Precast concrete construction has the flexibility to create virtually any design shape, curve, or form, thanks in part to such innovations as self-consolidating and ultra-high-performance concrete. Precast concrete is capable of articulating a myriad of design concepts and aspirations. The designer is free to deliver an uncompromised vision for commercial, residential, or specialized structures.
Design flexibility is possible in color and texture by varying aggregate and matrix color as well as size of aggregates, finishing processes, and depth of exposure. Combining color with texture accentuates the natural beauty of aggregates. Many variables will impact the final color and consistency, including the type and color of cement, water-cement ratios, qualities of the coloring agent, batching and mixing techniques, impurities in the aggregates and fine materials, and uniformity in the curing cycles.
Working with their precast manufacturer, designers can specify a variety of aggregate colors and sizes, matrix colors, shape or form details, and surface finishes, as well as the depth of exposure of the aggregates, to achieve a wide variety of textures and meet numerous design objectives.
A wide range of precast concrete surface finishes are available, and two or more often are combined in one panel to create contrast and more interest. The most common finishes include:
- Smooth or off-the-form finish
- Exposed-aggregate finish
- Form-liner patterns
- Sand or abrasive blasting
- Acid etching
- Tooling, spalling, or chipping, usually called bushhammering
- Hammered-rib or fractured-fin design
- Sand embedment
- Honing or polished finish
- Cost data, including assistance in creating a guaranteed maximum price
Clay products, such as ceramic tile, terra cotta, brick, and other facing products, can be cast integrally. The clay product can cover the entire exposed panel surface or only a portion, serving as an accent band or contrasting section. Granite, marble, glass, and ceramic mosaics also can be cast integrally or applied to the hardened concrete.