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In the comments on another post, I mentioned it would be nice if someone talked about concrete — that noble material of the Pax Romana — so I might sound at least slightly knowledgeable on a topic here for once. Sure, it’s not as fun a topic as Same-Sex Marriage or drug legalization, but it may also help me in Dime’s contest this year for worst poster!
A little background: I am one of the owners of a commercial and industrial concrete construction company that does work all across the southeast and as far west as Oklahoma. Yes, it’s exactly as glamorous as it sounds! Concrete is a basically a mixture of cement, aggregate, and water. Yes, cement is an ingredient of concrete, so now you know if someone refers to concrete as “cement” it is appropriate to point and laugh.
Fellow member Captainpower was gracious enough to ask a few questions that I will try to answer adequately here:
Q: Are there different types of concrete?
A: Absolutely! It varies in both compressive and flexural strength, abrasiveness, color, reflectiveness, weight, etc.
Q: What’s the difference between good and bad (or proper and sloppy) concrete mixes and application?
A: I think this question is about the “slump” or “wetness” of concrete when it is first placed. The key measurement in a mix design that many times the “slump” indicates is the water/cement ratio. The concrete is weaker, both chemically and because of material segregation, when that ratio is too high.
Q: Are there any craftsmen left, or is everyone in it for a quick buck?
A: Yes there are some very talented craftsmen out there! It’s actually a pretty tough business to make a quick buck in, though I know residential contracting can attract some unsavory types that will try to take advantage of the unwary homeowner.
Q: Is concrete technology still progressing, or do we pretty much have it mastered since forever?
A: Concrete technology is constantly evolving and advancing, and the Romans would recognize very little about modern concrete, other than that it hardens. There are many chemical admixtures that can make concrete behave in various ways, which means it can be applied in all kinds of different ways. It can have its set time delayed indefinitely, or can be made to set almost immediately. It can be made to flow horizontally like water without losing strength, made waterproof… the list is endless.
Q: What’s better than concrete? What’s worse?
A: It depends on the application. People use concrete in all types of construction. Roadways, precast, structural building elements, kitchen counter tops, even concrete canoes. Does it make good carpet? Not especially, but a polished concrete floor that is colored or stained can look pretty darn good!
Anyone else have questions? The floor is open.