If you’re a contractor by trade, then there’s a good chance that you’ve used (or at least seen in action) an on-site concrete mixer. After all, these drum-like pieces of construction equipment allow even an individual to efficiently and effectively mix up concrete in a contained environment.
However, if you’re new to the construction business or are a DIYer, you may not have much experience with portable concrete mixers at all. Yet, if you are planning to do a concrete-related project, chances are you will need to use one.
This guide will teach you how to do that, including a step-by-step walkthrough of the process used to make a successful concrete blend in one of these units. It will also highlight several important safety and productivity tips to get the job done efficiently.
How Does a Concrete Mixer Work?
Before we jump into the proper steps needed to operate a concrete mixer, let’s take a moment to understand how these units operate in the first place.
In essence, these mixers consist of a frame (which includes an electric motor) and a large, metal drum with a circular opening.
When these units are plugged in, their drum spins at a set speed. This allows concrete to be mixed within that drum while also keeping mixed concrete from settling while the drum is in motion.
How to Use a Concrete Mixer: A Step-by-Step Guide
Now that you know how these machines work, let’s take a step-by-step look at how to use one.
Step 1: Gather Materials and Pour in Initial Water
To begin, you’ll need to gather all of the necessary materials before initiating the mixing process. Naturally, this includes having an on-site concrete mixer at the ready, as well as access to water, a bucket, and purpose-made stirring implement.
You should also be wearing proper personal protective equipment (including, but not limited to, eye and mouth protection) when working with concrete.
With the proper tools and materials at the ready, you should measure out the precise amount of water required to mix the desired volume of concrete. Once this is done (ideally using a bucket or two), pour half of that total water volume into the concrete mixer.
Also, if you are using a concrete coloring agent, it should be added at this time and mixed into the water according to its instructions.
Step 2: Turn On and Pour in Powder
Once you’ve poured in the requisite amount of water, you can turn on your concrete mixer (either by flipping an “on” switch or simply plugging the unit in).
Allow the unit to reach its intended speed before cutting open your bags of concrete and pouring them in. Make sure to pour in the concrete powder progressively so that large chunks do not form within the drum.
Alternatively, start putting in cement and other materials that form a typical concrete mix.
Step 3: Mix and Add Water (If Necessary)
With the concrete powder added into the mixer’s drum, you can now begin the mixing process proper.
Depending on the model of mixer you are using, this may occur automatically over the course of 3-5 minutes. However, it is still common for chunks to form during the mixing process.
To combat this, add more water from your reserve buckets and supplement the rotational mixing with manual mixing that targets those chunks.
Be prudent with your addition of more water, though. In the end, you should end up with a concrete product that is both uniform and workable. As necessary, test your concrete mixture periodically until the desired consistency is achieved.
Step 4: Dump Contents and Continue to Run
Once your concrete is fully and properly mixed, you can begin to deploy it into whatever transport method your worksite requires or directly into your concrete form. This may include a series of reinforced buckets or even a wheelbarrow.
In either case, you may need to use a shovel to remove the mixed concrete from the drum. Some mixers can also be tilted forward to allow for a more efficient dumping process.
If you end up leaving any concrete in the drum, continue to run it to prevent it from hardening. Otherwise, if all of the concrete is removed at once, you should ensure that the drum cleaning process begins immediately.
Concrete Mixer Safety
Though they may look unassuming and simple, concrete mixers can lead to acute or long-term injuries if they are not handled properly. As such, it is crucial to follow your local, state, and federal safety guidelines regarding safe concrete mixed usage.
Among other important safety procedures, these guidelines will likely implore your team to do the following while a concrete mixer is in use:
- Ensure that the unit is level and stable before adding any ingredients (especially when it comes to portable models).
- Check the power cord for fraying or damage before each use.
- Keep hands clear from all moving parts of the unit, even when it is not in motion. In the same vein, never insert tools (such as a shovel) into a mixer’s drum while it is turning.
- Always wear proper personal protective equipment. In particular, those working near a concrete mixer must wear eye and mouth protection at all times. Long-sleeve clothing is also advised.
Additional Tips & Tricks
If this is your first time using a concrete mixer, then you might be looking for a few pointers to get you up to speed in a hurry. Here are just a few tips and tricks that you should keep in mind in order to make your use of a concrete mixer a success:
- If you need a lot of concrete for a project, don’t hesitate to order ready-mix concrete from a professional company. On the other hand, if you only need a little, you can always mix a bag or two of concrete in a bucket or wheelbarrow.
- Always add your water before your powder. Concrete mixers are designed with this order of operations in mind, so you’ll get the best results if you stick to it.
- Always keep your mixer clean. This includes after use, at which point your unit’s drum should be pressure-washed to prevent residue from hardening. Also, double-check to ensure that excessive worksite debris is not accumulating around your mixer’s motor after each use.
All things considered, using a concrete mixer successfully is not an excessively challenging task. All you need to do is follow a few straightforward steps to ensure that you make the most of this simple machine’s rotational mixing capabilities.
At the same time, you should be sure to keep the tips and safety guidelines outlined above in mind as well. Together, these keys will ensure that you become a master of the on-site concrete mixer without any further delay.