Fixing Your Concrete Driveway

Superplasticizers: What Are They And How Can They Make Ready-Mix Concrete Easier For You To Work With?

by Gavin Jackson

Having ready-mix concrete delivered to your work site by truck allows you to finish projects more quickly compared to mixing your concrete by hand. Mixing concrete off-site also gives you access to a broad range of additives that can improve the characteristics of the concrete mix. One of these additives that can make your projects much easier is a superplasticizer, which improves the flow of concrete. To learn more about superplasticizers and how they can improve your ready-mix concrete, read on.

What Are Superplasticizers?

A superplasticizer is a type of concrete additive that makes concrete flow more easily until it sets. It can be added to ready-mix concrete when the cement and aggregate are mixed together at the facility. Naphthalene and melamine are two examples of concrete superplasticizers that are commonly used in construction.

The superplasticizer acts as a surfactant when it's in the concrete mix, enabling the cement and aggregate in the concrete to glide over each other easily. This makes the concrete mix easier to pour and trowel into place once it has been delivered to your job site, making it easier for you and your crew to create an even concrete surface.

How Do Superplasticizers Improve a Concrete Mix?

A superplasticizer makes concrete easier to shape without needing to add more water to the mix. If you're building a concrete driveway, for example, it's easier to fill the form for the concrete and trowel it to create a perfectly smooth surface when the concrete flows easily.

The traditional method of creating a concrete mix that flows well is to add more water to the mix. Unfortunately, this can result in several problems. Adding more water to the mix makes the resulting concrete slab less dense. There will be more air gaps in the slab after the slab has cured and all of the water has evaporated.

These air gaps in the slab make it weaker, and they also make it more porous. Water can enter the concrete more easily, making it more vulnerable to damage from freeze-thaw cycles and corrosion from water that contains road salt. While adding more water to a concrete mix makes it easier to work with, it will result in concrete that's weaker and more prone to being damaged.

Using a superplasticizer in your concrete mix instead of adding more water will give you a better end result. Superplasticizers don't affect the strength of the concrete like water. With a superplasticizer, your concrete will flow easily after it has been poured, and the concrete will cure into a very strong slab. You get all of the advantages of adding more water to the concrete mix with none of the downsides caused by making the concrete mix less dense.

For your next project, talk to your ready-mix concrete supplier about adding a superplasticizer to the concrete mix. Your supplier will work with you based on how strong the finished slab needs to be to develop the perfect ratio of water, cement, and superplasticizer to deliver premixed concrete that's easy to work with and will result in a very durable finished surface.