What is concrete? Is it the same thing as cement?​​

Although often used interchangeably – even by some construction professionals – cement is not concrete nor is concrete cement. Cement is one of the basic ingredients used to make concrete. It is basically a powdery substance made by burning clay and lime. When cement is mixed with other basic ingredients—sand, gravel or stone, and water—the cement and water react to form a paste that glues the remaining ingredients into a rock-like mass which is known as concrete.​

Are there different kinds of concrete?​

Yes. Concrete can be made to order in terms of strength, workability, and durability. There is even a form of environmentally friendly concrete that allows water to pass through. This pervious concrete easily drains storm water into the subsoil keeping it from running off into sewers, rivers and streams. Check out Prairie’s concrete products page for more information about various types of concrete.

Does concrete have to be grey?

Not at all. There is an almost limitless palette of special finishes for concrete pavements and slabs. With Prairie’s Pure Color integral color system and a skilled decorative concrete contractor, concrete can take on almost any shape, pattern, color, or texture, in both exterior and interior applications.

Do I need a concrete contractor?

Most likely. Placing and finishing concrete requires knowledge about concrete and the fundamentals of good concreting practices well beyond the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers. It requires skill with both basic tools – ​hammers, tape measures, chalk lines, saws, etc – and specialized concrete tools. Site excavation, subgrade preparation, and building and setting concrete forms are difficult tasks. Concrete is heavy – about 150 pounds per cubic foot – and difficult to place, consolidate, strike off, level, and finish. Timing of many finishing operations is crucial and best learned through experience. Mistakes in timing can prove fatal. And knowing what allowances to make for weather conditions is equally challenging. Unless you have a friend or family member in the business, you would be better off hiring a construction professional for your concrete project.

Will Prairie Material place the concrete for me?

No. Placing the concrete for your project is your concrete contractor's responsibility. Prairie’s role is to produce, deliver, and discharge a good quality concrete mix that is specified for your project, in a safe and timely manner.

What is proper curing and why is it important for quality concrete?

Curing is the procedure for maintaining an acceptable moisture content and temperature profile in the concrete to ensure desired proper strength gain and surface quality. The potential for concrete shrinkage, cracking, and dusting increases significantly when concrete is not cured properly. Generally, the surface needs to stay moist for at least 7 days to provide good curing.

How long must my concrete driveway cure before I can drive on it?

For our market area, the American Concrete Institute and the American Concrete Pavement Association recommend a minimum of seven days following concrete placement before using a concrete driveway.

What is concrete sealer and how often must it be applied?

While a curing compound acts to prevent moisture from leaving the concrete during initial stages of strength development, a concrete sealer is designed to prevent moisture from entering the concrete matrix, to limit surface deterioration due to cycles of freezing and thawing. New concrete should air dry for 30 days prior to the application of a concrete sealer. After that, every 2–3 years depending on the sealer used. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for application rates and intervals.

Is the process of installing concrete affected by weather?

Yes. The rate at which concrete hardens is very much affected by temperature, moisture and wind. Wind can cause the surface to crack. Rain will significantly weaken the surface. That's why it's important to work with the right concrete mix for your application.

Will concrete crack?

Concrete will often crack especially in freeze/thaw climates. To minimize and control cracking, control joints or “cuts” are placed in the concrete so that the concrete cracks where those control joints are placed. Prairie’s FiberMax concrete products contain millions of fibers mixed throughout the concrete to help to control cracking even more.

Do cracks indicate a structural problem?

In most instances, the answer is no. Very narrow "hairline" cracks are superficial and do not indicate any structural problem. Cracks that have movement where one side of the crack moves relative to the opposite side should be evaluated by a professional engineer.

Why should I choose concrete over asphalt for my driveway when asphalt is less expensive?

The difference in initial price is more than made up over the lifetime of the driveway. A good quality concrete driveway will last more than 30 years with little maintenance. Asphalt driveways need regular periodic sealing coats to retard age-related cracking. Even properly constructed residential asphalt driveways will deteriorate more quickly due to environmental factors than vehicle traffic. When you factor in the cost of surface and crack sealers and the shorter life-span of the asphalt, concrete will cost much less over the life of the structure.

Is there a recommended on-going maintenance program?

In addition to sealing concrete every 2-3 years, do not allow rusting metals to set on the concrete. Frequent sweeping and occasional hosing will be enough to keep your concrete looking good. Wet leaves on a driveway have a tendency to stain, so be prepared to clean your driveway often in fall.

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