Concrete --- a mixture of water, sand (or other aggregate) and Portland cement --- is often reinforced to prevent cracking and to strengthen the overall form to make it suitable for structural or load-bearing use. Concrete columns are formed by placing the reinforcing material into a mould, filling the mould with concrete and then allowing the mixture to dry, or "cure," slowly.
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Steel Reinforced Columns
Traditionally, most concrete is reinforced with steel rebar or prefabricated steel cages. In these situations, the inner steel is carefully arranged inside a mould and then concrete sprayed or poured into the mould to fashion one-piece columns. In most applications, this process takes place on site to prevent prohibitive shipping costs.
Glass Fiber Reinforced Columns
Glass fibre reinforced concrete (also known as GFRC) combines cement, glass fibres and sand, creating a mixture that weighs roughly one-third of what conventional concrete would weigh. This mixture is poured into column moulds and allowed to harden slowly over the course of several days. Its resistance to chipping, light weight and superior compressive strength make it a commonly used element in precast architectural elements such as columns.
Segmented Concrete Columns
In some cases, columns must be segmented --- either to allow them to wrap around an existing support structure or for easy shipping from a manufacturing facility. In most cases, such columns are fashioned so each piece has its own mould. The concrete is reinforced with steel rebar, which extends from one segment so that it can be inserted into the bottom of the next, and so on, so the final product incorporates interlocking segments.
The type of process used often depends on the final application, as well as cost barriers. Aesthetic columns are more likely to incorporate glass-reinforced columns, for example, due to their light weight and superior resistance to weathering. Load-bearing and support columns are more likely to incorporate steel reinforcement, which is both the industry standard and an economical choice.
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