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Upon completing this section, you should be able to determine methods and mixing times of concrete.

Concrete is mixed either by hand or machine. No matter which method is used, you must follow well-established procedures if you expect finished concrete of good quality. An oversight in proper concrete mixing, whether through lack of competence or inattention to detail, cannot be corrected later.


A batch to be hand mixed by a couple of crewmembers should not be much larger than 1 cubic yard. The equipment required consists of a watertight metal or wooden platform, two shovels, a metal-lined measuring box, and a graduated bucket for measuring the water.

The mixing platform does not need to be made of expensive materials. It can be an abandoned concrete slab or concrete parking lot that can be cleaned after use. A wooden platform having tight joints to prevent the loss of paste may be used. Whichever surface is used, you should ensure that it is cleaned prior to use and level.

Let’s say your batch consists of two bags of cement, 5.5 cubic feet of sand, and 6.4 cubic feet of coarse aggregate. Mix the sand and cement together first, using the following procedure:

  1. Dump 3 cubic feet of sand on the platform first, spread it out in a layer, and dump a bag of cement over it.
  2. Spread out the cement and dump the rest of the sand (2.5 cubic feet) over it.
  3. Dump the second sack of cement on top of the lot.

This use of alternate layers of sand and cement reduces the amount of shoveling required for complete mixing.

Personnel doing the mixing should face each other from opposite sides of the pile and work from the outside to the center. They should turn the mixture as many times as is necessary to produce a uniform color throughout. When the cement and sand are completely mixed, the pile should be leveled off and the coarse material added and mixed by the same turning method.

The pile should next be troughed in the center. The mixing water, after being carefully measured, should be poured into the trough. The dry materials should then be turned into the water, with great care taken to ensure that none of the water escapes. When all the water has been absorbed, the mixing should continue until the mix is of a uniform consistency. Four complete turnings are usually required.


The size of a concrete mixer is designated by its rated capacity. As we mentioned earlier, the capacity is expressed in terms of the volume of mixed concrete, not of dry ingredients the machine can mix in a single batch. Rated capacities run from as small as 2 cubic feet to as large as 7 cubic yards (189 cubic feet).

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Figure 6-6.-Model 16-S concrete mixer.

The production capacity of the 16-S mixer varies between 5 and 10 cubic yards per hour, depending on the efficiency of the personnel. Aggregate larger than 3 inches will damage the mixer. The mixer consists of a frame equipped with wheels and towing tongue (for easy movement), an engine, a power loader skip, mixing drum, water tank, and an auxiliary water pump. The mixer may be used as a central mixing plant.

Charging the Mixer

Concrete mixers may be charged by hand or with the mechanical skip. Before loading the mechanical skip, remove the towing tongue. Then cement, sand, and gravel are loaded and dumped into the mixer together while the water runs into the mixing drum on the side opposite the skip. A storage tank on top of the mixer measures the mixing water into the drum a few seconds before the skip dumps. This discharge also washes down the mixer between batches. The coarse aggregate is placed in the skip first, the cement next, and the sand is placed on top to prevent excessive loss of cement as the batch enters the mixer.

Mixing Time

It takes a mixing machine having a capacity of 27 cubic feet or larger 1 1/2 minutes to mix a 1-cubic yard batch. Another 15 seconds should be allowed for each additional 1/2 cubic yard or fraction thereof. The water should be started into the drum a few seconds before the skip begins to dump, so that the inside of the drum gets a washout before the batched ingredients go in. The mixing period should be measured from the time all the batched ingredients are in, provided that all the water is in before one-fourth of the mixing time has elapsed. The time elapsing between the introduction of the mixing water to the cement and aggregates and the placing of the concrete in the forms should not exceed 1 1/2 hours.

Discharging the Mixer

When the material is ready for discharge from the mixer, the discharge chute is moved into place to receive the concrete from the drum of the mixer. In some cases, stiff concrete has a tendency to carry up to the top of the drum and not drop down in time to be deposited on the chute. Very wet concrete may not carry up high enough to be caught by the chute. This condition can be corrected by adjusting the speed of the mixer. For very wet concrete, the speed of the drum should be increased. For stiff concrete, the drum speed should be slowed down,

Cleaning and Maintaining the Mixer

The mixer should be cleaned daily when it is in continuous operation or following each period of use if it is in operation less than a day. If the outside of the mixer is kept coated with oil, the cleaning process can be speeded up. The outside of the mixer should be washed with a hose, and all accumulated concrete should be knocked off. If the blades of the mixer become worn or coated with hardened concrete, the mixing action will be less efficient. Badly worn blades should be replaced. Hardened concrete should not be allowed to accumulate in the mixer drum. The mixer drum must be cleaned out whenever it is necessary to shut down for more than 1 1/2 hours. Place a volume of coarse aggregate in the drum equal to one-half of the capacity of the mixer and allow it to revolve for about 5 minutes. Discharge the aggregate and flush out the drum with water. Do not pound the discharge chute, drum shell, or the skip to remove aggregate or hardened concrete. Concrete will readily adhere to the dents and bumps created. For complete instructions on the operation, adjustment, and maintenance of the mixer, study the manufacturer’s manual.

All gears, chains, and rollers of mixers should be properly guarded. All moving parts should be cleaned and properly serviced to permit safe performance of the equipment. When the mixer drum is being cleaned, the switches must be open, the throttles closed, and the control mechanism locked in the OFF position. The area around the mixer must be kept clear.

Skip loader cables and brakes must be inspected frequently to prevent injuries caused by falling skips. When work under an elevated skip is unavoidable, you must shore up the skip to prevent it from falling in the event that the brake fails or is accidentally released. The mixer operator must never lower the skip without first making sure that there is no one underneath.

Dust protection equipment must be issued to the crew engaged in handling cement, and the crew must wear the equipment when so engaged. Crewmembers should stand with their backs to the wind, whenever possible. This helps prevent cement and sand from being blown into their eyes and faces.


When ready-mixed concrete is carried by an ordinary type of carrier (such as a wheelbarrow or buggy), jolting of the carrier increases the natural tendency of the concrete to segregate. Carriers should therefore be equipped with pneumatic tires whenever possible, and the surface over which they travel should be as smooth as possible.

A long free fall also causes concrete to segregate. If the concrete must be discharged at a level more than 4 feet above the level of placement, it should be dumped into an "elephant trunk" similar to the one shown in figure 6-7.

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Figure 6-7.-Chute, or downpipe used to check free fall of concrete.

Segregation also occurs when discharged concrete is allowed to glance off a surface, such as the side of a form or chute. Wheelbarrows, buggies, and conveyors should discharge so that the concrete falls clear.

Concrete should be transported by chute only for short distances. It tends to segregate and dry out when handled in this manner. For a mix of average workability y, the best slope for a chute is about 1 foot of rise to 2 or 3 feet of run. A steeper slope causes segregation, whereas a flatter slope causes the concrete to run slowly or not at all. The stiffer the mix, the steeper the slope required. All chutes and spouting used in concrete pours should be clean and well-supported by proper bracing and guys.

When spouting and chutes run overhead, the area beneath must be cleared and barricaded during placing. This eliminates the concrete or possible collapse.


On some jobs, such as large danger of falling highway jobs, it is possible to use a batch plant that contains its own mixer. A plant of this type discharges ready-mixed concrete into transit mixers, which haul it to the construction site. The truck carries the mix in a revolving chamber much like the one on a mixer. Keeping the mix agitated in route prevents segregation of aggregate particles. A ready-mix plant is usually portable so that it can follow the job along. It must be certain, of course, that a truck will be able to deliver the mix at the site before it starts to set. Discharge of the concrete from the drum should be completed within 1 1/2 hours.


By transit-mixing, we refer to concrete that is mixed, either wet or dry, en route to a job site. A transit-mix truck carries a mixer and a water tank from which the driver can, at the proper time, introduce the required amount of water into the mix. The truck picks up the dry ingredients at the batch plant, together with a slip which tells how much water is to be introduced to the mix upon arrival at the site. The mixer drum is kept revolving in route and at the job site so that the dry ingredients do not segregate. Transit-mix trucks are part of the battalion’s equipment inventory and are widely used on all but the smallest concrete jobs assigned to a battalion.


David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015