Concrete is one of the most durable, versatile, and classy building materials in the world. As a result, it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the most widely used.
While the advantages of using raw concrete are plentiful, there are some ways to reinforce it to capitalize on these advantages even further. Steel rebar, fiber-reinforced polymer bars, and fiber meshes are all some materials commonly added to concrete to help resist shear, compressive, and tensile forces. However, in this article, we are going to explore two innovative reinforcement methods–insulated concrete framing and crystallized waterproofing–that can enhance your use of concrete to the fullest for an upcoming construction project.
Insulated Concrete Forms
A popular framing choice amid the rising trend of sustainable, energy efficient buildings, insulated concrete forms (ICF) leverage the natural durability and insulation of concrete and provide reinforcements to extend these benefits even further.
ICF is a precision-manufactured, double-insulated framing solution for reinforced concrete walls. The manufacture of ICF blocks involves six critical components of reinforcement and insulation to make their concrete walls the best in the industry:
- Rebar support – embedded steel rebar makes ICF walls one of the most durable in the industry. They are highly rated for all above- and below-grade purposes and exceed all safety, durability, and resilience requirements set by FEMA-ATFP and Federal Military Standards.
- Continuous double-layer insulation – this helps ICF achieve elite thermal comfort, energy savings, and sound mitigation. An R-value of 23.5 or higher provides the most insulative walls for zero-energy builds.
- Solid monolithic air barrier – many structural wood framing panels provide small cracks, crevices, and other imperfections through which air can pass. Conversely, ICF walls exceed the standard for minimum airtightness. The continuous air barrier provides comfortable interior environments with enhanced climate control.
- Continuous vapor barrier – in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, structures are under increasing scrutiny to provide elite interior air quality for patrons. The PERM rating of ICF blocks is less than 1.0, basically eliminating moisture intrusion and the harmful mold, rot, and mildew spore that comes with it.
- Full height embedded attachment strips – this makes ICF walls compatible with virtually any type of cladding material. Strong enough to work with metal, brick, fiber cement, and a host of other materials, the airtight fastening strips eliminate thermal bridging that can occur between the cladding and wall substrate.
- Reversible interlock – the intuitive block design reduces construction time and product waste, with a parallel friction fit connection that’s easy, versatile, and fast to assemble.
ICF framing offers everything you would want to see for sustainable construction. Its elite air and moisture barriers make it a strong choice to withstand strong winds and driving rains, with steel reinforcement providing shear support that may undermine basic concrete structures. The concrete walls offer unmatched fire and pest resistance as well. For these reasons, ICF framing has been used to rebuild neighborhoods around the country that have been ravaged by natural disasters.
If there is a knock against concrete, it is that unsealed concrete surfaces have a tendency to be a bit porous. This is common to all types of masonry surfaces and requires some extra attention to sealing to prevent unwanted water ingress. However, much of this concern can be alleviated by leveraging modern innovations in crystalline waterproofers.
Chemical crystallization products offer a more long-lasting solution to concrete porosity. It helps form hard crystals deep at the microstructural level that make it impossible for water to bypass. Crystallization chemicals interact with the natural byproducts of cement hydration to form an impermeable barrier that stops water and other types of corrosive liquids from entering the concrete. The advantages of this type of concrete waterproofing over membranes and surface coatings are numerous:
- The crystalline structures deep within the pores of the capillary tracts prevent penetration of water and harsh chemicals, while other types of sealers only offer surface-level protection.
- Since it is not dependent on surface adhesion, crystalline waterproofers are resistant to extreme hydrostatic pressure.
- The crystals formed in the concrete capillaries can seal hairline cracks up to .5mm.
- It will not degrade over time like surface-level membranes.
- It is a permanent solution that does not need to be regularly reapplied like surface sealers, as the crystalline chemicals reactive and self-heal whenever water is present.
Concrete crystallizers are one of the most innovative solutions on the market for reducing concrete porosity, helping reduce the lifetime cost of ownership through reduced maintenance and upkeep of your concrete structures.
Reinforce Your Concrete Today for Long Lasting Durability
Even though concrete is one of the toughest, most durable building materials in the world, there are ways to reinforce it to make it even stronger. Specifically, ICF framing in energy efficient buildings and crystalline waterproofing methods are two trending concepts that can enhance concrete structures. For more information on how to leverage these two types of concrete reinforcement, check out the resources at AAA Concreting today for ideas and inspiration!
Brian Jeffries is a freelance writer that loves sharing his knowledge and expertise on construction projects and materials. He lives in Winter Park, Florida where he enjoys spending time with his wife and working on projects in his spare time. Brian’s work as a freelance writer can be found on Building Product Advisor, a construction industry resource site.