A Closer Look at Concrete

Utilitarian, ubiquitous, and undoubtedly robust, concrete serves as a sleek, stalwart design element and is the most used manmade material on earth. Its usage worldwide, ton for ton, is twice that of steel, wood, plastics, and aluminum combined. The versatile material is irresistibly sleek and sturdy with a surprisingly stylish allure that appeals to a myriad of design aesthetics, from modern and minimalist to industrial, and many more in between. Here is a closer look at this durable design element.

Composition and Characteristics

A composite material comprised of fine and coarse aggregates bonded together with a cement paste that cures over time, concrete’s durability is based on the proportioning and mixing of its raw ingredients. Fine and coarse aggregates, such as sand, natural gravel, or crushed rocks, make up the bulk of a concrete mixture. The cement is mixed with water to create a paste that coats the surface of the fine and coarse aggregates. An extensive range of standards and specifications are used to ensure a level of consistency between concrete materials. Choosing the proper grade to suit unique application needs and design requirements is essential.

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Though the terms concrete and cement are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not synonymous, since concrete is the actual building material, while cement is merely an ingredient in concrete. Portland cement is most commonly used as a concrete binder, but different types of binding materials can be used to create many types of concrete. Consuming minimum materials, energy, and other resources for construction, concrete is considered to be a sustainable building material with a low life-cycle cost. It also requires minimal maintenance and does not rust, rot, or burn.

Photography Courtesy of Lunada Bay Tile

Applications and Aesthetics

Whether creating a nuanced neutral backdrop, edgy industrial effect, or industrially inspired anchor, concrete can accommodate almost any design style. Designers and architects can employ concrete across an array of applications. Its surface appearance plays a role in further refining its aesthetic. Polished concrete is characterized by a slick sheen, while scored concrete has a grainy, textured finish, and sealed concrete has a matte look with a sealant that serves to protect against staining.  

Photography Courtesy of Architectural Systems

Concrete flooring is a distinguished design choice that creates a subtle palette while acting as an impactful interior element. Offering endless design possibilities, concrete isn’t limited to flooring alone and can be translated with ease to flooring, walls, furniture, fixtures, décor, and more. Its end uses also include countertops, tiles, pavers, and precast panels. A material that was once relegated to basements, garages, and sidewalks, concrete has become a common fixture of inspired interior and exterior designs. Concrete serves as a sleek, solid, and classic design accent with the durability and wherewithal to stand the test of time.

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