Concrete is a valuable building material around the home. Strong, adaptable, and durable, concrete can be used for patios, fence posts, flooring, footers, and slabs. You can even make kitchen countertops, bathroom vanity tops, and sinks out of concrete.
It is possible to mix smaller quantities of concrete by hand, without using an electric mixer. You will use just a garden hoe and shovel, a mixing basin such as a wheelbarrow, and a clean water source such as a garden hose.
Batch quantities with this method are limited to one or two 50-pound bags of concrete. Mixing more than 100 pounds of concrete with a hoe is physically difficult, plus the concrete may begin to harden before you can get the entire batch mixed.
Measuring out the exact amount of water is crucial to successful concrete mixing. Using not enough results in a dry, powdery mix that doesn't stick together or set properly. A more common error is to add too much water. While the pour may be successful, concrete mixed with too much water is weak and will soon crumble.
Concrete achieves 400 psi of compressive strength within about two hours and 1,000 psi within 24 hours. Concrete is considered fully cured in 28 days, but it is usually useable in about a day or two, depending on the application.
For a clean pour that minimizes dust, set the bag of concrete on-end in the wheelbarrow. Hold the top of the bag with one hand and use the other hand to slice off the top of the bag with the utility knife. Gently push the bag on its side and slowly pour out the concrete mix. Keep the mix sequestered on one side of the wheelbarrow or mixing basin for now.
The concrete should have a peanut butter-like consistency. It should not be soupy. If so, add a small amount of dry concrete to stiffen the mix. Nor should the mix be powdery. If so, add up to 2 cups of water, one cup at a time.
Drag the hoe once through the mix, with the hoe touching the bottom of the basin. The concrete groove's sides should stand firm. When you pat the concrete with the hoe or a shovel, it should remain flat.
Immediately after pouring the concrete, clean the tools (unless you will be mixing up more concrete). Put the tools in the wheelbarrow, spray them clean, then stand them up to the side to dry. Spray the inside of the wheelbarrow clean of all concrete residue.