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Concrete Buying Guide
Concrete Elements

Contrary to what some might think, concrete and cement are not interchangeable terms. Concrete is actually a mixture of sand, gravel, water and cement. Gravel is sometimes referred to as crushed rock or aggregate. Mixing these ingredients in the right proportion is essential to producing durable, high-quality concrete. For your convenience, The Home Depot has a number of specialized premixed concretes readily available.

Choosing the Right Concrete Mix

While regular concrete is ideal for building driveways, sidewalks, and curbs, fast-setting cement may be the better option for setting fence posts and mailboxes. Concrete is an easy substance to work with, but larger jobs can prove to be very labour intensive. Knowing how to handle concrete and which type is right for the job at hand will help you achieve the best possible results.

Assortment and brands vary by region.

Quikrete Anchoring Concrete
  • Contains an epoxy cement for adhering to regular concrete
  • Two and a half times stronger than regular concrete
Sakrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix
  • Blend of fast-setting cement, sand and gravel
  • Becomes hard in 20-40 minutes
  • Ideal for setting fence posts as well as swing sets and mailboxes
Dap Quick Plug Hydraulic Cement
Hydraulic Water-Stop
  • Stops flowing water in 3-5 minutes
Quikrete Masonry Cement Type N
  • Use for setting brick, block, stone and more
  • Designed for commercial-grade performance and contractor use
Quikrete Mortar Mix
  • Ideal for laying brick, block and stone
  • Provides a long-lasting, strong bond
  • Use to repoint existing walls and for patching or filling
Quikrete Portland Cement
Portland Cement
  • Most common type of cement used for making concrete
  • Reinforced with limestone, shale clay and iron
Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement
Quick-Setting Cement
  • Sets in approximately 10 minutes
  • Ideal for repairs that require rapid setting
  • Use to repair concrete pavement, bridges, tunnels, culverts, curbs, floors, steps, retaining walls, swimming pools and more
Quikrete Ready-to-Use Concrete Mix
Regular Concrete
  • Ideal for general concrete work
  • Use for setting posts, building sidewalks, steps, patios, floors, downspout troughs and more
Quikrete Sand/Topping Mix
Sand Mix
  • Mixture of Portland cement with graded sand
  • Use in applications where less than 2" thickness is desired
  • Ideal for patching and topping chipped concrete surfaces
  • Use for laying flagstone, paving bricks and as a grout
Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Patcher
Vinyl Concrete
  • Also referred to as "patching mix"
  • Use for general repairs

Premixed Concrete

Premixed concrete is a simple, economical way to produce concrete. It comes in a variety of specialized mixtures, each of which contains the necessary sand, gravel and cement. All you have to do is add the right amount of water and you're all set to go. Premixed concrete is ideal for smaller jobs. Use the chart below to learn about the wide range of available mixes.

The following chart will help you gain an idea of how many bags of premixed concrete you'll need to purchase for laying 4" and 6" slabs. Other projects may require different calculations, but this is a good point of reference for determining the amount needed.

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Self-Mixing and Quantity

Mixing your own cement requires time and effort, but it can also save you some money. To make standard concrete, mix 1 part Portland cement, 2.5 parts sand and 2.5 parts gravel with .5 parts water. Use water that's clean and free from acid, alkaline, sulfate and oil. Test consistency by using the back of a shovel to create a smooth surface. Then, use the side of the shovel to create a groove. If the surface remains smooth and the sides of the groove hold their shape, your concrete is ready. If you cannot create a distinct groove, add more water. If the groove caves in, mix in more dry ingredients. Mixing concrete in a wheelbarrow provides an easy way to move it around the jobsite.

  • Add water a little at a time until you find the proper mixture
  • Use different amounts of water based on what you intend to use concrete for
  • The mixture should appear shiny and gray when concrete is ready to pour
  • For large jobs, consider ordering ready-mix concrete delivered right to your house


Take careful measurements of the area you're working on to ensure you have enough concrete to finish the job. A trowel and float can be used to provide a smooth finish, or you can swirl the tools around to create a pattern. A brush or broom can be dragged or worked in circles across the still-wet surface to create a textured pattern, which will make the surface less slippery when wet. Avoid creating a pattern that traps water easily, as standing water is a major contributor to concrete failure. Also avoid putting in concrete on extremely hot days, as it may dry too quickly. Clean equipment immediately after use to prevent concrete from drying on it. The strength of concrete is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch) and indicates the amount of weight it can bear.

  • Increase concrete's strength by adding more cement
  • Most jobs will require a form to support concrete as it hardens
  • Steel mesh can be used to reinforce concrete where necessary

Safety Suggestions

While concrete can be easy to work with, it also presents some safety hazards. Concrete is caustic, meaning the chemical elements it contains have corrosive properties that can irritate or burn your skin if you come in direct contact with it. Always make sure you completely cover and protect skin, eyes and lungs to avoid injury. Knee pads will help keep you comfortable over the course of long jobs.

  • Use a mask to filter out concrete dust and avoid working in poorly ventilated areas
  • Wear waterproof gloves and boots to protect hands and feet
  • Use your legs to lift heavy concrete to reduce strain on your back

Colours and Patterns

Cement can mimic the appearance of brick and stone and is available in a range of hues, providing added versatility.

Acid Stain

This colouring process can be used on both old and new concrete to provide a mottled, marble-like appearance and to add earthy colours.

Sinks and Countertops

Concrete used for sinks and countertops can provide the same performance as stone and solid-surface synthetics at comparable prices while offering a wider range of colours, thicknesses and patterns.

Tool Rental
  • The Home Depot has all the tools you need for either purchase or rental. If mixing concrete is a one-time project, consider renting an electric cement mixer; our tools are clean, well-maintained and job-ready. Our professional-grade electric cement mixer can be used as a wheelbarrow for easy pouring or used with the stand to allow barrow-height mixing and tipping. Click here to find The Tool Rental Centre nearest you.