Concrete workers battle cold to keep business going

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ST. LOUIS,  MO (KTVI)-Our big chill means big challenges for St. Louis companies delivering concrete for projects including the new IKEA store and the CityArchRiver design.

FOX 2 crews spent Friday morning at the Breckenridge Material Company downtown on South Wharf. The company was delivering dozens of concrete orders on a frigid morning.

Some of the concrete materials are stored outside which means they can freeze in this bitter cold weather. To combat that, heavy equipment starts loading the material onto a conveyor belt before the sun comes up- a process that continues all day long.

The belt takes the material to this storage tank.

The tank is heated by 180 degree steam.

Once the concrete is at the right temperature it is loaded onto the trucks and taken to construction sites. There are also tanks filled with hot water on the trucks to help stabilize the temperature of the concrete.

Workers say keeping the concrete at the right temperature is a constant challenge in the cold weather.
"I've said this for a lot of years, you battle Mother Nature. Sometimes you win out but Mother Nature wins out more than we do sometimes. But it`s a battle, it really is," said Operations Manager Jerry Freeman.

Freeman says the concrete temperature should be around the high 70s or low 80s.

The boiler is one of the most important pieces of equipment in making sure the concrete is in that temperature range. Plant operator Bruce Hawkins explained, "We utilize it not only to steam our material to achieve certain temperatures but also of course to batch water with, drivers add water, it`s a critical aspect of the whole process."

Freeman added, "It`s a lot of hard work. But we do our best to take care of our customers and we`re gonna get it done."

Freeman says the biggest customer on this day was IKEA- 430 cubic yards of concrete was delivered there.

Generally, concrete won`t be poured if the temperatures don`t out of the single digits or low teens.