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Frequently Asked Questions

Concrete Myths and Madness

To start off this section I would like to introduce my favorite saying about concrete, concrete is grey matter IT HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN. So if it seems like an unruly teenager, well that's quite close. With that example let me continue, a well behaved teenager can be one of the nicest kind of people to have around and the same goes for concrete when certain rules are followed it can be a most beautiful product.

Before going to the details of problems let me start with the basics of rules for concrete and the first of these is what it is placed on. Concrete is only as good as what it is on top of. If the soil is loose, muddy, or has plant life in it then at some time there is a high risk for problems. Tree roots are another thing that will break concrete too.

Cracks. One of the biggest complaints about concrete is cracks. Now for a little education about concrete, concrete as it cures actually shrinks a very small amount, but in an area of much size at all it produces tremendous forces. This is why control joints (this is what the lines in concrete are called and why they are put in) are placed. The rule of thumb is that the concrete should be kept in a square shape and no larger than 15-20 feet in size for the largest size for a square. Certain shapes in layout of the concrete also exasperate this weakness. So care must be taken in the placement and quantity of control joint placed. Now for a little clarification about "control joints", control joints are the same idea as a perforation in paper, and we all know that there are times that paper tears in the wrong place, and so in concrete, sometimes the best laid plans miss the mark of where the concrete (remember its own mind) decides to crack.

Reinforcement. Ok with that said, what can be done with cracks or about them. The first thing is to install the concrete with reinforcement. Reinforcement is fiber, wire mesh, and rebar, with fiber being the weakest and rebar the strongest. Of course there are different grades of each. Now reinforcement does not stop concrete from cracking, in fact if the concrete doesn't crack reinforcement doesn't do anything for the concrete. Reinforcement begins its work when the concrete has cracked by holding it together. Many times people never see the cracks in concrete that is well reinforced.

Fixing cracked concrete can only be decided case by case, but some rules to help you understand what you are working with is whether or not you have a structural or aesthetic crack. If a crack has spread to where you can slide a quarter into it, and or if the concrete level has changed from one side of the crack to the other then you likely have a structural crack. If you do not have either of these options you likely have an aesthetic crack. Structural cracks usually can only be fixed by removing the concrete (usually so the underlining earth can be fixed) and then replacing the concrete. Aesthetic cracks are less straight forward to fix as most of the time the methods to fix the crack require opening them up (and thus making them more obvious) to install the repair material.

That brings us to the next natural question which is color. Will a patch match the existing concrete? Before answering the question directly I must remind you that concrete is made from natural products that come from the earth and usually do not have perfectly the same color. This detail can and will change the shade of the color of concrete from one patch of concrete to the next. Another detail is that the weather conditions at the time the concrete is installed will have an effect on the color of the concrete. Third (and sometimes the biggest) is that time will get concrete dirty and sometimes this is the biggest difference. And fourth is wear, old concrete will have wear and aging effects that cannot be matched. The rule of thumb here is don't try to get concrete to match something else but try complementary or contrasting colors.

Speaking of color, there is lots to learn about concrete colors. There are six basic styles of coloring for concrete. There are integral color (the color mixed through the whole mix of the concrete) cast on colors (a color with cement designed to be mixed into the top ΒΌ inch of fresh concrete) acid stain (which are a chemically reactive stain) water based stains (which stain the concrete with the dye that they carry in them) dyes which have different compounds used to carry them, and colors applied in sealers. Just as every artist has the kind of paints they like to use and some kinds of paint can make different kinds of pictures better than other, the same goes for concrete. Depending on the kind of look that you want to create will determine which methods your installer will want to use.

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