How to mix concrete perfectly, every time : Hirepool

Search Hirepool

How to mix concrete perfectly, every time

Mixing and pouring concrete is a common task in many jobs - regardless of the job being home DIY or a full-scale construction project. We often get asked exactly how to mix concrete perfectly. If you’ve tried it before, you may be familiar with a sloppy mess, which isn’t ideal for pouring! Our secret? Hire a concrete mixer!

Why using a concrete mixer is the best way to mix concrete 

A lot of people will use a spade and a wheelbarrow, but trust us, you won’t go back if you use a concrete mixer when mixing concrete! A concrete mixer makes light work of creating the perfect concrete mix.  All you need to do is pop your builders mix and cement into your concrete mixer, add the correct amount of water and press the on button. Once mixed, transfer to your wheelbarrow (or pour directly from the mixer), lay and then repeat.  

There couldn’t be an easier or faster way to create your concrete masterpiece unless of course you pay someone to do it for you!  But where’s the fun in that when it really isn’t that hard or expensive to do? 

So easy in fact we have put together this guide to getting the perfect concrete that is so easy you will be looking around to see what you can concrete just to give it a go!

What do you need when mixing concrete? 

Making concrete is incredibly easy. It isn’t expensive, is very simple to make and with the right equipment you’ll be set to complete whatever home improvement or construction project you have on your hands. From paths to driveways, foundations for fence posts, steps and even kitchen benches and sinks! 

If you’re concreting postholes, you may want to see Hirepool’s selection of post hole borers.

What exactly do you need to mix the perfect concrete?

We’re equipment hire experts, so this kind of question is our specialty! Here are some top tips for getting prepped to mix and pour concrete:

1: A way to mix your concrete 

This can either be a shovel, wheelbarrow and manpower or a concrete mixer.

You may feel you’re in need of an upper body workout, but a concrete mixer would be without a doubt the quickest, easiest and most effective way to get your concrete mixed to perfection. 

2: Concrete mix 

Concrete mix consists of cement, sand and aggregate. The mix or ingredient portions depend on the job and the strength the concrete needs to have. 

It’s important to note that the higher the strength of the concrete, the longer it takes to fully set or in concrete terms, “cure”. So, you need to plan around the weather if you need a few days for your concrete to dry. 

The concrete mix’s ‘strength’ is shown as megapascal or MPa unit, which essentially indicates the maximum load the concrete can withstand. 

To give you a better picture, here are some standard mix ratios:

High strength & dense

1 part cement, 2 parts sand, 3 parts aggregate

Paths & Floors 

1 part cement, 2.5 parts sand, 4 parts aggregate

Plaster

1 part cement, 3 parts sand

Mortar

1 part cement, 6 parts sand, 1 part hydrated lime

 

Should you buy pre-mixed concrete or you make your own? 

You have the option of buying pre-mixed bags of concrete or mixing your own. Premixed concrete is the most convenient and arguably, the most cost-effective way to purchase concrete, especially for DIY jobs.

Pre-mixed bags can be purchased from your local hardware store and their staff should be able to advise which concrete mix is best for your job. Generally, premixed concrete comes in three to four main types which covers most concrete jobs, even through to professional level. Bags will show the MPa and will also outline the jobs the concrete mix is suitable for. If in doubt, chat to your friendly hardware store staff.

If you’re really keen or need to mix your own, or simply want to know more about concrete, this dedicated-to-all-things-concrete website promises to cover everything you could ever want to know about concrete and more!  This is a US site and while it gives the kg equivalent, it refers to the strength of concrete as Psi so here is a handy tool to convert Psi to the MPa metric measure used here in NZ.

IMPORTANT - While this site has lots of great information, unless you’re experienced at mixing your own concrete, we recommend talking to your local concrete expert about the right mix ratios for the concreting job you are planning.

How much concrete mix do I need?

If you’re using pre-mixed concrete, have a look at the back of the cement bag as this will give you the approximate coverage per weighted bag. You can then use this alongside your own measurements of your job to work out how many premixed bags you need. 

For example, a 20kg bag of concrete mix will make approximately 0.0096m3 or a slab measuring 800mm x 300mm x 40mm.  Here’s a great calculator for working out how much concrete you might need. 

3: Water 

Water is the essential ingredient for binding your dry concrete ingredients together. Always read the instructions that come with your concrete mix as to how much water you need. 

While some people tend to judge how much water is required by the appearance of the concrete, it can be deceiving. You may think the concrete mix looks way to sloppy or way too stiff, when actually for that type of concrete mix, it’s perfect! The amount of water added will also impact the drying time of your concrete, so always plan for that, too.

Other things to consider when mixing concrete 

Now you understand the core components of what you need for your concreting job – concrete mix, water and a concrete mixer - there are some other things that might be useful to make your job go as smoothly as possible.

Access to water

Where is your water source in relation to where you’re planning on placing your concrete mixer? If it’s not close, do you have a hose long enough to reach? If not, you might want to consider buying or hiring a hose.

Access to power

If you’re using an electric concrete mixer then you will need easy access to power. The power cord on the electric mixers is pretty short (10cm) so you will need to make sure you have an appropriate extension cord. Hirepool has a wide variety of lengths of extension cords available for hire. If using an extension cord it’s vital that you keep it dry for the safety of yourself and anyone working around you. 

Enough Petrol

If using a petrol-powered concrete mixer having enough petrol is key to making sure you can operate as long as you need to get the job done and maximise your hire time. Hirepool’s petrol concrete mixers all come with a full 6 litre tank, which will give you about 1.5 to 2 hours solid rotation time. You can borrow as many of our 5 litre petrol containers as you think you will need and can either take them pre filled from Hirepool or fill at your local petrol station.

Useful equipment to have on hand

There are a couple more things that will make your concrete mixing job that much easier.

Concrete wheelbarrow – domestic wheelbarrows can do the job, but they really aren’t ideal as they aren’t designed for moving really heavy material like concrete around. A concrete wheelbarrow, on the other hand, is designed to do just that! Hirepool’s 87 litre tray capacity, makes our concrete wheelbarrow useful for most concrete projects. For heavier loads of concrete or uphill work, you may need a motorised wheelbarrow. A motorised wheelbarrow will reduce the manual labour required and help you complete your project much faster.

Shovel – for breaking open your concrete bags and shoveling the contents into the concrete mixer. Concrete mix is incredibly heavy and so shoveling the mix in as opposed to lifting the bags to empty them in will save your back! Hirepool has a great all rounder shovel if you don’t have one of your own.

Measuring bucket – this will make it easy to get the right amount of water. 

Safety when mixing concrete

As with any DIY job, it’s really important to take note of user and safety instructions for any gear you’re using, as well as making sure you’re wearing the recommended safety protection. All of Hirepool’s equipment come with easy to follow user instruction sheets and safety guides. It’s really important that you read these before your start your job.

The number one safety rule for concrete mixers? Never put your hand inside the drum while it’s mixing!

Your dry concrete ingredients can also be ingested as dust and are quite corrosive to skin. So, before you start, make sure you put on safety glasses, a dust mask and a pair of gloves. Ear muffs are also advised, especially with the noisier petrol powered concrete mixers. 

If you don’t have these safety items already, they can all be purchased from Hirepool when you collect your concrete mixer. Too easy!

Types of concrete mixers available from Hirepool 

Concrete mixers help reduce the tiring manual labour of hand mixing concrete. They also make larger concrete jobs much quicker to complete.  

Hirepool has three options of concrete mixers for hire: non-towable electric, towable electric and towable petrol.

All three options offer the same 85 litre mixing capacity but each offers slightly different benefits depending on your needs. 

Concrete Mixer

Best Use

Non towable – Electric

For sites with difficult access. At only 15.9kg, it can be quickly and easily transported around different areas. Hirepool’s single axel 2.4m x 1.3 trailer is ideal for getting this concrete mixer to and from your worksite if you don’t have your own trailer.

Towable - Electric

If noise is an issue but access to electricity isn’t then this is a quieter option.

Towable - Petrol

When electricity on site it not available this petrol operated model ideal. 

 

If you aren’t sure which concrete mixer will be the best pick, give your local Hirepool expert a call and they will be happy to help you find the best option. 

If it’s your first time using a concrete mixer, have a watch of our instructional video about working with wet concrete below: 

 

Steps to mixing concrete 

Making concrete is safe and surprisingly simple as long as you follow these easy steps:

Step 1: Read the instructions

Make sure you have read the operating and safety instructions and are wearing the correct safety gear – glasses, gloves, ear muffs and covered shoes. 

Step 2: Check your concrete mixer is ready to roll 

Get your concrete mixer ready to roll. Make sure it’s sitting securely on a level surface. If electric, plug it in and if petrol, make sure the petrol tank is full. Ensure the hose is set to the right length and the tap turned on if you have a on/off nozzle on your hose.

Step 3: Prep your concrete mix

Have a read of the instructions on the back of your concrete mix bag - take careful note of the recommended water to mix ratio! Cut open the concrete mix bag if this is what you’re using - a shovel is good to use for this. 

Load your dry concrete mix into the concrete mixer. Make sure you don’t overload the concrete mixer. If you’re new to concreting and using pre-mix bags, we suggest making up a single bag to begin with to to get a feel for what your correctly mixed concrete should look like.

Step 4: Add water

Add the required amount of water to your concrete mix. Measure your water - it can be tempting to just add water with a hose, but it can result in a very sloppy batch of concrete! A measuring bucket is ideal for this.

If there is too much water added, the cement mix will come out too thin, become unmanageable, and not dry properly. If there is not enough water, the mix will become too thick, it will not combine thoroughly, and will become unusable.

Step 5: Turn on your concrete mixer

Turn your concrete mixer on and let it do the hard work for you! Keep reading to learn what concrete looks like if it’s too sloppy, dry and when you know it’s perfect!

Step 6: Pour your concrete 

Pour the mixed concrete into your wheelbarrow and move it to where you’re laying it. Most cement mixers will tip and turn to the appropriate location in order to do this with ease. If a novice user, Hirepool recommends turning the concrete mixer off for safety before pouring. 

Step 8: Repeat as needed!

Repeat steps 4 – 8 as needed to create the amount of concrete for your job.

How do you know when your concrete is ready?

Like any recipe, if you get the ingredients wrong it will either be too runny or too dry. If it’s baking we’re talking about, that’s disappointing, but if it’s concrete, that’s a whole lot of effort, time and money down the drain!

Too sloppy concrete

Sloppy or too wet concrete is only about half as strong as a proper mix and is more likely to crack. A good way to tell if you concrete mix is too sloppy is to keep an eye on how it’s moving around your concrete mixer. If your concrete mix doesn’t reach the sides of the concrete mixer, then it is too wet or sloppy.

Too dry concrete

While less water can add to the strength of your concrete, if it is too dry it becomes very hard to work with. Again, have a look at how your concrete mix is moving in your concrete mixer.  If your concrete mix reaches the top of the concrete mixer before it falls, then this tells you that your concrete mix is too dry.

Perfectly mixed concrete

Well mixed concrete will move easily around the concrete mixer’s drum and won’t slosh around or crumble as it moves. It is important to aim for the same mixture consistency with every load so that your project has the same level of strength and durability throughout.

Now you’ve got an idea of what’s needed to mix the perfect concrete, you’re ready to take on your concreting job. Take a look around our Concrete and Masonry section to see what other tools we have that may help make light work of your concreting project.

Hiring rather than buying tools that largely go unused year round is a cost effective way to stay on top of your maintenance and DIY jobs. It’s also time saving as hired equipment is gruntier than the hardware store equivalent, getting your jobs done faster and more effectively. Hiring comes with the added bonus that someone else is in charge of maintenance and storage. Saving you more time, money and space in the shed! 

 

Whatever you need to hire you can easily book your concrete mixing equipment online or get in touch with your local Hirepool branch who will be happy to advise on the best equipment and book these for you. Easy as!