Understanding Concrete’s Composition and Functions

Concrete is among the most common and versatile materials that we use today. Whether you find it in buildings, roads, or even your own home, concrete has a very specific composition that allows it to be used that way. It’s by understanding this that we can use concrete in many different ways.

Experienced concrete pavers from Kansas City, Seattle’s metropolis, and other locations in the U.S. know this well. Good concrete is a mixture of the best materials, but the best concrete is one that’s mixed with purpose and care. If you’re wondering what exactly makes good concrete, this guide could help you.

Basics of Concrete

Concrete has two main components:

  • the aggregate, or the rocky, sandy, and powdery part,
  • the binder, typically made of cement

These two basic elements can be made with many different formula and mixtures, drastically changing the composition and the use of the concrete. Today, different types of concrete can be used to increase the density of the finished product, add extra features such as thermal resistance, and strengthen it to resist corrosion.

Aggregate Mixture

Machine unloading gravel on the siteThe first main component of concrete is the aggregate mixture: typically a combination of fine and coarse elements. It’s imperative that good concrete be a mixture of both small and rough particles (usual gravel, sand, and crushed rocks/materials) since the more even the aggregate distribution, the more binder is needed to fill in the gaps.

It’s for this reason that the best aggregate mixtures are the ones that have plenty of size variation, as this makes it easier to work with and lowers the cost of using it in a project. Aggregates can also be modified with other materials, such as decorative stones like quartz for a flashier finish.

Binder Mixture

The next important part of cement is the binder. Typically made of Portland cement, the binder is responsible for keeping the aggregate materials together to form a solid block. This is done by mixing the aggregate, binder, and copious amounts of water into a mixing machine until the concrete enters the liquid slush-like form needed to work with it.

Cement is rarely used by itself, as the natural tensile strength of the material makes it very brittle and easy to break. But the association it has with concrete has made the two almost interchangeable to use.

Other Additives

Finally, there are a couple of other chemicals, which can be mixed into concrete to achieve various effects that can be useful for construction:

  • Accelerators, which speeds up the hardening of concrete. Useful for cases where you need a quick replacement such as concrete paving or building renovation.
  • Retardants, which slow the hardening process. It’s often used in projects where having the rest of the concrete harden before it’s completely poured should be avoided at all costs.

Well-mixed concrete requires a good understanding of all these factors to be a suitable material for construction use. Any concrete mixing company must be able to understand these basics in order to deliver the best type and quality of concrete to their client’s building specifications.

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