Mixers, pumps and delivery systems
Whether you’re pumping grout or mortar, the life of your pump depends on your ability and willingness to keep it clean and maintained. Mortar and grout have to be produced to ASTM specifications, and the pumps that deliver them are designed specifically for those materials. When kept clean after every use and maintained as needed, you’ll get the most from your investment.
Interior maintenance“With all equipment, the better you take care of it, the better it serves you,” says Scott Miller, head technical advisor, Gulf Concrete Tech. Many of the M-tec pumps Gulf Concrete manufactures are rotor stator pumps, so the interior parts are “wear parts.” While the pump should be cleaned with water and a sponge ball at the end of the day, the interior wear parts should be replaced as needed.
The type of pump is an important consideration. Just as mortars are delivered differently – such as from bags, a silo or an air conveyor – the interiors of the pumps also will be built differently. This matters, because you might be attending to the wear parts of a pump, or you might be tending to chambers and pistons. Be aware that even a piece of vulcanized rubber will eventually need replacement.
“Special attention must be paid to the pump cylinders, piston area, swing tube, rotor stator and any area where material passes through,” says “Typically, cleaning of the grout pump can be performed in approximately 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day by spraying down and flushing out the cylinders with water,” Todd Ferguson, international product manager for Airplaco, adding that products are available on the market to help prevent concrete from sticking to construction equipment and to help remove concrete after it has been left to dry or harden on equipment.
Daily maintenance with a grout pump requires the seals to be greased and visual check of the hopper and the S-tube,” says Steve Wheeler, sales and marketing for EZ Grout. “The diesel engine should be serviced yearly, and all filters should be replaced per the manufacture’s recommendation.”
Richard Boucher, sales and application specialist for Multiquip Inc., asserts that a pump should be cleaned immediately – every time it is used, whether at the end of the day or during a break for lunch.
“Most cleaning can be done with a good source of clean water and a stiff bristle brush,” Boucher says. “A pressure washer is always a plus, but not essential. Usually, the most challenging step for most newer operators is cleaning out the pump mechanism and the pump hoses…It is usually best to follow the procedure recommended by the pump manufacturer.”
Guarding against the elementsAirplaco’s Ferguson says many contractors use 40 degrees Fahrenheit as a minimum temperature requirement that must be reached before they can pump grout. When operating in freezing temperatures, the water box in the grout pump should be filled just prior to starting the machine and pumping concrete.
“A small amount of oil mixed with the water aids in lubricating the cup-seals and cylinder walls,” Ferguson says. “Upon completion and clean-up of the machine, the water box should be drained to prevent freezing. During freezing temperatures, it is also a good idea to keep the hopper covered to prevent snow and freezing rain from getting in the hopper and material cylinders.”
In extremely hot weather, hydraulic oil temperature should be monitored to assure it doesn’t rise above the maximum operating temperature. A fine spray of water over the hydraulic system can cool the oil and hydraulic components.
“In all cases, when finished pumping, clean the pump with water and apply a thin coat of oil to all of the parts that come in contact with grout or cement,” says Jerry Reinert, president of Reinert Manufacturing Inc.
EZ Grout’s Wheeler points out that in states where the temperature drops below 32 degrees, anti-freeze can be in the water box to keep the cylinders from freezing. “Just like any piece of equipment, if the pump can be stored inside or beneath a shelter, it will help extend the life of the pump,” he says.
Protecting your pump from the elements just takes a little preparation and a lot of common sense. “Weather can present some special challenges in pumping,” says Multiquip’s Boucher. “The biggest is change is in the grout consistency. Very hot temperatures can cause the grout to set much quicker than in more temperate climes. Operators need to remain vigilant about allowing the material to set up between loads.”
When storing a pump for extended periods, keep it in a covered, dry location to prevent rust and sun damage, says Alex Bejar, sales and marketing, Western Equipment Manufacturing Inc. “Also when storing for longer periods of time, a fuel additive should be used to keep it from going bad and causing problems the next time it is used,” he adds.
Second time around?Purchasing used equipment is always an option for cost-conscious contractors. Here’s what you should know.
“Acquiring a used pump may allow the contractor to save some overhead costs,” says Airplaco’s Ferguson. “If the previous owner kept a written maintenance schedule, including notes on when each maintenance procedure was performed, this can help assure the new owner that the pump should continue to perform as designed.”
“Consider the hours on the pump,” says Reinert. “Check the hour meter; the lower the hours, the better. The wear plate, wear ring and material cylinders should be in good or slightly used condition. And, make sure the hydraulic pump will hold the required pressure.”
Ferguson says used or demo pumps that are sold by the original manufacturer are the safest approach.
“Purchasing a used pump can be a good investment,” says EZ Grout’s Wheeler. “When buying a used pump, check to see if any warranty is offered. Some maintenance may be required on typical wear items, so it is always a good idea to have pricing on these items to ensure you are receiving a fair price on the pump.”
Western’s Alex Bejar offers a checklist when looking at a used pump:
- Make sure it starts; if you can’t test it, there is no telling what kind of problems it may have
- Check that all pumping components move and aren’t seized
- Check that gauges and controls work
- Listen for weird noises
- Look for excessively loose components and bearings, and signs of poor maintenance
- Look for signs of repairs like welds or brand new components, and get the story
- Check for leaks
- If towable check the suspension, tires and wheel play.
Parting adviceMultiquip’s Boucher says that, when purchasing a grout pump for the first time, discuss with your material supplier the details of your planned purchase ahead of time. “Almost all material is supplied from local sources,” he says. “A grout pump set up in one part of the country may not perform without some “tweaking” for your region. This also goes for the grout itself. The material supplier may have to make some mix design adjustments to what you have been using, in order to get it to work properly with the pump that you plan to purchase.”
Bejar advises a proper maintenance and preventative program for the safe and optimal operation of a pump. This could include a schedule of daily and routine inspections and services performed that follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. And maintaining a clean pump, he says, is important to the inspection process.
Originally published in Masonry magazine.
About the Author
Jennifer Morrell was the editor of Masonry magazine. She has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry as a writer and editor, covering such topics as real estate and construction, insurance, health care, relationships and sports. A graduate of The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in magazines and is an award-winning newspaper columnist.