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The 15 Types of Concrete Used in Commercial Construction

  • June 12, 2024

Concrete is one of the most popular construction materials used to build commercial structures, not only for its strength and durability, but also for its versatility.

Unlike steel or wood, which must be cut or bent to create a shape, concrete can be molded into any shape desired. 

Another factor that makes concrete incredibly versatile is the numerous types of concrete available, each with unique properties and benefits.

This article will discuss 15 types of concrete used in the commercial construction industry and their applications. 

Table of Contents

1. The Core Components of Concrete
2. Types of Commercial Concrete


The Core Components of Concrete

No matter which type of concrete you’re referring to, it is always comprised of three main ingredients: water, cement, and aggregates. Aside from those items, some specialty cements have extra additives to give them unique properties. 

Water

Changing the amount of water added to the cement mixture makes a significant difference in the consistency of the concrete. Low water content makes stronger concrete but is more challenging to work with. More water is more manageable but weakens the concrete.

Cement

Concrete is made with Portland cement, which consists of limestone, clay, and gypsum. Portland cement is a hydraulic cement that gains strength when mixed with water.

Aggregates

Aggregates are the ingredients in cement that add bulk. They can either be coarse or fine. 

Coarse aggregates add strength to the concrete. These can include gravel, rocks, recycled concrete, vermiculite, or glass. Fine aggregates, like sand, crushed stone, and some other fine materials, add volume. 

Common Ratio

The ratio of water to cement to aggregates is called the mix design.

The most common ratio is 1:2:4, meaning one part cement, two parts aggregates, and four parts water. When you change this ratio, you alter the properties of the concrete.

Admixtures 

Another way to change the properties of concrete is to introduce additives to the mix. Certain chemicals and minerals are used as admixtures to create a new type of concrete to fill a particular need. 

Related: An Overview of Concrete Testing


Types of Commercial Concrete

Now that we’ve discussed the ingredients and how they affect the material’s properties, let’s list the types of concrete used in commercial construction and their applications.

1. Normal Concrete

Basic concrete, known as normal concrete, contains the 1:2:4 common ratio and is one of the most common types of concrete. The water-cement ratio content of normal concrete can be adjusted to the project’s needs or the region’s humidity.

Applications

Normal-strength concrete is typically used to create pavement, sidewalks, or patios.

Benefits

One of the biggest benefits of this concrete is its ease of use. It comes premixed and is pumped directly on location. Normal concrete is also fast and efficient, setting in 90 minutes or less.

Drawbacks

Due to its low tensile strength of 10 MPa to 40 MPa, this concrete is limited in its applications. It will also need to be textured to make it safer to walk on. If not, it will get slippery when wet. To make normal concrete last longer, it must be treated since it’s prone to wear and tear.

2. Reinforced Concrete

Concrete that contains steel reinforcing bars or mesh is called reinforced concrete. The addition of this steel reinforcement dramatically increases the tensile strength.

Applications

Any commercial structure needing extra support requires the high tensile strength reinforced concrete provides. Foundations, walls, bridges, tunnels, and drains can all be made from reinforced concrete. 

Benefits

The main benefit of reinforced concrete is that it can sustain extremely heavy loads but is also economical, durable, and long-lasting.

Drawbacks

The steel inside this concrete makes it very heavy, causing design limitations.

Learn more: What’s the Purpose of Rebar in Concrete Construction?

3. Lightweight Concrete

Lightweight concrete has a lower density using higher water content and lightweight aggregates like pumice, perlite, clay, shale, or slate.

Applications

Lightweight concrete can reduce the dead load on a structure, make concrete blocks, and cast structural steel. It’s also applicable for insulation for pipes, roofing, and walls.

Benefits

The reduced weight of this concrete allows for a longer unsupported roof span. Lightweight concrete is also ideal for taller buildings, since the load placed on the lower levels is reduced. 

Drawbacks

The lower strength and higher initial cost are two drawbacks of this concrete. Its porosity also makes it susceptible to harsh climates.

4. High-Strength Concrete

This concrete has a high cement and low water ratio compared to other concrete. High-strength concrete is made by using stronger aggregates and superplasticizers. The strength of this concrete can reach 6000 PSI or higher.

Applications

highconcrete in commercial construction applications

High-strength concrete is often used to build high-rise buildings and other structures that need to bear heavy loads. It is also applied in structural beams, columns, and load-bearing walls.

Benefits

Its low permeability allows high-strength concrete to withstand harsher weather and makes it more resistant to corrosion and chemicals. You can also save money with this concrete because stronger concrete does more work with less product.

Drawbacks

This concrete costs more than normal concrete and requires special curing practices.

5. Precast Concrete

Precast concrete is poured into molds offsite and then transported to the job, unlike conventional concrete that is poured at the construction site.

Applications

Precast concrete is used to create many of the elements of a structure, such as the walls or slabs, poles, columns and beams, and stairs.

Benefits

Factory-made forms in a controlled environment create high-quality concrete structures. Precast concrete also promotes faster construction on site, since curing is already done and no formwork is necessary.

Drawbacks

Transportation must be done carefully to ensure no damage happens to the concrete forms.

6. Prestressed Concrete

This concrete is made using a different technique: steel rods under tension to compress the concrete. Prestressed concrete is also referred to as post-tension or pre-tension concrete. 

Applications

Prestressed concrete is a great choice for supporting extremely heavy loads and long-spanned roofs. It is also often used to build bridges and floor beams.

Benefits

Due to its increased strength, prestressed concrete can hold heavy loads without cracking or deflecting.

Drawbacks

The extra materials and skilled labor required to build prestressed concrete make it more expensive.

Read more: Post Tension Concrete: How it Works + Pros and Cons

7. High-Density Concrete

As the name implies, this is concrete with a higher-than-normal density. To create high-density concrete, you need to use heavier aggregates. These can include barite, ferrophosphorus, limonite, hematite, ilmenite, magnetite, goethite, and steel.

Applications

Power plants or other industrial areas with radiation use high-density concrete due to its increased ability to sustain the radiation. It is also a counterweight for cranes, elevators, and bridges.

Benefits

High-density concrete helps the structure resist radiation. Additionally, it’s very durable against fire and chemicals and has high tensile and compressive strength.

Drawbacks

High-density concrete is difficult to use and to find. When you do find it, it’s typically expensive. Building with this material also requires more quality control and testing.

8. Self-Consolidated Concrete

Normal concrete will need to be vibrated to ensure there are no air pockets and that it is level. Self-consolidated concrete self-compacts, removing this requirement. It is also known as self-compacting or flowing concrete.

The finer aggregates and viscosity-enhancing admixtures give this concrete its self-leveling and compacting properties. 

Applications

Areas with thick reinforcement or limited space or obstructions can benefit from using flowing concrete. It is also used for projects requiring a flawless concrete finishing.

Benefits

Self-consolidated concrete is less labor intensive since it levels itself and does not need vibrating or screeding. The end product is a much smoother surface.

Drawbacks

This concrete is sensitive to fluctuating temperatures and is more expensive than normal concrete. 

9. Air Entrained Concrete

This type of concrete contains tiny air pockets to allow room for water to freeze and thaw without causing damage. It is created with the help of foaming agents or gases such as resins, alcohol, or fatty acids. 

Applications

Any concrete structures in areas that face hard freezes could use air-entrained concrete. 

Benefits

This concrete is resistant to the freeze-thaw cycle and to chemicals and abrasions. It’s also more durable than normal concrete.

Drawbacks

Air entrained concrete is unsuitable for humid locations and cannot support heavy loads. It also requires regular sealing to keep dirt and debris out of the air pockets.

10. Polymer Concrete

Concrete that replaces the cement with a polymer binder such as acrylic, epoxy, polyester, or vinyl is called polymer concrete. 

Applications

Polymer concrete is often used for concrete repairs. It can also help build industrial, sewer, or marine structures.

Benefits

Since it is less porous, polymer concrete is suitable for structures that come in contact with water and chemicals. With reduced corrosion, a higher compressive strength, and resistance to the freeze-thaw cycle, this concrete is exceptionally durable. It also has faster curing times than most other types of concrete. 

Drawbacks

The polymer binder in this concrete is flammable, so it’s not fire-resistant. It has poor thermal conductivity, which means it is not good insulation. Lastly, polymer concrete can be expensive. 

11. Shotcrete

shotcrete commercial construction applications

Shotcrete differs in the application process, where wet or dry concrete is sprayed with compressed air onto a surface. The high velocity at which shotcrete is spread compacts the concrete, creating a solid bond. 

Applications

The most common use for shotcrete is to build rounded forms such as arches, tunnels, swimming pools, etc. It is also instrumental in areas difficult to reach or where one cannot build formwork. Shotcrete is excellent for overhead work and concrete repair.

Benefits

Shotcrete application is fast and easy, and can even be applied vertically. Not needing formwork reduces material and labor costs.

Drawbacks

Shotcrete application creates a lot of dust and concrete waste. The process also requires skilled labor and precise application and timing.

Learn more: How Shotcrete Works and When It’s the Best Choice

12. Pervious Concrete

Concrete with no sand is called pervious concrete.  About 15-20% of the mass is open space, allowing water to pass through it.

Applications

Pervious concrete is used on roads, parking lots, and driveways.

Benefits

This type of concrete can help prevent flooding and manage stormwater runoff. It also reduces solar radiation and keeps the area cooler.

Drawbacks

Pervious concrete curing is sensitive to temperature fluctuations. It also has low strength and requires regular sealing to keep dirt and debris out of the holes.

13. Rapid Strength Concrete

Rapid-strength concrete sets faster than normal, typically within hours instead of two days. It contains admixtures that quicken hardening and hydration.

Applications

This type of concrete is often used for construction during the winter or in harsher weather conditions. It can also be used for post settings, concrete repair, and restoration.

Benefits

Obviously, the most significant benefit of rapid strength concrete is its ability to quicken construction. Another advantage is its versatility.

Drawbacks

Due to its rapid hardening, there is a small window of workability. It is also more prone to cracking and other damage.

14. Pumped Concrete

Extremely fluid concrete that can be pumped through hoses is called pumped concrete. It is pumpable because it contains finer aggregates and more water.

Applications

Pumped concrete is often used to bring concrete to the upper levels of buildings.

Benefits

It has a very high workability.

Drawbacks

Its high water content means pumped concrete isn’t as strong as some of the other options on this list.

15. Smart Concrete

There have been some new developments in concrete technology, called smart concrete. There are a few different types of smart concrete to choose from:

Damage-Detecting

Concrete that contains carbon fiber, steel shavings, or embedded sensors is called damage-detecting. The carbon or steel conducts electricity. To assess the damage, an electrical current is passed through the concrete. 

Then, a noninvasive test is conducted to look for damages or weaknesses. Damage-detecting concrete can be used in any commercial structure to mitigate further damage.

Self-Repairing

This smart concrete contains shape memory polymers that automatically fill cracks or imperfections. It is best used in public infrastructure that can only be shut down for a short period for repairs. 

Conductive Concrete

Another new development is concrete, which heats up with electricity or sunlight. It can be helpful on roads in cold climates or for self-heating flooring.


Recap

The versatility of concrete is due to the various types available as a building material. However, it requires professional knowledge to know when to use which kind of concrete for the best outcome.

 The team at FMP Construction has that knowledge and would love to use it on your next commercial project. Contact us today!

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