The Pros and Cons of Concrete Floors
Humans have long utilized the strength and performance of concrete to support their grandest structural creations. Ironically, both ancient Egyptians and Romans encountered exactly the same fundamental challenges facing 21st-Century concrete builders and homeowners. We have come a long way, but concrete success is still built on fundamentals.
In the 21st Century, concrete mixing and setting technology has spawned new options for concrete floor styling. Stamping, stains, patterned and colored textures are all possible for concrete floors, along with traditional floor coverings. From stylized concrete mixtures to designer walls, concrete has become a go-to building material. However, even the most creative applications are subject to integral concrete formation processes.
There are a number of reasons why the Egyptians established the first concrete slabs in approximately 2500 BC. Presumably, they wanted them to last. However, three other reasons can be added to longevity as qualities that make concrete a popular choice: durability, maintenance and versatility.
A fully-sealed and well-maintained concrete slab can last indefinitely. Obviously, this resonates positively for those who prefer a one-time capital investment in the floor. For the aesthetically-inclined, artistic wonder is equally preserved by a properly-establish concrete structure.
The roof of the Roman Pantheon is a great example of concrete durability. The Romans used lightweight aggregates in the roof’s compound, and they embedded bronze bars to reinforce it. Although the result produced the first historically-recorded instance of “spalling”, the Pantheon stands to this day as a testament to concrete’s ability to stand whatever nature dishes out over the centuries.
Protective concrete surfaces need only be sealed or waxed every few months in high-traffic areas, depending on the concrete mixture. Some seals provide such wear resistance that the slab may just need basic cleaning and sweeping.
There are a number of potential drawbacks to concrete floors. Concrete is not exactly “warm” by definition and it can easily develop small cracks or other difficulties as the building around them (or the ground under them) shifts. But the major downside to concrete floors is that when they go wrong, they are costly to repair.
Moisture content (MC) is the major factor that escapes the attention of many mainstream consumers. Builders know that concrete moisture content must be stabilized as slabs harden and hydrate to their specified compressive performance characteristics. There is always a certain amount of water content in concrete, and floor covering installers must perform adequate concrete floor moisture test procedures in order to verify appropriate concrete moisture content levels.
The ancients would have benefitted from the modern concrete moisture meter, a tool used to assess slab MC at the surface. In fact, a simple concrete moisture meter reading can reveal the excess moisture content levels which often cause slab surface moisture issues.
Many concrete lovers just lack some important information about concrete formation. The water content in concrete mixes with the chemicals in the cement to produce the concrete paste which hardens over time. The other main variable is water content that must leave the slab during the drying process. This excess moisture evaporates at rates which fluctuate with relative humidity (RH) around the slab. Ambient RH can slow or accelerate the natural moisture content evaporation process.
Because of the downsides, excess moisture content creates a potentially crucial condition inside every concrete slab. From the moment of pour to the moment of truth, moisture content rises from the bottom of the slab to the surface for evaporation. All MC requires adequate time for that migration. When installers mistakenly seal excess water content in concrete, problems ensue. It is crucial to assess the slab’s internal moisture content before proceeding with floor covering installation.
Wagner Meters has developed a state-of-the-art method for assessing overall slab moisture content from the inside: the Rapid RH® 4.0 EX. The Wagner Meters Rapid RH® 4.0 EX takes the concrete floor moisture test at a depth of 40 percent below the surface, where in-situ probes can precisely gauge overall concrete moisture. With the Rapid RH® 4.0 EX from Wagner Meters, concrete installers make informed decisions on when to continue with building.
Pay attention to the concrete core, and the rest builds upon its integrity.