Concrete is one of the most widely used building materials in the world. In fact, the terms “concrete” and “construction” are seemingly synonymous, as concrete’s low cost, durability, and energy-efficient properties give it many advantages over other materials, such as steel, when designing commercial buildings.

In general, concrete is a broad term used to define a mixture of cement, water, and some type of aggregate material. A typical mix for plain concrete is one part cement, two parts water, and four parts gravel, which is among the most common aggregates used in mixing concrete. However, any change in the ratio of this mixture or the use of alternate aggregate materials can yield a unique concrete, making the types of concrete seemingly limitless.

The following breakdown will delve into some different types of concrete options and how they may be employed for use in a commercial building.

Normal Strength and Plain Concrete

These are the most economical and widely-used types of concrete seen in commercial buildings. Because concrete has tremendous compressive strength, it can be used effectively in areas that have high automobile and foot traffic, making normal or plain concrete popular in sidewalks, parking lots, and commercial patios.

Some commercial spaces even employ these types of concrete for floors or large countertops. While plain concrete can work well for these assignments, it is important to pair it with a strong concrete sealer and have a firm understanding of how to remove grease stains from concrete to prevent unsightly buildups from entering the material, as concrete, despite its durability and relatively low-maintenance nature, does have a tendency to be a bit porous.

Prestressed and Reinforced Concrete

Although it has tremendous compressive strength (the ability to bear heavy loads without giving way), regular concrete is a bit weak in terms of tensile strength, which is the ability to receive a blow and not crack. This is why one blow with a sledgehammer can make many concrete surfaces crumble.

While more costly, rebar can be added to concrete as a layer of reinforcement against a heavy blow. To add an even greater layer of protection, heavy equipment can be used to tension and prestress these reinforcement materials, making the final product resistant to heavy blows.

These types of concrete are commonly located in a commercial building’s foundation, as any extensive cracking or crumbling to the foundation could be catastrophic to the entire building. In addition, any areas of the building that may be subject to dropping of blunt or heavy objects, such as on an industrial kitchen’s floor or in a loading bay, will also feature this more durable option.

Precast Concrete

Precast concrete refers to any concrete units that are fabricated at the plant and brought to the construction site. The thought is that time can be saved and quality can be assured by having precast units poured in the factory that would be otherwise difficult to form on the spot. Some common uses of precast concrete in commercial buildings include:

  • Wall units that are assembled at the construction site using large cranes. In this respect, precast concrete walls are similar to insulated structural panels, so commercial buildings looking to employ concrete walls should strongly consider similar, but more customizable, insulated concrete forms
  • Countertops or any built-in picnic tables that are part of the company’s patio
  • Flag poles, shrines, and memorial walls
  • Blocks used for building raised flower beds or anchoring any patron seating
  • Staircase units, so if your commercial building plans on using the handrails, then it will be important that those precast specifications are included in the fabrication

Todd Gillman is the content director for the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.

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