For centuries, one of the most common materials used in construction has been concrete. Formed from hardened cement, concrete has been used for everything from driveways to home foundations. However, as technology advances, concrete has not remained the end-all tool for building. It has a variety of disadvantages that should be considered before use.
The use of concrete dates to many ancient civilizations. The Romans, in particular, used concrete for everything from buildings to the cores of aqueducts. The Romans were also among the first to experiment with mixing additives into their concrete. They understood that mixing it with certain things would make it more water-resistant and less likely to crack under pressure.
Concrete is still known today for its durability and longevity. As with any building material, it does have it's share of completely acceptable alternatives. Wood is often designed to be load-bearing, particularly in foundations, and can be treated to withstand the negative effects of moisture and termites. Steel is both sturdy and cost-effective, and can be ideal in areas infested by insects. Insulated steel panels are also often used instead of concrete in the construction of walls.
One main disadvantage of concrete is that all structures made from it will crack at some point. Concrete can also crack as a result of shrinkage, which happens when it dries out. These cracks develop within a few days of laying the structure. This will generally not limit the durability of a structure.
Another disadvantage of concrete is its low-thermal conductivity. While concrete is normally used as a layer of fireproofing between walls, it can be badly damaged when exposed to intense heat. The concrete will help to contain the spread of a fire but will become unusable in the process.
Concrete also easily corrodes when exposed to seawater. The effects are quick if the concrete is completely submerged for extended periods of time. Concrete can be worn away by waves and by the sand and other materials carried the ocean.