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Concrete: Basic and Advanced Engineering Information

written by: Mike Aguilar • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 10/31/2011

Concrete is a basic building block of our everyday world. It's used in almost every type of structure that we build today. This engineering guide to concrete will give you a variety of information about concrete, including some best practices for various situations.

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    Concrete is one of the most prevalent building materials known to man. From roadways to houses and just about everything in between, you’ll find concrete in it somewhere. Many people believe that cement and concrete are the same thing. They aren’t. Each has properties that make it distinct from the other, and these properties are what make them useful in different applications. When concrete is poured, being basically a liquid, it needs something to keep it in the shape that you want or need. You’ll read about what these are and how they are used and cared for. The process by which concrete solidifies is known as curing. How curing occurs and what occurs during the curing process will be discussed. Advanced concrete building concepts such as pre-cast homes and expansion joints will be discussed in detail. How do you know how much concrete a specific job will require? You’ll find out how to make this determination. Concrete by itself is pretty strong, but there are ways to make it even stronger, and these will be discussed below. The use of concrete in areas that experience seismic activity is very prevalent, but there are certain precautions that must be taken in this type of area that aren’t required in other areas. Concrete is affected by weather and environmental conditions. Concrete preservation is important and you’ll read about some methods for concrete preservation. This Engineering Guide to Concrete will present you with some best practices to make your use of concrete more efficient and productive by giving you a more thorough understanding of concrete.

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    The Various Types of Concrete and Cement

    Before discussing the various types of cement, an introduction to concrete and how it is made will give you a firm groundwork to begin your study. Portland cement composition and manufacturing will be discussed. Once we have this groundwork established, we will begin by looking at self-compacting concrete. Engineered cementitious composite (CEC) is a type of concrete compound that is flexible, a unique property that makes it useful for a variety of uses. This concrete product and its uses will be discussed below.

    Cement Basics

    Portland cement factory 

    How is Portland Cement Made?

    The Portland Cement Manufacturing Process

    Concrete That Compacts on Its Own? - Description and Advantages

    What Is Self Compacting Concrete?

    Engineered Cementitious Composite (ECC)

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    The Use of Forms in Concrete Construction

    Concrete is considered a liquid. As a liquid, it tries to find its lowest point. This means that without a way to keep concrete where you want and in the shape that you want it in, it’s a pretty useless building material. Keeping control of concrete is accomplished by the use of forms. These can be wood, metal, or a variety of other materials. The basics of concrete formwork will be discussed. Next you’ll read about how people in the concrete construction industry use and reuse forms. Once you know the basics of what forms are and how they’re used and cared for, the next logical step is to learn about the newest types of forms that are being used in the field. To top off this discussion, you’ll learn how cement walls are designed.

    Concrete Formworkndustrial Concrete Forms with 3/4 

    Using Concrete Formwork in Construction

    Reusing Formwork for Concrete

    The Latest Formwork Systems

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    All about the Concrete Curing Process

    The process by which concrete dries and thus hardens is called curing. The curing of concrete and cement is an exothermic one. This means that heat is given off as the concrete hardens. In this section you will become familiar with this curing process. You will also be presented with a number of tips to help your poured concrete cure properly. Cold, wet environments present some challenges to the curing process. But there are ways to get around these challenges; you will be presented with ways to get around these challenges and cure your concrete.

    Curing Concrete

    Tips on Concrete Curing

    Concrete Curing in Challenging Conditions

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    Advanced Concepts of Concrete Building

    Many houses and buildings are built with slab foundations- foundations which aren’t just around the perimeter of the house, but are under the whole house. For most houses and buildings, a single slab will suffice. However, much larger houses and buildings, even in non-seismically active areas, need to be able to move and settle. This is accomplished with expansion joints. The theory and practice of expansion joints will be thoroughly discussed below. One way to obtain greater strength and insulation when building residential buildings is by the precast method. This method will be discussed in this section as well.

    All You Need To Know About Concrete Expansion Joints

    Construction Joints

    Precast Concrete Homes

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    Calculations When Using Concrete

    You want to build a patio, but you need to figure out how much concrete you will need for it. How do you figure that out, in such a way that you don’t either have to keep going back to the home improvement store for more bags of concrete or call the cement supplier and ask for another truck? There are calculations, which will be discussed below, that will tell you how many cubic yards you need and how many bags that translates into. You will also be given methods for determining the amount of cement present given a given quantity of concrete.

    Testing for Cement Content

    What Are the Recommended Concrete Mix Proportions for Good Concrete?

    Useful Calculations for Concrete

    How Do I Tell How Many Bags of Concrete I Need for a Project?

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    Making Concrete Stronger

    By itself, concrete is pretty strong. But when it’s used as a building material, it doesn’t have enough strength to have the required amount of longevity. Add in outside stresses such as wind and rain, and it begins to look almost weak. There are many different ways in which concrete can be engineered that greatly enhance the underlying strength of the concrete. Some of these engineering methods that can be put into practice include glass fiber and steel reinforcing, to name a few. The various methods by which concrete can be strengthened are discussed in detail below.

    Fundamentals of Reinforced Concrete

    Basics Of Fiber Reinforced Concrete

    Use and Production of Reinforced Concrete

    Characteristics of Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC)

    Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC)

    Steel Fiber Reinforced Concrete

    Rubberized Asphalt Concrete Materials

    When Stress Is Good: Pre- and Post-Tensioned Concrete

    Prestressed Concrete Beam Load Test to Failure

    Roman Concrete Technology

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    New Earthquake and Structural Concrete Specifics

    Seismic activity is the single greatest factor in decreasing the longevity of concrete structures. Using pre-stressed concrete or one of the other methods of reinforcing the concrete structure is one way to ensure that a concrete structure will remain standing during an earthquake. There are a number of methods that concrete engineers have at their disposal to make concrete structures earthquake resistant. Some of these methods will be discussed below.

    What is Earthquake Engineering?

    Preventing Earthquake Failure of Structural Precast Concrete ComponentsMetal-chairs 

    Low Cost Housing Construction in Earthquake Zones

    Fundamentals Of Seismic Retrofit

    Bridge Design Considerations in Areas of Seismic Activity

    Design Parameters of Foundations in Seismic Zones

    Lightweight Concrete Carries The Load

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    Preserving and Repairing Concrete

    Whether you’re responsible for maintenance on a bridge, a house, or any other type of structure that contains concrete, preservation of the structural integrity of that structure’s concrete should be of prime importance to you. Many environmental factors affect the longevity of the concrete portions of the structure. Cracks are the main enemy of concrete and you’ll be given information on what causes cracks and how to repair cracks in foundations and other areas of your building.

    Why Does Concrete Crack?

    How to Repair Cracks on Concrete Foundations

    How to Repair Concrete Cracks

References

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