Concrete is a popular and widely used building material. It’s incredibly versatile and can be shaped to create all sorts of structures. It also has a unique ability to absorb and hold water, making it very strong.
Concrete is made up of aggregate bonded together with a fluid cement that cures over time. It’s a very versatile and powerful material that’s used in everything from highway bridges to sidewalks.
1. It’s Strong
Concrete is one of the strongest building materials available. Its strength comes from the fact that it is made of a combination of cement, aggregates and water. It is also very dense.
In addition to its amazing strength, concrete is fire-resistant. It doesn’t burn and it can withstand the spread of flames when engulfed in fire, making it an excellent construction material for homes and buildings.
It is also waterproof. If a concrete structure is built with membranes or special concrete mixes, it can be made virtually impermeable. Concrete can also withstand large amounts of water, making it ideal for flood-prone areas and even underground structures such as parking garages.
In fact, the first underground concrete parking garage was constructed in 1921 at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It was designed by engineer Joseph Monier and seats over 16,000 people in a perfect concrete circle. Concrete is the most popular construction material in the world. It is used for everything from sidewalks to highways and houses. In fact, you probably have concrete all around you without even realizing it! It would be impossible to get anywhere in the United States without the miles of concrete roads and sidewalks that make up our transportation network.
2. It’s Durable
Concrete’s durability makes it a good choice for the building of homes, schools and hospitals as well as airports, highways, bridges, roads and rail systems. It also provides protection against earthquakes and severe weather conditions such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
While many people use the words cement and concrete interchangeably, it’s important to know that concrete is a composite material consisting of the binding medium (cement), water and various fine and coarse aggregates. Cement is just one of the ingredients used to make concrete, but it’s a very important one.
The most important factors affecting the durability of concrete are its compressive strength and tensile strength. These are determined by the quality of the coarse aggregates, their classification and grading, as well as their shape. The type of cement and its w/c ratio is also crucial for the durability of concrete. Concrete with a high w/c ratio can be made to flow more easily and work better, but it may not have the same durability as those with lower w/c ratios.
Another factor influencing the durability of concrete is its permeability. If the concrete gets cracked, the un-hydrated particles of concrete start hydrating again as soon as moisture or water penetrates through these cracks, which offers self-healing potential to improve the durability of concrete.
3. It’s Affordable
Concrete is one of the most affordable building materials available. While it may cost slightly more to construct than asphalt, the material is highly durable and requires less maintenance in the long run, making it a smart investment. This is why highways, sidewalks and parking garages are almost always constructed with concrete rather than asphalt.
Working with concrete can be intimidating to first-time DIYers, but it’s actually pretty straightforward as long as you follow a few best practices. First, make sure you have all your tools ready to go – a wheelbarrow, a plastic bucket and a couple of shovels (one being a round point). You should also have a pair of work gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from any potential splashback.
Before you begin mixing, check that you have the right mix ratios of rock, sand and water to create your concrete. Once mixed, you’ll pour the mud-like substance into your chosen mold and wait for it to set. You can use your concrete for light foot traffic 3 days after it’s placed, but it needs 28 days to fully cure. This is when it will reach its maximum strength.
4. It’s Easy to Manufacture
Concrete is easy to manufacture, making it a cost-effective building material. It can be used to make roads, sidewalks and buildings, and it can also be mixed with recycled materials to reduce its environmental impact. Concrete is made up of aggregates like sand or gravel, cement and water. The water causes a chemical reaction with the cement to bind the aggregates together. The result is a strong, durable construction material.
Cement is a powder that can be added to concrete to increase its strength. It can be mixed with other ingredients to create different concrete types. For example, limecrete uses natural products instead of cement and is easier to clean. It can also be made with fly ash and slag, which are byproducts of energy production that would otherwise be thrown away.
For a simple home experiment, take a few level teaspoons of concrete and place them into a mould (approximately 10cm x 1cm x 1cm). Use each teaspoon to push down into the mix, recording the composition as you go. Repeat the process using a few other bars of concrete and compare the results. The stronger your concrete is, the more entrapped air bubbles there are.
5. It’s Water-Resistant
Concrete is inherently water-resistant, which makes it ideal for construction projects that require a waterproof building material. However, it’s still porous and should be sealed to ensure waterproofing. The pores in concrete are created by the cement, sand, and gravel used to make it, but a special mix can render it almost completely water-proof.
The key is in the concrete’s aggregates — the tiny bits of gravel, sand and stone used to create concrete. These bits of rock have to be clean and free from organic soil compounds, as they will trigger chemical reactions that decrease the concrete’s strength and permeability.
To make concrete, the aggregates are mixed with cement and water to form a paste that can be poured or cast. This is done using a special truck, called a mixer.
The mix can be customized with a variety of additives — retardants that slow the cement’s hydration, accelerators that speed it up, plasticizers that increase workability and much more. The resulting concrete can have an extremely long lifespan and high compressive strength up to 35,000 psi.
Concrete can also contain recycled materials like fly ash and slag, which keep millions of tons of waste out of landfills and improve its performance characteristics. These ingredients, along with a careful balance of water and cement, can help create a highly-durable concrete that’s also incredibly insulating.
6. It’s Versatile
Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. It is used to create roads, sidewalks, buildings, skyscrapers and bridges. It is also used to make dams, canals and nuclear waste containment structures. Concrete is incredibly versatile and can be molded into almost any shape.
It is a sustainable building material that requires little maintenance to keep it looking good and functioning properly. It’s resistant to fire, pests and rot. It’s also an insulator, keeping interior temperatures cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
The concrete we use today is made from a combination of aggregates and cement that is poured and allowed to harden through a process known as hydration. The aggregates can be either coarse (like gravel or crushed stone) or fine (like sand). The amount of each type of aggregate and its ratio in the mix depends on the desired outcome of the concrete and the environmental conditions it will encounter.
Cement is created by grinding a type of limestone known as pozzolana. It is this rock that the ancient Romans observed hardening in seawater surrounding their port at Campi Flegrei and adapted to the building trade, creating concrete. Water is the final ingredient needed to create concrete, and its use has a significant impact on how much strength the finished product will have. Too much water will weaken the concrete, while too little will interfere with the hydration process.
7. It’s Sustainable
Despite being one of the most used construction materials, concrete has many environmental issues. Its production requires a lot of energy, which leads to carbon emissions. Cement alone accounts for 4% to 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide production. Transporting and extracting the raw materials needed to produce concrete adds up to an even greater amount of CO2.
The good news is that there are several green alternatives for concrete. Using recycled aggregates reduces the demand for natural resources, and using water-reducing agents decreases the amount of cement needed to achieve the same strength.
Concrete can also be made with recycled fly ash or slag, which eliminates the need for raw materials and cuts down on carbon emissions. Many companies have been working on ways to make concrete even more sustainable, from reducing the energy needed to mix it to incorporating fibers that reduce its weight and cost.
In addition, there are some concretes that allow water to pass through them instead of absorbing it, such as pervious concrete. This can help reduce urban flooding and stormwater pollution. It can also reduce the need for road repairs by allowing them to reopen more quickly. In this way, concrete can be a part of the solution to climate change.