Working With Bagged Concrete

Mixing concrete on the job can be a difficult and messy proposition if you don't do it regularly. But it doesn't have to be.

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Unless you work in the actual concrete industry, working with concrete is not something that every contractor has to do every day. This means that when you do get around to using mud mix, the job can seem messy and difficult. Here are some tips on how to make your next experience working with bagged concrete go quickly and smoothly.

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Mixing made easy

Stab the bag in the center with a shovel. Then open the bag like a clamshell and dump it into a wheelbarrow or plastic mortar pan.

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Don’t add too much water

Read the directions right on the bag to find the proper amount of water to add. Use that exact amount and resist the temptation to pour in more. Too much water makes for weaker concrete.

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Mix from both directions

Use a hoe or flat shovel to pull portions of the dry mix through the water. When you’ve moved all the mud to one end, start over from the other direction. Keep reversing direction until no more dry powder remains.

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How many bags should you buy?

When you mix up a 60-pound bag of concrete, you’ll have a volume of half a cubic foot; an 80 pound bag yields two-thirds of a cubic foot. (This volume is listed on each bag.) To determine how many bags you need, measure the length, width and depth of the forms you need to fill. Then plug those measurements into an online “concrete calculator ”.

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Rent a mixer for big batches

Hand-mixing a few bags of concrete is one thing. Mixing 20 bags will wear you out unnecessarily. Plus, concrete is much stronger if all of it is mixed and poured as quickly as possible. Don’t hesitate to rent a mixer. You can find small electric mixers that fit in the back of a hatchback and cost you about $50 per day to rent. For about $10 more, you could get a much larger electric or gas unit.

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How should concrete mix be stored?

Bags of concrete will absorb moisture from damp concrete floors and the air, and before long you’ll have rock-hard bags out in storage. Never store bags of concrete on top of concrete surfaces, and for long-term storage keep them in giant sealed bags.

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Want to add some color?

You’ll find several earth-tone dyes at the home center. So if you’d like a terra cotta, buff or other color besides basic gray, it’s simple. But don’t just throw the dye into the concrete mix and start working it in, or you’ll have uneven color distribution. Instead, stir the due into the water before you add the water to the dry concrete.