Glass Strength: Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete
When you think of fiberglass, the first things that come to mind may be a shiny speedboat or high end cars. However, these are actually made from plastic products that have been reinforced with glass fibers, rather than being constructed entirely out of them.
Glass fibers were not used in concrete for many years due to their tendency to break down quickly in alkaline environments. Concrete is an extremely alkaline material, and thus, steel or other reinforcement materials were generally preferred. However, in the 1970s, alkali resistant glass fibers were created by manufacturing plants, which led to glass fiber reinforced concrete being used in a variety of applications.
Benefits of GFRC
Glass fiber reinforced concrete is extremely popular due to the multitude of benefits it presents in comparison to traditional concrete. A piece of concrete made with GFRC is generally twice as strong as a piece made with traditional concrete reinforced with steel. This allows thinner pieces to be used in many situations, such as countertops, wall panels and decorative pieces.
The smaller amount of concrete and the use of glass fiber over heavy metals also mean that GFRC can weigh as much as 75% less than regular concrete. Especially in situations where large amounts of concrete are used, such as decorative structures, this can allow the underlying foundation to be much simpler and less expensive. Since GFRC can be hollow while maintaining their structural integrity, it is extremely valuable for large projects.
GFRC is able to be molded, like traditional concrete, but due to its sturdiness, it can also be easily cut to a user’s specifications. This makes it ideal for decorative situations, such as corner panels or fake natural formations.
Unlike many materials, GFRC can be either poured or sprayed in order to create a number of different shapes. Concrete that has been reinforced with glass fiber is less likely to form air pockets during pouring, requiring less effort, such as vibration or rolling. Sprayed vibration requires no additional agitation at all. This also ensures that there are no gaps or holes in the surface that could allow water or insect penetration, which could lead to deterioration.
Uses of GFRC
You would likely be surprised at all the instances of GFRC being used in your normal life. Have you ever gone to pick up a piece of statuary or a planter expecting a very heavy object, only to lose your balance when it is much lighter than it appears? Most likely it was made of GFRC. One of the most common uses is in artificial rocks made for use in outdoor decorative structures, such as fountains, waterfalls or environments for various animals. In the home, GFRC is almost always used for concrete countertops since a much thinner surface is required to attain the same strength.
GFRC has become extremely popular with artisans that work in concrete to create decorative pieces. These could be large panels showing entire scenes or small sections used as column headers or doorframes, or any number of other uses. As concrete becomes more popular as a decorative and structural medium, GFRC is sure to remain one of the most desirable construction materials for a variety of purposes.