Small Projects – Buy Ready Mix Concrete or Mix it Yourself?

The arrival of spring means that many people are starting to plan home and garden DIY projects. And some of these projects – such as building pathways and home extensions – may require the use of concrete.

For large projects, involving several cubic metres of concrete, a ready mix concrete solution for homes in Cambridge is the obvious way to go, as it is more convenient and will meet any special mix requirements. But for smaller domestic projects, you may be debating whether you should call in a ready mix company, or mix the concrete yourself on site. In this article, Madmix looks at the pros and cons of each.


Mixing concrete by hand is extremely time consuming, and the bigger the project, the longer it will take to do this. Whether this matters to you depends on the amount of time you are happy to spend mixing concrete, how much help you might get from others, and the deadline you have in mind for the project. As a guide, you might want to try and estimate the time it will take to mix one cubic metre by hand, and compare this to the convenience of the concrete home delivery option.


If you are mixing concrete by hand, then each batch needs to be applied to the project area immediately, before the concrete sets, especially if you are using a quick setting variety. You then need to mix the next batch, and apply that. This means there is a time gap between batches of concrete being applied next to each other. Depending on how quickly you can mix your concrete, this may mean the earlier batches are starting to set as a new, wetter mix is applied to it, potentially creating a weaker structure.

While this might not matter much for a patio base, it could have a substantial impact on anything load bearing, (such as a driveways, foundations etc). Even if you mix quite fast, with hand mixing you may not be able to achieve the same consistency for all your concrete batches. For example, it could mean that some batches are slightly wetter or dryer than others, which means a variation in the setting and drying time in different areas of the overall project. Again this can cause a structural weakness.


If the concrete is going to be visible once the project is complete (for example a driveway surface or pathway), then consistency between the batches is important to achieve a good finish. A ready mix solution avoids all these consistency problems, as you benefit from having just one batch of concrete delivered. This is poured all at the same time, so it will dry and set at the same speed.


If your application requires air entrainment, (meaning the deliberate addition of tiny air bubbles to the concrete mix), this is almost impossible to achieve by hand mixing. These air bubbles are required because they reduce pressure on the concrete by creating areas for water to expand into when the concrete freezes (in cold weather). The bubbles need to be uniform throughout the concrete mix, and only a ready mix supplier can achieve this.


Mixing concrete yourself means buying individual bags of cement mix and possibly hiring a concrete mixer. For many homeowners, the time spent involved in the project may also have associated costs. For instance, this could mean having to take time off work until the job is done.

If price is a factor, the first step is to ask for a ready mix concrete quote from Madmix Cambridge and compare it with the cost of buying bags of cement. Also add any additional costs such as mixer hire, and tool hire, to find out which is the most economical option for your particular situation. The benefit of using Madmix is that we provide ready mixed concrete quickly and at very competitive prices.


You may feel that mixing by hand means you can get close to the exact amount needed, with minimal waste. If your project needs 0.5 m3 and you get a 1m3 delivery (our minimum quantity), what will you do with the extra concrete? Madmix has a solution for this, as we take away any leftover concrete for safe disposal, at no extra charge, so this isn’t a problem.


Even if a concrete mixer is too large to get close to your project area (either because of parking difficulties or narrow streets), all is not lost. If a wheelbarrow can be taken to the project site, so can the cement. In these situations Madmix can unload a little further away enabling you to take the concrete mix to the site by wheelbarrow. However, it is always best to inform us of any parking difficulties in advance.

So Which is Best?

As you can see from the various factors discussed above, each project is different and each homeowner will have different priorities around issues of time, need for consistency and so on. For very small quantities, and where consistency is not a big issue, DIY mixing can be a good solution. But in any situation where time or consistency matter then a ready mix concrete delivery is going to provide you with an efficient, high quality solution.

For supplies of ready mix concrete in the Cambridge area, or for help and advice on which concrete to choose, click on the link above to contact the Madmix team.

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