What Does Flatwork Mean In Construction 

What Does Flatwork Mean In Construction 

Encountering flatwork is nothing rare. As flatwork is the raw material that is concrete and flatwork construction is the process of turning raw material into a final outcome. Essentially flatwork refers to any horizontal flat building component that is laid or placed down, examples include sidewalks, to slabs, to patios, to parking lots and more. Let’s delve more into it below. 

What is concrete flatwork? 

Concrete seems to be one of the most known and popular construction materials on this planet, yes on this planet! Almost ten billion concrete is poured each year.

At its core flatwork is simply three ingredients: 

  • Aggregate: sand, gravel or crushed rock  
  • Cement: binds the aggregate together when binded with water 
  • Water: hardens the slab through hydration 

Advantages and the disadvantages of flatwork 

Flatwork is one of the most common choices for construction that seems to require a sturdy foundation- roads, walkways, parking lots, ramps and more. 

However, it is important to understand that flatwork is not the only option nor is always the best, hence it is best to take a good look into the pros and cons. 

Advantages 

Durability 

Industrial grade flatwork can withstand approximately 6000 PSI of force. That means it can tolerate a lot. It is resistant to heavy forces such as potholes and more as it will nto collapse. 

Availability 

It is easily available and there are over 40,000 concrete contractors who have years of experience in the field. 

Stores also stock up 50 pounds of concrete bags for all kinds of projects whether it is small or diy. 

Easy maintenance 

The bare minimum maintenance is required especially if it is properly installed. 

Once the concrete fully dries up the sealant acts as a protective shield for the surface. This layer will help block any tiny holes that absorb water and chemicals. 

However some power washing and sealants are important to keep the concrete in its shape both functionality wise and aesthetically pleasing. 

Customisation 

Gray concrete slabs are the standards for the construction industry. However, flatwork is semi-customisable. 

Many concrete contractors offer some customisation like add ons: 

  • Troweling pigment into freshly poured concrete
  • Stamping in designs or business logos
  • Rolling a pattern to seem like other surfaces, eg brick
  • Brushing the surface for the rough aggregate for slip resistance

The options above allow to turn something plain into something elaborate that gives the aesthetic appeal. 

Disadvantages 

However, some factors cannot be controlled like the temperature and climate and the shifts in earth. 

Cracking and chipping 

As we know that with temperature things expand. 

Concrete expands when exposed to heat and shrinks when not. Main problems arise when the temperatures are not that subtle. These expanding can often lead to cracking. Winters can also trigger cracks through expansion. As concrete is porous below freezing temperatures could freeze water and result in forcing expansion. 

Dirt and stains

It is true that power washing and sealants help prevent stains, but sometimes some stains cannot be protected like oil and other harsh chemicals found in factories and industries. They can leave dark blotchy patches giving it a dirty outlook. 

Settling 

Settling is basically when the narrow gaps between the soil and the concrete allows slabs to settle. This happens as a result of poor preparation or can be due to the burrowing rodents. 

Common uses of flatwork in construction 

Flatwork is one of the most common in commercial and residential construction. 

Residential construction 

No matter where you are encountering flatwork is no rare thing. Whether you are walking around your house or a street flatwork is present. The most common places where it is found in residential areas are: 

  • Driveways 
  • Decks 
  • Pool decks
  • Walk ways 
  • Basement floors 
  • Garage floors 
  • Proches 
  • Concrete patios 

Commercial construction 

Concrete is even more common in industrial sites and industries, especially given its strength and durability. In commercial construction it is found in: 

  • Parking lots 
  • Dumpsters pads 
  • Warehouses 
  • Garages
  • Ramps 
  • Driveways
  • Loading docks 
  • Steps and stairs 
  • Office floors 

How long does flatwork take? 

Depending on the use, flatwork can take from 24 hours to 2 weeks to complete. The factors that affect the duration are climate, humidity, and precipitation. 

Sidewalks and driveways that have freshly poured mix dry within 24-48 hours. However to reach its full strength it can take up to 6 days, but the slab can be ready to use just after 1 or 2 days. 

If you are looking to support extremely heavy machinery, then it is best to give the flatwork around 28 days to be cured and hardened and be able to fully support the heavy equipment etc. 

However, if installing flatwork in interior projects the duration can vary as there are factors like insulation and other things that double the timeline. 

For average use two weeks time is enough, but for heavy and extensive use 28 days is best as it will help it settle and gain its strength. 

The process of flatwork 

Soil excavation and site preparation 

Site preparation is key to preventing future settling, cracking and chipping. 

This involves clearing or in other words excavating the ground with flattening. A single drum roller helps flattening the surface as it compresses the soil. The cleared areas should be deep enough to fill in and prevent future cracking and shifting. 

Form installation 

Concrete flows into odd shapes. Therefore the construction crew often uses wood or plastic to create an outline for the slab, ensuring straight edges. 

Reinforcements 

Rebar or welded wire mesh helps keep the slabs together as well as maintaining the tensile strength, hence this process is known as reinforcement. Rebar that is positioned in a grid like formation benefits the projects. 

Concrete pouring 

A truck will help make the concrete mixture which then can be poured into the molds. Then the concrete goes through the trowel and the screed process to ensure a dense and flat surface. 

Curing 

Concrete will take almost 28 days to fully reach its strength and be able to handle heavy equipment and machinery. Curing is essentially becoming hard. Contractors often apply sealant, which is like a seal from chemicals and water absorption.  

Conclusion 

Concrete is a very common part of industrial and residential construction as it is one of the most used construction materials. Flatwork is any horizontal building component. While concrete is the raw material, flatwork construction is the process of developing the raw material into finished and functional things. The advantages lie in its durability, strength and maintenance; they are all very simple and ensure longevity. However, one of the main disadvantages are the stains from harsh chemicals and the shift from expanding and contracting. The preparation for flatwork is that it should be done on a flat surface to ensure that it settles in properly. Flatwork concrete can be done in a few styles which gives you a variety to choose from, so you can match the aesthetics of your space. Flatwork is found in almost every place you go to, hence is common and is important if you are looking for impeccable strength. 

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