History and uses of ConcreteMJBOXTOOL
Concrete isn’t always the most exciting of topics; when we think of concrete we think of dull architecture and tedious labor. Even though fortunes have been made in construction, it’s difficult to get passionate about concrete, and it’s hardly to be imagined that a material so familiar could actually be so important; like a lot of things we take for granted, it fades into the background of our imagination.
But this extraordinary discovery took the Ancient Roman world by storm for a very good reason. It is fire-resistant, durable, and inert, and can fulfill an enormous range of construction requirements; a properly-built concrete structure will last far longer than a building of flimsier materials.
Even concrete which has set badly will be tough, and one of the ingredients of concrete, cement, is used in mortar, another crucial material for a lot of modern construction, but ordinary concrete will only attain its true strength if it sets in the right conditions.
Concrete is naturally strongest when it sets slowly over a period of a couple of days; if it sets too quickly it will be susceptible to shattering under very heavy loads, and if it sets too slowly it will be deformed. Therefore, it is important for builders to control the environment when setting beds of concrete; if concrete is nearly dry and rain is forecast, it can be sealed with a hydrophobic spray so that only the moisture already in the concrete is allowed to affect the setting process, and in hot environments, the concrete must be ‘cured’ by adding water so that it does not dry out too quickly.
If the concrete is set in cold, dry environments, calcium chloride is added to the mixture so that it heats slightly as it sets; this stops the molecular structure of the concrete from freezing into a brittle arrangement and allows the concrete to dry properly.
Concrete can be made even stronger by adding webs of steel into the relevant section of concrete. The compression strength of concrete is reinforced by the tensile strength of steel, and, because concrete can be poured into a mold around a steel frame, the steel can be positioned exactly where it is needed without having to add an overly heavy frame. The complementary properties of steel and concrete add up to reinforced concrete, which is used in the largest buildings.
Concrete can also be used for ornamental effects. Bricks of concrete can be manufactured to specification, and more advanced construction projects may use customized concrete shapes; many capitals of columns are made of concrete, for instance, and a material which sets into a mold can theoretically be formed into any shape required, so long as the load-bearing properties of concrete are borne in mind.
The fact that it sets slowly is also a great advantage, as it means there is a long period where it is exactly soft enough for its surface to be worked with stamps and a subsequent period when it is tough enough to be touched up with chisels. Patterns in city-centre areas which look to be made of individually laid bricks are in fact beds of concrete which have been cut into brick-like shapes, and ornamental patios are often beds of concrete treated with textured pads, hammers, brushes, and chisels to look like naturally occurring stones.
Like a flowerbed, properly tended concrete can blossom into a piece of artistic beauty if necessary; not all concrete is as pedestrian as ordinarily imagined.