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10 Tips for Fast Setting Concrete

10 Tips for Working With Concrete - Designed Logo

10 Tips for Fast Setting Concrete

Fast-setting concrete is incredibly easy to work with. It is important to know some tips and tricks to help make working with it easier, especially if you are new to it. With that in mind, we asked our Fastener Expert, Bob, to tell us some tips we should think about when working with fast setting pre-mixed concrete. Below are his top tips for working with concrete.

Never worked with fast-setting concrete before? No Problem! Read this post as well: How to Mix Fast Setting Concrete

1. Bags of Pre-Mixed Concrete Can Be Bad When You Buy Them

To use Fast-Setting Concrete, all you must do is add water to the pre-mix. This sounds simple, but often when being delivered to the store, the mix is exposed to the elements. If caught in the rain or humidity long enough, the concrete mix will absorb some of the moisture and begin hardening.

When you first buy and open a bag, you’ll want to check for any large chunks of hardened concrete. Not only will you not be able to use this bit, but it will also change how much space the concrete can cover. If there are any large chunks, bring it back to the store it was bought from and get it changed out for a new bag.

2. Fast-Setting Concrete Sets Quickly

This one may seem self-explanatory, but often someone will begin mixing the concrete prematurely resulting in the concrete beginning to harden prior to placing it where it needs to go. A better method is to make sure all materials are present and any spreading or moving tools are also present and ready before mixing the concrete.

3. Before Mixing the Concrete

Ok, so the tools are out, you have your location set up and now you need to mix the concrete right? Wrong. First add the concrete pre-mix into your bucket. Then take the mixing tool, whether it be a concrete spreader or a concrete mixing auger, and mix the dry pre-mix.

This practice helps prevent large clumps from being an issue later. Before adding anything to the pre-mix ensure that it is mostly loose, and any chunks are broken down. Try to make the pre-mix as fine as possible before use.

4. Don’t Use Hot Wateruse cold water with fast-setting concrete pre-mix not hot water

When mixing fast-acting concrete with water, use cold water. Hot water will make the mix harden significantly more quickly.

When adding the water to the concrete pre-mix, take a tool and scoop out the middle creating a hole. Pour the water into the hole. This will help during the mixing process as some of the water is now closer to the pre-mix at the bottom of the bucket.

5. Start Slow and Add Water a Bit at a Time

To get the concrete mix to a good consistency, add the cold water a little at a time. Doing so prevents the pre-mix from getting too thin or “soupy”. Ultimately, this type of concrete should be a thicker sludge consistency (chunky and thick) when done properly.

Don’t panic if too much water is added during the mixing and it becomes too thin. Just add more concrete to the mix and keep mixing until there are no dry spots left inside the container. This is when a battery-drill and concrete mixing bit come in handy.

6. Make It More Wet If You Are Less Experienced

Fast-setting concrete sets very quickly, as the name suggest. If you are inexperienced with working with concrete, add a little extra water to the mix. This will increase the amount of time it takes the concrete to set. *Note: When adding extra water, you still do not want to compromise the sludge-like consistency. Just add a little bit more than normal.

7. If Mixing A Lot, Start Off With Too Much Water

If the project is going to require a large amount of concrete, add some of the pre-mix then add in too much water. This may sound contradictory, but it makes the mixing process easier than trying to get the water mixed down to the bottom of a 50 lb. bag of pre-mx. Imagine if it was with 10 bags. Mixing would be incredibly difficult.

8. If the Mix Begins to Set Throw It Out


Using fast-setting concrete requires the project to be fast from start to finish. If the mix begins to harden and set in the bucket before the job is complete, throw it out.

Even if only a very small amount is needed to complete the project, mix fresh concrete to finish the job. Unfortunately, adding more material this way will cause a cold joint (see tip 9 for more details).

9. Adding Wet Concrete Mix to Set Concrete Forms a Cold Joint

Due to the way concrete dries, when you add more concrete to the old set material, it will not properly connect to the old concrete. This can cause cracks prematurely in the material. The location where fresh mix is added to set concrete is referred to as a cold joint. If possible, avoid these and get the entire job done at once. This will significantly increase the lifespan of the concrete.

10. Bag Your Bag of Pre-Mix for Next Time

As we went over earlier, Concrete Pre-Mix is a very dry substance. If left in a humid environment, it will absorb the moisture out of the air and begin hardening. To prevent this, after you’ve opened a bag of concrete, roll up the bag as much as possible and tuck it into a plastic garbage bag.

Attempt to get as much of the air out of the garbage bag as possible before tightly tying it shut. This will greatly increase the shelf-life of the mix.

Extra Tips:

We know we said 10 tips, but we just couldn’t finish this post without mentioning the posts below.

Extra Tip 1: Wear A Mask, Long-Sleeves and Gloves

Concrete pre-mix is incredibly dry. When pouring it into the bucket you are going to use, the powder will fly all over the place coating whatever is nearby. To best protect yourself from the material, use a mask (rated for the material) to prevent breathing it in.

Also wear long sleeves and gloves while working with the material. Concrete has lime in it. If skin is exposed to the pre-mix, especially often, it will harm and damage the skin.

Cleaning Out the Bucket

Many people do not think about what happens to the concrete after you finish a project. It is common to find inexperienced users have washed it out in their sink or bathtub. DO NOT DO THIS. Washing out concrete into the plumbing of a house can cause expensive damages. Often the concrete will stick in the catch or to a pipe and begin accumulating other debris blocking up the pipes or septic system. The best solution is to wash out the bucket outside with a hose. It will leave a residue in the grass (or a chunk of concrete depending on how much you’ll be washing out. While that is not ideal it is better than damaging your house’s internal plumbing.

Now that you’ve learned all the tips and poured your concrete, you’re going to need fasteners to attach something to it. Check them out here: Masonry Anchors and Concrete Screws

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Types Of Masonry Anchors

Types Of Masonry Anchors

There are many types of masonry anchors available today. The problem for many is determining which of these anchors they need to perform the job. Listed below are some of the more common fasteners found in the masonry field.

Drop In AnchorsDrop In Anchors With Setting Tool

A Masonry Drop In Anchor is mostly used in poured concrete.  They are used in high strength applications by fastening a bolt into the internal threading of the anchor. They are also available in coil threading (a coarser thread for coil threaded rod). Some masonry anchors have a lip to prevent the anchor from dropping too far into the concrete.

To install the drop in anchor, drill a hole the same diameter as the anchor and only as deep as the anchor itself. Then drop the anchor into the hole and seat the setting tool inside of it. Then hit the setting tool with a hammer. The bottom portion of the anchor will deform resulting in a wedged anchor that cannot be removed.

Lag Shield AnchorsLag Shield Wedge Anchors

A Lag Shield Concrete Anchor is used in combination with a lag screw to create an anchor in concrete. Lag shields are made of two parts and when the lag screw is driven into the shield, it expands resulting in a tight wedge in the concrete.

Lag Shield Anchors are very similar to a drop in anchor but are designed specifically to take a lag screw. Lag screw anchors also do not require a setting tool to install.

Masonry Concrete Screws

Masonry Concrete Screws, sometimes referred to as Tapcons, are probably the Tapcon Masonry Concrete Screwsmost common concrete fastener used. Concrete screws are easy to identify based on their bright blue coating. They are used for fastening wood or metal to different masonry materials. They are available in both Phillips flat head (for flush finishes) and hex head (for ease of installation).

Installing a concrete screw is very simple. First, drill a hole through both materials and then simply drive the screw into the hole. Make sure you use a screw that is long enough to reach through both materials otherwise you will not have a firm hold.

Sammys Hanging AnchorsSammys Screws

Sammys Screws are a common anchor used for hanging applications. Most often installed vertically or horizontally, these anchors have a threaded opening used to receive threaded rod. Sammys are commonly used in HVAC applications for hanging duct. The term Sammys, much like Tapcon, is a brand name. There are many types of these hanging anchors available.

To install a Sammys screw, first drill a hole into the material and use a wrench or socket to drive the anchor into the material. Once installed to the silver head, remove the wrench and screw in a piece of threaded rod.

Hammer Driven Pin AnchorHammer Drive Pin Anchor

A Hammer Driven Pin Anchor is a small anchor which is mostly used to fasten plywood to concrete. These anchors are very simple to use. They have a lip over the head making it compatible with holes that may have accidentally been driven too far into the material.

To install one of these pin anchors, drill a hole through both materials and drop the anchor into the hole. Once the lip is seated against the top of the material, hit the exposed pin with a hammer. The pin is driven down through the middle of the fastener pushing both sides out in a wedge fashion holding the fastener in place.

Toggle Wing AnchorsToggle Wing Anchors

A Toggle Wing Anchor is used when a hollow wall is present. This is common when cinder blocks are used to create the walls of a building. They are also commonly used in drywall applications. It is not recommended to use heavy weight on these anchors especially in drywall as they will rip through the material.

To install one of these anchors, first a hole must be drilled big enough for the toggle portion of the anchor to push though. Once in the hollow part of the wall, the toggle wing will expand. Then using either a Phillips or Slotted head screwdriver, the bolt is driven into the toggle wing pulling it against the other side of the wall. This allows the bolt to tighten down on the material being hung.

Double Expansion Shield AnchorDouble Expansion Shield Anchor

Double Expansion Shield Anchors are used primarily used in brick and block. As a screw is driven into the anchor, it starts to pull down towards the middle resulting in an expanded anchor. These anchors only expand so much. The reason for this is to prevent brick from cracking.

To install a double expansion shield anchor, simply drill a hole large enough for the anchor to drop into and then install the screw into the anchor. As you fasten the screw it will pull the bottom towards the middle and force the top down to the middle as well. The result it a limited but effective amount of expansion on the anchor. The limit of expansion highly reduces the chance of cracking brick or block.

Sleeve AnchorsSleeve Anchors

Sleeve anchors are fairly simple to use and are primarily used in brick or block. They can be used in concrete but are not considered as strong as a wedge anchor. So, for light to medium holding applications, a sleeve anchor is a good choice. There are two common types of sleeve anchors. They are the Nut Drive which is commonly used for extra strength and Phillips/Slotted Combo Driven Flat Head which is used when a flush surface is required.

To install the nut driven style, drill a hole and place the sleeve anchor into the hole. Then place the washer and nut onto the exposed threading and begin fastening the nut. As the anchor is pulled up out of the concrete, the sleeve around it begins to expand wedging the anchor into place inside the hole. You can install the Combo Flat head style in much the same way except you are using a Phillips drive and the installation will leave the top flush with the surface of the installation material.

Wedge AnchorsWedge Anchors

Wedge Anchors are extremely popular and are one of the strongest anchors for hold strength. Wedge anchors look and function like a sleeve anchor but have a much smaller sleeve near the bottom of the anchor.

To install a wedge anchor simply drill a hole that is the same size diameter as the anchor and place it into the hole. After placing the material being held to the concrete on the exposed portion, place the washer and thread the fastener onto the anchor. As the nut is tightened against the washer, it will begin pulling the anchor up. This will result in the wedge skirt catching the concrete and expanding and digging into the concrete as the anchor is pulled.

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