Richmond Concrete Pros - Concrete basics
From Simple to Complex: The Varied Applications of Concrete.
Concrete is one of the most common building materials and can be used in a variety of different ways, including structurally and decoratively. Concrete is a versatile material that can be molded for diverse applications. From driveways to patios and decorative elements of all types, concrete is certainly a material that deserves respect for its range of uses. Richmond Concrete Pros has decades of experience with different applications and can provide you with the best choices for your job.
What Is Concrete and Why Is It Used?
To make concrete, crushed aggregate of varying sizes is used. Aggregate may include sand, crushed stones, gravel, recycled concrete, and slag. These materials are broken down into a semi-fine mixture, and then they are mixed with a cement paste that is meant to bind them together to form a stone-like substance.
There are multiple types of cement paste materials that can be used, including lime paste or calcium aluminum cement. This mixture is combined with water to form a slurry that can easily be poured into all types of molds.
Concrete is a popular building material because of its durability, low maintenance, and ability to be exposed to all types of weather elements without easily breaking down. It is used in the construction of buildings because it can retain heat and helps to cut down on energy costs. Most homes in areas prone to high winds, like Florida, are built of concrete or block because these materials are much stronger than wood framing.
Types of Modern Concrete: There are three main types of concrete that can be used in construction. Knowing the different types is important for both residential and commercial needs. Richmond Concrete professionals have lots of experience with all of the following options and can assist you by providing you with choices you might not know about.
Regular concrete: When it comes to DIY projects and those that do not involve a lot of concrete, cement mixes are typically used. These mixes may include everything that is needed but the water, or the individual mixing the cement may need to add in sand. Regular concrete can withstand pressures of up to 5800 psi, but any pressures above this amount could cause damage.
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High-strength concrete: This type of concrete is able to withstand much greater pressure which makes it ideal for many types of construction. When high-strength concrete is produced, it is made with less water to aggregate ratio, creating a much stronger product. Because there is less water, this type of concrete can be more difficult to work with, so plasticizers are often used to allow the concrete to be poured around the rebar. High-strength concrete is often formed into blocks for a foundation. This type is quite expensive.
Stamped concrete: Stamped concrete is a type of architectural concrete. The finish is made completely smooth or can be stamped with designs. This type of concrete is often used in flooring, walkways, and parking lots. Depending on the application, the concrete can be permeated with pigments or even pressed into textured molds to make the concrete resemble natural stone. This process is best done in warmer weather. At Richmond Concrete our professionals are very experienced with this technique.
Polished Concrete: We have specialists on staff that are skilled at polishing concrete. This turns a plain concrete installation into a stunningly beautiful finished product. For more detail on this, please see our Polished Concrete page.
What Is Involved in Resurfacing Concrete?
As the name implies, concrete resurfacing involves several steps that are meant to repair and revitalize aged and damaged concrete floors, driveways, patios, and walkways. The following steps are used to fix all types of concrete problems and bring the surface back to life.
1. Power washers are used to wash the surface of the concrete and remove any dirt and grime that might be present. Removing the deeply embedded dirt allows the damage to be exposed so it can be repaired.
2. Any cracks are first primed and then covered with reinforced fabric. A polymer concrete mixture is then applied over the base area to ensure it will no longer crack or become damaged. The cover keeps most of the moisture in the concrete, which is important to prevent it from re-cracking.
3. Any holes that are present in the concrete require a special epoxy mortar application that is able to bond with the old concrete material and ensure the hole is completely repaired.
4. If desired, coloring can then be applied to bring the old concrete back to life and make it look beautiful again. A seal coat is the last layer that is put in place, and it seals the concrete and ensures it will remain protected against weather exposure.
5. The curing process takes up to 72 hours, and during this time, the driveway, walkway, flooring, or patio cannot be used. This process really only works if the foundation for the cracked concrete is stable and done correctly. The reality is that if this was the case, the concrete likely would not have cracked in the first place.
What Is the Difference Between Structural and Architectural Concrete?
There are two main types of concrete applications and they include structural and architectural. Structural concrete provides strength to a building and is put in place as a load-bearing structure.
Architectural concrete adds a touch of design, while also helping to add to the structure. The two are typically used in conjunction to ensure the end result is strong and aesthetically pleasing. Architectural concrete is actually the most important means of construction and design in modern architecture. No other material can be processed and used in so many ways, and for this reason is used in almost all construction tasks. Due to its flexibility, architectural concrete can be formed into just about any shape, and is strong and durable.
To produce architectural concrete the casting process is controlled in a couple of ways. A tight form system produces nice edges, form liners are used for texture, new formwork material is used for a nice clean face, and a couple preliminary pours are done to insure the color and finish are right.
A Few Recent Advances in Concrete
As with most other things in our society, developments are constantly being made regarding concrete. This may come as a surprise since it seems there is really not much you can do to improve it, but in fact significant improvements are being made. Some of the more recent developments include new types such as high strength, self-compacting and lightly-compacted, and fiber-reinforced concretes, all of which open up additional areas of application.
We will take a quick look at each of these. High strength is a term used to describe concrete that has special properties outside of those in normal concrete. This type of concrete can resist loads well above that of normal concrete. Thankfully, typical concrete projects do not require this type, as composition, time involved, and costs can be significantly higher.
Self compacting concrete is quicker and less expensive to put down, and the surface finish and durability can be better than traditional concrete. However production is more complicated and expensive, and a great deal of know-how is involved in the proper placement of this product.
Fiber-reinforced concrete, as the name implies, uses fibers made of a variety of different materials (glass, steel, natural, and synthetic to name a few) which lend strength, durability, and reduced permeability to the concrete. This concept has been around for centuries, and research continues today. For many decades, asbestos was used but this was replaced with steel, glass, and polypropylene when it was found to cause cancer. Large steel or synthetic fibers can actually replace rebar or steel completely in certain conditions. For example, the underground construction industry uses fibers almost exclusively in tunnel segments. The amount of fiber added is expressed as a percentage of the total volume of concrete plus fiber, called the Volume Fraction. The typical Volume Fraction is somewhere between 0.1 to 3 % depending on the environment it will be in.
Recently there have been studies using the backing from discarded carpet to replace more expensive fibers in concrete reinforcement. These fibers are similar in strength, readily available, and would otherwise be discarded. Other similar efforts are underway using recycled materials. We have become such a throw-away society that is refreshing to see that there are efforts afoot to use material that would otherwise wind up in a landfill to make things better for us all.