Concrete is typically used interchangeably with cement, and for good reason. Concrete is a type of engineered stone that is used as a building material most prominently in public spaces. The stone is made of pulverized aggregate: sand, gravel, stones; and mixed together with a cement paste to harden the concrete.
Concrete is the second most-used material in the world, and the most used construction material. Only water ranks above concrete in terms of usage, and concrete is the top choice of material for urban buildings, homes, roads, and other structures.
The traditional methods of creating concrete mixtures have gained criticism from environmental groups due to the destructive properties of the stone to the ecosystem. Sustainable concrete has then been created to address the problem, using materials such as plastic waste, recycled steel, and fly-ash instead.
The earliest forms of concrete can be found in the Middle East, around 1300 BC when construction efforts advanced when builders discovered that burnt limestone mixed with other pulverized materials made a slurry that solidified into a hard, dense coating. This coating was found to be perfect for use in constructing homes, roads, and structures.
Over time, concrete began to take shape into the kind of stone we know today. Early builders in 6300 BC Syria and Jordan regions perfected the technique to create a stable, durable form of concrete by mixing low-slump, low-moisture concrete that would harden with strength, particularly after tamping with special tools.
The result of these construction techniques formed the concrete we know today that is waterproof, weatherproof, and good for use in various cases. The composition of different aggregates in concrete mixtures is what creates the different hardness and durability of the finished product, and modern society continues its widespread use of the stone.
Concrete is known for its ash-gray appearance, rough surface, and porous texture. When polished to a smooth finish, concrete tends to have a slight shine to it but otherwise stays matte when unpolished. Concrete may also have a speckled appearance depending on the composition and size of the ingredients.
In outdoor spaces, concrete is commonly used to line walkways and weatherproof structures as the gray appearance of concrete masks any dirt and grime on the surface to make the flooring look the same despite experiencing high foot traffic daily. The rough surface also creates a frictioned flooring, minimizing the frequencies of accidents and slip-ups.
Concrete is also used in modern homes looking for the industrial-chic, or urban-looking aesthetic. The neutral colors of concrete offer a minimalist appearance that blends into the background, allowing spotlight elements to be highlighted instead: like natural wooden fixtures, marble slabs, or artisanal glass partitions.
Beneficial Features of Concrete
The benefits of concrete have been known in the construction industry since the beginning of its roots. Concrete provided a hardness and durability that other forms of building materials could not, and is still used today for foundations and high traffic areas for its resistance to wear and tear.
Older versions of concrete could measure a strength index of twice the hardness of modern concrete, such with the case of the oldest concrete pavement in America located in Court Street in Bellefontaine, Ohio which measures a strength of 8,000 psi.
Nowadays, the development of eco-friendly concrete has given the material a new purpose in a sustainable way. Sustainable concrete has been used in select projects such as eco-homes, roads and pavements, as well as ecological parks. These sustainable concrete mixtures may include plastic waste particles, recycled materials, and other alternative ingredients.
Uses of Concrete
Concrete is typically used in outdoor and public spaces due to its resistance against weather and outdoor elements. Today, concrete is generally used in creating roads, pavements, public staircases, and for structural integrity in buildings. The stone can be used to create public benches as well, and pathways in parks and sidewalks.
The appearance of concrete was not popularly praised until the modern era with the increase in demand for industrial and urban aesthetics. Its muted, neutral tones offer a blended background that highlights other features in homes and offices. Today, a number of structures opt for raw, unpainted concrete for the minimalist look instead of flashy, decorative ones.
There is very little to no care for concrete as the material is popular for being low maintenance. Nearly all common household cleaning products can be used on concrete, with the exception of highly acidic solutions which may dissolve any varnish or polish on the surface. Otherwise, concrete is one of the easiest materials to upkeep.
No special cleaning requirements are needed for concrete, and many would use a power washer on their concrete driveways for quick cleaning. Soap, cleaning solutions, and scrubbers do not affect the quality of the stone either.