Mixing Mortar by Hand

Small quantities of mortar will often be mixed by hand. The area selected for mixing must be flat, hard, and free from debris and dust. A concrete floor or patio area is ideal but the following must be considered:

• Mortar will inevitably stain the mixing surface, even if it is hosed down immediately afterwards, so an area should be chosen where this does not matter.

• There should be enough space to move around easily, use the mixing shovel and turn the materials. Preferably the selected area should be close to where mixing materials are stored and/or where the mixed mortar will be needed.

• All batches should be mixed for the same amount of time, ensuring that all the sand is coated with cement paste and the mortar is a uniform colour, with all materials thoroughly integrated.

It is possible to acquire a bespoke large plastic mixing tray with raised edges from a builders’ merchant, but it may be a problem to store later or an unnecessary expense if it is only to be used once or infrequently.

The following tools and equipment will be required for hand-mixing mortar:

• a wheelbarrow for transporting materials;

• a water butt, such as a plastic or metal drum or barrel, or alternatively access to an outside tap or hose;

• builders’ plastic buckets, preferably three: one for water, one for cement and one for sand, since the latter may contain some moisture. An alternative to a bucket is a gauge box;

• a builder’s shovel for mixing.

Measure out the correct proportions of materials and place the dry ingredients together on the mixing area. Using a shovel, turn the mix over into a single pile, ensuring good integration and uniform colour of the dry materials. Repeat the process by turning the mix back again. The main object of this is to distribute the cement evenly within the particles of sand. Repeat this process a third time, at which point the dry mix should be fully integrated.

Make a hole in the centre of the dry mix ready to receive the water from a bucket. It is vital to ensure that the water does not escape, taking cement with it and thus reducing the strength of the mix. The materials should be mixed with the water from the outside into the middle until all the water has gone. Then turn all the materials over on to the top of the heap and continue turning the whole mix over until it is fully mixed and workable. Use a shovel to place the mixed mortar into a barrow. Wet the inside of the barrow first to assist with tipping out the mix later.

Mixing Mortar by Hand

Fig. 23 Mixing mortar by hand.