Before you sign a contract for a new industrial concrete floor, you should feel confident that you’re getting the right type of floor for your needs. Understanding some of the common concrete floor construction terms can give you the assurance that the floor will be durable and long-lasting in accordance with your needs.
In particular, we want to explain the most common ways that concrete floors are reinforced to provide strength and reduce cracking.
Plain Concrete Floors
The simplest concrete floor is made of nothing but concrete. There is no reinforcing steel in a plain concrete slab floor. These floors are typically inappropriate for industrial purposes because they have low tensile strength. This means that when a heavy load compresses the concrete, the concrete directly underneath the load can handle the pressure, but the concrete to the side gets pulled down and cracks.
Industrial facilities with adjacent offices or reception areas can save on the cost of materials by choosing a plain concrete floor for such low-impact areas. But even then, some kind of reinforcement is recommended.
Steel Mesh Reinforcement
A step up from plain concrete floors are those reinforced with one or more layers of steel mesh, which creates a network of squares throughout the concrete. In terms of strength, concrete floors reinforced with steel mesh are still unlikely to hold up to the demands of a typical industrial facility.
It’s important to make sure the concrete itself is also the correct thickness, regardless of the type of reinforcement used. For example, a garage that accommodates the average personal vehicle would benefit from steel mesh reinforcement at the typical thickness of 4 inches, but a garage that sees heavier traffic, like dump trucks or garbage trucks, should combine steel mesh with concrete at least 6 inches thick.
Reinforcing Bars (Rebar)
Using steel bars of various thicknesses is one of the most popular ways to add tensile strength to concrete. The bars are distributed evenly throughout the concrete mold before it is poured, and rebar may even be combined with steel mesh for added stability.
The main concern with using rebar is that it is susceptible to corrosion if it routinely comes in contact with water. If the rebar weakens, so will the concrete itself. Sealing the concrete and using professional concrete installation methods that reduce the risk of cracking helps to combat this issue.
Fiber Concrete Floors
To improve the overall durability of concrete, including resistance to surface abrasions, fibers can be mixed in with the concrete. The fiber is often made of steel, glass or polypropylene. Reinforcing concrete floors with fiber is useful when the concrete may be exposed to high heat, as this method improves concrete’s resistance to thermal shock.
As for tensile and compressive strength, it is not the most robust option on this list.
The trick to installing fiber-reinforced industrial concrete floors is achieving uniform distribution of the fiber. From top to bottom and side to side, the fiber must be even and consistent. Fresh concrete can also become difficult to place and maneuver once it is poured with these tough fibers.
Prestressed Concrete Floors
The final reinforcement method for industrial concrete floors uses steel cables to temporarily pull plates against either side of a slab of concrete. This external pressure helps bind all of the materials together into one strong unit. Once the cables have achieved the desired tension, the plates can be removed and the cables cut. Prestressed concrete floors perform as well as (if not better than) floors reinforced with rebar.