Mixing Concrete for the Beginning DIYer
Homeowners often face the seemingly daunting task of repairing, replacing or installing concrete around their homes. But because most folks have never worked with the substance and/or are unfamiliar with mixing it, they assume they need to pay contractors hundreds or thousands of dollars to complete these jobs. The truth is, with a little know-how and hard work, mixing up this material for small DIY projects around your home is easy and can help you save your hard-earned cash while improving your property.
What You’ll Need to Mix
What you need depends on the size and scope of your project. Concrete mixtures for small home projects often can be made in a wheelbarrow. However, larger projects might require you purchase or rent a portable cement mixer.
Understanding the Mixing Ratios
The first thing you need to know about mixing this material is what the proper ratios are to make a substance capable of supporting 3000 pounds per square inch (PSI), that is suitable for most home improvement projects. The mixing ratios are extremely important and must be strictly adhered to in order to produce a strong, long-lasting material for your project. The four basic components should be mixed at the following guidelines in order to produce 3000-PSI concrete: one part Portland cement, three parts sand, three parts aggregate, and one part water.
It is important to note that the water to cement ratio determines the strength of the substance. A common mistake made by homeowners when mixing is to add more water to make it easier to mix and spread. Doing this only results in a weaker product with a shorter lifespan. On the flip side, not using enough water results in a strong product that is too thick to mix and too difficult to work with.
Measuring the Concrete
Five-gallon buckets are ideal for measuring concrete mixtures used for small projects. Simply follow the ratios above using the bucket as your measuring tool: one bucket Portland cement, three buckets sand, three buckets aggregate, and one bucket of water. This will not only produce enough mixture for most small home improvement projects but also produce a mixture that can withstand approximately 3000 PSI.
Mixing the Concrete
For smaller projects, placing the materials in a wheelbarrow and hand-mixing with a hoe, rake, or shovel is often adequate. Larger projects might require using an electric cement mixer that spins or mixes the materials in a tub, eliminating the arduous task of hand-mixing, which can be highly labor-intensive. In either case, be it in a bucket, a wheelbarrow, or a cement mixer, the mixing ratios remain the same.
If you should find that your project requires more concrete than the ratios outlined in this article, simply increase the number of buckets of material you mix in proportion to the mixing ratio. For example: if you use two buckets of Portland cement, you would need to use six buckets of sand, six buckets of aggregate, and two buckets of water.
Curing the Concrete
Concrete requires approximately 28 days of curing time. It is important that during the first seven days after you pour it you wet the concrete surface daily. This will allow the curing process to go smoothly and correctly as the cement reaches its maximum strength potential.