A Brief History of Concrete

Concrete is a compound mixture essentially made of cement, sand, rock and water which creates a strong, hard surface. Its durability makes concrete the preferred material for many construction projects, from a simple patio or garage base for the homeowner to skyscrapers reaching several stories high. Over the years, the sophistication of mixing and creating different types has made it safer, longer lasting and more reliable.
Men Pouring Concrete

Hoover Dam Made of Concrete Undoubtedly, concrete has a long history. Geologists discovered a site in Israel where naturally occurring limestone and oil shale mixed together due to combustion, creating the first known concrete deposits in the earth.

It was not until the Egyptians began using a compound of straw and mud around 3,000 BC that simple forms of man-made concrete were used for construction, binding bricks together. By about 800 BC, the Greeks had discovered a lime-based compound to bind their structures. Over the next several hundred years, the Babylonians, Greeks, Assyrians, Romans and other civilizations discovered better, stronger compounds to use. These included lime and sand mixed with additives from animals, such as milk, fat and blood.

During the Middle Ages, technology turned away from using the properties of lime when heated as a type of cement. It reemerged in the 1600s. Stucco was later invented in 1779, using cement as a form of plaster in building construction. By the early 1800s, cement was sophisticated enough to withstand water. It filled a breach of the Thames Tunnel in 1828.

Reinforced concrete was discovered in the late 1800s. In 1900, the standardized concrete test was introduced. It was not until the late 1920s and mid-1930s that engineers discovered that the quality of the concrete and the quality of the metal wires and bars set within it prevented concrete from settling dramatically. This is what now allows bridges and other tall, heavy structures to stand without later developing gaps or falling down.

Construction of the Grand Coulee and Hoover Dams in 1936 benchmarked the first major dams made of concrete. During World War II, pre-stressed concrete was invented and used for construction during wartime throughout Europe. Over the years, different additives have been put into concrete material to make it stronger and last longer.

Today, different types of concrete are used in the construction of buildings, garages, roadways, hospitals, homes, schools, offices, parking lots, seawalls and many other projects. It continues to be a common find in modern construction, despite the creation of other building materials.