Look at any new development popping up around your town, and you will probably see that most of the buildings are made of concrete. Concrete, which is a combination of aggregate particles that are usually sand and a binding agent called cement, is one of the most important materials in the construction industry.
Companies use this material for everything from foundations to walls. The industry has developed many different ways of applying it, from pouring to Shotcrete, which is essentially a way of spraying material at a building. You may be wondering, “Why is it so prevalent?” Here is everything you need to know about this backbone of the building industry.
Why Is Cement Important in Concrete?
Before we talk about the importance of concrete, it’s important to understand what this material actually is. Concrete uses aggregate as its base. Aggregate is a hard substance made up of particles, usually sand, but sometimes including larger particles such as gravel.
However, loose particles of sand and gravel on their own are not very stable. That’s where cement comes in. Cement is a chemical binding agent that is added to aggregate, along with water, to glue it together. Without cement, concrete wouldn’t be able to set, bind materials together, or form a strong foundation; instead, the loose aggregate would just flop around. Thanks to cement, the concrete holds its shape firmly, whether you are pouring a foundation or building structural support walls.
The quality and quantity of the cement used in a concrete mixture are actually very important. They determine some of the most important properties of the concrete, such as workability, durability, and shrinkage. When buying concrete, make sure the manufacturer uses quality cement. If you are mixing your own, make sure you get the ratios and quality of the cement right.
What Are the Benefits of Concrete?
Now you know a little more about what concrete is, but you may still be wondering why construction workers and builders use it so much. Pretty much every modern building contains concrete, but why is that?
The answer is that concrete has some properties no other material can possibly replicate. For example, nothing is stronger than concrete. Concrete can withstand all sorts of pressure, such as tensile and compressive stress, which gets more intense with a larger structure. For objects that bear a lot of weight, such as building foundations, retaining walls, and even big infrastructure projects such as bridges, strength is literally a matter of life or death as any material giving out will lead to collapse.
Concrete is also strong in another way. It is extremely durable against wear and tear. With time, buildings absorb damage. Extreme weather conditions threaten to buffet the development, but concrete won’t collapse due to strong winds or rain. Excessive rain can rust metal but not concrete. Concrete is even fireproof! We have examples of early concrete dating back to antiquity, so that just shows how durable concrete can be.
Finally, concrete is very easy to work with. Development companies can use it to make anything. There are many different types of concrete with properties suitable for everything from bridges to delicate walls. You can pour, set, cut, and even spray concrete, depending on your needs.
Concrete vs. Shotcrete
If you’ve spent any time researching construction, you’ve probably heard of the funny-sounding term shotcrete. Shotcrete is actually concrete—the composition of the material is the same. However, what it changes is the application method. Concrete is poured into forms or molds, then vibrated, then assembled. Shotcrete is placed into a gun or sprayer, then literally shot onto the building at high velocity.
Shotcrete is a relatively newer method of using concrete. Developers use it for smaller projects such as repairs or building thinner walls, while poured concrete is better for larger structures such as foundations.
Shotcrete is also great for structures that aren’t traditionally shaped, such as curved walls, pools, and even zoo enclosures. The projection method is more versatile and flexible than traditional poured concrete.
Finally, shotcrete is very useful if you are just making repairs, not building something from scratch. You can target the crack or gap without needing to remake the whole object.
Is Shotcrete Watertight?
Some builders are worried about using shotcrete because they think they will lose a lot of the properties that make concrete so useful. However, shotcrete is still watertight! As with regular concrete, the trick is to take the right precautions when you apply it. Make sure you apply an envelope to the building if you are building from scratch. Shotcrete application actually ensures better bonding with the waterproof envelope than regular poured concrete.
Is Shotcrete Cheaper Than Concrete?
Shotcrete is also more affordable than regular poured concrete. To make concrete, you need lots of expensive tools, such as forms and vibration machines that shake the poured concrete and flush out the air. For shotcrete, you don’t need any of these materials. You are also more economical with the concrete you use, so you will need less material to cover the surface.
What Are the Advantages of Shotcrete?
There are a few reasons why construction companies use shotcrete in certain applications.
For smaller jobs, shotcrete is much faster than pouring concrete. Instead of going through the process of pouring concrete into molds, vibrating it, and waiting for it to dry, you just spray concrete directly onto the surface.
Shotcrete is more flexible, making it better for nontraditional applications. You don’t have to pour it into rigid molds or hope to find one in the shape of the object you are building; you just spray the concrete directly onto the surface you are building. If you are working with curved walls or surfaces where you need just a thin layer of concrete, shotcrete is the better option. That is why many developers use shotcrete for pools.
Concrete is one of the most versatile construction materials on the planet, and shotcrete is an application method that makes it even easier to use.