Many different building materials and construction methods are used today for commercial projects such as building a skyscraper or a highway. Some of these materials and methods are newer than others, and recent advances such as carbon fibers and new metal alloys make buildings lighter and tougher than ever. All the same, older construction materials have proven their worth for millennia, and are still in use today. Concrete companies are an essential part of any project, and a concrete contractor can pour a foundation for a skyscraper or school, for example. Or, concrete companies may help build a canal, a highway overpass, or a factory. Many non-residential construction projects call for the classics such as concrete, and concrete contractors are happy to help. How much concrete is made today, and what is the scale of this industry? Where might concrete companies be found?
American Concrete Today
Commercial concrete work has existed for many centuries, and it may be used well into the future, too. In fact, concrete is used more than any other type of man-made material in the entire world, and this material dates back thousands of years. The oldest known concrete made by human beings dates back to a mix that was made in 500 BC. This material is an aggregate, not a single substance. The terms “concrete” and “cement” are sometimes used interchangeably, but this is not accurate. Rather, cement is an ingredient in concrete, and true concrete is a combination of paste and aggregate materials. These aggregates tend to be crushed stone and sand, and the paste tends to be water and portland cement. Concrete companies create the finished product when poured concrete is allowed to hydrate. That is, hydration involves the cement and water hardening and binding the aggregates into a single, rock-like mass. This hardening procedure can continue for years, which means that concrete may get stronger, not weaker, as it ages.
Concrete is tough, and even if takes time to fully cure, it can be highly effective. The enormous Hoover Dam, for example, has some concrete in it that is still curing, and concrete, once fully hardened, has impressive strength. On average, concrete has a strength of 3,000 psi, or pounds per square inch, and some concrete may have a strength as high as 20,000 psi or so.
This makes for a large industry that plays a major role in construction today. Nearly 30% of all interstate highways in the United States are built with this material, and the American concrete industry employs some two million people and is worth close to $37 billion. Concrete companies are always in demand, and they can get a lot of work done.
A construction project, such as building a shopping mall or office building, calls for many different crews to come together and pool their expertise, tools, and manpower. Any construction project is a team effort, and this will include concrete companies. In fact, a concrete company may be among the first parties to act in a construction project. Once the site for a building is chosen, the land is cleared away and the foundation is dug up, such as with backhoes and bulldozers. This site is cleared up, and the concrete company will act. The workers will set up wooden, temporary low walls and barriers to keep the concrete in its intended area and shape, and mixers will pour all of the concrete. Workers will use specialized rakes and other materials to smooth over the concrete and clear up any bubbles or other imperfections, so that the final product is smooth and flawless and can thus bear more weight.
In a finished building, meanwhile, concrete can be painted over for better effect. Bare, untreated concrete may suffer from stains, dirt, and cracks, but if the right kind of floor protection is applied, the concrete floor is improved. With the right coating, the concrete can bear more weight without cracking, and it will resist water and oil stains. Such a floor can also have markings painted onto it, such as arrows or warning labels for workers to refer to, such as in factory or warehouse. Pouring concrete alone isn’t enough; this material must also be treated for maximum effect.