Roman concrete called opus caementicium in Latin was used from the late Roman Republic until the end of the Roman Empire. It was used to build monuments, large buildings, and infrastructures such as roads and bridges. The quality of the concrete was excellent and the buildings and monuments still standing today is a testament to the strength of their construction!
Roman Concrete Construction
Concrete was usually covered as concrete walls were considered unaesthetic. Roman builders covered building walls with stones or small square tuff blocks that would often form beautiful patterns noting that brick-faced concrete buildings were common in Rome especially after the great fire of 64 AD.
Roman concrete or opus caementicium was invented in the late 3rd century BC when builders added volcanic dust called pozzolana to mortar made of a mixture of lime or gypsum, brick, or rock pieces and water. Concrete was made by mixing with water: 1) an aggregate which included pieces of rock, ceramic tile, pieces of brick from previously demolished constructions, 2) volcanic dust (called pozzolana), and 3) gypsum or lime. Usually, the mix was a ratio of 1 part of lime for 3 parts of volcanic ash. Pozzolana contained both silica and alumina and created a chemical reaction that strengthened the cohesiveness of the mortar.
There were many variations of concrete and Rome even saw the Concrete Revolution which represented advances in the composition of concrete and allowed for the construction of impressive monuments such as the Pantheon. For example, Roman builders discovered that adding crushed terracotta to the mortar created a waterproof material that could be then be used with cisterns and other constructions exposed to rain or water.
Romans mastered underwater concrete by the middle of the 1st century AD. The city of Caesarea gives us an impressive example of Roman construction. The production technique was quite incredible: the mix was one-part lime for two-parts volcanic ash, and it was placed in volcanic tuff or small wooden cases. The seawater would then hydrate the lime and trigger a hot chemical reaction that hardened the concrete.
Incredible facts about Roman concrete
- Reinforced concrete (reinforced with steel rebar) did not exist. As a result, buildings lasted longer as they did not suffer from steel corrosion.
- Pozzolana (derived from volcanic dust) made the concrete more resistant to saltwater than our modern-day concrete.
- Amazingly, when the Roman Empire fell, the know-how to making concrete was lost. It was rediscovered only many centuries later in 1710 by a French engineer. His formula remains the basic formula used today to make Portland cement concrete.
TR Concrete Construction in Omaha, NE
This industry takes a lot of heavy machinery and tough labor, but it also requires as much or more planning, critical thinking, and fine touch to get a quality finished product. It is a very rewarding career and keeps you constantly on your toes being that 2 days are never the same. It is a profession that has been around for a long time and is ever-evolving and still remains a very vital staple in today’s economy.
As a reputable business with over 25 years of concrete construction experience, TR Construction has expertise with projects large and small to include:
- commercial building concrete
- remove, and replacement of concrete
- industrial projects
- special projects for clients