Pouring Concrete In Hard-to-Reach Places
Updated: Jul 21
Being a concrete contractor is tough.
Concrete contractors face challenges such as narrow driveways, muddy site conditions, and crowded job sites.
Gra-rock ready-mix suppliers put together this article to tell you how these challenges can be overcome using different methods. First, we will look at the different techniques for pouring concrete, and then we’ll discuss which method to use in specific situations.
Ready to learn how to get concrete to those hard-to-reach spots?
Let’s get started!
5 Methods Of Pouring Concrete
First, let’s look at some of the different methods you can use to get concrete where it needs to go. We will cover everything from the old-fashioned wheelbarrow method to sophisticated boom pumps.
Here are five ways to move concrete:
If you are lucky, you can pour the concrete straight from the concrete mixer truck. Mixer trucks have small chutes you can use to direct concrete over short distances. This method is called tailgating.
The upside of tailgating is that it’s fast, easy, and free. However, it only works for relatively small pours where you have lots of access to the site. It won’t work if you can’t get the mixer truck right up to the pour, and often there are obstacles or soft ground between the pour site and the truck.
If you can’t pour your entire area by tailgating but don’t want to hire more expensive equipment, you can use a good old-fashioned wheelbarrow to cart your concrete over short distances.
Wheelbarrows work great for small pours where you only need to move small amounts of concrete short distances and don’t need to move it over vertical obstacles. But regardless, using a wheelbarrow is backbreaking work!
3. Concrete Buggies
A concrete buggy is a motorized wheelbarrow used to cart concrete around without wearing yourself out as quickly. Buggies work wonderfully anywhere you could use a wheelbarrow. However, they can only move concrete horizontally, not vertically.
Concrete pumping can make large or tricky jobs much easier.
Pump trucks use hoses to pump concrete over or around obstacles and into all the corners and crannies you can’t reach via tailgating, wheelbarrows, or buggies. Pumping is also much easier on your body than some other methods!
There are two main types of pump trucks:
Boom pumps have a remote-controlled robotic arm with a hose attached. The operator can move the arm wherever it needs to go and dispense large volumes of concrete quickly and accurately. Boom pumps are wonderful for moving large amounts of concrete vertically.
Another perk of a boom pump is that the truck stays stationary during the entire pour, making for smooth traffic flow on busy job sites.
Line pumps are similar to boom pumps, only without the robotic arm. They have long hoses you can run from the truck to any part of the job site and dispense concrete where you need it. You can use the hose to go down in basements, over walls, through crowded job sites, or over muddy areas that wouldn’t work well with a wheelbarrow.
Line pumps tend to be cheaper to hire than boom pumps. For both types, you normally rent by the hour, and most companies have a minimum rental time of 3-4 hours.
5. Conveyor Trucks
A conveyor truck is similar to a pump truck, except it moves concrete with a conveyor belt instead of a hose. Conveyor trucks are less expensive than pump trucks, but they are only efficient at moving concrete horizontally.
The upside of conveyor trucks is that you can use them for more than just concrete. You can also use them to move dirt, gravel, stone, and other materials.
How To Overcome Four Common Obstacles During A Concrete Pour
Now we know about five methods for moving concrete to the places it needs to be.
But that is only step one. Next, we’ll talk about applying this knowledge to real situations and find out how you could overcome four common obstacles.
In the end, we’ll learn how to pour concrete in two unlikely places.
1. Getting Concrete in High Places
You will need a boom pump to pour large amounts of concrete in very high places, as you might need to during high-rise construction.
A boom pump is the most effective solution for moving large amounts of concrete.
A line pump may work for smaller projects or for getting over smaller vertical obstacles such as a garden wall. Some larger line pumps may even be used for high-rise construction, but a boom pump is almost always more effective.
2. Pouring Concrete in Muddy Places
Mud can be a real pain in the neck on any construction site–it’s slippery and treacherous and sometimes makes for downright unsafe working conditions. Working in mud isn’t fun.
Muddy job sites are especially inconvenient for mixer trucks because concrete is heavy, and a loaded mixer truck weighs a lot! Concrete trucks easily get stuck in soft ground.
In a perfect world, nobody would ever work on muddy job sites but wait for the mud to dry up before starting work. However, life doesn’t work perfectly, and sometimes there are deadlines to meet, and a job can’t wait.
If you have access to a pump truck, you could park the truck at a remote dry spot and pump the concrete from there, avoiding the mess of trying to cart the concrete through the treacherous mud.
If you don’t have a pump truck and absolutely must use buggies or wheelbarrows, here is a method you could try:
Spread a layer of straw over the mud
Lay down pallets over the straw to create walkways
Lay plywood over the pallets to make a smooth surface
If the mud isn’t too deep, you could also try applying sand or gravel over the mud for a quick fix.
3. Covering Large Areas
Concrete pumping is your best bet for covering large areas quickly and efficiently. Buggies or wheelbarrows would take too long, and tailgating normally isn’t the best option either, as it doesn't reach very far.
If you are involved in a really large project, such as a high-rise building, a boom pump is the best option for you, as boom pumps can move large amounts of concrete accurately and efficiently.
4. Crowded Job Sites
Crowded job sites can be frustrating. There are several ways you can cut down the frustration and navigate the site better:
You can use a line pump to snake your way around equipment and other obstacles and deliver it where you need it.
You can use a boom pump to lift the concrete over the crowded areas.
If you don’t have access to a pump truck, you will simply be stuck creating little “roads” through the clutter to cart your concrete to the pour site.
Bonus: Pouring Concrete In Two Unlikely Places
Have you ever wondered how they pour concrete for underwater bridge piles? Or on very steep slopes?
As a bonus, we'll answer those two questions!
5. Pouring Concrete Underwater
Pouring concrete underwater seems counterintuitive. How does concrete harden underwater? And why doesn’t it all wash away?
In reality, concrete can harden underwater just as well as in the air.
This works because concrete doesn't actually "dry." The cement in the concrete reacts with water molecules to cure. As the cement chemically reacts with water, the concrete hardens. When you pour concrete underwater, the outer layer reacts with the water quickly, forming a hard outer shell. The rest of the concrete hardens more slowly.
There are many methods for pouring concrete underwater, but the Tremie method is the most common. A Tremie is a long metal pipe with a hopper on top. The hopper is filled with concrete, and the concrete is pumped down through the metal pipe.
When the concrete reaches the bottom, it flows out and mounds up around the end of the pipe, blocking the water from touching it. The rest of the concrete flows into the center of the mound and never makes contact with the water. That way, it doesn’t dilute or wash out.
6. Steep Slopes
Pouring concrete on sloped surfaces, such as the sides of a canal or a sloping driveway, takes a lot of experience and precision.
If the slope isn’t too steep, you can simply use concrete with less “slump,” in other words, thicker concrete that won’t run as much. Thicker concrete holds its shape better, but it makes the work much harder.
Another option that works well on very steep slopes is shotcrete. Shotcrete is a concrete mix you can apply with a sprayer, which means you can easily apply it to irregular shapes such as slopes, tunnels, or complex swimming pools.
Being a concrete contractor is tough–but there are tools to help get the job done!
If you want to find concrete pumping services for your concrete business, contact us here at Gra-Rock! We offer ready-mix concrete delivery and concrete pumping services to contractors in Indiana. We also provide concrete tools to help you complete the job.
Give us a call today to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!