Concrete contractors use line pumps instead of placing concrete directly from a ready--mix truck when they want to “reduce time, save money and have a better finished product,” according to Bryan Blankenship of CIFA USA. “Using a pump places the concrete exactly where it’s needed so it doesn’t have to be dragged with shovels and rakes,” he says. “It also keeps the concrete from segregating and keeps the aggregate well distributed. This takes less labor, which reduces cost and increases productivity.”
Another benefit of using line pumps is gaining accessibility to places where trucks can’t go. “You can’t always easily access the area where you want to place the concrete,” says Brian Cunha of Mayco Concrete Pumps. “It could be a backyard or an interior basement of a house. In areas where winter is cold, they’ll erect a building in the summer and then do the floors in the winter by pumping the concrete from the outside in.”
Selecting a Pump
When concrete contractors realize how much they’ve spent on pump rentals, they may decide to buy their own pumps. Depending on their size, small line pumps can transport to the job site on a trailer or truck.
Entry--level pumps cost about $19,000, with prices increasing up to about $60,000 for higher--volume pumps with greater pressure. One worker can operate these pumps, which typically include a remote control for regulating the concrete delivery. Hoses and other accessories also are available.
Selecting the proper pump depends a contractor’s type of work. Typical applications include shotcrete, driveways, foundations, additions to houses, block fill, footings for block walls, hillside stabilization and V ditches for diverting water. The size of the aggregate used in the mixes, how many yards of concrete are placed per hour and how far from the pump the concrete needs to go, both horizontally and vertically, also should be considered.
Basic Pump Choices
The smallest line pumps can deliver 5 yards of concrete per hour, with the largest pumps moving 60 yards per hour. Gasoline, diesel or electricity powers the engines. For most applications, diesel engines are the best choice, Cunha says, because there is no need to change spark plugs or be concerned about the fuel’s age. Because most other construction equipment runs on diesel, fuel is readily available.
“Diesel engines have an ideal torque output for pumping concrete, which is a heavy--duty application,” Cunha says. “They outlast gasoline engines. They might cost a little more, but they’re very tough.”
Schwing America offers air--cooled diesel engines with cast--iron sleeves so they can be completely rebuilt if necessary, ensuring longer machine life. “We’ve got machines still operating today on a regular basis that are more than 20 years old,” notes Tim Goodroad of Schwing.
Electric engines are best when the pump will be used inside a large or multi--story building. Magnum Pumps offers a self--propelled model small enough to fit through doorways and into elevators to get to the work site, where it is plugged in for use. This type of pump is a good choice for concrete rehabilitation on existing condominium balconies.
Smaller line pumps use mechanical ball valves to control the pumping action. Larger pumps are hydraulic, which allows them to deliver higher pressure. Magnum’s pumps use a swing tube valve, which prevents jams and air pockets.
Specialized Pump Features
“Magnum Pumps’ self--propelled models also have a concrete mixer that hooks up to them so no ready--mix truck is needed,” says Magnum’s Brian Dwyer. “If a contractor gets stuck on a job in the country, in the mountains or in a tunnel, the pump can drive itself to the site and mix up the material to be placed.”