Some people might assume that mixing concrete is an obvious task: Buy a bag of premix, dump it in a wheelbarrow with some water, and mix it up. Sounds simple, right? As a fence and deck contractor, I have learned otherwise. I often have to mix five to ten bags in an afternoon, then have to push around wheelbarrow loads of wet concrete. This chore was a strong motivator for me to come up with an efficient, reliable mixing system.
The first step to smarter concrete-mixing is to use my truck’s tailgate as a platform for emptying the concrete premix into the wheelbarrow. This setup limits the number of times I have to move the bags of concrete and keeps them at a comfortable working height. Second, I put the water in the wheelbarrow before the concrete. This step helps to keep down the dust and prevents dry pockets in the mix. Third, I use a stiff rake to mix the concrete. A rake mixes more efficiently and is easier to work with than a hoe or a shovel. Finally, to keep from straining the operator (me), I mix only one 90-lb. bag at a time. I don’t think mixing two bags at once is any faster, and I know it tires me out sooner.
After I’ve finished, I pour any excess concrete into a compact lump to be removed once it hardens. Then I wash out the wheelbarrow so that it’s ready to work another day.