Cold Weather Concrete Pumping

I spent a lot of time pumping up north in Canada, the worst, coldest day for me so far was just under 200 meters of mud, 320 yards; pumped in -43 degrees Celsius -45 degrees f. the boom jib was in the building; massive line job I was outside on the back of the pump for about 12 hours;

First you need careful planning on how you plan to stay warm for an extended period. This is somewhat critical. You should be able to basically stand still for 10 plus hours without sweating under your layers of clothes and without getting cold. I recommend back up clothes for everything. Two sets of boots one warming in the truck at all times four sets of gloves rated for the temperature and water proof; layers of clothing able to protect you from not only the cold but also the frozen mist that will cover your whole body and the pump from the mixer drivers washing out and unloading. You should look like a ninja covered everywhere except your eyes. The batch plant and the site supervisor all need to be on the ball, tell the batch plant manger to only send out the Aces, no idiots, no greenhorns, this will be a job for only the professionals, and none of them will want to work. Never get rid of a load until a second arrives. If you need to stop you need to be counting the time you’re not pushing mud through the boom in seconds. Any more that a couple of minuets without mud and you could be toast: you wash out the boom and startup again when the next load shows up no exceptions, everyone can wait if they drop the ball on the supply. While changing mixers if the access is only one truck you always suck back the boom, but never fully. You always want a few shots left in the hopper to push through to the end, but remember this is a 2-3 minute deal not much more unless you pump in the cold every day and really know your machine, and the mud. You can never sit flat, and full. Always if you have to wait, if you have a breakdown, anything a delay, a placing delay you always drain the end stages, and suck back the mud. Keeping the pump safe at 40 below is a challenge. By the end of the day the entire area will be covered with a sheet of ice. The mist in the air will freeze everything. Always check the pipes by feeling them for the heat level of the water in the mud you will get an idea of the time you have or don’t have, try not to freezes your fingers as I did one time. Hopefully you start off with your machine in doors overnight before the pour so the machine is not frozen solid at the beginning. If the machine is outside a whole other set of problems come up before you start, but tarping the area over the machine; and setting heat under the unit; a large heater a couple tiger torches through a piece of 10 foot pipe on the ground with the torch away from the pump so you don’t end up on fire, and a neat picture in a magazine later, is probably smart. Never put any water into the hopper or the water box till you are ready to start pumping. Make sure water is draining out of the bottom of the hopper while you drive to the pour. Watch out for the hot mixer water on the cold steel of the pumps water box, and area as it could damage things as the metal will be much colder with the wind chill of the drive maybe in the -60’s and this would cause a problem. If you do not know exactly what your doing and how to either keep your water pump going, or fully drained until the last few loads then you mite as well order a new water pump when you leave the shop because if your not on the ball it will be toast. Your wash out will be the fastest on record and you need to keep two mixers to ensure your water doesn’t run out and theirs will always be hotter. Your system hoses and stuff they are all secondary: have the crew drain them and stack them beside the pump, if you get a chance try to quickly spray out your system reducer if you’re using one and it is right there do it if not don’t worry too much about them till the pump is cleaned: boom cleaned and the hopper dumped with a first quick rinse. As always make sure the last mud that went into your boom is wet, drain the ends flip in a five gallon pail of hot water put the sponge in, if the sponge is frozen get the mixer drivers from the last loads to run it over then put into a five gallon pail with hot water. If you don’t have the pail leave it on the grade above the hopper after they run it over, so it won’t be a brick of ice. If your line system/hoses freeze just leave them the concrete is dead and you can heat them later and get it out. You can’t lift them if they are full so make sure the placers don’t scatter when the pour is done. Always people need to be there till the pump is packed and rolling home because the margin for mistakes/getting hurt, in the cold and ice is about 400% higher. You always prep for the washout by working the hopper and getting setup during the last couple loads. The second the deal is done get the mixers a few feet away from the pump, suck back the sponge dump the hopper and cleaner up.

Other points the boom and the pump all day will be like a frozen glass beer mug so be gentle it doesn’t want to be there either. Secondly the timber used for your rigger pads will be brittle and break like nothing. The pump may thaw the ground under it if your there long enough so make sure you park on good ground not just frozen ground. Want the good news, there is none: you’re probably pumping for some government project because there are no other NUTBARS out there that would pour in that type of cold. If you freeze it up; break down or make a mistake, your still ok let it freeze for about 3 hours, make sue its solid. Take it back to the shop heat the unit boom pipes up and blow it out with air,(6-7 hours) only if you know AIR and only if you know what your doing; and your pipes are 100%; other wise your already “the worst day” in history will turn into a real disaster as you blow up the shop and yourself, (you mite get into a magazine somewhere though).. Frozen concrete is a little different than the stuff that normally sets up from heat. This stuff is just waiting for the right second to come out of the boom, not only would you have to dodge the rocks; look out for the ice effect also. Kind of the perfect ending to the perfect day; Best suggestion: spend the winters working in Florida, or have the NutBar that ordered the pour stand there with you for a few hours, then you’ll never have to do one of these again.

By Marcus

Written By Marcus Published by