Easy-peasy DIY Concrete Mixing

For many, even thinking about mixing bagged concrete for footings can cause nervousness and a dizzy spell. However, if you use the "Portuguese" method described below you will find it takes less effort than the traditional method and makes clean up a snap! I learned this many years ago from a gentleman who taught me many things I know about decks. He apparently saw this method once on a jobsite being perfomed. He is pretty sure they told him they learned this skill from the Portuguese, hence the apt name. If it was not concocted by the Portuguese I applaude whoever came up with this trick!


What you'll need:

-About 6' length of 6 mil vapour barrier (a standard 6' x 8' tarp will suffice)

-One, or preferably two, willing participants (spouses count!)

-Bags 'o pre-mixed concrete (plastic bags are preferable for this methodology)

Step 1: Getting the mixer ready

Cut a 6' length of 6 mil vapour barrier. This should be just longer than you and your helpers' wingspan. Lay the tarp on a relatively flat surface. "Concrete guy" will appreciate it if this is very near the pile of concrete bags.

Step 2: Setting up

Pick one person to be "the concrete guy", and someone else to be "the water guy". If you managed to find a third helping hand, label them as "just-a-mixer guy". "Concrete guy" now hefts a bag up to his shoulder and slams it down into the middle of the tarp, splitting the bag open.

Step 3: Water

Have "concrete guy" and one other participant grab either end of the tarp (holding each corner along the 6' or so length) and hold the ends up to avoid the water escaping while "water guy" sprays the lovely pile of concrete with a splash of water. It is helpful if you have three people so that water guy is not holding the tarp at this point. It is also best that "water guy" counts in his head while spraying to establish the time in seconds it takes for your hose/nozzle combination to spray enough water for the perfect mix. This makes the "water guy's" job repeatable and accurate.

Step 4: Mixing!

This is where the "Portuguese" method really comes into its own. The idea here is that every time it is your turn you lift a corner of the tarp in a diagonal direction towards your mixing partner, throwing concrete around which begins to mix it. Think of the four hands on the tarp as the four points on an "x". One person starts, let's say top left. Next to lift and throw the concrete around would be bottom right. Then top right, and finally bottom left. Lather, rinse, repeat. It will take some practice (say two or three bags) but when you get, you will get it! When done right, and with nicely mixed concrete, the concrete will appear like dough being kneaded or folded as one corner of the pile gets thrown up and over on a diagonal. Mixing one bag should take about 20 - 30 seconds depending on the heat (which affects the mixers' speed!) and skill level.

Step 5: The Pour

Another excellent attribute of this method is how easy it becomes to fill a builder's tube with contrete. The two mixers will decide on a direction of travel towards the tube. This becomes the front, and spout of your mixing tarp. Have you and your mixing partner lift the back "handle" (where you where holding it during mixing) onto and over your shoulder like you were putting on a knapsack over one arm, just like the cool kids in high school! This will cause the concrete to begin to funnel towards the front of the tarp. You now have a spout that is ready to deliver your concrete to precisely where you need it. Move to your tube, lower the front of the tarp and pour it in. If the mix is a bit dry you will have to shake the tarp somewhat to convince the concrete to really start sliding.

Step 6: Clean up

Toss all the empty bags into the middle of the tarp. Pretend you are a cardboard bailer and stomp all of the bags down into a neatly compressed pile of bags. Tie two diagonal corners of the tarp together over the bags followed by the other two corners. You now have a compacted garbage bag full of all your mess that is easy to take to your nearest waste disposal location! Alternatively you could stick a branch through the knot, throw it over your shoulder, and skip away while the screen fades to black and in scrawly text reads;