If you’re in charge of materials acquisition for an upcoming construction project, you may be weighing the benefits and drawbacks of various concrete types. Chief among these is read-mix concrete, which has become a go-to option for many large scale projects carried out by construction contractors. But you may still be wondering if its benefits and drawbacks balance each other out.
This guide will dig into that precise problem by highlighting what your next project stands to gain or lose by utilizing ready-mix concrete. This guide will also touch on different types of such concrete so that you can more fully understand your options before committing to one solution over another.
What Is Ready-Mix Concrete?
Before we go too far, let’s start on the ground floor and discuss what “ready-mix concrete” is in terms of its composition and application.
In essence, ready-mix concrete is a label used to describe any type of concrete made in a batch plant setting. These can include centralized plants and worksite-located plants, both of which typically require specialized delivery trucks to move the concrete from the plant to its application site.
Ready-mix concrete does not imply any specific mixture of ingredients was used in its production. Instead, ready-mix concrete can often be made to fit project-specific specifications regarding how much powder, water, and aggregate is used. In some cases, ready-mix concrete finishes its mixing process while in transit to a worksite. This ensures that its consistency is ideally malleable upon arrival.
As its industrial-scale method of production implies, ready-mix concrete is almost always created for large volume projects. This is especially true for projects that take place in proximity to a ready-mix concrete plant, which is to say, within about an hour’s travel time of that plant. Projects outside of this range aren’t usually able to use this type of concrete due to the rapid curing process associated with it.
The Advantages of Ready-Mix Concrete
There are numerous advantages to using ready-mix concrete that you should take into account when comparing it to other methods such as mixing your concrete on site. However, keep in mind that these advantages will differ slightly depending on the local availability of materials as well as associated transportation costs.
Regardless of price, however, ready-mix concrete is almost always exceptionally convenient.
That’s because you, the construction team, won’t need to muck around with mixing up load after load of bagged concrete. At the same time, you won’t need to fret over differences in the consistency from batch to batch. Instead, you just have to plan properly and have workers on-site to unload the concrete as soon as it arrives.
Along the same lines, many construction contractors appreciate the precision that comes with acquiring ready-mix concrete.
To be specific, these managers often enjoy the ability to obtain large volumes of a concrete mixture with a specific ingredient combination without needing to stockpile raw ingredients. This can allow for a more expedient and reliable construction process, especially in regions where mixing concrete on-site is challenging due to ambient conditions.
Many construction contractors prefer to stretch their dollar whenever possible without cutting back on quality or materials performance. Ready-mix concrete is a great way to do that because it allows you to obtain a relatively large volume of this critical building material without paying an unreasonably large cost.
In fact, as your demand volume for this type of concrete increases, many ready-mix concrete plants will begin to decrease your per pound rate proportionally.
The Disadvantages of Ready-Mix Concrete
Ready-mix concrete is far from the perfect building material.
In fact, small- and even medium-scale project contractors will find that ready-mix concrete is not always a justifiable option. This is partially because of the large volume of acquisition typified by the use of this mixing and delivery method. Projects that only need a modest amount of concrete may end up losing money if these volume-based cost factors are not properly accounted for.
Though it goes without saying, ready-mix concrete also requires a sizable investment on the front end of the acquisition process. This is done to ensure that the proper amount of ingredients and delivery vehicles are requisitioned in advance of your project.
Then, you typically must also pay delivery costs for each load of concrete brought to your job site. These costs can add up quickly if you do not properly budget for them.
Also, ready-mix concrete can be a bit of a hassle if you have a small team that is trying to accomplish a lot of tasks on a job site. That’s because ready-mix concrete also requires a near-immediate application when it arrives at a job site.
As such, you’ll need to keep a full team on call to apply these truckloads of concrete as they pull up. Otherwise, you risk problems with your slump when the concrete is finally applied to its intended form.
3 Common Types of Ready-Mix Concrete
Here are just three different ready-mix concrete types that you’ll likely be offered when working with a batch plant.
Transit Mixed Concrete
Transit mixed concrete is actually fairly similar to the kind of concrete you might obtain for a single, small project. Specifically, the dry and wet concrete ingredients are added together directly within a barrel truck’s hold. As these ingredients are added, the barrel is spun at a relatively high speed to allow for adequate combining to occur. Then, as the truck travels to the worksite, it continues to mix the ingredients at a regular spinning speed.
Generally speaking, this is one of the most affordable ready-mix concrete methods. It also allows for transportation beyond the usual 1-hour radius limitation. This is because the in-transit mixing process can be modified as necessary to allow to occur slower while still remaining ready upon arrival.
Shrink Mixed Concrete
Shrink mixing represents a middle ground option between mixing at a plant and mixing in-transit. As such, shrink mixed concrete is initially mixed in a plant batch mixer, wherein ingredients can be continuously added to achieve the desired consistency.
However, this process is terminated prematurely when the mixture goes into a barrel truck. From there, the so-called “balance mixing” is done by the truck to get it to its final consistency upon arrival.
Generally speaking, this is the most common method of utilizing ready-mix concrete. This is likely because it is accessible to most large-scale contractors and carries most of the advantages described above.
Central Mixed Concrete
As its name implies, central mixed concrete is mixed in its entirety in a batch plant.
This means that it is technically ready for application as soon as it comes out of the plant. This means that its consistency will be ideal, but only for a set amount of time. As such, transportation is key when using this method.
Barrel trucks are often used, though dump trucks may also be used if the batch plant is located very near to the application site.
After learning all about ready-mix concrete in this guide, you may have decided that it’s exactly what you need for your upcoming project.
If so, you’ll really be able to reap the benefits of its reliable, high-volume production process while still moderating your materials acquisition costs. But, if those prices are still too high for your project’s budget, know that there are also lots of other ways to make site-mixed concrete, including by hand-mixing and using an on-site mixer.