Five Tips for Working with Concrete

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Hi everyone, Brad Nale here. I’ve just been working with concrete, doing some foundation repair, and thought I’d pass along a few tips that I’ve worked out. You can find multiple how-to videos on YouTube these days, watch these for how-to help. The tips here are more abstract concrete ideas (oxymoron intended!).

1. Don’t scrimp when it comes to buying bags of concrete. When you go to your local Ace Hardware store, and ask them to load bags of Quikrete up for you, always buy a few more than you think you’ll need. Concrete looks like it will go a long way when you see a bag of it at the hardware store. When you’re actually mixing it up, it takes surprisingly more than you think and it’s a real pain to run out in the middle of your project. You can always return unopened bags!

2. Get help. Okay, people have been telling me that for years, but this is different! Duh, concrete is heavy. Both in the bag, and when mixing it. This is a perfect opportunity to enlist the help of that teenage boy who needs to earn some pizza money, or your friend who owes you a favor for moving his furniture to the third floor! Really, it is not fun to do this all by yourself. Your chiropractor will love it if you do it by yourself, but there goes the money that you saved.

3. Consider renting equipment to mix concrete. Even if you think you’re not doing that large of a job, you’ll find that mixing bags of concrete is a lot of dirty work. Pouring, spreading, troweling is nothing compared to mixing. You can buy raw materials in bulk and maybe save a few bucks, but even if you’re just mixing many bags up, a powered mixer will make the job much easier, not to mention give you one mix that is all at the same consistency, which can really help your finished project.

4. Be ready. Much like painting, the secret to good concrete work is in the preparation. Have your tools at the ready. Have the area your pouring into ready. Are you adding re-bar, don’t wait to cut it or bend it, have that done first. Once you start pouring wet concrete, you don’t want to stop, and you’ll need to keep the project rolling along. An ounce of planning is worth many pounds of, “Oh no, now what do I do?”

5. Have a spot ready for your extra concrete. No matter how well you plan, you’re likely to have a bit left over when you’re done pouring your concrete. In your wheelbarrow is not where you want the extra to sit. Especially if you’re doing a project in your yard that’s finished and pretty, have someplace to dump out the extra, and a spot picked to wash off all your tools. There’s always a bit of concrete left on the ground after washing, so don’t plan on using your wife’s flower bed for this!

Finally, check out for many more tips and how-to videos. There you’ll see that there’s really nothing scary about working with concrete, as long as you know what you’re getting in to. It’s actually very satisfying and can be a great weekend project.