Concrete the Magical Mud.

by Steve Vacha

coliseomConcrete is an integral part of home construction.  Throughout the centuries and in many places still today, people live in mud or earth homes.  As society has progressed, our building materials have improved. The ingredients of concrete and correct construction practices ensure that today’s magical mud provides all the durability and strength we need.

The capabilities of concrete were mastered long ago by the Romans.  The famous Coliseum at the center of Rome was built largely with concrete.   After the empire passed and the knowledge of the technology faded, concrete was used very little until it was “re-discovered” in the mid-18th century.  Portland cement was patented in 1824.  It is a mixture of oxides of calcium, silicon and aluminum.  Portland cement is mixed with aggregate (sand, gravel) and water to create concrete.

The concrete we use today allows our homes to last generations.  Without the barriers that concrete provides, most building materials would deteriorate when in contact with the earth.   Our homes rest on a footing of concrete. Our foundation walls are concrete block or poured concrete.  We park our cars on concrete driveways and walk on concrete sidewalks and steps.

To ensure concrete stands the test of time, the correct preparation and pouring practices are essential.  If footings are poured on back filled earth, they will sink and take the house above it with them.  That is why every new home must have a footing inspection prior to the footings being poured.  If a builder pours the footings without this inspection the footings have to be pulled out and re-poured.  Similarly, the soil must be properly prepped under any concrete poured on grade, such as basement floors, driveways, and patios to ensure the concrete will not settle in the future.

We all know the complications that can arise if concrete settles. Some can be very expensive, such as having to repair a foundation wall to save the house. Some repairs are more common and less expensive, such as needing to mud jack a concrete sidewalk or driveway to address trip concerns. If proper construction practices are followed and the right mud is used, concrete can last a magically long time. Just ask the Romans.