Cement mixers are such a labor saving tool that it is difficult to imagine life before them. Even small building contractors have a cement mixer, and the recent downward trend in price means that many DIY enthusiasts own one, too. Choosing the best cement mixer for the job involves balancing budget, capacity and durability with portability.
Before the spread of this time and labor saving tool, all concrete had to be mixed by hand, a painstaking and tiring process, especially for large tasks. Hand mixing is arduous work and the cement will never be perfectly mixed, causing weaknesses and flaws. Whether you need to mix a batch of cement, for a DIY driveway or extension, or you work in the construction industry, choosing a good cement mixer is difficult, and you should strive to buy the best quality machine you can.
Electric Cement Mixers
Drum Cement Mixers
The traditional drum cement mixer is the most common variant found in the home or on construction sites. These mixers consist of a rotating drum mounted onto a motor driven spindle. This mixes the cement, quickly and efficiently, and the process is helped by integral blades, fixed to the inside of the drum. These are set at the optimum angle for homogenous mixing, and they aerate the mixture properly. Cement mixers come in a wide range of types and models, making it difficult to find the best machine for your needs.
Cement Mixer Capacity
Whether you want to buy or hire a concrete mixer, the most important factor is the mixing capacity. If you buy a cement mixer that is too small for the job, you will waste a lot of time waiting between mixes. With a small mixer, laying a driveway will be impossible, and the concrete will dry unevenly. If you buy a large mixer, it may be difficult to transport without the right vehicle of lots of helping hands.
When judging the capacity, remember that the drum will be used at an angle, and you will need to adjust the maximum working capacity provided by the manufacturer. As a rule of thumb, the realistic working capacity is two thirds of the stated volume.
- 2 – 4 Cubic Feet: Suitable for small jobs, bricklaying and pointing
- 4 – 6 Cubic Feet: Perfect for medium jobs, such as plastering and rendering, unless you are a professional contractor
- 6 Cubic Feet and Over: For larger jobs, such as laying concrete floors and driveways, depending upon the exact size of the job
This is a rough guide for occasional use, and contractors should look for the maximum practical size. Bigger is definitely better for the professionals, and 9 cubic feet should be a minimum for plasterers and concrete specialists. Obviously, large capacity mixers are much more expensive, but you can always hire one for a day or two, a very cost effective solution.
There are two major types of cement mixer, the portable cement mixer and the tow behind concrete mixer. Portable cement mixers are much cheaper to buy, and are easily transported in a station wagon, requiring a sturdy stand for tipping the mix into a wheelbarrow. Tow-behind concrete mixers have power and high capacity, but may be too large for use at home.
The other major consideration influencing any decision is the horsepower and the preferred power type., Electric, diesel and gas powered cement mixers all have their distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Electric Cement Mixers
- These mixers are available as both portable and tow models.
- Electric mixers are cheap to buy and easy to use.
- Electric cement mixers are available with a dual voltage option, perfect for switching voltages.
- They are the best option for light, general home use.
- Electric motors are often cheaper to run than diesel or petrol types, although this can vary from location to location.
- Electric cement mixers need a nearby mains power source or a generator.
- There is always a risk of electrocution in wet conditions, so they are not ideal for contractors who must work in all weathers.
- Electric motors are generally lower powered than the equivalents, so tend to have a much smaller capacity.
Towable Cement Mixers
Diesel Cement Mixers
- Diesel models are extremely robust and very reliable.
- These mixers are much more economical than gas powered mixers.
- Diesel mixers have a huge capacity, so are perfect for large jobs and frequent use.
- Diesel motors is powerful, and deliver a lot of torque, ensuring thorough mixing and aeration.
- Storing diesel is much safer than storing gasoline, and is much less likely to cause flash fires and explosions.
- Diesel mixers are extremely heavy and cumbersome to move. Generally, they are only available as tow-behind type models.
- Diesel mixers are dangerous if misused, so some safety training is advisable.
- The ‘side wheel’ used to tip the drum and empty the mixture requires physical strength to use.
- The fumes produced means that diesel mixers should never be used in unventilated areas.
- Diesel engines are notoriously poor starters in cold conditions, although some models incorporate an electric pre-warmer.
Gasoline Cement Mixers
- Gasoline cement mixers are much lighter than diesel mixers, yet have enough power for most tasks.
- Gasoline mixers are available as both portable and tow types.
- They are not as expensive as the diesel-powered mixers.
- Storing and filling the mixer with gasoline is extremely dangerous and users should be properly trained.
- Gasoline concrete mixers are the most high maintenance type and are prone to breakdowns and reliability issues.
- Gas mixers are usually the most expensive type to operate, which can be a big difference if the machine is used frequently.
- Gasoline motors produce dangerous carbon monoxide fumes, so these mixers must never be operated in enclosed areas.
Cement Mixers – Making the Right Choice
For normal home use, an electric portable mixer is perfect for most small jobs, although gas powered cement mixers are a great option if finding power points is difficult. For large jobs, or for commercial use, the tow behind is the best option. Diesel concrete mixers are the most expensive type, but combine reliability, capacity and power.
Polymer vs Steel Drum Cement Mixers
Traditionally, cement mixers have always used steel drums, providing great strength through sacrificing weight. Plastic polymer drums are another option, and they reduce the weight of the mixture and avoid any rusting problems. Both are good options, but polymer mixers are best saved for mixing mortar, as the aggregate used in concrete will scratch and damage them.
Buying a concrete mixer is a matter of deciding what tasks you need it for, your budget and whether you need to transport it. Once you are clear, you will be able to find the perfect model, one that will not let you down and give many years of uncomplaining service.
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Eugene Brennan from Ireland on May 10, 2012:
This is a great hub Sufidreamer. Plenty of pros and cons for selecting a mixer!
Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on August 23, 2011:
Thanks, Ern - always good to see an old friend. Sorry about the delay in replying but I inadvertently turned off some of my notifications.
Glad that your son is doing well - sounds like he is making a real go of bricklaying. 'Tis a noble profession :)
earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on August 11, 2011:
Thanks for this hub Sufi, I found it on a broad google search, so SEO is good!
My youngest boy rang me this morning looking for a small mixer to wheel onto his ute for bricklaying and pointing, and the info here will do the job. Thank you my friend, it did not occur to me to look in hubpages, but I found it anyway.
Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on September 13, 2010:
No worries, Teddletonmr - thanks for re-reading and leaving a great comment. I like the poly tubs, although they were rare when I worked as a labourer, many years ago :)
Mike Teddleton from Midwest USA on September 12, 2010:
Every time I read your hub, Drum Cement Mixers – A Comparison. I discover something I missed earlier. Cement Mixers made with the poly tubs are easier to clean, do not rust, and are lighter and a bit quieter. Cool hub, thanks again for all the helpful well writin information .
Sufidreamer (author) from Sparti, Greece on May 02, 2010:
Thanks for visiting, Teddletonmr - They certainly are a little easier and lighter, too - great when you are trying to wheel a mixer onto the back of a pick up!
Mike Teddleton from Midwest USA on May 01, 2010:
Thanks for all the information on concrete mixers. I guess the ones with the polly drums are easy to clean...