Concrete can succumb to an amazing number of illnesses. Viewed this way, making good concrete is more of a miracle than a routine procedure. But most of the variables can be controlled so concrete is used in almost every structure built. It’s the second most commonly used material on the planet, next to water. Good concrete is the result of good planning involving everyone in the chain.

When concrete is very important to a project, the ready-mix QC staff often work together with the owner’s testing company to check the concrete. The QC staff can quickly call order corrections from the job as testing indicates.

If you want to make bad concrete it’s not too hard. You don’t need to follow the entire steps listed below — just one or two of them will do the trick. But here’s a list you can explore to find a way to fail:

Step 1: Fail to plan. If you have a plan, then you will have the proper equipment, labor, and materials ready at the time of construction to make good concrete. Failing to plan will result in poor finishing, poor grade control, and a mad dash to cure—or forgetting to cure all together. And of course the hottest, windiest days create the best cracks (as does adding the most cement you can get into the mix). Letting the truck sit on the job for a couple hours helps, too.

Step 2: Order the wrong concrete. Don’t consider the environment that the concrete is in or the weather conditions during placement. Air entrainment and a water-cement ratio below 0.45 might be good for skyscrapers, but sidewalks aren’t the Taj Mahal. Well-constructed concrete pavements resist deterioration for years to come, interfering with repeat business. Sure they might not use the same installer but if everyone pulls together, there can be replacement work for all. In cold weather climates, choose the wrong aggregates. Weak and porous ones will cause popouts, while concrete with hard, durable aggregate or 100% crushed bedrock will stand up for years.

Step 3: Use dihydrogen oxide. Once the concrete shows up, it probably isn’t ready for placement. The best finisher’s helper has a foreign sounding name—dihydrogen oxide, but you probably know it by its nickname “water.” Concrete with lots of water runs easily down the chute, fills the forms, and practically levels itself—add as much as you can. It slows the set when it’s hot out and floats and trowels easier in any weather. If there isn’t enough water, concrete won’t bleed and without excessive bleeding, it’s really hard to float water into the surface, unless you spray a lot of it on the surface before you finish. This helps make the surface susceptible to freezing and abrasion damage, faster wear, and scaling.

Step 4: Avoid curing at all cost. Tell your concrete sales representative you want healthy concrete—not sick concrete that needs to be cured. Relate the one time you didn’t cure and it was fine, so obviously curing isn’t needed. Especially if you are pouring 6- to 8-inch slump concrete; there’s plenty of water in there already. We all know there are lots of other great ways to make bad concrete.

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