How to Reinforce With Steel and Mesh

Written by bob haring
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Steel and wire mesh are used to add strength to concrete. Concrete is a versatile building material, but its strength is under compression, not under tension. If you lay a concrete block on the ground, you can pile a lot of weight on it before it collapses. Set that same block up on supports at each end, with nothing in-between, and it will give-way quickly. Adding steel bars or wire mesh gives concrete additional tensile strength. In walls or upright forms, this adds strength against lateral movement: In slabs, it helps prevent cracking.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Reinforcing bar
  • Wire mesh
  • Metal saw
  • Metal snips
  • Wire ties
  • Reinforcing supports

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  1. 1

    Use steel reinforcing bar -- or rebar -- in any concrete wall, post, pier or other vertical element -- or any situation in which the concrete must span an opening. Rebar is made in many sizes; the most common are 3/8 or 1/2 inch. Anchor rebar upright, before concrete is poured inside forms. Space rebar depending on the width and height of the wall being made. In concrete block walls, add rebar through holes in the blocks, then fill them with concrete, for extra strength. Where several rebars are in the same pier or pillar, tie them with wire to keep them apart. Cut rebar to fit, with a metal saw.

  2. 2

    Lay wire mesh for any small horizontal concrete project, such as a walk or porch. Put it down after the base of compacted dirt and gravel has been prepared. Support it with pieces of old concrete or special mesh holders, usually plastic, so concrete will flow both beneath and above it. Overlap seams where more than one mesh sheet is required, and tie the sections together with wire. Cut mesh to fit with a metal saw or metal snips.

  3. 3

    Combine rebar and mesh in large projects, such as big slabs, driveways, basements or garage floors. Lay the rebar in a grid pattern, tied with wires at the joints, and supported with concrete chunks, plastic or metal supports. Set the rebar about half the thickness of the finished slab -- 3 inches above the base for a 6-inch pour. For heavy use surfaces, lay wire mesh over the rebar for additional support. Cut mesh with a metal saw or metal snips.

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