The Importance of Proper Concrete Practices

The Importance of Proper Concrete Practices

Concrete is arguably the most important material used in a construction project. This combination of water, aggregate and cement serves as the foundation for most structures — it's hard to build just about anything without pouring, pumping or spraying concrete. 

Because concrete is such a crucial component in the construction process, it's vital to follow a set of best practices when preparing and applying the material, especially during mixing, setting and curing.

Concrete Mixing Factors to Consider

The mix refers to the blend of ingredients used to produce concrete for a project. The strength and durability of the final product depend on several factors in the mix:

  • Cement choice: While Portland cement is the most popular type used when manufacturing concrete for construction, it's important to test any cement product to ensure it meets the specific usage requirements.
  • Aggregate size: The optimal size for the aggregate in the concrete mix will depend on the desired physical properties of the finished product.
  • Water type: Most potable water is appropriate for concrete mixing, although you should test it before implementation. 
  • Water-to-cement ratio: The right water-cement balance helps to ensure the proper consistency, setting and workability of the mix.
  • Durability: On-site testing can measure the concrete's strength 28 days after curing.

How to Correctly Set Concrete

Setting refers to the gradual development of the rigidity of the concrete mix upon adding water. The resulting chemical reaction serves as the catalyst for the setting process. 

The degree of setting affects various properties of hardened concrete:

  • Permeability (the amount of air, water and other substances that can penetrate the concrete)
  • Strength
  • Volume stability
  • Likelihood of premature cracking
  • Resistance to frequent freezing, thawing and chemical damage from the application of de-icing materials in winter
  • Abrasion resistance

In most cases, the proper concrete setting requires exposing the mix to an environment with a relative humidity of over 80% and a temperature of more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-14 days. The mix design also impacts the setting results. For example, a lower water-to-cement ratio strengthens and increases the durability of the concrete, but it also limits its workability. 

The Concrete Curing Process

Curing refers to the process of controlling the level and rate of moisture loss during cement hydration. One curing technique is keeping the surface moist via ponding, applying damp sand or lightly spraying or sprinkling water. Another common method entails covering the surface with polythene sheeting to prevent moisture from escaping. 

The Consequences of Improper Concrete Practices

The failure to adhere to best practices during concrete implementation can lead to multiple issues. Cracking that results from tensile stress is one of the more common problems. Spalling, which occurs when a large concrete chunk separates from the main structure, is another potential concern.

Contact The Cat® Rental Store to Learn More

At The Cat® Rental Store, we understand the process of implementing concrete at construction sites. We offer a broad assortment of high-quality concrete equipment for rent through our dealer network to help you achieve a successful project outcome. Call us at 1-800-RENT-CAT or contact us online today.

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