Concrete Mix Buying Guide

There are many different types and colors of concrete. This guide will teach you how to handle concrete and determine which type is right for your project.

Tip: Once you know what type of concrete you need, take careful measurements of the area you are working on to ensure you have enough to finish the job.

Concrete and cement are not interchangeable terms. Cement is the dry powdered substance that is mixed with sand, gravel and water to create concrete.

The gravel component in concrete is sometimes referred to as crushed rock or aggregate. Mixing sand, gravel, water and cement in the right proportion is essential to producing durable, high-quality concrete.

If you don’t want to mix your own, there are a number of specialized premixed concretes. These mixes provide a simple and economical way to produce the right concrete for any job.

Concrete Mix Type Benefits Common Uses
  • Contains an epoxy for adhering to regular concrete.
  • Two-and-a-half times stronger than regular concrete.
  • Used when attaching railings, gates, or chains to concrete and blocks.
  • Designed to reduce cracking, chipping and flaking.
  • Contains more cement and hundreds of tiny fibers for greater strength and
    resistance.
  • Eliminates the need for wire mesh in many applications.
  • Ideal for patios, driveways, sidewalks and more.
  • Stronger than sand mix.
  • Use in situations where more than 2-inch thickness is needed.
  • Lightweight
  • Provides more cubic feet than a comparable amount of regular concrete.
  • Ideal for pouring slabs, steps, walks and more.
  • Ideal for general concrete work.
  • Use for setting posts, building sidewalks, steps, patios, floors, downspout troughs and more.
  • Mixture of Portland cement with graded sand.
  • Use in applications where less than 2-inch thickness is desired.
  • Ideal for patching and topping chipped concrete surfaces.
  • Use for laying flagstone, paving bricks and as a grout.
Cement Mix Type Benefits Common Uses
  • Ideal for plugging leaks in masonry or concrete walls.
  • Stronger than concrete.
  • Use for caulking and repairing chimneys, walls, sills, sealing pipes and other fixtures.
  • Blend of fast-setting cement, sand and gravel.
  • Becomes hard in 20-40 minutes.
  • Ideal for setting swing sets, fence posts, clotheslines and mailboxes.
  • Stops flowing water in 3-5 minutes.
  • Stops leaks in concrete block walls, such as basements.
  • Designed for commercial-grade performance and contractor use.
  • Use for setting brick, block, stone and more.
  • Provides a long-lasting, strong bond.
  • Use to repoint existing walls and for patching or filling.
  • Ideal for laying brick, block and stone.
  • Plaster Patch Fiber-Reinforced
  • Ideal for fixing plaster surfaces after remodeling.
  • Use to repair plaster cracks and holes
  • Reinforced with limestone, shale clay and iron.
  • Most common type of cement used for making concrete.
  • Sets in approximately 10 minutes.
  • Ideal for repairs that require rapid setting.
  • Use to repair concrete pavement, bridges, tunnels, culverts, curbs, floors,
    steps, retaining walls, swimming pools and more.

To make standard concrete, mix 1 part Portland cement, 1.5 parts gravel, 1 part sand with 0.5 parts water.

Tip: Use water that is clean and free from acid, alkaline, sulfate and oil. Mixing concrete in a wheelbarrow provides an easy way to move it where you need it.

Use the back of a shovel to create a smooth surface, then use the side of the shovel to create a groove.

  • If the surface remains smooth and the sides of the groove hold their shape, your concrete is ready.
  • If you cannot create a distinct groove, add more water.
  • If the groove caves in, mix in more dry ingredients.

Concrete Mix

Take precautions to avoid back strain or irritation of the eyes, skin and lungs.  

  • Use your legs to lift heavy concrete to reduce strain on your back.
  • Concrete is caustic, meaning the chemical elements it contains have corrosive properties that can irritate or burn your skin if you come in direct contact with it.
  • Use a mask to filter out concrete dust.
  • Avoid working in poorly ventilated areas.
  • Knee pads will help you stay comfortable over the course of long jobs.
  • Wear waterproof gloves and boots to protect your hands and feet.