More and more often, builders, architects, and concrete contractors are using precast concrete panels in the erection of homes, offices, commercial buildings, and factories. Concrete panels, by their very nature, provide reliable, easy-to-install, durable, weather-resistant, and above all, very strong structural components. Though a fairly recent development, concrete panels, because of their myriad advantages have become increasingly popular in the building construction industry.
A concrete panel is a formed sheet of molded concrete, usually 2 feet to 12 feet (0.61 m to 3.66 m) in width, and 8 feet to 12 feet (2.44 m to 3.66 m) in height. These measurements are common wall and roof dimensions in building design. Foundation and wall panels are commonly seated on 4 to 6 inches (10.16 cm to 15.24 cm) of crushed and compacted stone to allow for proper load-bearing distribution of the component.
The concrete that forms the panel is essentially a mixture of Portland cement and an aggregate, which may be a combination of gravel and fly ash. Of course, with a coarser aggregate, a more porous concrete will result when cured. Therefore, the better precast concrete panel will be manufactured using finer aggregates, thus resulting in a more weather-resistant, better-insulated structure.
The primary advantage of erecting a structure using pre-cast concrete panels is that the panels have undergone a more controlled curing, or drying, process resulting in stronger, less porous foundations, walls, and roofs. Concrete poured and formed on the construction site by concrete contractors is obviously at the mercy of weather conditions at the time of curing. Precast concrete panel construction, therefore, results in a stronger, less porous, higher quality structural component, with the additional advantage that precast concrete walls and foundations can erected in a shorter time period.
Often, concrete panels that are to be used for structural walls and roofs will be manufactured with an insulating foam backing. This foam backing not only provides added R-value, or insulation effectiveness, but also aids in forming the concrete panel. Additionally, a foam-backed concrete panel will not have to be as thick as an ordinary panel. This manufacturing method significantly reduces the weight of the concrete panel, without any loss of load-bearing capability or of weather resistance.
Though a rectangular concrete wall or roof panel is among the most common form of precast concrete products provided by concrete suppliers, several other configurations are available, as well. Concrete beams, columns, slabs, stairways, and even decorative features may also be precast. The advantages of controlled concrete curing ensure that concrete panel construction will remain one of the more efficient and cost-effective building construction techniques well into the future.