Top 5 Questions About Concrete

Concrete mix scooped out of a plastic bucket with a trowel and appearing like pancake batter
For general concrete work, if your mix looks like cookie dough, it’s ready for application.

4. How do you get the right consistency?

There’s a good chance that your concrete mix will shrink and crack if it contains too much water, and not be as strong. Then again, concrete mix that’s too dry is much harder to pour and vibrate. This is why obtaining the right concrete mix-to-water ratio couldn’t be more important.

If you find you have added too much water, simply add a little more dry mix until you achieve the right consistency. If you need to add more water, add it sparingly.

For general concrete work, mixed concrete should resemble cookie dough or thick oatmeal and should hold its shape when squeezed in a gloved hand.

Applying Quikrete Re-Cap Concrete Resurfacer to a driveway
Quikrete Re-Cap Concrete Resurfacer goes on thin, compared to general concrete mix.

Concrete resurfacer, on the other hand, goes on thin, similar to pancake batter, and should be easy to apply with a trowel. If you pour the mix into a 9-ounce drinking cup and pour it on a slab, it should spread about 9 inches.

If you’re still not sure whether you have the right consistency, try the concrete slump test.

Spray the inside of a metal cone with cooking spray and pour the mix into the cone one-third of the way and tamp it down with a rod. Then fill the cone two-thirds to capacity and tamp it down and then fill the cone all the way and tamp it down.

Next, lift the cone off the concrete mix and set it beside the concrete. Then measure the distance from the top of the metal cone to the top of the concrete. A 4-inch slump indicates the concrete isn’t too wet and isn’t too dry for general use.  

Chelsea Lipford Wolf sands concrete with sandpaper
Sanding your concrete creation always makes a big difference.

5. What are some pro tips for working with concrete?

It’s easy to create attractive concrete projects that enhance your home’s exterior or interior — if you know these tricks of the trade:

Tap It: Air ‘bubbles,’ or voids, in dried concrete are the mark of an amateur’s work. Air naturally gets trapped between the form and concrete, and you need to get it out. After pouring concrete mix into the form, tap all around the form with a rubber mallet. Then let the project dry. This prevents those unsightly air bubbles.

Sand It: It doesn’t matter how much you’ve worked with concrete — rough edges are a fact of life, whether you’re a practiced concrete artisan or a novice do-it-yourselfer. After your project dries, always sand it down. Applying 60-grit sandpaper should handle most DIY projects.

Painting a concrete stool white
Painting or staining concrete enhances its appearance, but remember to seal the project after it dries. That way, the attractive exterior will last for years to come.

Style It: Concrete’s traditional gray color is beautiful and timeless, but you also can add a pop of color. Mask the project with painter’s tape and apply a favorite design with masonry paint. Or stain your creation — a 75% water, 25% paint mixture will soak into the concrete. You also can add glass or colored stone to the concrete mix before pouring it into the forms. Or use tint base and add Quikrete Liquid Cement Color to the mixing water. The options are endless!

Seal It: Concrete is built to last, but its appearance is another story. If you want to protect your project from acid, grease, oil and food stains (among others), you need to seal it. Apply Quikrete Concrete and Masonry Waterproofing Sealer for a natural look. Or get fancy and apply Quikrete Acrylic Concrete Cure & Seal for a satin — semi-gloss — finish or Quikrete Concrete & Masonry Gloss Sealer for a high-gloss, acrylic finish.

Now that you have a better understanding of concrete mix, along with some pro tips, I hope you’ll feel comfortable working with it.

Share the projects you’re working on in the comments below!


  1. I live in an older home. One of the 4 cement steps leading to the back porch has developed a hole. I can see wire netting above the bare ground. Can it be repaired or should I just replace it with wood steps?

    • Hi, Gloria,
      The situation doesn’t sound too good, but more information is needed.
      You can connect one-on-one with a home improvement pro immediately through JustAnswer, a Today’s Homeowner partner:
      Share more details with them and get real-time answers about your unique situation.
      Good luck with your porch stairs! 🙂


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