FAQ’s about Concrete & Concrete Projects
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Are the terms “concrete” and “cement” interchangeable?
No. Although often used interchangeably – even by some construction professionals – cement is not concrete nor is concrete cement. This Old House’s general contractor, Tom Silva, knows better and drives us interchangeably crazy!
CEMENT is one of the basic ingredients used to make CONCRETE … just as FLOUR is one of the basic ingredients used to make CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. When cement is mixed with other basic ingredients — sand, gravel or crushed stone, and water– the cement and water react to form a paste that glues the remaining ingredients into a rock-like mass which is known as concrete.« Back to FAQs
What is slump and why is it important?
Slump is used as a measure of consistency of concrete, and is most often associated with the amount of water added to the concrete mix to increase ease of placement (the higher the slump, the wetter the mix).
The addition of water to increase slump beyond the design specification will result in reduced-strength potential for the concrete and possible surface deterioration. Quality Wisconsin contractors place concrete for exterior pavement applications at a moderate slump — not more than 4 to 5-inches — unless a water-reducing admixture is used.« Back to FAQs
What are low-chert aggregates and what benefits do they provide?
Chert, which is found to some degree in most aggregate deposits used to produce concrete in Southeastern Wisconsin, is porous aggregate (sand, gravel, or crushed stone) with low-resistance to weathering. Chert can cause surface defects, known as “popouts,” in exterior concrete flatwork applications.
Popouts are indentations in a concrete slab surface created when porous aggregate picks up moisture, freezes, expands, and fractures, taking a portion of the concrete slab surface mortar with it. Popouts can be minimized by using low-chert aggregates, which contains a specified maximum percentage limit of porous aggregates. To minimize the potential for popouts in exterior concrete flatwork applications, Schmitz Ready Mix recommends homeowners and builders specify low-chert aggregate concrete mixes.« Back to FAQs
What is fiber-reinforced concrete and what benefits does it provide?
When added to the concrete mix at the batch plant, fiber-reinforced concrete creates a uniform system of millions of polypropylene fibers, which are formulated to address early-age cracking problems caused by water loss and shrinkage.« Back to FAQs
What decorative finishes are available?
Advances in concrete mix design and in forming and finishing technologies permit concrete to take on almost any shape, pattern, color, or texture, in both exterior and interior applications, resulting in special finishes for concrete pavements and slabs limited only by your imagination and the skill of your concrete contractor.
Through the use of specialized concrete forms, stains, stamps, dyes, colored pigments, surface retarders, texture patterns, decorative aggregates, or epoxy overlays, experienced decorative concrete contractors command an artist’s pallet full of special finishes for providing durable decorative concrete options for Southeastern Wisconsin homeowners. Some of the special finishes available include: exposed aggregate finishes, colored concrete finishes, stamped concrete finishes, engraved concrete finishes, stained concrete surfaces, and sawed and pattern-grooved concrete finishes.
A spectacular showcase of the special finishes available using engineered systems for coloring and texturing concrete can be found at Decorative Concrete Products by Butterfield Color. See also the Residential Concrete Project Gallery section of this website, which showcases home concrete projects in Southeastern Wisconsin.« Back to FAQs
Do I need to remove topsoil before placing concrete?
Yes. Topsoil and any other organic matter must be removed before placing concrete. Organic materials are unstable and unable to provide uniform support for concrete slabs. A properly prepared subgrade contains no organic material and is crucial to constructing a quality concrete pavement or slab on grade.« Back to FAQs
How do I order concrete?
Ordering ready-mix concrete from SRM must be done by calling our Central Dispatch office, who will fill your order from the closest plant location. For a list of our locations and contact information, visit our Locations page. Before you call, measure your project and create a scale drawing, including the actual dimensions. Also, when filling out your project form, please indicate concrete by volume, expressed in cubic yards.
Be prepared to share the following information with our Central Dispatch:
- project address
- directions to project site
- county the project is located in
- job site phone number (land-line or cell)
- date and time concrete is required
- volume of concrete needed, in cubic yards
- concrete mix desired
- intended use (driveway, patio, basement floor, etc.)
- desired slump
- description of available truck access
- interval between loads (if more than nine yards of concrete are required)
- concrete placement method (chute, wheelbarrow, concrete pump, or the like)
- payment method.
How much concrete do I need?
Ready-mixed concrete is sold by the cubic yard. If you can determine the area of your concrete project (length x width for rectangular projects) and know the thickness of the slab, you can determine how much concrete you need by clicking here.« Back to FAQs
When can I get concrete?
Delivery hours are Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 7:00 a.m. to Noon.
Saturday hours are seasonal in nature and subject to the number of confirmed orders received. Please note that we also charge an additional “per yard” fee for Saturday deliveries.
Holidays hours are determined on a case-by-case basis. Know our employees work long, hard hours throughout the year and, like you, want and deserve time off to spend with family and friends.
Is advance notice needed?
Advance notice is strongly recommended to permit scheduling of vehicles needed to deliver the concrete to the job site and to allow for batching, loading, and mixing times prior to departure for the job site. A 48-hour window is a reasonable time frame during the construction season.« Back to FAQs
Is there a cancellation policy?
Orders may be cancelled, for weather related reasons only, a minimum of one hour prior to scheduled delivery time.« Back to FAQs
How much does concrete cost?
The base cost is dependent on the type of mix design used for the particular project application involved. Additional costs for minimum loads, waiting times, and sales tax will also be included in the total charge. The plant dispatcher will provide cost information, based on your specific project situation.« Back to FAQs
What is a minimum load charge?
For loads of less than six (6) yards, there are minimum load charges, which vary, depending on quantity of concrete ordered and the distance from the ready-mix plant to your project site. The plant dispatcher will provide minimum load charge cost information, based on your specific project situation.« Back to FAQs
What payment options are available?
Payment is due at the time of delivery (C.O.D), unless you have an account set up with Schmitz Ready Mix. C.O.D payment may be made by cash or credit card. Credit cards need to be verified by the dispatch office before Schmitz Ready Mix will ship your order.« Back to FAQs
Do I need a concrete contractor?
Placing and finishing ready-mixed concrete is not rocket science. It is also not child’s play. Placing and finishing concrete requires knowledge about concrete and the fundamentals of good concreting practices. It requires skill with both basic tools – including hammers, tape measures, chalk lines, saws, and a hose – and specialized concrete tools, including come-alongs, a straightedge, a concrete edger, a bullfloat, a hand float, and a groover (jointer), to name a few.
If organization, planning, and project management skills are not your strong suit, you would best be served by hiring a construction professional for your concrete project. Site excavation, subgrade preparation, and building and setting concrete forms are not easy tasks for most do-it-yourselfers.
Placing and finishing concrete is hard work. “The hardest work I have ever done,” said one South Milwaukee do-it-yourselfer, who spent twenty years in the Marine Corps. Though his backyard patio turned out well, he subsequently hired a concrete contractor to remove his existing asphalt pavement and install his new concrete driveway and adjacent off-street parking area.
Concrete is heavy – about 150 pounds per cubic foot – and difficult to place, consolidate, strike off, level, and finish. Timing of many finishing operations is crucial and best learned through experience. Mistakes in timing may prove critical. As the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s Finishing Concrete Flatwork publication points out, “Any finishing operations undertaken while the concrete slab is still “bleeding” will result in problems for the finished slab, such as scaling, cracking, delamination, dusting, or concrete blisters.” Bleeding characteristics for concrete can vary, based on mix design, subgrade preparation, and weather conditions, and can often challenge experienced contractors.
Yet for some do-it-yourselfers, the hard work and high-degree of skill, management, and adventure required to complete a successful concrete project provides a unique sense of satisfaction. If this describes you, and you can muster enough friends to safely and efficiently transfer concrete from the ready-mix truck into preset, well-braced forms, go for it.« Back to FAQs
Will Schmitz Ready Mix place the concrete for me?
No. Placing the concrete for your project is your (or your concrete contractor’s) responsibility. Schmitz Ready Mix’s role in successful concrete projects is to produce, deliver, and discharge the specified concrete mix for your project, in a safe and timely manner.
Schmitz Ready Mix drivers are licensed (CDL), skilled delivery professionals, and the company’s ongoing investments in driver training, coupled with a commitment to exclusively employ front discharge vehicles, do help homeowners (or their concrete contractors) save placement time.
Front discharge vehicles allow Schmitz Ready Mix drivers to control their concrete chutes from inside the truck cab and provide improved driver visibility of the job site, project forms, workers, and mix placement needs. This extra visibility and the placement expertise of our drivers eliminates the need for extra placement personnel to manage concrete chutes or to direct the ready-mix driver professional.« Back to FAQs
How can I find a reputable concrete contractor?
Schmitz Ready Mix works with reputable residential concrete contractors across Southeastern Wisconsin daily and can help you find contractor candidates for your concrete project. For assistance, email Jeff Madsen or call him at 414-831-2458.« Back to FAQs
Are do-it-yourself resources available?
Yes, there are many good resources out there for do-it-yourselfers. We highly recommend visiting the websites of the Wisconsin Ready Mixed Concrete Association (WRMA) and the Portland Cement Association (PCA). The PCA site in particular has a whole page devoted to cement and concrete basics.« Back to FAQs
Where can I rent or purchase concrete finishing tools?
Schmitz Construction Supply sells quality concrete placing and finishing tools. But for most homeowners, purchasing tools is not practical, unless you contemplate numerous concrete projects at your home or are planning on helping friends with their concrete projects. Many rental yards and do-it-yourself centers in Southeastern Wisconsin carry professional-grade placing and finishing tools and equipment. A good yard or center will know what tools your project will require. Homeowners may also need to rent tools and equipment for site excavation and subgrade preparation.« Back to FAQs
How big and how heavy is the ready-mix truck?
The empty weight of a Schmitz Ready Mix front-discharge concrete transit mixer with typical levels of fuel and water is around 36,000 pounds and will double in weight with a full 9-yard concrete load. The height of our vehicles can be up to 13.6 feet; the width of our vehicles is 8.6-feet, a mirror to a mirror. The consequences of moving equipment of this size onto your property to facilitate unloading times must be carefully considered.« Back to FAQs
Will the truck fit in my backyard?
Only if the driver determines the situation is safe, with the additional requirement of a signed waiver of release by the homeowner for all movement past the curb line.
Your Schmitz Ready Mix driver will take the following factors into consideration:
- can the slope leading to your project be safely navigated?
- can the ground to and surrounding the project support the weight of the loaded truck?
- can the truck maneuver safely under power lines, tree limbs, roof eaves, and other overhead obstructions
- can the truck maneuver safely through the opening available to reach the project?
How far do the concrete chutes reach?
The chute systems on Schmitz Ready Mix vehicles typically reach up to 18 feet.« Back to FAQs
Do I need a concrete pump or conveyor?
For most homeowner concrete projects, the truck chutes and/or use of a wheelbarrow or concrete buggy will be sufficient for unloading and placing the concrete. The need for a concrete conveyor or concrete pump will be dictated by your particular job site circumstances. There is a separate charge for these types of material placement services.
Schmitz Ready-Mix works with the best concrete pumping/conveyor service contractors in Southeastern Wisconsin and is happy to provide recommendations and contact information for you.« Back to FAQs
How much time do I have to unload the truck?
Concrete is a perishable product, and most specifications require it be discharged on the job site within 90 minutes or 300 revolutions of the truck barrel, after the addition of water to the concrete mix at the batch plant. Allowable unloading time at the job site is 10 minutes per yard. Thus, an 8-cubic yard load of concrete would be expected to be unloaded in 80 minutes or less. Charges in excess of allowable times are $90 per hour.« Back to FAQs
How long do I have to work with the concrete?
There is no typical or specific time frame for working with in-place concrete, due to the many variables involved, such as mix design, ambient temperature, wind velocity, and placement location (indoors/outside), to name a few.
For these, and reasons stated above, the use of a qualified concrete contractor is highly recommended, unless you and members of your placing and finishing team have prior experience in placing and finishing concrete.« Back to FAQs
What finish should be used for a sidewalk, patio, or driveway?
Brooming of the concrete surface provides a safe, attractive, non-slip surface for exterior concrete flatwork. Broom finishes are created by pulling a special dampened, stiff-bristle concrete texturing broom across freshly floated concrete, and can be applied in many ways, including straight, curved, and wavy lines.
Most broom finishes for concrete sidewalks and driveways are straight-line textures broomed at right angles to the anticipated traffic direction. Broom finishes are not incorporated into most decorative concrete finishes.« Back to FAQs
What is proper curing and why is it important for quality concrete?
Curing is the procedure for maintaining an acceptable moisture content and temperature profile in the concrete to ensure desired properties of the concrete are achieved. Testing demonstrates improper or lack of curing can cut the strength of a proper concrete mix by as much as 50%. The potential for concrete shrinkage, cracking and dusting increases significantly when concrete is not cured correctly.« Back to FAQs
How long must my concrete driveway cure before I can drive on it?
For Southeastern Wisconsin, the American Concrete Institute and the American Concrete Pavement Association recommend a minimum of seven days following concrete placement before using a concrete driveway. Other concrete industry educational and technical societies recommend anywhere from three-to-seven days after placement, depending on anticipated driveway loading factors and the concrete mix design used.
Consult with your concrete contractor regarding when you can place your new driveway in service.« Back to FAQs
What is concrete sealer and how often must it be applied?
While a curing compound acts to prevent moisture from leaving the concrete during initial stages of strength development, a concrete sealer is designed to prevent moisture from entering the concrete matrix, to assist in limiting surface deterioration due to cycles of freezing and thawing. New concrete should air dry for 30 days prior to the application of a concrete sealer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for application rates and intervals.Many sealer applications are effective for a two-year period.« Back to FAQs
Can I use deicer chemicals on my concrete?
The use of deicing chemicals during the first year of service is not recommended, especially if concrete is installed late in the year. Sand is an acceptable alternative anytime. Deicing chemicals used for snow and ice removal can cause and aggravate surface scaling. Therefore, judicious use of these products with regard to amount and frequency of application is strongly advised.
Remember deicers can also reach concrete surfaces other than by direct application — for example, drippings from the undercarriage of vehicles. During and after the concrete’s second winter, deicing chemicals containing sodium chloride (common salt) or calcium chloride may be used judiciously.
NEVER use deicers containing ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate, as they will chemically attack and rapidly disintegrate concrete.
ALSO NOTE: common garden fertilizers often contain ammonium sulfate and/or ammonium nitrate, and can cause disintegration of your concrete. Avoid loading or cleaning your fertilizer spreader on your concrete slab and follow best-spreading practices by applying fertilizer around the periphery of your lawn first, without crossing pavement, then run the spreader back and forth within the area bounded by your perimeter fertilizer run. This practice both ensures consistent fertilizer application around the edge of your lawn and, because the spreader never crosses pavement, minimizes the potential for fertilizer damage to your concrete.« Back to FAQs
How can I protect and maintain my concrete?
Frequent cleaning keeps your new concrete looking good and does wonders to improve the curb appeal of your home. By keeping your concrete clean by frequent sweeping and occasional hosing, you can also significantly reduce fall risks to family and guests. Wet leaves left on a driveway will have a tendency to stain, so be prepared to clean your driveway often in fall. Leaf stains can be cleaned away with a pressure washer (light pressure) or with hot water mixed with tri-sodium phosphate (one pound per gallon is recommended).« Back to FAQs
Is financing available for concrete projects?
Area banks, savings and loans, and credit unions have many financing options for home improvements. Their loan officers will be happy to help you compare interest rates, payment options, and tax advantages and will work with you to figure out the best option for your financial situation. The most likely financing options will include cash-out refinancing, home equity credit lines, second mortgages, and home improvement loans.« Back to FAQs
What is a mechanic’s lien? (What you don’t know could cost you thousands!)
Mechanic’s liens exist to provide collection rights to contractors and material suppliers who supply construction services or materials for improvements to real property. Waiver-of-lien forms provide protection for homeowners who pay their home improvement bills. With a mechanic’s lien, the concrete supplier or concrete contractor has the right to serve the homeowner with notice of lien and to record it as part of the county land-title records, should payment not be made for materials or services provided. A lien is a claim of partial ownership of your home.
If the mechanic’s lien is not paid, the material supplier or contractor can commence court proceedings to foreclose the lien and sell the property in payment of the obligation. A waiver-of-lien form provides a homeowner proof that subcontractors and material suppliers have been paid and relinquish their right to serve the homeowner with a notice to place a lien the home.
The case history that follows, taken from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection website, explains why lien waivers are important to homeowners: Mr. Jones signed a contract with ABC Contractors for the construction of an addition to his home. When the work was done, Jones paid the contracted price and started enjoying his new addition. A month later, he received a “Notice of Intent to File Claim for Lien” in the mail from the lumberyard where ABC Contractors obtained building materials.
Although Jones had paid his bill, ABC Contractors did not pay the lumberyard. The law allows a subcontractor or supplier of materials to place a lien on the property where the work was done if the contractor doesn’t pay his bills. This can happen even if the homeowner has paid the contract in full. To protect against similar circumstances, contact Mary Lampone at our Main Office, Ph; 414.831.2400.« Back to FAQs
What insurance issues need to be addressed for my project?
You are best served by hiring a concrete contractor who has proper insurance coverage, including liability insurance covering property damage and worker and public injuries, vehicle insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance.
Consumers’ Report cautions homeowners to get written proof of these policies.
Once you start thinking in earnest about your concrete project, contact your insurance agent regarding necessary safeguards.
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Does my concrete come with a warranty?
Schmitz Ready Mix stands behind its quality products and warrants its concrete shall be free from manufacturing defect at the time of delivery.
As a proud and active member of the Wisconsin Ready Mixed Concrete Association (WRMCA), Schmitz Ready Mix understands and exercises its functions and responsibilities in the production and delivery phase of concrete construction, as detailed in the WRMCA Statement of Responsibility, approved by the WRMCA Board of Directors on July 9, 1992.
For every project it supplies, Schmitz Ready Mix shall secure satisfactory materials, combine them in proper proportions, mix them into a homogeneous product, and deliver the mixture to the job site in a safe and timely manner. Materials will meet the requirements of their respective specifications. In the absence of a project specification, ASTM C-94, Standard Specification for Ready-Mixed Concrete, will prevail.
Schmitz Ready Mix is not responsible for site work and subgrade preparation, movement of the concrete into the forms, placement and consolidation, finishing operations, and adequate protection and curing to assure that the newly-placed concrete achieves its quality potential. Nor is Schmitz Ready Mix responsible for ordering the proper concrete mix, though our plant managers and technical personnel welcome the opportunity to work with customers and provide proven performance-mix options, based on the specific project application.« Back to FAQs
Is concrete environmentally friendly?
Yes. Click here to learn more. Have a question about concrete or concrete projects? Click here for contact options. If your question has universal application, we will include it in the next site update.