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Tips for Using a Bagged Mix

  • Match the mix to your casting techniques. Make sure the mix is right for the specific casting, forming and finishing methods you plan to use. Many can accommodate both precast and cast-in-place operations, but not all. Likewise, some mixes are stiffer and may require mechanical vibration while others have higher slumps and can simply be poured into the forms with minimal vibration.

  • Consider your performance requirements. Since bagged mixes are proprietary products, they will all perform somewhat differently in terms of compressive strength, workability, setting and curing times, weight, texture and other variables. Use a product that provides the best combination of characteristics for your needs.

  • Mix up a trial batch first. Because they are touted for their consistency, you might assume that a bagged mix will always yield the same results, since most products require the addition of water only. But external factors such as temperature and even your geographical region can have an impact on water requirements. For example, instructions for the Buddy Rhodes countertop mix note that water requirements can vary by as much as 3 quarts per bag. Mixing up a trial batch or two will get you acquainted with the proper "feel" and consistency of the mix. Be sure to add water gradually until the desired stiffness is achieved.

  • Check the yield. An advantage of using a bagged mix is that the manufacturer can tell you the exact volume of concrete each bag will produce. Some bags will provide the yield of concrete in cubic feet; others may tell you how many square feet of countertop you can produce at a specified thickness. This data will help you determine how much of the product to buy and mix up for each job. Even if you miscalculate, unopened bags of mix can be stored for future use, so it's a good idea to purchase a little extra to make sure you have enough on hand.

  • Be ready to relinquish some control. Bagged mixes are certainly more user-friendly than from-scratch mixes, but they won't permit much tweaking if you want to modify the workability, physical performance or setting time of the concrete. If absolute control over these factors is important, you may be better off mixing up your own materials in the desired proportions.

  • Don't be afraid to experiment a bit. Even though the modifications you can make to bagged mixes are limited, you can customize many of them to some degree to achieve different looks, such as seeding them with decorative aggregates.

  • Know what you're doing. No prepackaged mix—no matter how reliable or easy to use—can make up for poor workmanship. You still need the proper equipment, skills and training to achieve great results.

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