No one likes being told what to do or how to do it, especially when they’ve done something a specific way for a long time and have never experienced any problems or delays. Even if you have always had perfect pours, shiny surfaces and uncracked columns, even the most experienced users of concrete mixers may find some useful tips and tricks in this article. For any newcomers this checklist will serve as your 11 commandments for always ensuring that your machinery is running as efficiently as possible and giving you the best results.
Prepare your Site Correctly
Before you even think about bringing your shiny and expensive concrete mixers out to the construction site, you will need to make sure everything is ready for its arrival. There are two parts to this, clearing the area that is actually going to be poured on and clearing any debris around the site that may obstruct the path the concrete mixer will take. To prepare the spot where the concrete is being poured, depending on the result you are after this can require shovelling and digging, leveling and possibly even drilling for foundation piles.
This is already very time-consuming but a properly prepared foundation is pivotal to the future strength of your concrete pour. Once the pour area is complete, it is now time to corner off the pouring area and clear away any debris or other obstructions that could get in the way of the concrete mixer either moving in and out of the construction site or around the pour area itself. Once a clear pathway is made you can now bring the machine to the pouring area.
Wear the Correct Safety Equipment and PPE
Not wearing the correct gear while working with concrete mixers and other heavy machinery and chemicals can be extremely dangerous as well as costly to your overall business. Basic gear required for the use of a concrete mixer is gloves to protect your workers hands from debris and chemicals, a respirator to protect the nose and mouth from the dust that the concrete making process creates, goggles to protect the eyes from any debris that may fly out of the drum when in use, and proper steel-toed boots. Employees should also have strong overalls that can get covered in concrete and mortar and then be hosed down easily, proper headwear such as hardhats and a mask to wear when the respirator is no longer needed.
Besides the short-term damage that flying debris and the chemicals in the concrete can do to unprotected hands and eyes, the long-term damage from inhaling dust can be even more detrimental. A disease that can form during this time of work is Silicosis and this can severely damage the health of any employee. This is why protection and safety measures must always be in place, correctly communicated to all staff and strictly adhered to.
Keep Machinery Close to the Pour
Creating a path for our concrete mixers to easily travel in and out of the construction site is essential to avoid any possible collisions or damage, but you should still keep the machines as close to the pour site as possible at all times. Concrete can begin to harden and cure very quickly so keeping the machinery close at hand will save time, labour and possible spilled ingredients from the transport process. Less travelling for your machinery will also cut down on possible times that it could be damaged in transport.
Keep a Close Watch
As stated, concrete can begin hardening very quickly if you are not paying enough attention and taking too long, but the full curing process can actually take a very long time in some circumstances. If it is not correctly maintained during this time it can cause the concrete to crack and render all the work you’ve done useless. The same can be said for your concrete mixers, if you don’t keep a close eye on them during the operation you could miss something that will cause problems later on.
During a pour, you need to make sure that all the concrete is flowing into the pour site evenly and there are no bubbles, while at the same time watching how your concrete mixers are operating and watching for any stones or old concrete that may be getting caught in the gearing. Before pouring ensure that the blades of your machine are not bent and will be working efficiently throughout the process. At the end of a pour make sure that all the air has been removed from the concrete and that it is kept moist throughout the curing process and likewise inspect that no damage has been done to your machines during the pour.
Coat Your Mixer to Avoid Buildup
Before any pour you can apply a thin layer of grease to the outside of the mixer to prevent cement from building up and then hardening on the surface of your concrete mixers. You can also speak to your local hardware store about a safe lubricant to place within the drums to keep the concrete from sticking to the sides and creating a buildup that will be too heavy to spin. Some workers would suggest putting grease or diesel inside the drum as a solution, but this can have negative effects on the consistency of your final concrete product.
Your concrete mixers should always be placed on a sturdy and level ground and should never be placed on damp or wet ground that could give way or cause your components to rust and break. Even if the surface the machines are placed on is secure, some type of hardwood or board should be placed underneath the machine to ensure stability and reduce any damage to the flooring from the wheels of the machine. An unstable machine can become dangerous or create unwanted spillage.
Keep a Pressure Washer Handy
Concrete is obviously quite hard and can be very difficult to get off of machinery and clothing once it has begun to dry and cure after a pour. A pressure washer can make this much easier and faster which will encourage you and your employees to make use of it more often. Use a pressure washer to spray down the drums of your concrete mixers and workers’ overalls after every pour, anything more stubborn will need to be attacked with a hammer and chisel.
A pressure washer is a good purchase for any construction site as it has uses beyond just cleaning the drums. It can be used to clean most machinery, tough overalls and any chemical stains that can occur. You can also use it on the lowest setting to keep your pour as moist as necessary during its cure.
Keep The Motor Free of Debris
The motor is like the heart of the concrete mixers and is what keeps them alive and working for you, therefore if anything happens to them this could be catastrophic for your machine and wallet. These machines are mainly used outdoors and in dusty areas so it is inevitable that some of this will end up in your motor and begin to clog up the inner workings. You can buy or hire a small air compressor that you can use to blow out any dust that accumulates in the motor of the machine and keep it running as efficiently as its owner.
If your machine has been running constantly on different sites for an extended period of time, it may be worth taking it in to have the motor inspected by a professional who really knows all the ins and outs. It’s wise to have things checked before they start showing problems rather than after as a problem seen beforehand can be fixed cheaply and quickly whereas one that’s already hit your machine could keep it out of commission for at least a few days and bring your whole operation to a halt as well as costing much more. You should always know when to seek out the experience and advice of others, not only can this save you from making mistakes on your own equipment, you can also learn how to prevent damage to your machines in the future.
Grease is Your Friend
As mentioned already you can use grease to prevent concrete from building up on the outside surfaces of your machinery, but it can also help you protect the wheels and gears located within. No matter how level you make your paths, concrete mixers are heavy and their wheels will need all the help they can get to keep rolling well. Greasing the inner gears will help keep dust away while also helping them run for longer periods of time.
Keep the Drum Clear
Always drain the drums of your concrete mixers as soon as they stop spinning as the concrete will immediately begin the chemical reaction of curing and become much harder to remove. A good technique is to pour all the concrete out while the machine and drum are still spinning and not afterwards as even this short time before pouring can start to accumulate unwanted debris inside your machines. Never under any circumstances use the drum of your concrete mixers to store excess concrete for use later, the machine and all of its inner workings will begin to sustain damage from constantly holding that load and the concrete will obviously begin to harden inside and damage the machine.
Give Your Concrete Mixer a Rock Gargle
As we’ve said, cleaning your machine is very important if you don’t want to pay hefty prices for repairs and replacements and there is one more thing that you can do to help clean out your machine after every pour. Before you grab the pressure washer, make a concoction of gravel and water and leave it to spin within the drum of the machine for about twenty minutes. This “gargling” is a great way to loosen up debris that would be difficult even for your pressure washer and if you can position the drum right it can reach places you would never think of.
Proper maintenance can save you a lot of hassle and money as an improperly maintained machine will run slow, use of a lot of electricity to get half the work done and can even end up being a safety hazard to you and your employees. Although it may seem like wasted time when you’re doing it, you’ll see it’s all worth it when your pre-use inspection reveals a clump of concrete wrapped around the motor or a wheel that’s one push away from coming loose and sending your beautiful machine hurtling down a hill. If you can follow this checklist it should keep you on the site working rather than on your computer browsing the catalogues for replacements.