If some civil engineers had their way, we could construct skyscrapers in less than a month. Oh, wait— it has already been done . In 2012, a Chinese entrepreneur erected a 328-foot building in 15 days using prefabricated panels.
Outside China, few governments allow buildings to be constructed without concrete. After all, concrete is one of the most powerful materials on earth. When cement is mixed with water, sand and other materials, you can hold bricks together for decades.
Concrete is used in almost every construction projects for a variety of reasons. Here are some of them.
To Hold Bricks and Stones Together
Mortar is the thick mixture of cement, sand, and water. It is used to hold bricks or stones together. Water hydrates the other components to form a kind of glue that bonds bricks. Constructors recommend that mortar be replaced every 50 years. But since it is not practical, engineers use several other components to make buildings ultra-secure.
In addition to the sand and water, constructors add gravel or small rocks to make the mixture stronger than typical mortar. Less water is needed for the mixture and leads to more durable buildings. In large buildings, walls are reinforced with steel to provide better strength as the soil below settles.
Usually, mortar and concrete take time to heal. Where buildings are constructed using cement, it's impossible to erect a tower in 15 days. Most builders erect a few layers of wall per day and leave the concrete to heal overnight.
Unwanted concrete on the floors shouldn’t be left to dry. Cement is one of the most durable materials and can stick permanently. Constructors must always have the best concrete removers when building. They will need the products in the course of construction.
To Provide Fireproof Structures
Many banks build their safes using a combination of concrete and steel. A special type of cement called alumina provides durability strong enough to resist fires. The main ingredients in cement are gypsum, clay, and limestone. They are all inert , meaning they can’t catch fire.
Compared to other materials, cement has a low rate of heat transfer. If a fire starts in one room, it spreads slower in a concrete building than in one made of wood. In most cases, the fire spreads through combustible materials like furniture and clothes. When the building comes down, most of the debris consists of concrete and stone, which are less combustible.
Prevent Frost and Water Damage
Many materials can prevent water and frost penetration. But with time, water has a way of wearing out everything around it. Water pressure can force even the strongest of plastic. Iron rusts while aluminum tends to be expensive in most cases. Cement and stone remain the best materials for constructing waterproof buildings in a cost-effective way.
Builders use hydrophobic or expanding cement where houses are adjacent to water. Some concrete types are also more capable of resisting frost than others. In swimming pools, engineers also add hydraulic cement, which adds protection against water. Other applications of water-resistant cement include manholes, chimneys and elevator pits.
To Form Chemical Proof Structures
Concrete is a good material for holding weak acids inside without causing leaks. Materials like plastic, wood, and iron are all vulnerable to acid, sewage and other chemicals. Some concrete types are better at holding off acids than others. Some special cement can form concrete strong enough to withstand most chemicals.
Of course where dangerous chemicals are used concrete isn’t the only material involved. Because water and some chemicals wear out cement over time, chemical plants use aluminum tanks to store the dangerous liquids. Concrete is only used to provide additional support.
If concrete is the only material used, engineers reinforce it with surface treatments. Chemicals with PH levels lower than 3 are rarely stored in concrete tanks. But when used, experts treat the concrete with extremely effective acid-resistant substances.
For Filling Cracks and Openings
Construction is usually a continuous process perfected toward the end of the project. As masons lay stones and bind them with concretes, cracks appear at times. They must come back to add concrete and mortar to strengthen the areas.
Unless the cracks are caused by water exposure, regular cement is used to fill the cracks. If water is the cause, hydrophobic cement will offer better protection. If the cracks are very small, builders use concrete formed using micro-fine cement. The cement is more effective in such areas because it can go deep and bond stones at the foundation level.
Most buildings and houses have pavements build out of concrete. These small roads are highly durable and require minimal maintenance. Some people also build their driveways using concrete for durability reasons. Since concrete roads rarely form cracks, some municipalities build short roads using the material.
The downside to concrete pavements is that they have high rolling resistance. Vehicles moving through such roads consume more fuel. The problem can be remedied by using rigid concrete. At home and along buildings where only humans use the pavements, concrete roads are highly effective. A typical pavement can last up to 100 years, only repaired to improve looks.
To Build Precast Members
For cost-effective constructions, some engineers pre-cast floor and wall slabs and then connect them where necessary. Pre-casting materials shorten the building process and can be cost-effective at times.
Precast members are also used to build construction materials like the pipes often used for drainage. Cement and sand are the main materials needed. But engineers can also add other components to build refined, high-quality products. Pre-casting materials for concrete often includes more than just cement and sand. However, many products like dustbins and garden seats contain and cement only.
Wall is sometimes used in the same way as paint. And because of its durability, some constructors use colored concrete to add aesthetics to buildings. The coloring component of the cement is usually added at the manufacturing stage. In essence, you have the same cement capable of holding stones together. But it has an extra component that can be used to add aesthetics on surfaces.
Although some civil engineers are keen on replacing cement in construction, it’s still an important component in constructions. Concrete hold walls together. It provides stable slabs and floors. If the right type of cement is used, you can also prevent water damage and build houses capable of lasting decades.