The Differences Between Polymer-Impregnated and Polymer Cement Concrete

Concrete has long held a reputation as one of the hardest and most durable of all building materials. Yet that doesn't mean that concrete contractors aren't constantly looking for new ways to improve the long-term performance of their product. One of the most exciting new techniques involves incorporating plastic-like polymers into the concrete. 

Two main types of polymer-modified concrete exist: polymer-impregnated and polymer cement concrete. Unfortunately, the relative newness of polymer modification means that many consumers — and even some contractors — fail to appreciate the differences between these two categories.

To get the best results, however, you must pick the most appropriate type of polymer-modified concrete. If you would like to boost your knowledge of these types of concrete, keep reading. This article will outline three key differences between the two. 

1. Polymer-Impregnated Concrete Is Precast

The two methods of polymer-modified concrete differ in terms of when — and how — manufacturers introduce the polymer component. In the case of polymer-impregnated concrete, workers add the liquid polymer only once the concrete had fully hardened. 

First, however, the concrete must be thoroughly dried to remove any lingering water. In a manufacturing facility, special drying machinery ensures that the concrete's pores are completely void of water. 

Polymer-impregnated concrete can only be produced in a manufacturing facility, which means it is precast concrete. Contractors then use blocks or panels of precast concrete to build structures. Polymer impregnation can't be performed on-site since it would be difficult to remove all of the water inside the concrete. Any water trapped inside the concrete by the polymer would weaken it over time. 

Once the concrete is dry, the manufacturer impregnates the concrete with one or more low-viscosity monomers. Once this liquid has penetrated the entire block of concrete, workers cover it with a sheet of plastic to prevent evaporation and then heat the concrete to a predetermined temperature. This heat causes the monomers to harden, filling up the concrete's pores with a dense and impenetrable network. 

2. Polymer Cement Concrete Can Be Created On-Site

Polymer cement concrete bears a much stronger similarity to the concrete with which you are probably most familiar. Like regular ready-mix concrete, contractors install polymer cement concrete on-site, pouring the wet concrete into premade forms that control its shape and depth. The concrete then cures until it has reached a fully hardened state. 

Polymer cement concrete differs from standard ready-mix concrete in that workers replace a between 10 and 15 percent of its cement content with an appropriate form of polymer. Latex is one of the most popular polymers used in to create such concrete. Not only does latex help protect the concrete against water intrusion, but it also makes the concrete stronger and more resistant to damage than regular concrete. 

3. Polymer Cement Concrete Works Best for Floors

During the polymer cement curing process, some of the polymers rise to the surface of the concrete, where it forms a film that helps to retain water as the concrete cures. This film also provides an extra layer of surface protection once the concrete has fully cured. For this reason, contractors prize polymer cement concrete most highly when installing floors. 

While polymer cement can also be used for constructing walls and other vertical surfaces, its benefits simply may not be pronounced enough to warrant the extra cost. Polymer-impregnated concrete offers a more convenient and effective solution. The precast blocks of polymer-impregnated concrete simply have to be mortared together, much in the same way as when building with bricks or cinderblocks. 

For more information about how polymers can be used to create stronger concrete, please contact the industry experts at Accu-Krete; Inc.

Ashley Zona