Cement mixers and concrete have been popular building equipment and materials for decades – this is most likely the case because cement is so incredibly versatile as a building material. We will go over a brief history of concrete and examine all the fascinating ways in which it has been used in the past. There are many reasons why it has remained such a vital part of building practice to this day. From the Roman aqueducts to modern skyscrapers, we’ll be covering the incredible history of concrete.
A Brief History Of Concrete And Cement Mixers
Some of the earliest recorded use of concrete dates all the way back to 6500 BCE, in what is now Syria or Jordan. Of course, the mixture these merchants created back then is not really all that similar to modern concrete in terms of composition. It was simple, but highly effective as a binding agent and added hugely to the structural integrity of whatever was being built.
Jumping a few thousand years forward to around 3000 BCE – construction on some of the most famous man-made structures in History begins. The ancient Egyptians created a form of mortar using gypsum and lime, which essentially facilitated the construction of the great pyramids. In Northern China, around the same time period, a form of cement was being utilized in the creation of the great wall. Interestingly, a component of this ancient mortar was sticky rice.
The Romans were certainly the most prolific users of concrete in ancient times. Although they weren’t the inventors of it, by around 200B CE they had effectively mastered building with mortar and used it to create many impressive structures. Many of these are still standing today – most notably the Colosseum and the Pantheon. The Romans created a cement mixture with volcanic ash and lime being the main components.
After the eventual fall of the Roman empire, the techniques used for the creation of mortar were lost to time. For 1000 years there is no real evidence of concrete being implemented in building practices. It was later still, in the early 1700s that John Smeaton discovered a way to mass produce lime and more efficiently make concrete. This meant that cement became a far more viable building material and its use was significantly more widespread from this point onwards.
In 1824 a bricklayer from England, named Joseph Aspdin, created what he called Portland cement. He placed clay and finely-ground chalk into a hot kiln to more effectively remove carbon dioxide from the mixture. This method was altered and added to over time but it is essentially the same method we use today.
Why the History of Concrete Indicates How Versatile It Is
The concept of concrete or mortar has remained essentially the same in the way that it is implemented. Whilst the components and formulas have been adapted over the years, the simplicity and effectiveness of cement as a building material is why it has been used and perfected over the course of 8000 years. Without it, there are so many different kinds of structures that would be simply impossible to build.
The number of different societies that independently came up with their own versions of mortar and the sheer variety of different ways it can be implemented, speaks to the versatility of the material. In modern times, you would be hard-pressed to find any kind of structure that did not use concrete in some part of the building process.
Advantages Of Concrete In Construction
Let’s have a look at a few of the major reasons that concrete is so heavily utilised in modern construction.
Concrete is economically viable. Cement is impressively inexpensive in comparison to many other modern building materials, such as steel and polymers. The main components of concrete are water, cement and other aggregates, all of which are readily available all across the world.
Concrete is easily cast and moulded. Fresh concrete exists in liquid form and this allows for it to be poured or moulded into whatever shape is desired. After removing the mixture from the cement mixer essentially any shape is possible, even very complicated forms. This makes concrete an exceptionally versatile building material.
Concrete hardens at room temperature. Concrete sets and hardens at ambient temperatures and this makes it very easy to use. No complicated or expensive equipment is required for the effective use of concrete and cement mixers.
Concrete has impressive water-resistance properties. Concrete has a great innate ability to withstand water corrosion when compared to wood and steel. For this reason, concrete is ideal for underwater applications such as pipelines, canals, dams, building structures, linings and more. This is because concrete is inorganic and does not deteriorate in the way that other materials would.
Concrete is resistant to high temperatures. Concrete also handles intense heat better than most other materials would. Temperatures up to 910 degrees Celsius for a time frame of 2-6 hours. This is a very important characteristic of concrete as it ensures that there is enough time to perform rescue operations in case of a fire.
Concrete requires almost no maintenance at all. Structures built using concrete do not require regular coating or painting to protect against weathering. This, of course, is very appealing when considering the long-term implications of any structure, as it would significantly reduce maintenance costs for any building.
Multiple mode application. One of the most important aspects of concrete, when considering versatility, is the variety of application methods that can be used. Concrete can be poured, pumped, hand applied, sprayed, grouted and can even be applied in a method called shotcreting that assists when tunnelling.
From what we can see from these advantages, it becomes easy to imagine why concrete is so heavily utilized and why we consider it to be the most versatile of building materials.
Different Types of Concrete And When They Are Used For
There are so many different types and styles of concrete that we would scarcely have enough time to examine them all. Let’s look at a few of the most notable concrete styles and when they might be necessary. This variety of choices only adds to the clear versatility of concrete and cement mixers.
Standard or plain concrete. The most commonly used type of concrete as one might imagine. Plain concrete would be used where very high tensile strength is not necessary. An example would be in the construction of pavements and buildings and occasionally when building a dam.
Lightweight concrete. As the name would suggest this type of concrete is less dense than plain concrete, which means that it is a lighter-weight material. The most important quality of lightweight concrete is the extremely low thermal conductivity. This style is often used for protecting steel structures, thermal insulation and the building of long-span bridges.
High-density concrete. This concrete is around twice as dense as lightweight concrete and that can be very beneficial for certain things. Crushed rocks are used as the aggregate, which is a much heavier base material than most other types. High-density concrete is used in the creation of atomic power plants and other similar constructions because it prevents radiation leakage. A cement mixer is required for this style of concrete because it is simply too heavy to effectively mix by hand.
Reinforced concrete. This is considered to be the most important style of concrete. Steel is woven through the fresh concrete, in solid bars or mesh patterns. Plain concrete possesses extremely high compressive strength and steel has excellent tensile strength, the combination of these two factors makes reinforced concrete able to withstand almost any stress. This style is implemented in all kinds of construction.
High-strength concrete. It is also known as high-performance concrete and is used to achieve more specific attributes such as low shrinkage, self-compaction, high fire resistance and high strength. It is created with different aggregates to achieve whichever type of resistance is required. HPC is often used when a structure may be faced with more adverse conditions that require extra strength or durability.
Precast concrete. This refers to any number of concrete shapes that are cast from moulds, at a factory or on the construction site. These shapes are not considered to be in construction until they are completely hardened and set. Some examples would be; fence posts, concrete lintels, precast poles, staircase units and concrete blocks.
There are many other types of concrete including fly ash, fibre-reinforced, self-consolidated, shotcrete, permeable, and vacuum – just to name a few. Regardless of what you are setting out to create, there is surely a specialised type of concrete for your specific purposes.
Importance Of Cement Mixers In Modern Concrete Construction
Although concrete has been around for thousands of years, the invention of cement mixers has hugely added to the usability of concrete in construction. They ensure that the mixture remains in a liquid state and is malleable enough to be an effective building material. In the past, the cement mixture would have needed to be constantly stirred or churned manually to avoid hardening. With modern equipment, this is no longer necessary.
When considering the versatility of concrete as a building medium, it is almost impossible to exclude cement mixers from that discussion. Cement mixers sped up the building process hugely and facilitated larger-scale construction than had ever been possible before. The first portable cement mixer was created in 1902 and this makes sense considering how drastically construction changed during this period. Have a look at our BS Powers website if you are in the market for your own high-quality cement mixer!
Final Look At The Versatility Of Concrete
We hope that we have successfully convinced you of the undeniable versatility of concrete. It probably is something that most people might entirely overlook, yet it is a massively important part of our history. Without concrete, we may not be anywhere close to where we are today. Construction certainly would not be as developed as we now experience it to be.
More About BS Powers
We at BS Powers offer only the highest quality building equipment and materials! We are experts in the construction industry and strive to equip our customers with reliable construction equipment and materials. We are based out of Cape Town but have a large customer base all over South Africa and beyond.
Our friendly and experienced team has over 100 years of combined experience! Allow us to put our vast knowledge to good use for you or your company. Whether you are involved in construction, agriculture or forestry you can rest assured we have what you need. Our mission is to ensure that our loyal customers are satisfied with our service and products. Contact us today for more information or if you have any inquiries!