How to make concrete without a mixer

Updated November 11, 2023

Author: Michael Day

Hello there, DIY enthusiasts, contractors, and homeowners alike! Are you equipped and ready to dive into the profound, enriching experience of creating your own concrete mix?

Today, we are discussing "how to make concrete without a mixer," and I assure you, it's simpler than you might think. Whether you are preparing to pour a new patio, mend a garden wall, or even start a DIY home project, there's a unique satisfaction in mastering the art of mixing your own concrete.

Learn how to mix, pour, and finish concrete from me in The Concrete Underground!

mixing concrete without a concrete mixer

Before we start mixing concrete, let's be safe!

Before we embark on this exciting journey, let's make sure safety is prioritized. Always remember to equip yourself with protective clothing, particularly protective eyewear and heavy-duty gloves, when handling raw materials for your concrete mix. 'Safety first,' as they say!

  1. Safety gloves
  2. Safety glasses
  3. Dust mask
  4. Work pants

Watch me mix some concrete without using a mixer on this repair job

Your Options - Use Pre-mixed Concrete Bags or Make Your Own Concrete

mixing concrete without a cement mixer

Now, the intriguing process of making concrete without a concrete mixer primarily involves two methods: using a bag mix, such as Quikrete, or constructing it from scratch using raw materials like sand, gravel, and cement.

I'll guide you step-by-step through both these concoctions; but first, let's understand what materials and tools are essential for the task at hand.

The Tools and Materials You'll Need to Mix Concrete

Irrespective of the method you choose, you'll need a shovel; preferable is a small, square-mouth shovel, a wheelbarrow or mixing board, and water. Remember, the burning question, "How do you make concrete mix by hand?" always starts with assembling the right tools.

  1. Square mouth shovel
  2. Wheel Barrow
  3. Mixing Board
  4. Concrete Mixing Hoe
  5. Electric Paddle Mixer (Optional)
  6. Trash Can (used with an electric paddle mixer)

Considering the bag mix method, a product like Quikrete is remarkably suitable. It is versatile, easy to use, and readily available at any home improvement store. A general-purpose bag will cover most of your small-scale requirements.

On the other hand, if you choose to go for the raw mix method, you need Portland cement, some fine aggregate (like sand), and coarse aggregate (resembling gravel). The standard ratio for these materials is 1:2:3, easily remembered as one part cement, two parts sand, and three parts gravel.

How to mix concrete using a bag mix

Let's embark on our journey with the bag mix method first. Pour out the contents of the bag mix concrete into your wheelbarrow or onto your mixing board. Use your shovel to even out the pile.

It's vital to have your water source nearby. Quikrete recommends a gallon of water (that's around 3.8 liters) for every 80-pound bag (approximately 36.3 kilograms). But from my experience, I suggest you trust your instincts rather than sticking to rigid proportions.

A Good Method for Mixing:

Here's a handy trick for you: create a deep crater in the center of the concrete pile with your shovel. Then, add the water, gradually, to this crater. Ensuring even spread of water through the mix is an essential part of making concrete without a mixer.

The next step involves using your sturdy shovel or mixing hoe to gradually incorporate the dry material into the water-filled crater. Start from the outer edges and move towards the center. Your main objective is to uniformly moisten the dry mix concrete so that it takes on the desired form and texture.

Now comes the moment where knowing how to mix concrete without a mixer truly comes to the fore—labor powered by your own hands! Use your shovel (or hoe) to fold the mixture, in a motion similar to kneading a bread dough. This action ensures your ready mix reaches a uniform texture and consistency.

For best results:

To achieve the best results, you must mix thoroughly until the texture becomes consistent. Any inconsistencies in your mix could potentially create dry pockets and weaken your finished concrete structure.

When you're done mixing, check the texture. If necessary, gradually add more water and continue mixing to achieve your desired consistency.

PRO TIP: In hot weather, mix the concrete in small batches ( 1 bag at a time) for easier and faster mixing. Otherwise, if you try to mix too much at one time, it may set up too fast on you when you pour it in place.

How to Mix Concrete by Hand Using Raw Materials

Now that we've mastered the bag mix method, let's jump to making mixed concrete from raw materials. Begin by arranging your cement, sand, and gravel on your chosen mixing surface in a ratio of 1:2:3.

Use your trusty shovel once more to combine these dry ingredients. Your goal is to blend the materials until they no longer appear separated. Instead, you want to see a uniform, dry mix.

The next step echoes the bag mix method. Now, you create a crater in the center of your newly formed concrete mix. Pour water into this crater, incrementally.

As the water is added, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients from the edge of the crater, circling around its perimeter. Continue rotating and turning the mix until it reaches a brownie mix-like texture.

Mixing concrete from raw ingredients, rather than a ready-bag mix, requires attention to detail to guarantee a successfully blended mix. Ensure all the elements are well incorporated – long story short, keep turning and blending!

Much like the bag mix method, examine your mix one last time and consider adding more water if it feels too stiff. Mix it yet again.

Materials Required and Concrete Mixing Ratios

Creating concrete from scratch requires a combination of cement, sand, and aggregate, typically in the ratio of 1:2:3. Here's a simple list of materials and mixing ratios to make concrete manually without a mixer:


  1. Cement (Portland cement is commonly used)
  2. Sand (coarse and fine, depending on the application)
  3. Aggregate (gravel or crushed stone)
  4. Water

Mixing Ratios:

  • Standard Concrete Mix: 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, 3 parts aggregate.
  • Strong Concrete Mix: 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, 4 parts aggregate.
  • Lightweight Concrete Mix: 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, 2 parts lightweight aggregate.
  • Mortar Mix (for brick or block laying): 1 part cement, 3-5 parts sand.


  1. Dry Mixing: In a large container or wheelbarrow, combine the cement, sand, and aggregate. Mix these materials together thoroughly to ensure they are well combined.
  2. Adding Water: Gradually add water while mixing continuously. Aim for a consistency that holds its shape when squeezed but is still workable.
  3. Mixing: Continue mixing the concrete manually using a shovel or hoe until you achieve a uniform consistency. Make sure all the ingredients are well mixed and the water is evenly distributed.

How Much Water Do I Need to mix concrete by hand?

mix concrete by hand in a wheel barrow

When translating the question, "How to mix concrete without an electric concrete mixer" into practice, realize that it isn't about following rigid proportions. Instead, it's about achieving the right consistency.

Regardless of whether it's a Quikrete mix or raw components, strive for a consistency similar to that of malleable, heavy dough.

If you're using a store-bought bag mix, the mixing instructions on the back of the bag will tell you what the manufacturer recommends for adding mixing water to each bag.

If you're pouring a concrete slab or fence posts

With your favorite mix method mastered, you're ready to put your concrete to use! Handling the transport and application speedily is crucial because you need to use all the mixed concrete before it starts to set.

Carefully pour your mix into the area you have prepared. If you are tackling larger projects like a driveway, break up the task by working in smaller, manageable sections. This technique allows you to handle the setting times effectively.

After pouring, take time to compact the concrete to ensure it settles evenly and is free from voids. Employ a trowel to even out the surface, working your way from the corners toward the center.

What's a good cure time after the concrete sets up?

Once you've skillfully laid your concrete mix, act promptly to prevent it from drying out too quickly. One way of retaining the moisture necessary for curing is to cover the concrete in a plastic sheet.

The correct curing of concrete ensures the resultant structure is sturdy and durable. Bear in mind that the cement reacts with water to form a bond with the sand and aggregate. This bonding process isn't instantaneous; it takes time. Keep your concrete moist for at least a week for optimum hardening.

How to calculate how much concrete you'll need

Calculating the amount of concrete needed for a project is essential to ensure you have enough materials while minimizing waste. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

  1. Identify the Area and Volume: Determine the length, width, and depth (thickness) of the area where you will be pouring the concrete. Convert all measurements to the same units (typically feet or meters).
  2. Calculate the Volume: Multiply the length, width, and depth together to find the volume in cubic feet or cubic meters. Formula: Volume = Length × Width × Depth
  3. Convert Volume to Concrete Bags or Cubic Yards/Meters: If you’re using pre-mixed concrete bags, check the bag to find out the volume it covers and divide the total volume by the volume per bag. Alternatively, convert the volume to cubic yards or cubic meters, as concrete is typically sold by the cubic yard or cubic meter.
  4. Consider Overages: It’s wise to order a little extra concrete to account for overages, spillage, or changes in plan. A common practice is to order 10-15% more concrete than calculated.
  5. Use Online Calculators: There are online concrete calculators available that can help streamline this process. You just input the dimensions, and it calculates the amount of concrete needed.
  6. Consult Professionals: If unsure, consult a professional or your concrete supplier to assist with the calculations.
  7. Check Local Building Codes: Local building codes might have specific requirements for concrete thickness, which could affect the amount of concrete you need.

By following these steps and considering all the factors involved, you can more accurately estimate the amount of concrete required for your project.

In Conclusion:

While learning how to make concrete without a mixer might appear intimidating at first, it only requires a systematic approach, a dash of patience, and a good deal of elbow grease.

Throughout your concrete mixing session, ensure you maintain cleanliness. Thoroughly clean your equipment after usage to avoid dried-up concrete from accumulating.

Whether using a wheelbarrow or a mixing board, the mixing process remains the same. The answer to "how to mix concrete without a wheelbarrow" simply involves substituting it with a mixing board and following the same steps as earlier described!

A few trials of the process will undoubtedly make you proficient in it. Remember, the overall objective is to achieve the right consistency. A word of advice, though: the stiffer the mix, the stronger the concrete. But make sure it isn't too stiff, as it might not compact properly, resulting in voids.

When you make your own concrete mix by hand, you intertwine a little science with a touch of craftsmanship. Use the provided ratios for raw materials as a general guideline, and adapt according to your specific needs.

Ultimately, the fundamental principle behind mixing concrete without a mixer involves getting your ratios right, judiciously adding water, and blending thoroughly.

There's an unparalleled sense of fulfillment and joy when you complete DIY projects, such as creating your own concrete structures. Not only do these ventures save costs, but they also allow you to infuse your personal touch into your home renovations.

Isn't it amazing to hold the power to transform a mere bag of dusty powder into something as solid and reliable as concrete? When you learn "how to make strong concrete without a mixer", you're unlocking the door to a world of creative, resilient, and long-lasting structures. Be patient, be courageous, and most importantly, enjoy the process as you experiment, learn, and build. I wish you the very best on your DIY journey!

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