Cold Weather Mortar and Grout Mixing Solution

Words: Dan Kamys

Mason contractors are very aware of the added expense and the never ending battle of working in cold temperatures while constructing masonry projects. Throughout the history of masonry construction, one of the single largest costs and inefficiencies of working in the winter or any cold weather condition is generating a steady supply of warm water for mixing mortar and grout. The reality is that heating sand and water by way of propane gas and culvert pipe or direct flame on a barrel is a waste of money and time, not to mention it introduces safety concerns. Considering all of the recent innovations impacting masonry products, practices and equipment, there is definitely a need for a system that eliminates this job site challenge, especially a solution that increases the efficiency and productivity of a mason crew.

4U Manufacturing, a Wyoming based company, researched this cold weather predicament and developed the solution??? “The Water Hopper”. The Water Hopper is a portable automatic water system that will place a pre-determined or variable amount of water into one or more mixers simultaneously. Operating with an innovative and energy efficient technology, the Water Hopper is a labor-saving device that will heat and dispense water on the jobsite. The unit ensures that the preferred amount of water at the optimal temperature to meet code requirements is introduced for every batch.

Depending on the contractor’s needs and job site space, the unit is available in the larger capacity “Extreme Water Hopper” and the smaller “Job Box Model”. The Extreme model is an 8ft. x 10 ft. standalone insulated unit that optimizes fuel efficiency, provides protection from the elements, and is easily transported on site or from job to job. It has two metered storage tanks and can dispense from both sides of the shell, working simultaneously to fill two mixing stations, one on each side. Also available is a scaled down version called the Job Box Model which is a smaller, more portable unit that is placed next to the mixer. With the flip of a switch, the Job Box produces hot water instantly.

Regardless of whether a contractor uses a silo system or small bags, mixing onsite has never been as consistent and efficient as it is with the Extreme Water Hopper. The unit ensures that the preferred amount of water at the optimal temperature to meet code requirements is introduced to every batch. The unit runs off of AC or DC power while using either propane or natural gas to generate heat and ultimately supplies mixing water with temperatures ranging from 98??F to 140??F. This allows the laborers to safely control the water heating process and results in the desired temperature of mortar and grout as stated in Building Code Requirements for Masonry Structures (ACI 530/ASCE 5/TMS 402). With the simple pull of a lever, a predetermined amount of heated water is dispensed directly into the mixer.

With an output rate of up to 40 gallons every five minutes, the Extreme Water Hopper can provide all the hot water needed from a small project to a very large project. Mason contractors revel at its ability to instantly charge a 20 cubic foot mixer with enough heated water for a full batch. Furthermore, while one batch of mortar or grout is mixing, warm water is automatically replenishing the Water Hopper’s metered tank providing continuous material batch cycle times that can be set between three to six minutes. When utilizing the Water Hopper, batches of mortar and grout will always be the temperature desired by the contractor. That said, job site inspectors can relax knowing the temperature of the product going into the wall is always within tolerance for optimal performance.

As a problem solver with an extensive background in masonry equipment, the originator of the Water Hopper, Mike Capps of 4U Manufacturing engineered the system while focusing on contractor benefits. To find the best solution Capps spent over three years in research and development, talking with numerous mason contractors and visiting job sites to witness the different approaches used by mason tenders to heat water. What he identified were significant inefficiencies which hindered production and increased costs. From the start it was clear the Water Hopper system was needed to help contractors reduce those costs and increase production.

In cold weather climates mason tenders or laborers are typically required to be on site early, sometimes up to an hour ahead of the crew to heat the water and prepare the first batch of mortar for the masons. The Extreme Water Hopper enables the mason tender to charge the first batch of mortar in the morning within five minutes of punching in and is ready to dispense heated water into the mixer for the second batch before the first mortar tub is loaded.  The tender then needs only the last five minutes of the day to prepare for the following day. This equals a minimum labor savings of 30 minutes every day or roughly 10 hours every standard work week.

Another savings the Water Hopper provides mason contractors with is lower fuel cost for heating water. During his field research Capps observed a project where the laborer had two handheld torches blowing flames directly on three 55 gallon water barrels to keep the water hot. It was estimated that the contractor was using nearly 100 pounds of propane gas every day. In comparison, the same amount of propane would last approximately two weeks to heat that same amount of water using the Extreme Water Hopper. The LP Gas or Natural Gas is only used when the demand for hot water is activated by the float; this eliminates wasted energy. When a contractor uses traditional torches and water barrels to heat water, it’s not uncommon for 80% of the fuel to be wasted, not so with the Water Hopper. Additionally, there’s a cost to chase down and replace the tanks daily, not to mention the wasted labor while waiting for the water to be hot enough to meet code.  Capps adds, “The Water Hopper requires very little maintenance and fuel compared to traditional heating methods and when contractors couple this savings with the profitability realized from increased daily production of their laborers and masons, the net gain can easily double if not triple”.

With increased safety requirements prohibiting open flames in many work areas, contractors utilizing the Water Hopper are benefiting because of the unique design with no exposed flame nor electrical elements in the water. The Water Hopper provides a quick, safe, energy efficient, professional tool for any mason contractor and gets two thumbs up from inspectors, general contractors, safety personnel, and project management.

The Water Hopper is patent pending and proudly manufactured in the USA by 4U Manufacturing LLC. It is available in the Extreme model or The Job Box model. With either option, The Water Hopper is an energy efficient, production boosting, labor savings piece of equipment, designed to maximize contractor profits and keep the jobsite safe.

For more information call 888-754-7909 or see our website at
Are Your Employees Safe While Working In Hot Weather?

As the temperatures rise outside during summer months, so do the risks that employees working in hot conditions may be harmed by the dangerous effects it can have. Exposure to high temperatures can be deadly.1 It’s your responsibility as a business owner

Maximizing Efficiency with CrewTracks

In the masonry industry, efficient project management is crucial for success. CrewTracks addresses this need by streamlining various aspects of daily operations.

SOLA Innovation: Digital Levels

In 2021, SOLA introduced a new generation of digital levels at the World of Concrete. Because it was in the midst of Covid it wasn’t the most well-attended show, but we were optimistic. We attended, showcasing both our SOLA and Keson brands. The standout

Bonding with Masonry 2024 Q2

This issue’s questions come from an Architect, an Engineer. and a Mason Contractor. What questions do you have? Send them to, attention Technical Talk.