Concrete Mix Design And Concrete Mix Ratio: The Basics Of The Balancing Act

Concrete Mix Ratio

The Art of the Concrete Mix Design: What’s in a concrete mix and why it can be important

A concrete mix is a mixture of cement, sand, and gravel that becomes hard after it dries. That’s the easy simple part. But it turns out that it is all a bit more complicated than that.

Cement is used to construct many things in the world today. Concrete mixes are created with different ratios for different purposes. Some mixes may be stronger than others depending on what you need them for, but they all have some common ingredients. In this post, we will discuss how do concrete mixing ratios work and what are the main ingredients to a concrete mix?

Concrete is one of the most versatile building materials used today. It can be used for everything from sidewalks to skyscrapers, and it’s also a great material for home improvement projects around your house. All these purposes require many different variations of concrete mixes with different ingredients and ratios.

It is important to be aware of the importance of an optimal concrete mix ratio for the purpose you need it for in order for it to have a long-term functional use; otherwise, they could end up with a very expensive puddle that will not last more than six months.

All concrete mixtures have four main criteria to aim for:

  • Workability: Needs to fit the context – such as being pumpable. Issues like viscosity are key to workabiltiy of concrete.
  • Strength: Need enough but not too much as it doesn’t help and may detract from other needed qualities. Controlled by the water to cement ratio, aggregate choice, and bond effectivness between paste and aggregate.
  • Durability: Is it going to preform over the service life of the concrete?
  • Economy: Is it cost effective? Most expensive element is the Portland cement. Reducing cement, reduces cost.

The art of concrete mix design and concrete mix ratios is to create the right collection of these properties for a given concreting job. For example, if the concrete needs to be pumped on top of a building, is for making a slab or a bridge, each scenario will require a different way to design the concrete mix.

Concrete mix design is a balancing act: If you push any one of the four criteria too much in one direction, it will cause a problem in another one of the criteria.

Workability Of A Concrete Mix

Data Source:
Check out Tyler Ley’s video if you want to dive deep into everything cement.

The Concept Of Modulus

The term “modulus” refers to the rigidity (resistance to deformation, or stiffness) of a material.

In concrete mixture design, the modulus is usually an engineering-oriented factor that is assigned in order to express the durability of a concrete mix. When higher values for steel fibers are used in a given composition, it becomes necessary to have higher values for the modulus as well. In general, high compressive strength mixes tend to have higher moduli – which typically means that they will also be more brittle and susceptible to cracking than lower compressive strength mixes. Mixes with lower values of shear and flexural strengths need not be highly rigid because they are more likely to fail from deformations rather than

Paste And Aggregate Make Cement

With all the possible variations, figuring out what type of mix you need can be confusing at first glance.

It comes down to two basic things: A paste and aggregate. These are combined to form cement. Typically, the cement paste is made from cement powder, and water, when added together, becomes a paste. Aggregate can be fine or coarse, or a mixture of both, and is added to the paste in quantities designed to give it the material qualities of strength and durability needed once it is fully hardened.

Two Stages Until The Final Product

Concrete has two stages. Fresh wet concrete must be workable so that it can be laid properly, and hardened concrete is the form it takes once it has been left to cure and harden over a period of time.

Characteristics Of Hardened Concrete Determined By Design

Concrete’s final characteristics are determined by the proportion of cement, water, and aggregate in the mix. A common form of concrete is generally made up of 10 to 15 percent cement, 15 to 20 percent water, and 60 to 75 percent aggregate. Precise mixture design is crucial for achieving an end result that is fit for purpose.

Getting The Concrete Mix Ratio Right: Mixture Design

In order to make a mixture that is strong and durable, there must be the right proportion of water, cement, gravel, and sand. A small amount of air is also important for the correct outcome. The ingredients should also be proportioned correctly and mixed well.

Mixture design is crucial for achieving an end result. For example, concrete which contains more than 20% cement will be hard and brittle, while a mix with less than 15% water would not cure properly, becoming poor quality concrete.

Ingredients Of Concrete


Concrete is usually made with Portland type A cement – commonly called ordinary Portland Cement, abbreviated to OPC. Cement with this color has a light grey hue and can be used to make most types of concrete. There is a limited storage life for this item, and it comes packaged in bags of 40 kilograms or more. You should only buy some when you intend to use them. After sitting for a long time, it becomes lumpy and practically unusable.

Cement is the most important ingredient in a concrete mix. It’s also called cementitious substances, which are mixtures of various minerals with clay and water. In general, there are three types: Portland type A cement (the best), ordinary Portland Cement, and slag cement (not great).

Ordinary Portland Cement has a lifespan of about two years. Slag cement will last up to four years and Portland type A lasts for a lifetime, which is why it’s the most expensive kind.

A concrete mix also requires water, sand, or gravel (to provide some much-needed strength) and other ingredients like steel fibers, agates, fly ash, etc., depending on the kind of concrete you’re making.

The ingredients in a concrete mix are what give it its strength and durability, so make sure to use high-quality materials when possible!

Every type of building material has specs that will dictate how much sand or gravel is needed for your project – these specifications should be reviewed by an engineer before buying materials.


The process of mixing in the aggregate to the cement paste is called “aggregate placement” or sometimes just “placement” depending on context.

There are many different types of aggregates, and some could be used for either coarse or fine aggregate. The three main types are:

  • sand
  • natural aggregates (rock)
  • manmade aggregates (pigments)
  • recycled materials (concrete).

Aggregates are graded according to size in the order of increasing fineness from sand at the top to silt on the bottom as follows: gravels, sands, silts. Different grades can be combined together for a variety of purposes such as creating a base layer that is stable enough and provides an even surface that will support heavy loads while still being easy on joints when walking over it because there’s no impact shock transmitted through feet when passing by plus making sure they don’t break down too quickly from the sun and rain.


Sand makes up between one-third and two-thirds of the aggregate in this kind of concrete while gravel comprises about half. This mixture leads to a lightweight material with medium strength that can withstand exposure from all sides without crumbling away quickly like normal pebbles or crushed glass would over time. Sand mixes often don’t contain any gravel at all since it’s not very visually appealing so if you’re looking for something more eye-catching then adding some stone chips might work nicely as well!

Clay, salts, or any other organic matter should not be present in the sand used in the concrete mix. It will produce concrete of low quality if the sand is not free of these contaminants.

The sand should be clean and coarse-textured, with a particle size distribution between 0.25mm and 0.0764mm in diameter:

• The largest particles (from the top) will form the concrete surface;

• The smaller particles (near the bottom) will help to compact it so that it’s dense enough for reinforcement such as steel mesh or rebars to hold together well without leaking water from capillaries created during construction.

Sand has various purposes in different types of concrete mixes because its properties vary depending on what type is being made – which requires extensive knowledge about all sorts of materials, their specifics, effects, etc., which can’t be covered here! Let’s just say it is a complex engineering area with lots of rabbit holes to dive down.

Larger Aggregates

For a lightweight concrete mix that will remain strong, but doesn’t need to be too durable or attractive when finished, sand and gravels are the most common aggregate choices.

The aggregate used can have a significant impact on its strength, durability, or even appearance when finished.

Examples are crushed natural stone (stronger) or gravel (medium strength).

For aesthetic purposes, other materials may be mixed into aggregates including pebbles, crushed glass, or even plastic.

Typically, crushed stone, blue metal, and river gravel are used for coarse aggregate in concrete mixes (which is different from exposed aggregate). As a result, concrete made from these options will be much stronger than common gravel, which is used for decorative purposes.


Last but not least is water. It is generally considered a rule of thumb that drinking quality water should be used as it is clean, fresh, and free from contamination. The concrete mix will be of lower quality if the water contains minerals.

How do I calculate the water needed? -You need to add enough water until you have a workable, but not wet or soupy consistency for either concrete or mortar.

Managing Permeability

Aggregates should also have the right size to achieve adequate workability of the material during mixing but without increasing the permeability too much so as not to allow precipitation through it in large quantities. This can lead to moisture problems down the line which then leads to cracks and structural damage from freeze-thaw cycles and other weather events.

Identifying Correctly Mixed Concrete

The best way to know if your concrete is going to work well while it is still in the wet stage is by looking at whether you’ve included enough water and added the right type of aggregates into it before mixing them all together so that they don’t clump on contact when agitated by the mixer blades.

A good rule of thumb for a general-purpose, rapid hardening cement such as Portland Cement Type I (ASTM Standard C150) is to mix between two and four parts of sand by weight per part cement.

What Is The Classic Concrete Ratio Formulas?

Concrete mix can be composed of many types of aggregates, water, and cement. Aggregates are the materials that make up a majority of a concrete mixture. The other materials in the concrete consist mainly of portland cement, which is a fine powder made by grinding together lime and clay to create calcium silicate hydrate (C-S-H).

The ratio for these ingredients depends on what kind of project you’re working on.

123 Concrete Mix Ratio

Concrete mix according to the 1-2-3 ratio is called a classic mix. Therefore, the ratio should consist of one part cement powder, two parts sand, and three parts washed aggregate. Water is also added to get the desired consistency.

Concrete Mix 1 2 4

What Is Cement Used For?

Of course, we all know about the classic use of concrete, but there are some other less know uses for it. A variety of other residential applications are possible, including adhesives for tiles, concrete driveways, pool decking, and staircases.

Should you mix concrete yourself or leave it to a professional

Ideally, the concrete mix preparation should be left in the hands of professionals instead of being done by the homeowner. There are certain things to consider when preparing concrete mix ratios, depending on their purpose, and it is very important this is done right.

As an example, concrete professionals know that the amount of water and cement in concrete directly impacts its strength. It is possible to increase the strength of concrete by lowering this ratio.

In addition, there are differences between the various types of mortar that should be considered. Also, the mix ratio of mortars varies based on where they are used.

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