Concrete is a structural material made of chemically inert particulate substances, such as sand and gravel, that are bonded together by cement and water.
Today, many different types of concrete are used to construct skyscrapers, bridges, roads, and various structures. They are produced by adding different substances in varying proportions.
We have listed all different types of concrete that are produced to meet a wide range of requirements. Each has unique strength, density, and chemical and thermal resistance. Their properties and applications are mentioned in detail.
25. Ordinary Concrete
Strength: 10 to 40 MPa
Ordinary concrete (also called normal strength concrete) is made by mixing the material such as cement, water, and aggregates. Aggregates are inert granular materials (like sand and gravel) or crushed stones ranging in size from 6.5 to 38 millimeters.
Depending on the cement properties and weather conditions of the construction site, ordinary concrete has an initial setting time of 0.5 to 1.5 hours. It can withstand pressure from 10 to 40 MPa. Organic matter (such as twigs and leaves) is removed from the aggregate to ensure the highest strength and longer durability.
24. Stamped Concrete
Commonly used in: Pool decks; Driveways; Sidewalks; Patios
Stamped concrete is dyed and textured to given the illusion of patterns resembling stone, slate, wood, or bricks. Unlike other concrete variants, it is made by adding a base color, an accent color, and stamping a pattern into the mixture.
Stamped concrete has mid-range compressive strength, generally between 20 and 30 MPa. Not only does it add strength to the floor, but it also provides a pleasing appearance (available in numerous finishes). If maintained properly, it can last at least three decades.
Overall, it’s a cheaper and sustainable alternative to natural stones or bricks.
23. Gypsum Concrete
Mostly used as: Underlayment; Topcoat flooring
Gypsum concrete is a mixture of Portland cement, gypsum plaster, and aggregate. In addition to floor leveling, it is used to construct walling blocks and panels in non-load-bearing structures and envelopes.
Based on weight, gypsum concrete can be divided into three groups:
- Extra lightweight with an average density of less than 500 kg/m3
- Lightweight with an average density of less than 500–1800 kg/m3
- Normal weight with an average density of less than 1800–2500 kg/m3
The lightweight gypsum concrete is made with porous natural (shelly limestone, pumice stone) and synthetic materials (clayite, vermiculite). The normal weight gypsum concrete contains fine (natural sand) and coarse aggregates (crushed stone and gravel).
22. Asphalt Concrete
Runway made of asphalt concrete
Used to: Surface roads; Airports; Parking lots
Asphalt concrete (or simply asphalt) is a mixture of asphalt, aggregate, additives (such as polymers), and antistripping agents. Once produced, the mixture is transported by truck to the paving site, where it is spread uniformly with a mechanical paving or finishing machine.
It is then compacted to a specific degree by heavy rollers, which produces a smooth, evenly-compacted pavement course. In order to achieve adequate density, the concrete is compacted before the temperature of the mixtures falls below 175 Fahrenheit.
Different asphalt mixtures exhibit different performance in terms of roadway noise, braking efficiency, and surface durability. As far as noise is concerned, asphalt roads are far better than Portland cement concrete surface and chip seal surfaces.
21. Refractory Concrete
Unique properties: High resistance towards thermal expansion and shrinkage
Refractory concrete is made with high alumina cement or calcium aluminate cement. It is specifically designed for high-temperature applications, such as masonry ovens and chimneys.
Refractory concrete is usually prepared pre-packed ready for site mixing and installation. Unlike conventional concrete, it can withstand high temperatures up to 1400 °C (or 2552 °F).
20. Glass Concrete
Suitable for: Sidewalks, pavements, and indoor applications
Crushed waste glass can be used as aggregate in concrete. This reduces the time and energy required to ground the glass materials into powder.
Recent studies indicate that concrete made with recycled glass has better strength, thermal insulation, and abrasion resistance. They are also suitable for a wide range of surface treatments, including washing, grinding, acidification, and blasting. It provides designers and architects with countless new aesthetic possibilities.
Unique properties: Nanoparticles fill up all the micro pores and micro spaces in conventional concrete
Nano-concrete consists of Portland cement particles of size less than 100 micrometers and particles of silica no larger than 500 nanometers. The silica particles fill the pores that would otherwise occur in conventional concrete.
This reduces the concrete shrinkage and increases the strength, durability, and bonding to steel reinforcing bars. However, the exploitation of nanotechnology in concrete on a commercial scale is still limited, with few outcomes successfully transformed into effective products.
18. Rubberized Concrete
Possible applications: Shock absorber in highways, Earthquake shockwave absorber in buildings
Scrap rubber tires can be used to produce concrete. It will be a great way of utilizing rubber wastes and saving our environment.
So far, we haven’t been able to figure out an effective technique to do that. However, a lot of studies and experimental tests have shown some promising results. They show that rubber waste additives can act as an absorber and balance all internal stresses in concrete.
17. Polymer Concrete
Unique properties: Can be mold into complex shapes; Has excellent vibration damping properties
Unlike conventional concrete that uses cement hydrate binders, polymer concrete consists of polymer binders or liquid resins. Sometimes, the polymer is used along with portland cement to produce what’s called Polymer Cement Concrete.
Depending on the formulation, polymer concrete mixtures possess a unique combination of properties. They have
- High compressive strength,
- High specific strength,
- Rapid curing (at temperatures ranging from –18 to 40°C),
- Low permeability to water and aggressive solutions,
- Good chemical resistance, and
- Long-term durability with respect to cycles of freezing and thawing.
Since recent advances in material sciences have led to significant reductions in cost, polymer concrete is becoming more popular. It is now used to repair old concrete, construct structural components like drains and acid tanks, and provide highly impermeable and watertight surfaces.
16. Rapid Strength Concrete
Advantages: Dries faster; Accelerates construction; Eco-friendly
Rapid strength concrete is designed to gain strength quickly. It can achieve strengths above 20 MPa in as little as two hours. This type of mixture is produced by precisely selecting high-quality ingredients and manufacturing processes.
It is used in major applications such as floors, roads, bridges, highways, tunnels, runways, and other minor applications such as parking lots, dockyards, etc. Unlike traditional concrete, rapid strength concrete is easy to place and provides substantial time saving on construction sites.
The largest rollcrete dam in North America | Taum Sauk plant
Advantages: No rutting; No potholes; Resists freezing and thawing
Rollcrete (also known as roller-compacted concrete) contains the same components as traditional concrete but in different ratios. It’s a mixture of fly ash or cement, sand, aggregate, water (in fewer proportions), and usual additives. The final product is drier and has no slump.
It is placed with high-density asphalt paving equipment, then compacted with rollers. Compaction starts right after the placement and continues until the pavement meets the density requirements. It provides strength, density, smoothness, and surface texture.
Nowadays, this type of concrete is used in the construction and rehabilitation of roads, parking lots, airfields, power plants, dams, military facilities, storages facilities, and other industrial complexes. Depending on the installation width and desired thickness, the concrete can be laid at fast rates — from 50 to 120 meters per hour.
14. Precast Concrete
Advantages: Ease of construction; Easy to repair
Precast concrete is prepared, cast, and cured at a manufacturing unit, using reusable molds. They are transported to the construction site and lifted into place.
Pre-fabricated components (such as wall panels, beams, columns, pipes) are joined end to end to form a complete structure. Such components made from concrete are more economical and feasible than steel frames. However, both are used to enhance the design and accessibility of the structure.
13. Geopolymer Concrete
Unique Properties: More resistant to corrosion and fire than cement concrete
Geopolymer concrete is a great alternative construction material to traditional cement concrete.
Manufacturing Portland cement is a highly energy-intensive process, which emits large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Geopolymer concrete, on the other hand, is produced without using Portland cement. It is made by treating aluminosilicate minerals (found in waste materials like fly ash, blast furnace slag) with alkali solutions.
This type of concrete has been used for constructing pavements, water tanks, precast bridge decks, and retaining walls. It has high tensile and compressive strengths, and it gains its complete strength quickly. Also, it shrinks less than cement concrete.
12. Pervious concrete
Used in: Sidewalks; parking areas; Has applications in sustainable construction
Pervious concrete has high porosity. It is a structural concrete pavement with large volumes of interconnected voids. The voids create a porous medium that allows water from precipitation and other sources to pass through and reach the underlying soil.
Pervious concrete doesn’t contain sand or fine aggregate. It is made by using a strong paste that coats and binds large aggregates together, creating a highly permeable structure.
Typically, the concrete has pores of sizes ranging from 2 to 8 millimeters. Although 18-35% of the content is void, it can have compressive strength between 3 to 28 MPa.
11. Bendable Concrete
Advantages: Lightweight; Relatively stronger and more flexible; Cost-efficient
Bendable concrete is a new type of concrete that has an impressive load-bearing capacity and can take compressive loads very effectively. Although it has been used in various places, it still requires proper research.
It contains all the ingredients of regular concrete minus coarse aggregates. These ingredients are mixed with polyvinyl alcohol-fibers and superplasticizers.
The final product is 20-40% lighter and 500 times more resistant to cracking than conventional concrete, thanks to polymer fibers and anti-friction coating that allow the structure to deform without fracturing.
10. Foam Concrete
Properties: Lightweight; Fire resistant; Cost-efficient; Environment friendly
Foam concrete, also known as lightweight cellular concrete, is produced by mixing Portland cement, fly ash, sand, water, and pre-formed form in varied proportions. Typically, its density lies between 400 kg/m3 to 1600 kg/m3.
Its manufacturing process is cheaper and has a less environmental impact as compared to other concrete. Moreover, its thermal and acoustical insulation characteristics make it ideal for numerous applications, ranging from insulating roofs and floors to filling voids.
Foam concrete is also used in the production of heat-insulated light wall panels, landslide repair, slope stabilization, and soil remediation.
9. Lime Concrete
Advantages: Provides a buffer to moisture vapor; Environmental friendly as it absorbs carbon dioxide during the drying process
In lime concrete (also called limecrete), the cement is replaced by lime, a calcium-containing inorganic mineral composed primarily of calcium oxide and/or calcium hydroxide.
More specifically, limecrete is a mixture of natural hydraulic lime and sharp sand. In some cases, it is mixed with glass fibers to give a more durable surface.
Although limecrete is weaker than conventional cement, its compression strength is more than enough to meet Building Regulation requirements. It is mostly used to create floor slabs and vaults, and transform old buildings to modern standards.
It is a hygroscopic material, which means it can absorb water. This is why limecrete floors effectively prevent moisture that may rise up from the ground through walls and cause damp issues.
8. Ready-Mix Concrete
Advantages: Allows speedy construction; Reduces the labor cost and site supervising cost
Ready-mixed concrete is batched for delivery from the manufacturing unit instead of creating the mixture on the construction site. Each batch is tailored to the specifics of the contractor and is delivered in cylindrical trucks known as ‘cement mixers.’
Ready-mixed concrete can be divided into two principal categories:
- Transit-mixed concrete: Materials are prepared at the manufacturing unit and mixed in the truck in transit.
- Shrink-mixed concrete: Materials are partially mixed at the manufacturing unit to shrink the mixture’s volume and increase the truck’s load capacity. Mixing is completed at the job site.
Since most of the work is done by an expert supplier, the mixture formed is precise, highly durable, and sustainable.
7. Reinforced Concrete
Used in: Foundations; Beams, Slabs, Columns, Walls; Frames
In reinforced concrete, steel rods or steel bars are embedded in such a way that two materials act together in resisting forces. The reinforcing material absorbs tensile, shear, as well as compressive stresses in a structure.
The concrete’s compressive strength and the steel’s tensile strength work together to enable the member to sustain high stresses over longer spans.
Since conventional concrete (with no embedded steel) cannot withstand high tensile stresses caused by earthquakes, winds, or vibrations, they are not suitable for many structural applications.
6. Prestressed Concrete
Used in: Industrial pavements; High-rise Buildings; Bridges and dams; Nuclear containment structures
Prestressed concrete is a type of reinforced concrete that is embedded with stretched steel wires. The steel is stretched before the concrete is placed.
In general, steel tendons are arranged between two abutments and stretched to 65-80% of their ultimate strength. Concrete is then poured into molds around the tendons and allowed to harden. Once the concrete achieves its desired strength, the stretching forces are released.
As steel tendons try to regain their original length, the tensile stresses are transformed into compressive stresses in the concrete. When pressure is applied on the structure, two kinds of forces act on the beam: internal prestressing force and external force (dead load). They counteract each other, making the structure stronger.
This type of concrete has a high elastic modulus, smaller creep strain, and is less prone to shrinkage crack. It provides enough span length required for flexibility and alternation of the internal structure. Due to these properties, prestressed concrete is extensively used in shopping centers, gymnasiums, and school auditoriums.
5. Sprayed Concrete
Advantages: Ideal for irregular surfaces; Cost-effective process
Sprayed concrete (also known as shotcrete) is very fine concrete that is conveyed through a hose and is projected at high velocity on the surface. The concrete is sprayed onto (or into) a frame using compressed air.
The force at which the mixture hits the surface leads to compaction of the concrete, which eventually forms concrete layers to the required thickness.
Compared to traditional concrete, shotcrete requires less formwork. It has been proven the best method for constructing curved surfaces. It is applied to lacerated surfaces, and is widely used to construct tunnel walls and subways.
4. Vacuum Concrete
Advantages: Has higher density and strength; Stiffens rapidly; Bonds well to old concrete
Vacuum concrete is a type of concrete in which excess water is removed by vacuum pressure. The vacuum is applied through porous mats connected to high suction pressure pumps. The removal of large amounts of water enhances the strength of the concrete.
The techniques of creating vacuum concrete using steam are also being researched. The idea is to create a vacuum inside the mixing machine so that air bubbles inside the concrete can be removed easily.
Vacuum-processed concrete is extensively used in the construction of horizontal and sloping concrete slabs, such as road and airport pavements, floor slabs, and partition walls. It is also used to resurface and repair road pavement.
And since this concrete is completely free from pitting and its outermost layer is highly resistant to abrasion, it is preferred to build structures that regularly come in contact with flowing water.
3. Self-Consolidating Concrete
Advantages: Eliminates mechanical vibration; Excellent deformability
Self-consolidating concrete is a highly flowable type of concrete that fills congested formwork without the need for mechanical vibration. It flows into the intricate areas, minimizing voids in the process.
The concrete increases precast productivity by improving automation and limiting health and safety issues associated with the use of vibration. It provides better mechanical performance, surface finish, and durability than conventional concrete. However, the methods of production, placement, and quality control are essential for self-consolidating concrete.
Since it can have compressive strengths between 24 and 100 MPa, it can be used in various structures ranging from buildings and bridge beams to manholes and septic tanks.
One of the most remarkable structures built using self-compacting concrete is the Akashi-Kaikyo Suspension Bridge. In this project, the concrete was mixed on-site (200 meters away from the target location) and pumped through a piping system. The construction duration was cut down to a maximum of two years.
2. High Strength Concrete
Pillars made with high strength concrete
Compressive Strength: More than 40 MPa
As the name suggests, high-strength concrete has greater compressive strength than conventional concrete. It is produced by reducing the water-cement ratio to 0.35 and adding silica fume and superplasticizers.
Silica fume prevents calcium hydroxide crystals from forming in the mixture, while superplasticizers improve the workability of the mixture.
Since this type of concrete has an increased modulus of elasticity, which increases stability and decreases deflections, it can be used in a wider range of applications.
High-strength concrete is mostly used to construct high-rise structures (over 30 stories) and long bridges. It has been used in components such as foundations, shear walls and columns, especially on lower floors that have the highest loads.
Furthermore, high-strength concrete makes it possible to reduce the dimensions of columns and beams. A 50-story structure with 4 feet diameter columns using 28 MPa concrete can reduce column diameters by about 33% by using 55 MPa concrete.
1. High-Performance Concrete
Compressive Strength: More than 55 MPa
High-performance concrete is designed to be stronger, more durable, and have better mechanical properties than conventional concrete. It contains the same ingredients as regular concrete, but the proportions and manufacturing processes differ to meet the structural and environmental requirements of the project.
High-performance doesn’t always mean high strength. It may refer to ease of placement, permeability, chemical resistance, density, volume stability, durability, and long-term mechanical properties.
The ultra-high-performance concrete has compressive strengths in excess of 150 MPa. It is made of high-strength Portland cement, small steel fibers, fumed silica, fine-grained sand, high-range water reducers, and a unique mix of reactive powders.
Over the past 20 years, ultra-high-performance concrete has gained a lot of interest in several countries. It has been used to construct architectural features, bridges, off-shore structures, and vertical components such as windmills towers and utility towers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the strongest concrete ever produced?
In 2020, researchers at Kanazawa University, Japan, developed steel fiber-reinforced porosity-free concrete having the world’s highest compressive strength of 400 MPa. They found that increasing the steel fiber content from 1 to 2% can decrease the damage due to impact by 30 to 50%.
Why is concrete used as a construction material?
Among all the construction materials used in the world, concrete is the most effective and efficient mixture. It has several benefits over other materials. For example, it —
- Hardens at ambient temperature
- Can be cast into complex shapes
- Can withstand high temperatures
- Has excellent water resistance properties
- Doesn’t burn, rust or rot
- Has low production and maintenance costs than other materials such as steel
What’s the Future of the concrete industry?
Concrete usage worldwide is twice that of plastics, wood, aluminum, and steel combined. This industry has many stakeholders, including manufacturers, suppliers of construction materials, contractors, architects, engineers, and institutions of research and education.
According to the MarketResearchFuture, the global ready-mix concrete market size will reach $1.1 trillion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 8.2% from 2020 to 2027.
The major factors behind this growth will be the increasing rate of population and urbanization, which augments numerous residential construction projects. The growth will be further accelerated by booming commercial sectors and government investments in road construction and redevelopment.