear you say, feathers are always going to be lighter then stone or sand.

You are absolutely right. What about sand when its wet or dry? Wet sand is heavier the light sand. Can you see where I'm coming from. That is why it is important to measure by volume.

Volume= Length x width x depth

Lets get on with it.

One mold you can do in a bucket. what about 10?

Well you could use a bucket 10 times over or mix it in a wheel borrow or you could mix it on the ground.

You need:

A wheel borrow

a short handle mortar hoe, a spade or shovel

a 5 or 10 liter bucket to measure ingredients

Tip: Don't overfill the wheel borrow

If it is to much, mix the concrete with the same tools on the ground on some chipboard or a concrete floor.

For bigger jobs you will need to invest in or hire a concrete mixer.

For really big jobs you can order ready made concrete to your site, but that starts costing you more money again.

One other thing I like to point out when it comes to mixing concrete, plan your layout so you don't have to move to much around. Working with concrete is heavy enough without having to cart sand or gravel around.

Concrete tools videos - This is a bit mixed up at the moment, but bear with me and it will all be sorted in time

The order of the tooling clips may seem a little funny at first. but i'll put them into a better order as i find the clips.

I'm starting with " Edging Trowels Finishing Tools Video" where it explains the different types and what to look for. It also shows on how to use them by examples.

The second video clip is on a "Portable Concrete Mixer Video" where it gets demonstrated as well. Not quite what i was looking for just yet, but i take what i can find for the time being.

The third video is on " Shovel". In this clip by ask the builder he explains a bit about shovels. He is thinking about shovels being used other then by men and all around the place. What he is saying also applies to hand mixing concrete. At the end of the clip he shows a nifty little post hole digger.

Things about concrete mixing

Ingredients

What do we get.

Now that is easy right? Sand, aggregates (stones) and cement and add water.That's it we are done.

Wrong

Sand:

Which one, brickies sand, course river sand, play sand. Apparently sands aren't sands. Masonry sand is the most preferred option and I stand to be corrected.

Sands are available from building supply stores and some nurseries have got them

Aggregates:

What size stones 5mm, 10mm or 20mm. surely it can't be that hard. the answer is all depends what you are using the concrete for.

These are available in building supply stores, quarries and some nurseries.

Cement:

Even with the cement you have choices. For one is it can come in white "wow" not just grey. But there are type I, II, III, IV and V. The most common one people are using is the type II cement also known as general purpose cement and available in hardware stores or building supply stores

Water:

The last and most likely the most important part is the water and how much to use. This was the part where i had the most trouble with, because i couldn't find anywhere, where it said how much.

Don't get me wrong I do understand the terms dough like and pancake batter or even squeezing the concrete and it shouldn't crumble. I wanted to know how much in liters, a quantity something I could relate to.

I did also understand that if you had wet sand and wet rock you need less water, but how much as a guide. Finally I found an answer I could work with.

And the answer is: Half of the amount of the cement you use. Bingo I had my answer and I hope this will help many people like me as well.

Now this is not a lot of water to use and it takes a while to get it mixed right, but then I learned another bit about concrete which said the less water you use the better the concrete is going to be. It has something to do with all the chemical reactions which take place when the cement and water combine.

Another point to make is that the water quality is important as well. Use drinking quality water and not contaminated water (muddy , oily etc).

Cement Video Clip

Here are some video clips on Cement, which I thought maybe interesting to watch.

Video Clip 1:Cement or Concrete?

PCA's Rick Bohan explains the difference between cement and concrete, how cement is made, and why it's called "portland" cement.

Video Clip 2:Cement, how it is made.

This video clip shows a bit on how cement is made .It starts in the quarry to the finished product. Just some useless information some people like me just like to know.

Curing concrete

This is the part which didn't make any sense at first. I thought you pour your concrete into a mold or a frame work and 24 hours later it's done.

Not so.Why?

Concrete appears to be hard after 24 hours and it is, but it has got not strength. This happens over the next 7 days and it keeps curing for 28 days. I have a look if I can find the chart for it again and add it in here.

The other thing you may have seen or noticed, is that after concrete is poured for a house slap or driveway or footpath, the builder covers the concrete up with black plastic or wetting it down for a few days.

The reason for this is that the concrete needs to be wet for the chemical reaction to continue. Funny how firstly want only a little water and then you pour it on.

When I make some pavers or pots, I put the pavers or pots into a bath to cure them for a few days.

Concrete on ebay

Tools or Books which may come handy

concrete additives
concrete additives

Concrete additives

When it comes to concrete additives the first which comes to mind is colour.

These come in form of powders ( pigments, oxides ) or liquids. Some of the colours are: brown, charcoal, greens and others. You can mix them to achieve a range of other colours. I haven't had a chance to do to much with colours, but as soon as I have I' ll add to here to let you know how I have gone with it.

There also liquid stains available and I'm trying to find out more about them, because I like the way they can change the appearance of a concrete project.

There are also additives to speed up the set time of concrete as well as slowing it down. I'll have to do some more investigating on that one too.

When you thought that was it more of them pop up such as water reducers, latex polymers pozzolans and air entrainers. Because I do not know anything about them I wont expand on them at the moment. Once I know when and how to use them I'll update it in this section.

If someone else know feel free to add it to the comment area. Thank you in advance for your trouble.

Problems mixing concrete

Feel free to add in the comment sections

Mixture is to wet:

Just add a little more sand and cement.

Mixture to hard to work:

Carefully add a little water.

Concrete drying to quick

Cover the concrete with black platic and wet the area where the concrete is going before pouring it.

pouring concrete
pouring concrete

Concrete the most common way used

By the truckload

Here again we have a lot of choices meaning more then 2.

When we think about mixtures , we need to think about what we using it for.

The most common use of concrete is building foundations ( I'll replace the pictures with a better asap), footings and prefabricated concrete walls. Also there is other prefabricated stuff like concrete pipes.

All this is far to big for us to handle and you have concrete plants producing the high quality concrete required for those jobs

There is another very good lens written on the quality and strength required for the above mentioned jobs and I'll put a link to it.

concrete post holes
concrete post holes

Different concrete mixtures for smaller jobs

Basic Concrete mixture

I'm talking about the small jobs ,the hobby jobs where you make a paver, garden edging, fill in a post hole.

This mixture is good like a general purpose mix to be used in footings, pads or foundations.

It is also a relative cheap mix . because of the larger amounts of gravel (aggregates) used in this mixture.

Very simple 1-2-3

one part cement

two parts sand

three parts gravel

add half part water

Note: careful with adding water as it can make concrete go sloppy very quickly

Video clips on mixing concrete

The first video clip" Mixing Concrete" has got a wonderful tool in it. I have never seen it before but i think it is brilliant. Very easy to mix concrete by hand.

The second video "How To Mix Concrete By Hand " it shows you how to mix it by hand using a wheelbarrow. This is a very good basic video clip to watch. There is a very good and simple trick in this video to extent the workability of concrete.

This third video clip " 86 Year Old Man Mixing Concrete the Easy Way! " show how it's done using a reusable concrete mixing bag. I have never of one of them before either, but in the clip u can see on how to use one of them. He uses ready mix bags, but you easily do it with lose ingredients.

Video clip 4:make concrete

This is how the big boys do it. Watch the bobcat operator on how good he is mixing the concrete.

If the video clips getting mixed up just hover over the picture of the clip and it tells you which one it is.

Hope you enjoy and learn something

Links to other interesting concrete sites

Concrete used as a craft medium

Here are some links to other things to do with concrete:

Fake Rocks made out of Concrete

Opportunity to do your own search - Feel free to search

I do realize there is only limited information here and some people like to have hard copies of books.

On the other hand you may look for something else.

I like to give people the opportunity to look and search for them self.

Feel free to add any comment you may have or different experience you have encountered. Tell me about projects you have done or ask a question.

Thank you all again.

Hi and thank you for looking

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    • KrytonInt profile image

      KrytonInt 5 years ago

      Nice Lens on mixing concrete for beginners! I created a lens recently that may complement this on preventing and repairing concrete cracks.

      squidoo.com/concrete-crack-prevention-control-and-repair

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 years ago

      Environmentalists would assert that they arenât ecologically neat;

      Yet the bases of modern architectural feats are steel and concrete.

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 years ago

      Know this, O worthy and diligent lensmaster;

      With accomplishment youâve earned a tryster.

      As a token of immense appreciation expressed,

      A squid angel leaves this lens heartily blessed.

      On a rendering that is sparkling in its own right,

      Propagating an appealing thought well and quite;

      If you were to notice a slender shimmering crust;

      From the angelâs wand, it is a spill of stardust.

    • profile image

      Moocha 5 years ago

      Interesting info not just for beginners. Very good lens!

    • JoyWriter LM profile image

      JoyWriter LM 5 years ago

      Great Article! I really enjoyed it! Very informative and interesting.. well put together.

    • JoyWriter LM profile image

      JoyWriter LM 5 years ago

      Great Article! I really enjoyed it! Very informative and interesting.. well put together.

    • Surfer83 profile image

      Surfer83 5 years ago

      There so many times that I need to make them but to bad I don't know how and just option to pay some else to do it. Thank you for this very useful lens.

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      My husband used to pour concrete for a living, but I had no idea how it was done. Great lens.

    • rozalex lm profile image

      rozalex lm 5 years ago

      Interesting and useful, Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I normally just pour the bag of concrete into the hole, add water and call it good.

    • whoisbid lm profile image

      whoisbid lm 6 years ago

      I can proud to say that as a younger person I made concrete all by myself. I would never of known how to do it if I was not working on a construction site. I remember that doing these jobs made me incredibly fit because I only had a shovel. There are definitely advantages of working hard as a laborer and one of them is being damn fit!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I think I give it a try, pavers are very expensive. thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      johnneconcrete 6 years ago

      Interesting and somewhat informative. I find premix bags of concrete mix work best on small jobs and those medium size projects that can be done as several smaller sections. Never buy ingredients individually, use the premix.. As far as how much water to add. I've never mesured the amount when using the premix (I know, the bag has instructions on how much). I add enough to make it workable. On hot days more; cold days less. The important thing is make it wet enough for anyone not familiar with concrete to be able to place and finish it. Just add more water as you need it til you can work the concrete with out pulling a muscle. Believe me, the concrete in premix tests out at 4000psi which more than enough for everything but dams and bridges.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Great instructions for mixing concrete.