What Exactly is Concrete?
Before understanding how it’s used, it helps to know what concrete is. First, while concrete and cement are at times used interchangeably, they aren’t the same.
Concrete is a mixture of different ingredients, including cement, water, gravel, crushed stone, and sand. When the water and cement mix together and harden, it binds the gravel, sand, and other aggregates together to create concrete.
Once created, concrete is poured, added between stones, among other uses. Over time, it hardens and becomes strong enough to support buildings, walls, cars, etc.
Why Use Concrete?
There are many reasons to use concrete in construction. It has a wide number of advantages due to how different it is from other materials.
While some of these advantages, such as durability and strength, are fairly obvious, there are a number of benefits to concrete that you may not immediately recognize.
First, it is economical. Concrete costs very little to make. The materials are not costly, and the process of creating concrete doesn’t require expensive equipment.
It’s widely available, too. Aggregates, water, and cement can be found across the globe in large quantities, so concrete is an option regardless of your location.
Second, concrete doesn’t require any specific temperature, light, or other triggers to harden. It does need to be above freezing, but that is about the only condition.
Concrete will set at regular temperature, and weather conditions do not typically affect it.
Another reason concrete is so useful is because it resists fire, moisture, and high temperatures. You can use it in many different environments without worrying about the concrete losing durability.
While cracked concrete can be an issue in areas where it freezes if water works its way into the cracks, this is only a concern if the material is damaged. As long as it remains uncracked, water won’t cause any issues.
Once you have a concrete wall, floor, or other space completed, there’s nothing else you have to do.
Concrete doesn’t need to be sealed or coated with anything. Once it sets, it’s done and ready for use. This saves time and money both right away and in the long run.
Steel and other materials not only require coating when installed, they may also require that coating be replaced regularly. Concrete doesn’t.
Types of Concrete Construction
While all concrete is made in a similar way, not all concrete is the same. Some of it is stronger, while other types are more durable. It all depends on what is mixed with the cement and water. Here are some of the most common concrete construction types and what makes them useful in construction.
In many places, you’ll see basic concrete. This is often used for sidewalks, concrete floors, and other areas that won’t necessarily be subjected to very heavy objects or will need to support a lot of weight.
Reinforced concrete, on the other hand, is often used in construction. Instead of simply being a mixture of cement, water, and aggregates, reinforced concrete includes steel rods, wires, or cables. These cables are ran through the wet concrete, adding strength to it when it sets. Once that is done, the steel and the concrete essentially become one solid material. That is why it is perhaps the most widely used construction material in building large buildings, parking garages, and other areas that will hold a large amount of weight.
Precast concrete is another type of concrete often used in construction. This concrete is actually poured and hardened off-site and then transported to the building’s locations. This allows for the creation of more concrete units at a time, plus the concrete can be done in a controlled space where the weather cannot affect it.
While not always a type of concrete used for construction, decorative concrete is often brought in after the structures are complete to add some aesthetic elements to the space. It can be dyed various colors, etched or polished as needed, and even molded into unique shapes.
Finally, the concrete of the future, smart concrete, is becoming more and more visible. It makes use of carbon fibers for reinforcement. This allows experts to measure the electrical resistance of the material when it is under stress, allowing them to detect issues with the structure before damage is done. It’s not widely used just yet, but many are seeing its benefits, especially in areas prone to earthquakes.