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Concrete is the second most used material on earth, besides water and often used in the restoration of historic buildings. We can see it used in the construction of our homes, walkways and a wealth of other structures across the globe. Aside from being a popular material, it’s also quite an interesting one. It has elastic properties allowing it to undergo low stress levels and when reinforced, can be highly resistant to both water and fire.

Use of concrete can be dated back to the Romans, when they mixed lime, water and volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius to create a compound they referred to as pozzolana. It even came in four colours – black, grey, red and white, as written about by Roman civil engineer Vitruvius. Some Roman concrete structures can still be viewed today, in particular, the port at Cosa, further “cementing” the durability of concrete.

Concrete was even used during World War Two as an early radar system, the British installed parabolic acoustic mirrors or “listening ears” along the coastline, that were used to detect incoming aircrafts. You can still visit some of these mirrors along the British coastline today.

This is just one example of how concrete can be used in alternative ways to foundations and basic construction, we look at some interesting ways to incorporate concrete around your home.

In the Garden

Concrete is commonly used in gardens to create firepits and raised flower beds as it’s a cost-effective way to create feature pieces. It can also be used for outdoor furniture, from tables to chairs, benches to an outdoor kitchen! The added benefit of using concrete to enclose fire, either for heat or cooking, is the decent heat properties. Concrete acts as a heat shield, preventing fire-spread and reducing risk of hot surfaces. Concrete’s ability to withstand water also prevents the problems that come with wooden furniture rotting due to one too many summer storms.

For the Kitchen

There probably aren’t many people who consider concrete a good material to use in the kitchen, however, it’s fireproof and water-resistant properties make it an excellent construction choice. Concrete is extremely durable (note it’s use in construction of roadways) meaning less time having to carry out concrete repair or worry about putting that hot pan down on a sensitive surface.

As concrete can be pre-formed, it’s a popular option for countertops and can be sized to your space, with room left for additions such as kitchen sinks and hobs.

Don’t be put off by the grey colour concrete is most commonly seen in, there are several methods for colouring concrete. From integral pigments powders that are mixed in at the wet stage so the colour spreads to the full depth of the slab. To powdered or liquid dyes that penetrate only the surface layer of the concrete and are available across an entire spectrum of colour.

Concrete can also be finished in a number of ways; penetrating sealers that soak into the concrete, preventing other moisture from being absorbed. Or topical sealers that are applied like an overcoat, it depends on the finish you want to achieve and how you intend to utilize the countertop.

Time for a Bath

Concrete baths and sinks are slowly gaining more popularity, likely due to the increased range of customisability that concrete structures offer. Concrete tubs can be created to fill available space and can be tinted or coloured to match your bathroom aesthetic.

If you like the old copper bath look, consider a MetalCrete finish – this is concrete embedded with metal powders that age over time like real metal, creating some very interesting looks.

Should you be interested in more uses for concrete or how concrete is used in restoration and repair, why not check out Concrete Renovations? They have a plethora of information on concrete and the repair processes, well worth a read for those interested in this manner of construction in or around the home.