Concrete is the most popular building material around the world, equalling the next two products combined (when considering tonnage). And while you might think working with concrete is as simple as backing up one of those familiar trucks and dumping the cement, there is a lot of engineering, planning, and testing that takes place before the concrete is evenly mixed.
For example, do you know how much steel reinforced bars go into pouring a driveway, patio, or skyrise apartment building? That the number of coarse aggregates used in a mixture can change the complexity of a pour? That the very air we breath can be more destructive to concrete than several tons of pressure from above?
Concrete is much more than a material you write your name in before it hardens. There several types of concrete, even if the finished product looks very similar. Let’s take a quick look at the most common types of concrete and what they are used for:
- Reinforced Concrete
- Lightweight Concrete
- High-Strength Concrete
- High-Performance Concrete
- Precast Concrete
Just as the name suggests, reinforced concrete is used in conjunction with bars, fibers, or other materials to improve the tensile strength of the concrete. These materials – most commonly rebar – are more pliable than concrete and pass those characteristics on to the concrete structure as a whole. Most concrete applications use some kind of reinforcement.
Made from pumice rock instead of the usual stone or rock aggregate, this concrete is less structural and more used as protection for metal building materials or as non-loading bearing concrete walls. Additionally, lightweight concrete is used as insulation for water pipes within the facility and provides fire-proofing of sorts.
This type of concrete is made when the contents of the concrete structure need to be extra secured – like a nuclear power plant for example. Iron or barytes are used as a heavy aggregate, as opposed to rocks for standard aggregates. This concrete can actually be a bit thinner than reinforced or plain concrete.
This refers more to how the concrete pieces are produced, less what the makeup of the concrete is. In many cases, concrete is poured into forms at the job site and left to strengthen over days or weeks. Precast concrete is made in a controlled environment, so that means the products can be made well ahead of time, strength tested, and delivered the day it’s needed. A much more efficient process.
Regardless of the type of concrete being used, there are a few things they all have in common or should be considered. For example, every type of job requires concrete with some kind of tensile strength to meet local or regional codes. Other steps, like compacting concrete removes air from the mixed concrete or allowing the product to sufficiently harden are other standard operating procedures.
Other factors also come into play when deciding what kind of concrete is used for a particular project. Type I concrete is the standard cement concrete. Type II cement is used when moderate sulfate levels are detected in the soil or water. Type III has high early strength because of a finer mixture but doesn’t have the overall strength of Type I.
Other factors, such as hydraulic blended cement or cement with special performance properties are available. However, these are often used in very specific construction projects. For most buried infrastructure, such as vaults, manholes, or catch basins, type I cement is the most common.
Do you have an upcoming project that needs buried infrastructure? Contact Columbia Precast Products and let’s see what we can do. Although our company is relatively new, our crews and management have decades upon decades of experience. We work all around the Pacific Northwest and are familiar with both Oregon and Washington State Departments of Transportation codes and requirements.