You might have heard of using precast concrete for your next building project. It’s gaining in popularity in the United States and has been pretty popular in other places. More and more homes and businesses are using it for many different applications. That’s all great, but you may wonder what exactly is precast concrete? How is it different than the regular concrete that is poured at the project site?
Precast Concrete 101
Precast concrete is not different from regular, cast-in-place concrete – material-wise. It’s the exact same thing and made from the same materials, generally water, aggregates, and Portland cement. Both are mixed at a mixing plant. Both can have different strengths and other properties based on the amount of water, cement, or aggregate and/or Portland cement type.
Precast concrete has been popular for parking structures, bridges, foundations, curb inlets, culverts and catch basins, sound walls, retaining walls, and other walls and fences. Generally, architects like to use precast concrete for multi-housing units, office buildings, hospitals, medical centers, schools, and retail shopping centers.
How is it Made?
Where precast concrete starts to differ from regular concrete is in how it’s made. Previously, cast-in concrete was built using forms, then having to pour the concrete, waiting for the concrete to cure, all while being done on-site. All of the raw materials have to be shipped to the project site.
Precast concrete is not made on-site. It’s typically made in a climate-controlled environment by a skilled worker like cast-in-place concrete; precast concrete is poured into a wooden or steel mold with wire mesh or rebar included to add strength. The great thing is, unlike cast-in-place concrete, these molds can be used again and again.
Precast concrete can have pigments and/or aggregates added to the concrete prior to pouring it into the molds. The molds are extremely versatile and can have interesting motifs or decorations added to them. This allows precast concrete to be more varied and interesting than regular concrete.
Once the concrete has properly cured, the molds are removed, and the finished product is inspected. Anything that doesn’t pass inspection is crushed to be recycled as aggregate. Once the pieces pass inspection, they are shipped to the project site to be assembled.
Assembly of precast concrete is another way it differs from cast-in-place concrete. Like we mentioned earlier, cast-in-place is done all on-site. Once the concrete is poured and cured, the wall is assembled. With precast concrete, the shipped components have to be put together. This is relatively easy and doesn’t require highly skilled workers.
Precast concrete is more robust than cast-in-place concrete, thanks to that ideal curing environment inside the warehouse. Again, it costs less due to the perfect curing environment creating less wasted concrete – the reused molds help too! It’s incredibly versatile – allowing you to get precisely the look you want. And it’s highly sustainable. Developers who wish to a LEED-certified building will go for precast concrete for that exact reason. Lastly, it’s incredibly long-lasting and durable. Many of the ancient Roman monuments were made, in part, using an older form of concrete.
Now that you know a bit more about precast concrete, it’s time to consider it for your next fencing or wall project. If you would like to learn more about precast concrete for your project, contact American Precast Inc. today for a free consultation!