Think mixing cement is easy? Think again. While it is not brain surgery, it can be an arduous task that requires some degree of precision for peak performance. Cement is a bonding agent used in conjunction with sand, water, and aggregate (crushed stone) to create mortar and/or concrete. You need cement for a variety of projects--to set footings for decking or fences, to fill a sidewalk, or to patch a blemish in your house's foundation. If you are doing a project that requires concrete or mortar application, you will need to know how to mix the cement that bonds the materials together.
Here is how you mix cement.
- Materials: Portland Cement. This is pure cement mix. You will need to buy enough sand and aggregate to match the amount of cement you are buying (in the correct proportions) to mix in. Read the back of the manufacturer's label to find the sand mix ratio and match the amounts needed for the project at hand. This is the cheapest option for creating a concrete or mortar, but it involves more physical work and time. If your project is large, this is the most cost-effective route, but prepare your muscles for a workout. The basic formula for a mix ratio is 1 part Portland cement, 1 part sand, and 1 part crushed stone; the amount of water to add is not so clear cut - add enough water so that the mix is not too wet and not too dry - a little like cake mix. Some products specify how much water to use per bag.
- Materials: Pre-mixed concrete and mortar. Decide on the type of mix you will need. These mixes contain all the sand and aggregate you will need for the job. All you need to do is mix the dry ready mix cement content with water. Make sure you buy mortar for jobs that require mortar, and concrete for the jobs that require concrete--in almost all cases, they are not interchangeable.
- Where to Buy? Aggregate and Sand: These materials can be found at garden supply stores. They are sold by the cubic meter. Ask an expert at the store to assist you in getting the correct proportions for the task at hand.
- Where to Buy? Lime: If you need the mortar or concrete to have maximum adhesive qualities, you'll want to add lime. Lime can be purchased at garden wholesale stores as well.
- With A Mixer: You can purchase a small drum cement mixer for around $400 dollars or less. It is a machine that is perfect for small to medium jobs: patch work, filling part of a sidewalk, filling in foundation. Jobs such as a driveway fill or in-ground swimming pool are not suitable tasks for the mixer. For large jobs like this, hire a commercial truck.
- Without a Mixer. It is possible to go without using a mixer. This approach should be used exclusively for smaller projects. It can be a demanding procedure--mix is heavy. Only attempt the process sans mixer if the project requires less than 10 cubic feet of mixed material. You will need different equipment than if you have a mixer. Use the proper ratio of dry material and add water as you mix. Use a durable trowel to mash and mix the materials together. Remember that cement dries, so you'll need to complete your project in a timely manner. Be sure to mix the amount appropriate for your task.
- Safety. Cement mix contains lime, which is a hazardous material. Make sure you work in a ventilated area. Avoid touching the dry mix with your hands as much as possible. Wear gloves and a mask during the process.
Now you know how to mix cement. If you are planning on doing this on your own, be sure to read the manufacturer's label to ensure you are using the correct materials and proportions for the mixture. Good luck!