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I am thinking about a small to medium backyard project which requires pouring in a relatively small concrete slab. I know I can rent a concrete mixer which has 3-10 cu. ft. capacity. Concrete calculator estimates my job at about 2 cubic yards, which corresponds to 94 (80 lbs) or 187 (40 lbs) concrete mix bags, and this number gives me a pause. My understanding is that using your own muscle is the only way to load those rental mixers. Am I right - or are there self-loading mixers, or power machinery that assists in loading regular mixers?

I also assume that 2 cubic yards is maybe too small to order for big cement truck delivery - and it won't be able to drive into my backyard anyways.

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    Sounds like a good time to invite friends over for some beer. A cement truck wants very dry solid dirt and lots of space to drive on, but is nice to have. They might small trucks/trailers also, so ask.
    – crip659
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:14
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    12 94 lb bags of cement, and a couple yards of aggregate (loose in a pile, from a dumptruck) has much better payback on mixing your own than getting bagged mix. That would be standard "6-bag"(per cubic yard) mix - greater or lesser as the job requires.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 1:17
  • @Ecnerwal thank you, and if I go the DIY way, I would likely use cement and aggregate rather than concrete mix. But either way it's a 7,500 lbs load and I can't imagine lifting it all by hand.
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 1:34
  • If the job is amenable to working in sections, it's less daunting as you can spread it over more time. If it's gotta be 2 yards all at once, it's a lot.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 1:55
  • When the form pops and you don't have six guys there to shovel it back out and back in after you fix the form while there's a truck costing you money that's going to leave if you don't quit screwing around fast enough.
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 4:30

4 Answers 4

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I've done more concrete than that with a little electric mixer, but it's a big job and at the end I swore next time I'd pay for the concrete truck lol. But if you want to build up some arm strength, why not. Here's the recipe:

Rent one of these:

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Go to the place that sells aggregate and cement, have them dump the required quantity of aggregate in the truck, also get the cement bags.

Put the concrete mixer at the edge of your slab, on a tarp for easier cleaning.

Back the truck right next to the concrete mixer.

One guy on the truck bed shovels the aggregates from the truck bed into the mixer. The truck bed is about the same height as the mixer's opening, to he doesn't have to lift the stuff, just toss it into the mixer, so this is less tiring.

Another guy standing on the ground picks up the cement bags from the truck bed and puts them in the mixer. If it's a small mixer that takes one half cement bag, then this guy needs a table, a few buckets, and a respirator. It's much more convenient with the big mixer that takes a full bag of cement. Don't take the 50 kilos bags if you value your spine, the smaller ones are heavy enough.

This latter guy also needs a water hose and buckets, plus a few accessories like trowel to clean up the mixer.

Then you put a rather wide plank with one end resting between the legs of the concrete mixer right under the bucket, and the other end where you want the concrete to go. It should slope down. When guy#2 tips the mixer bucket, concrete pours onto plank, and guy#3 uses a concrete rake (very important accessory!) to set it where it should go.

No wheelbarrowing is involved, which would otherwise be the most annoying part.

And if you still need to use a wheelbarrow, at least the mixer is very close to where it should go.

You should work as fast as possible to make as many mixes as possible before you have to clean the mixer, which wastes time.

Thanks to the truck, you can move the pile of aggregates around where it's most convenient, and at the end, you don't have a leftover pile of gravel in your garden that you have to get rid of.

You will also need: rebar and wire to tie it ; planks to make roads for the wheelbarrow ; straight edge ; level ; planks for the edges of the slab ; rubber boots, gloves and knee pads (concrete is corrosive to human skin, don't kneel in it or handle it bare handed) ; eye protection and respirator for the cement guy ; assorted trowels ; buckets ; etc.

If you like fluid concrete, you can add plasticizer.

2 cubic yards is 1500 liters, a standard wheelbarrow will carry 40 liters if you don't want it to overflow and throw concrete everywhere, so you're looking at about 40 wheelbarrow trips.

But check the price of pre-mix first...

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  • That last sentence is SO important! Might not be worth it for all the back breaking labor involved.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 16:28
  • It's one of the things you gotta do once for bragging rights, then you know why we have cement trucks lol
    – bobflux
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 20:52
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You can certainly do it that way - DIY stores will deliver bags by the pallet and you can rent/buy small mixers. However, if you are doing an amount like 2 yards at once, I would definitely try to get a site-mix truck to come out instead of mixing it myself 2-3 bags at a time.

Back when I was doing a lot of landscaping, you couldn't get a pre-mix company to come out unless you were ordering 12 cubic yards or more, but site-mix would do as much or as little as you want (generally there was a base charge to just roll the truck and operator to your site, then material was charged by the yard).

Look around your area for site-mix concrete companies.

As for your yard access, you could either hire a pump company (they have towable pumps so you don't have the huge crane trucks), or do a wheelbarrow-brigade. That's where the beer & buddies plan works best.

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  • Thanks! Looks like "site-mix" is what I should be looking for. 2 cu. yd. should be like 15 wheelbarrow loads, which is not that bad.
    – Alexander
    Commented Feb 18, 2022 at 23:40
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    DIY stores will deliver pallets of bags of concrete but most will only do curbside. you might need a few friends to carry the bags to the back.
    – JACK
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 0:22
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    This answer, a thousand times. And if you don't go the pump option, double the number of buddies. (And I think 2 yards is way more than 15 wheelbarrow loads -- more like 30-50, depending.) Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 16:13
  • @AloysiusDefenestrate The truth is likely somewhere in between. Here in the metriclands, 1 m³ of concrete is generally taken to equal roughly 15 wheelbarrow loads. Unless I messed up, 2 cubic yards should be around 1.5 m³, thus something like 20-25 loads.
    – TooTea
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 22:52
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I was able to order a yard or two from a tool rental place. It came in a small trailer that I was able to trail behind the minivan/station wagon (not sure what I had back then - 1990) and the trailer had, I think a tilt mechanism so you could easily dump the trailer load of concrete. Apologies to Ed Beal - wrote this before I saw his comment, which is the same thing.

Another option is that many times the big concrete trucks have excess material in the truck after their delivery that they will just dump someplace. If you have everything in place, you call a local concrete delivery company & tell 'em you have a place for them to get ride of their excess.

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Not to repeat @ chris O, but 2 yards is a lot to mix, even with an electric mixer. I have done a few little jobs and concrete gets much heaver after about 5 wheelbarrows full. I got a truck delivery of 3 yards and just spreading and leveling is a big job for two people. I think it is more about access; if there is any possible way to use a truck, that is the only choice. If you need to wheelbarrow it from the truck, that is a big job for 4 guys. A yard of concrete is about 3,000 pounds.

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  • Just moving 50 bags of 40 pounds a few feet, begins to feel like work. Then you read the warning on the bags that they need two people to move them.
    – crip659
    Commented Feb 19, 2022 at 0:40

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