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HOW TO MIX MORTAR

Category: General
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With the correct tools, materials, safety equipment and a bit of elbow grease, you can make your own mortar mix – ready to use for your next job.

For most household jobs you can mix the mortar yourself. If you’re looking at a bigger area or a more complicated project, it might be worth getting a concrete mixer.

But if you’re up for some DIY, mixing mortar is easy and you can do it in a few quick steps:

  • Prepare equipment and materials
  • Combine sand, cement and water to make a mortar.
  • Mix thoroughly until it reaches the right consistency
  • Mix materials to make mortar or cement
  • Get cleaning to prevent hardening

 

What you’ll need

Before you get started, you need to purchase all the materials necessary to make your cement:

Don’t get mortar mix confused with a concrete mix, they don’t contain the aggregates necessary to get the correct thickness and strength of concrete.

Amounts of each material depend on the size of the job and how much mortar you want to mix. If you’re unsure of the ratios to use for your mixture, check the instructions which came with your different materials to see what the manufacturer recommends.

Once you’ve got the basic materials to hand, it’s time to get safety equipment and supplies.

Equipment for mixing the cement mortar

During the process of mixing the cement, dust and debris can be harmful, so prior to starting any mixing, make sure you protect yourself with the following safety equipment:

  • Mask or mouth protector
  • Safety goggles or eye protector
  • Thick safety gloves
  • Personal protective equipment in place, gather all your tools within easy reach of your project.


You’ll need:


Lay down your sheet of tarpaulin first, then place your mixing board or container on top – brush the board down with water to clear debris and remove any residue water.

Now your prep has been completed, let’s get going.

Mixing a cement mortar in 5 steps

Step 1: Start measuring your ingredients

Using the manufacturer’s recommendations, place the cement, sand, and water into separate plastic buckets. For a standard mortar mix this normally on a ratio basis (usually around 3 or 4 parts building sand to 1 part cement) recommendations vary – but you don’t want the mixture to be too wet or too dry.

Warning. This will kick-up dust when you pour the cement out, so ensure your protective mask or mouth protector is in place.


Step 2: Begin mixing

It’s time to start mixing. Using your shovel, mix your ingredients together, working the shovel around the pile of cement and sand.

There is no specific method here, simply turn the pile over around three to four times to evenly mix everything and get a consistent colour throughout your pile.

Bring your pile together again in a cone-like shape and create another crater in the middle. Size-wise, the crater should be around half the diameter of the mound itself.

To fill in this crater, you’re going to use your water. Again, there’s no precise amount to add, just pour in enough water to fill the crater slightly – enough to form a smooth paste once you start mixing it.

Move the sides of your crater into the mixture and turn it over to evenly distribute the water throughout your mixture.

As the water starts to absorb into your ingredients, you need to repeat this process, whether it’s on a wooden mixing board or in a container.

Keep on turning your mix until the mixture is wet. Don’t worry if it’s doesn’t seem perfect, you’ll be testing the consistency next.

 

Step 3: Check the mix and adjust

When the mix becomes wet enough, use the edges of the shovel to make imprints in the top of your mixture to test its consistency, creating ridges as you go.

A mixture that is just right should be smooth and consistent – not dry or crumbly.

If your mixture looks too runny and watery, or the ridges collapse very quickly, there’s too much water in there. Try adding more dry ingredients to solidify your mix.

Getting it right is all about trial and error, so don’t become too disheartened if you don’t get the perfect mix first time around.


Step 4: Get to work

Once you’re satisfied with your mixture and it has the right consistency and texture, it’s time to get it to work. Mortar is normally used for walling and laying paving flags so the mix is simply troweled or shoveled out of a container.


Step 5: Get cleaning

As soon as you’ve finished, get cleaning. This step should be done as quickly possible, as you want to ensure the mortar mix doesn’t dry on the tools you’ve been using and damage them.

Use a power washer or hosepipe to clean excess mortar or concrete mix off your mixing board and tools, scrubbing them with your stiff bristle brush.

Always take care to responsibly dispose of the run-off from your cleaning.

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