Even having little experience with home improvement projects, you would know the strengths of concrete. It is attractive and sleek as marble or granite but with a highly affordable cost. Concrete is durable, DIY-friendly, and economical. It is ideal for constructing outdoor features, sidewalks, planters, patios, decoration pieces, and so much more.
Mixing concrete is not challenging, but for beginners, it can be. It is essential to know how to get the right consistency. Moreover, you must also understand what admixture to add in the concrete mixture to enhance its strength, like polycarboxylate superplasticizer.
Aside from that, you must also be aware of the safety precautions when working with concrete. Let’s have a closer look at the things you must consider before starting your DIY project, steps to mix concrete, and safety tips.
Things to Consider Before Starting
Before working with concrete, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Always work outside as mixing concrete results in a large amount of fine dust, which is also the reason why you should wear a mask at all times
- Have a disposable drop cloth with you.
- Due to the high amount of dust, you must also wear gloves. Eye protection is highly recommended.
- Always prepare the location before pouring concrete to create a strong foundation. Whether you are making a concrete step, sidewalk, or laying a slab, dig around 6” inches deep and add a layer of crushed stones of about 2” to 3” inches. Don’t forget to pack it down firmly.
- If you are working on a bigger project, you will need more helping hands. Why? You can’t delay the concrete’s curing process after pouring it because once it sets, you can’t do anything about it. Therefore, have at least one helping hand. You will have to cure the concrete as soon as it pours.
- Always have the right tools in hand to properly pour and cure the concrete to get the desired result.
Steps To Mix Concrete to Get the Right Consistency
Here are the steps you can follow for mixing concrete the right way to get the desired consistency:
- Get concrete from a local home improvement center. Add in a little water and admixture, like Polycarboxylate Superplasticizer and stir. The admixture should be about 0.4% to 2.5% of the overall concrete mixture’s weight you are using.
- Use the hand trowel to add the materials and to mix. You can also use a shovel if you are working with large quantities. Make sure to fold it properly to distribute the wetness and admixture evenly.
- Continue stirring until you get a consistent texture. It should not be soupy or dry.
- Properly mixed concrete resembles the consistency of that of cookie dough!
- You can also test its consistency by using the shovel’s blade like a knife and cutting a shallow channel through the concrete mixture’s surface. If the walls are crumbly, then the mixture is too dry. You must add some more water. If the channel fills up with water, then it is too wet. You must add in more concrete or admixture. Continue stirring till the right consistency is achieved.
For smaller DIY projects, opt for the dryer side. Be more conservative with water in the latter stage of the mixing process. Use more admixture as it reduces the usage of water.
Safety Tips for Mixing Concrete
Here are some safety tips you must follow while mixing concrete for your DIY project:
- One of the biggest challenges to address, which many neglect, is lifting the concrete mixture bag. The bag is heavy, and lifting the bag wrongly can result in back injuries. When you are lifting the concrete bag, bending your knees, keep your back straight, and cradle the bag against your torso. Make sure you are wearing long pants and full sleeve shirt. If you already have back problems, wear a back brace.
- Besides wearing a mask, eyewear, and gloves, you must also wear a hard hat, rubber boots, and waterproof pads (when placing and finishing).
- Be sure to avoid skin contact with the materials.
- Immediately wash your skin and eyes if it comes in contact with concrete materials. If you still experience a burn, be sure to consult your doctor. If the burn affects a larger area, you need immediate medical attention.
- Always have an extra pair of hands when working with concrete.
- Make sure you stay dry throughout the process. Change the clothing as soon as possible if it gets wet with the concrete mixture to avoid the chemicals getting to your skin. Wash the clothes as soon as you can and shower after you are done with the concrete.
Concrete is economical, durable, and versatile to work with. These tips will make it easy for you to work on any project. Concrete mixing is one of the most useful DIY skills you can master as you can apply it to a range of outdoor projects.
With the right guidance, safety materials, tools, and more, you can easily mix the concrete to complete your home project. Having the right resources and knowledge helps in building a strong foundation for your projects that involve concrete.