Concrete: Expectations vs. Reality

September 16, 2022

In the last few decades, concrete has changed significantly. Technologies surrounding concrete additives and formulations have drastically improved, leading to virtually endless applications across every imaginable industry. Nevertheless, when it comes to concrete, it’s all too easy to set expectations that simply don’t align with reality. Understanding concrete’s true potential can help you make better choices about how to use it in your projects.

Expectation #1 – Store-Bought Concrete Mix Won’t Work for Driveways and Patios

Concrete is one of the most common materials used in exterior home improvement projects, and it’s available in a variety of styles in most home improvement stores. Homeowners often have the expectation that they can simply buy a few bags of cement mix, pour it into a container, add water, and then spread it around to build their own driveways or patios. This is simply not the case. In reality, these mixes are phenomenal for DIY projects such as setting fenceposts, but when it comes to pouring a driveway or patio – something that requires a proper form, a uniform mix, and a sleek finish, store-bought concrete mixes just won’t cut it.

Expectation #2 – Concrete Dries/Cures Quickly

Many home and business owners underestimate the length of time it takes to thoroughly cure concrete once it has been poured. They expect that their concrete pads, stairs, or driveways will be ready to use in just a few hours, but in reality, it can take days or even weeks to properly cure. The length of time it takes to adequately cure concrete can vary based on the mixture being used, the specified strength that the project calls for, the size and shape of the form, the current weather conditions, and even future exposure conditions. You can review the American Concrete Institute (ACI) technical recommendations on curing, or better yet, give us a call and we can discuss the requirements of your particular project.

Expectation #3 – Polished Concrete will Look Perfect

Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions people have about concrete is that the process of polishing concrete will always lead to a beautifully shiny and perfect surface. This is not at all the case. The reality is that concrete polishing can often reveal issues that you couldn’t see beforehand due to concrete’s natural matte texture.

  • Imperfections (cracks) – Polishing concrete can reveal imperfections that may not have been evident before, and this is particularly true in older concrete slabs. The older the concrete, the more imperfections it is likely to have.
  • Uneven aggregate dispersal – If the surface was not completely leveled prior to the pour, or if the weight of the concrete caused the slab to be even slightly unlevel, you may notice more “chunks” of aggregate in the lower section of the slab after polishing.
  • Previous patching and batching – If the concrete has been patched in the past, those patches may be highly visible after the polishing process. Similarly, if the concrete was poured in batches, the inconsistencies between those batches may be noticeable from one area to the next.
  • Ghosting – If you’ve used tiles over your concrete floor, it’s possible that the glue used for those tiles has penetrated into the concrete below. If so, you are likely to notice it as discoloration of the sub-slab that appears in the same grid pattern in which the tile was originally laid.

Before diving into any concrete project, whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a professional, it’s important to closely examine your expectations and ensure they align with reality. Doing so can save you time and money in the long run. At American Rock Products, we’ve seen it all when it comes to concrete. If you’ve got questions or would like us to assess your next concrete project, we’d be happy to help. Just give us a call or send us a message today!