Concrete can be used for so many construction projects, but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows everything that they need to know about this material. In fact, the most important thing that everyone must know is the definition of concrete.
Concrete is a hard, strong building material that is made by mixing a cementing material, like Portland cement, with mineral aggregate. That mineral aggregate is normally sand and gravel, and water is then added to create a soft material that eventually binds together and sets.
This strong material has a few different possibilities as to who invented it. Many people say that it was the Romans and that they used it when they constructed all their historical architectural buildings. The oldest of those buildings is the Pantheon and it has been preserved wonderfully to this day, which shows just how durable this material really is. However, there are those who believe that concrete was used long before that, because the striations over in Syria and northern Jordan were constructed from similar material back around 6500 BC.
The definition of concrete may sound difficult, but in reality, it is fairly simple to mix concrete and use it if you know what you are doing. Plus, you need to know that cement never dries and gets hard. You could technically mix concrete together and place it in water and it would still manage to change to a solid mass that is quite strong.
When you see the definition of concrete, you may wonder how that basic concrete mixture could be helpful in so many different construction scenarios. Well, it is not unless you add a few extra items in certain scenarios.
When you want your concrete to harden much faster, then an accelerator can be a helpful ingredient to add to your mixture. Any accelerator will speed up the hardening of the concrete and it is normally used in areas where the temperatures get cold. This ensures that the concrete is ready in less time after being placed and finished.
Retarders will slow the hydration of any cement and these ingredients are normally added in areas where the temperatures are really hot. The retarder will ensure that you can finish the placing and finishing before the concrete sets.
If you want to have air bubbles placed throughout your concrete, you may want to consider adding an air entraining agent.
This item will allow the air bubbles to stay in place, which will prevent the concrete from cracking during any freeze-thaw cycles. This is normally used in areas where the temperatures fluctuate quite a bit throughout the year.
Adding pigments to your concrete will allow you to change the color of the finished product. This is helpful for when you are constructing patios or other concrete structures that will look better if they are a color other than gray.
When you choose to add plasticizers and superplasticizers to your concrete, you will improve the workability of the concrete when you are working with it. It can be quite helpful to have concrete that flows easily when you are putting it around rebar arrangements without the need of adding more water.
Silica fume, fly ash, and ground granulated blastfurnace slag can all be used in place of part of the Portland cement. Using these three different items will still give you a solid and strong concrete and they do not change the definition of concrete in any way.
In fact, all they do is save the Portland cement, which takes quite a bit of energy to produce. Fly ash is the most economical replacement, because it is already being produced by coal electric generating plants and is readily available. Ground granulated blastfurnace slag is a byproduct from the steel production process. It is not used too much in the United States, but it is very popular over in Asia and Europe.
Silica fume is an excellent option if you want your concrete to be resistant to salt, as it is corrosion resistant to chemicals of all kinds. It happens to be the byproduct of the manufacturing of silica alloys and each particle is much smaller than those of Portland cement. This material will also improve the strength of the concrete you are mixing, while also being resistant to abrasions.
Within the definition of concrete, it mentions the need to add water to the Portland cement, sand, and gravel. You must realize that you need to balance your cement and water ratio, or your concrete will not set properly. The minimum amount of water that you use should be approximately twenty-five percent of the weight of the cement that you are using. While that is the minimum, you will usually find that you need between thirty-five and forty percent water to actually mix the cement into concrete, create the cement, and have proper hydration.
Over the years, we have seen people use way too much water when mixing their concrete and we can’t stress enough about why that shouldn’t happen anymore. The reason for this is that extra water sits within the concrete and while it evaporates over time, the space that it was taking up will then have nothing there. Those voids can cause the concrete to crack and possibly collapse over time.
We understand that you want the concrete to be pliable enough to be able to spend a little extra time getting it in place, but you are taking a chance that the concrete will not be as strong as it could be. Therefore, we believe that it is always better to have a few extra employees on hand, so you can easily use less water and still get the concrete in place before the concrete begins to set.
Some people may try to pour concrete without using a form, but a temporary form always makes the process easier. As the definition of concrete states, the mixture must bind and set, and that means that when it is poured, it can spread to areas you do not want it if a form is not in place.
We recommend using smooth plywood when you are pouring concrete in an area where the sides will be seen, so there are no permanent marks on the concrete when you remove the form. Also, concrete might be strong, but that doesn’t mean that it is strong like steel. Therefore, you may need to add steel reinforcements to your concrete when you are constructing larger structures. These steel reinforcements are called rebars and you can never have too many rebars structures in a building.
Once you have your concrete poured and finished, you must make sure that it is cared for properly. Sealing concrete is an excellent way to protect it, so you may want to consider that especially if you used the concrete for a patio or a countertop inside a building.
The definition of concrete will make you think twice the next time you are using it, because it makes it sound so much more difficult that it really is. Make sure you follow the directions carefully when you are mixing your next batch of concrete, or using concrete that arrives mixed, and you will have a strong and good-looking piece of concrete for your project.