Two construction workers installing concrete on a work site during the daytime.

In construction, concrete reigns supreme as a versatile and durable building material. However, when faced with harsh chemical environments, traditional concrete crumbles. Enter chemical-resistant concrete, a specially formulated material engineered to withstand the corrosive effects of various chemicals.

The following sections will explore the science, properties, applications and considerations surrounding this remarkable material, providing a guide for anyone seeking to understand and utilize its unique capabilities.


The Science Behind Chemical Resistant Concrete

Traditional concrete — primarily composed of Portland cement, aggregates (sand and gravel) and water — exhibits limited chemical resistance. Portland cement is a finely ground powder, typically a gray color, that acts as the binding agent in traditional concrete. The highly alkaline nature of Portland cement reacts with acidic solutions, causing degradation and cracking.

To overcome this limitation, chemical-resistant concrete employs various strategies:

  • Alternative Binders: Replacing Portland cement with binders like sulfur, potassium silicate or polymers creates a denser and less porous matrix, reducing chemical penetration. These alternative binders can sometimes be combined with specially formulated concrete admixtures to enhance their chemical resistance properties further.
  • Dense Packing: Optimizing the aggregate gradation and minimizing water content results in a denser concrete structure, further hindering chemical ingress.
  • Chemical Modifications: Introducing additives like silane or epoxy can enhance the material’s inherent chemical resistance.

These modifications collectively contribute to the superior performance of chemical-resistant concrete in various applications.


Different Types of Chemical Resistant Concrete

Chemical-resistant concrete encompasses diverse specialized formulations, each tailored to withstand specific chemical challenges. Understanding their distinct properties and applications is crucial for selecting the most suitable material for your project.

Here’s a breakdown of some common types of chemical-resistant concrete:

  • Sulfur Concrete: Known for its exceptional chemical resistance to acids, alkalis and solvents, sulfur concrete finds application in industrial floors, secondary containment structures and tank linings. However, its brittleness and susceptibility to high temperatures necessitate careful consideration.
  • Silicate Concrete: Formulated using potassium silicate as a binder, silicate concrete offers excellent acid resistance and good thermal stability. It is commonly used in industrial floors, secondary containment areas and wastewater treatment facilities.
  • Polymer Concrete: Combining aggregates with polymer resins, polymer concrete exhibits superior strength, chemical resistance and adhesion properties. Its applications range from industrial flooring and tank linings to repair and rehabilitation projects.
  • Acid-resistant Concrete: A specific type of chemical-resistant concrete, acid-resistant concrete is formulated to withstand exposure to highly acidic environments, particularly those involving hydrochloric acid. It is commonly used in wastewater treatment, chemical processing and battery storage facilities.
  • Geopolymer Concrete: A relatively new type, geopolymer concrete utilizes fly ash or other industrial byproducts as a base material and offers impressive chemical resistance, fire resistance and sustainability credentials. Some formulations, like cold fusion concrete, exhibit exceptional resistance to various chemicals, including hydrochloric acid. This makes geopolymer concrete a suitable choice for various industrial applications.

Watertight concrete is another commonly used type, offering improved resistance to water ingress and making it suitable for applications like basements, pools and foundations. However, it may not possess the same level of durability and chemical resistance as specialized chemical-resistant concrete formulations when exposed to harsh chemical environments.

While not a type of concrete itself, epoxy coatings are sometimes used as a protective layer over concrete surfaces exposed to chemicals. However, some epoxies are unsuitable for hydrochloric acid environments and may degrade quickly.

Knowing the strengths and limitations of these chemical-resistant coatings, including their resistance to various chemicals like hydrochloric acid, is crucial for selecting the most appropriate solution for a specific project. Consulting with a professional may be best to determine the most appropriate coating for your application.


Properties and Performance of Chemical Resistant Concrete

A completed installation of chemical-resistant concrete on a worksite is pictured.

Chemical-resistant concrete surpasses traditional concrete in several key properties:

  • Strength and Durability: Chemical-resistant concrete often exhibits comparable or even superior strength and durability compared to traditional concrete, ensuring long-lasting performance.
  • Chemical and Acid Resistance: As the name suggests, the primary advantage lies in its exceptional resistance to various chemicals, including general acids, alkalis and solvents. This resistance extends the lifespan of structures exposed to harsh chemical environments.
  • Permeability and Absorption: Chemical-resistant concrete’s denser structure minimizes its permeability and absorption, hindering the ingress of corrosive chemicals and enhancing its longevity.
  • Abrasion Resistance: Certain types of chemical-resistant concrete exhibit superior abrasion resistance, making them ideal for high-traffic areas or applications exposed to abrasive materials.
  • Thermal Stability: Depending on the specific type, some chemical-resistant concrete formulations offer good thermal stability, allowing them to withstand moderate temperature fluctuations.
  • Good Abrasion Loss Rating: A good abrasion loss rating can indirectly indicate a coating’s potential durability in an environment where it might also face some abrasion alongside chemical exposure. A coating that wears down quickly through abrasion might also be more susceptible to chemical degradation.

These combined properties translate into significant performance benefits in various applications. Chemical-resistant concrete structures experience reduced degradation, require less frequent maintenance and offer a longer service life than traditional concrete in harsh environments.


Applications and Uses of Chemical Resistant Concrete

The exceptional properties of chemical-resistant concrete make it a valuable material across diverse industries:

  • Chemical Processing Plants: Chemical-resistant concrete plays a vital role in constructing storage tanks, secondary containment structures, floors and process equipment, ensuring the safe handling and containment of hazardous chemicals.
  • Wastewater Treatment Facilities: This material is ideal for constructing treatment tanks, channels, digesters and other infrastructure exposed to wastewater and associated chemicals, preventing corrosion and safeguarding the treatment process.
  • Food and Beverage Processing Facilities: Chemical-resistant concrete finds application in constructing floors, walls and containment areas, ensuring hygiene, preventing contamination and withstanding cleaning chemicals commonly used in these facilities.
  • Pulp and Paper Mills: The industry utilizes chemical-resistant concrete in bleach plants, storage tanks and other areas exposed to harsh chemicals like bleach and sulfides, promoting durability and reducing maintenance needs.
  • Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Facilities: Clean rooms and containment areas within these facilities benefit from the chemical resistance and ease of cleaning offered by this material, ensuring product purity and regulatory compliance.

Beyond these core applications, chemical-resistant concrete holds promise in other areas, including:

  • Oil and gas refineries
  • Mining and mineral processing facilities
  • Battery storage facilities

As research and development continue, the application landscape for chemical-resistant concrete will likely expand and diversify, offering even more innovative solutions for the construction industry.


Considerations for Utilizing Chemical Resistant Concrete in Construction Projects

While chemical-resistant concrete offers numerous advantages, the concrete industry must carefully consider several factors before incorporating it into construction solutions:

  • Type and Concentration of Chemicals: Selecting the appropriate type of chemical-resistant concrete hinges on the specific chemicals it will encounter and their concentration. Different formulations exhibit varying degrees of resistance to different chemicals, ensuring optimal performance in the specific environment.
  • Expected Service Life: The anticipated lifespan of the structure significantly influences the choice of material. High-performance formulations, often boasting superior compressive strengths, might be necessary for projects requiring extended lifespans in harsh environments.
  • Mechanical and Structural Requirements: Beyond chemical resistance, the project’s mechanical and structural requirements, such as load-bearing capacity and flexural strength, must be considered when selecting the appropriate concrete type. Chemical-resistant concrete formulations can offer diverse properties, ensuring compatibility with the project’s specific demands.
  • Budgetary Considerations: Chemical-resistant concrete may carry a higher initial cost than traditional concrete. However, its superior longevity, reduced maintenance requirements and potential for longer service life can translate into significant cost savings over the long term, making it a potentially valuable investment for the construction project.

Consulting with experienced professionals is crucial to ensure optimal material selection, design and installation for a project’s specific needs. By carefully considering these factors, the construction industry can leverage the unique benefits of chemical-resistant concrete to deliver durable and cost-effective solutions for challenging environments.


Installation and Maintenance of Chemical Resistant Concrete

Construction workers are pouring and maintaining the installation of concrete on a job site.

Proper installation is paramount to maximizing the performance and longevity of chemical-resistant concrete:

  • Skilled professionals: Installation should be entrusted to qualified contractors experienced with chemical-resistant concrete due to its properties and handling requirements.
  • Manufacturer’s Recommendations: Meticulous adherence to the manufacturer’s specific installation instructions for the chosen type of chemical-resistant concrete is crucial for optimal performance.

Regular maintenance is also essential to ensure the continued functionality and integrity of the concrete:

  • Inspections: Regularly inspecting the concrete for cracks, spalling or other signs of deterioration allows for early detection and prompt repair, preventing further damage.
  • Cleaning: Implementing a suitable cleaning regimen using appropriate cleaning agents helps maintain the surface integrity and functionality of the concrete.
  • Repairs: Addressing any cracks or damage promptly using compatible concrete repair materials is essential to prevent further deterioration and maintain the structural integrity of the concrete.

By following these guidelines, users can ensure chemical-resistant concrete’s long-lasting performance and value proposition.


Your Trusted Partner in Industrial Construction: SW Funk Industrial Contractors

SW Funk Industrial Contractors has been the reliable choice for industrial projects in the region since 1980. We specialize in concrete and structural steel, offering a one-stop shop for all industrial construction needs.

Safety, quality and reliability are at the core of everything we do. We are committed to completing your project on time, within budget and to the highest of standards.


Our Expertise

Our skilled crews deliver precision concrete placements, from large foundations to intricate anchor bolt layouts. We excel at complex installations and repairs, even in challenging environments, without disrupting your operations. With extensive experience and meticulous planning, we are your reliable concrete contractor, ensuring high-quality, long-lasting results.

SW Funk Industrial Contractors is also a leading provider of structural steel services. We offer fabrication and erection for projects of all sizes and complexities, from platforms and catwalks to entire buildings. Our AISC-certified team has the expertise and logistical know-how to tackle any challenge, ensuring safety, quality and efficiency.


Why Choose SW Funk Industrial Contractors?

In the construction industry, reliable partners are crucial. Unlike competitors, SW Funk Industrial Contractors offers comprehensive industrial services under one roof, saving you time and streamlining your project. We are one of the few contractors offering both concrete and structural steel expertise, allowing you to manage both aspects seamlessly with a single trusted partner.

We prioritize building a reliable team, bringing our trusted crew to every job, eliminating the need for subcontractors and ensuring consistent quality. With our nationally recognized expertise and local focus, this dedication positions us as the ideal partner for your industrial construction needs.

Ready to discuss your next project? Contact SW Funk Industrial Contractors today to learn more about our services and how we can help you achieve your goals.