18th Nov 2022 -

Concrete is integral to construction across the world, as it is both durable and sustainable. But in many cases, it is not strong enough on its own, especially in bigger commercial properties or structures that bear immense loads and harsh weather. In these cases, concrete reinforcement is necessary for construction to remain safe and meet British Building Standards. In this article, we will explore why reinforcement is necessary and the various methods of achieving it. 

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When Do You Need to Reinforce Concrete?

Concrete is a high-strength building material that can be used without reinforcement on certain small-scale building projects, where it will not be required to withstand immense stress, as it would in larger projects like skyscrapers. This is thanks to concrete’s natural resilience against compressive force. It is designed to be able to withstand large amounts of impact and compaction. However, it falls short in its tensile resistance. Concrete is a very brittle material, making it prone to cracks and damage over time. This tensile weakness is why, in almost all structural uses, concrete will need reinforcement to do its job safely and effectively. 

How Is Concrete Reinforced?

We now know that concrete performs best when bearing immense loads - and the purpose of reinforcement is to strengthen the concrete and provide tensile strength against strong winds, vibrations, and other forces that require flexibility.  This is achieved through a couple of methods, all involving the use of steel within concrete.

Types of Steel Reinforcement Used in Concrete Structures

Concrete is most often reinforced using two steel products: reinforcing mesh and high-tensile rebars. A great many materials and products go into the building and reinforcing of a structure, but these two are by far the most popular and widely used across the world.

Reinforcing Mesh

Reinforcing mesh can be applied in several ways, namely as a strengthener for building foundations. The steel mesh is laid in areas where concrete slabs will experience the heaviest loads, such as driveways, footpaths, and certain walls. Concrete is then poured over the steel mesh and, as it sets, the two bond together – combining both compressive and tensile strength.

Below is an example of the reinforcing mesh types we stock and where you can find them. See here for our full range of metal meshes and steel concrete reinforcements. We stock a wide range of reinforcing meshes, each suited to different purposes. Most can be safely used in housing foundations, paths, and driveways.

High Tensile Rebar

Reinforcing bars, also called rebars, are thick steel rods that run through concrete slabs, allowing for greater flexibility without damage and greatly strengthening them. Rebars are often made using recycled steel and are designed to have a ribbed surface that allows the rebar to easily bond with the unset concrete slabs or blocks.

Below are two examples of the rebars we stock and where you can find them.

  • High Tensile Rebar 10mm T10: Our T10 steel rods are sold in straight lengths and are perfect for both domestic and commercial use. Our range of straight rebars can be cut to any length, making them an extremely versatile form of concrete reinforcement. How they are placed can depend from project to project, some can be stood in lengths or even lain into tight grids to act as a heavy-duty mesh alternative.
  • High Tensile Cut & Bent Rebar 32mm T32: The T32s are slightly different from our straight-length rebars in that they are bent. Bar bending can be done on-site, but purchasing rebars pre-bent can save time and potential damage if not done correctly. Bending rebars will reduce their strength and should only be done once. Rebars can be crosshatched and wrapped in several ways, depending on how strong the concrete they are supporting needs to be. Bent rebars can be used to make stirrups or longitudinal bars, which provide higher stability and strength within the concrete slabs.

Alternatives to Steel Reinforcement in Concrete

Despite the recycled and sustainable nature of most steel-based concrete reinforcing products, other alternatives are gaining popularity where access or preference dictates the need for other options. The use of steel reinforcement in concrete poses two risks.

  1. Rust: Though steel is a strong and dependable choice for concrete reinforcement, it is prone to rust. When steel mesh or rebars rust within the concrete, they expand, which puts the concrete under stress and risks damage if not treated quickly.
  2. Gaps: When rebars are used for concrete reinforcement, there will inevitably be spaces between each rod. Even reinforcing mesh that covers a greater surface area will still leave some parts of the concrete unprotected. These gaps are then put under tensile stress over time, risking cracks and damage to the structure.

The industry is constantly growing and changing, whilst finding new ways to tackle age-old problems. In some places in the world, bamboo has been used as an alternative to steel in concrete reinforcement, but as a building material, though strong, is it prone to decay. 

The most common and reliable steel substitutes, thanks to 100% rust resistance and an even spread throughout the concrete are synthetic reinforcement fibres. If you are looking for something to replace the need for steel in concrete reinforcement, these could be an option worth exploring.

Reinforcement Fibres for Concrete

Synthetic alternatives are gaining popularity thanks to their resistance to water damage and rust. They are also easier to store in comparison to steel, quicker to install, more cost-effective, and safer for builders to work with. The synthetic fibres run through concrete slabs just as steel mesh or rebars will, only more randomly oriented in web-like structures. The fibres will then bond with the concrete mixture as it sets and provide strength equal to that of steel, but last much longer and remain completely rust-proof.

Source Concrete Reinforcement With A Trade Account

As a building trade professional, having a reliable source for all your construction materials is crucial to keeping projects moving efficiently. Our Building Materials Trade Accounts offer dedicated support to source even hard-to-find items like concrete rebar.

With your own Trade Account Manager, you'll have a building materials expert available to personally assist with sourcing, recommendations, quotes, and more. They understand both common and complex reinforcement needs and can leverage our extensive supplier network to get you the right rebar, mesh, and other products for every job.

On top of sourcing assistance, Trade Accounts provide additional benefits like:

  • Volume discounts and exclusive trade pricing
  • Flexible credit lines (subject to approval)
  • Quick processing and delivery coordination
  • Ability to purchase materials not listed on our website

Sign up today to start getting the products you need, when you need them.

High-Quality Concrete Reinforcement at Your Fingertips

Whether you are an industry professional or a skilled DIYer, Building Materials Nationwide is here to supply a vast range of construction materials and products, including quality steel mesh and rebars for reinforcing your concrete slabs. These are all sustainably sourced and delivered to your door in a matter of days. If you have any concerns or questions about the best method to reinforce your structure, you can contact us here.

For anyone working in the industry or looking for help managing large-scale orders, we recommend looking into our trade accounts. Aside from a whole host of exclusive benefits specifically tailored to industry professionals, the dedicated account manager it provides will take any complex ordering off your hands, leaving you free to get back to work. Sign up through our website today.

Need Quality Rebars and Meshes?

  1. Security Lath (700/200/70042)


    • Fine mesh metal
    • Prevents intruders
    Price from: £22.14 £26.57
  2. £24.29 £29.15
  3. £43.20 £51.84

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