Complete Guide to Aircrete – Pros, Cons, Uses and What It Is
As the world looks towards eco-friendly solutions, one option that we’ve found is aircrete.
This building material can certainly have some great uses but you should be familiar with how it compares to traditional concrete and know its limitations as well.
In this guide, we will share with you all of the details about aircrete. We will talk about just what it is, cover some pros and cons, and detail how to best use it as a building material.
The History Of Aircrete
Aircrete really is not a new solution. It’s been out there for awhile really.
It was created in Europe and the official name of the material is autoclaved aerated concrete. Ultimately, it was designed as early as 1932 in a European factory.
The first brand of aircrete was Durox and then other competitors quickly followed. Originally, they created specific blocks with the material and then expanded to making elements like roof and floor panels as well.
The technology has expanded over the years and is now an international endeavor available in far more places than just Europe. The product can now be made on site and doesn’t have to be purchased in concrete blocks and other similar forms anymore.
According to Aircrete, Aircrete is thought to be a solid building material, a thermal insulator, and a sound absorber as well. The density ranges can vary and it can be used for various products as well.
What Exactly Is Aircrete?
Aircrete is a building material that is meant to be an eco-friendly alternative to concrete in some regards.
It can be used for building and is pretty affordable overall when you compare the cost to that of concrete.
Aircrete is made by the equal distribution of stable air cells. The stable air cells and the low density make it a lightweight material. This allows you to comfortably work with the material for a lot of different uses.
While it may not be perfect, it’s popular because it is lightweight, affordable, and offers a lot of insulation.
How Is Aircrete Made?
We really can’t say it any better than Build Rise when they say that aircrete is just concrete with bubbles. This is the perfect analysis and explanation of the material.
It is made with similar materials of concrete and is ultimately aerated concrete – hence the name.
Many construction companies make their own aircrete and Domegaia shares some details for making aircrete.
When made from home and not through formal production, you can use dish detergent to make the foam with the addition of some water and then an air compressor. They also use cement in the mixture but a very diluted variety.
In commercial production, there is typically more into the process but this gives you a general idea of how light and simple aircrete really is.
How Does Aircrete Compare To Concrete?
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to comparing aircrete and concrete.
The thing is these two are really not comparable. They are best used for certain things and both have certain strengths and places where they work best.
Aircrete is designed to be light and airy while concrete is designed to be heavy and durable. They contrast considerably in this regard. You will find that aircrete is comfortable to work with and has some great features and strengths. However, for load bearing purposes, concrete usually takes the stage.
Both concrete and aircrete fall into the masonry category for building materials. Aircrete is definitely the lightest type of concrete block out there. They mostly just have sand, cement, lime, water, and pulverized fuel ash, according to Builder Space.
Aircrete is almost always cut into concrete blocks and then cured for use so that it hardens and is strengthened. Concrete on the other hand is poured on location and cured, although it can also be used to make blocks.
Concrete is fine and coarse all at the same time but much heavier overall than aircrete is. Concrete is pretty workable to fit just about any specific mold and remaining steady. Aircrete almost has to be molded in a specific way.
While aircrete can be molded into different shapes and sizes, it typically is in smaller pieces that may be combined together.
What Type of Construction Is Aircrete Used For?
Aircrete is somewhat particular and while it can be very useful, it can also be somewhat limiting overall.
Aircrete can be useful in a lot of ways and actually has become increasingly popular for home walls as it can provide really great insulation. According to Mannok, a home loses up to 35% of their heat through the walls but aircrete can help reduce this loss.
This can be a great use of aircrete but there are other good construction uses as well.
Here are some other project options, according to Builder Space.
- Precast blocks
- Insulated compensation laying
- Filling sunken portions
- Prefabricated insulation
- Bridge embankments
- Insulating roof and floor screeds
- Trench reinstatement
- Highway sub-base
- Precast wall elements
- Cast in place walls
- Block filling
- Tiny Houses
These are just a few ideas but construction is certainly not limited to just these items.
Pros Of Using Aircrete
Let’s cover some pros for using aircrete for projects.
Aircrete is Economical
Aircrete can be far more affordable and eco-friendly than concrete in comparison.
This is one of the big advantages of using aircrete in the long run. It’s a low-cost material that is pretty easy to make and come up with. It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort but it might take some TLC to make it.
Aircrete doesn’t use things like gravel and rock or even a lot of sand like concrete does. It light and aerated so you notice a pretty significant different in the material itself, what it requires, and the overall cost to use it.
Aircrete is very popular because it can make a home or a building more energy-efficient as a whole.
This material can offer added insulation and this can be incredibly useful when it comes to the energy bill in some locations.
Aircrete is known for thermal insulation properties so over the years, a homeowner can save a lot of money on utilities and costs for heating and cooling a home.
Concrete is not typically thought of as having good insulation so this is an area where aircrete is set apart in comparison.
Easy to Use
Aircrete is pretty easy to use and work with.
It can be made on site or purchased in a prefabricated form so this lends some versatility and options for contractors and construction sites that are using it.
Aircrete can be purchased in prefabricated forms that include things like roofs, walls, flooring, and simple blocks. There are other forms as well.
When it comes to using aircrete, it’s also easy to work with. You don’t have nearly as much preparation or working afterwards to get it set or cured or anything like that. While it can be made on site, most workers are going to either use prefabricated products or they are going to make it to a mold on their own.
Aircrete is known for being eco-friendly as well, which is another reason it is increasingly popular overall.
This was created specifically to have a low impact on the environment.
Aircrete uses materials like lime, fly ash, water, and gypsum.
While there is also cement used in aircrete, it’s expanded to six times its original volume so it uses very little and that also helps to reduce the overall footprint of the material.
While aircrete might seem like it isn’t very strong, it is a bit deceiving in this manner.
It may not serve much purpose as a full load-bearing piece of equipment but it is shock absorbent overall.
According to Builder Space, the military uses aerated concrete for firearm training. What it is capable of may really depend on the density of the material. It absorbs shock as well as things like acoustics and can be incredibly handy in these aspects.
Aircrete is also known for being waterproof.
It does not decompose or shrink or anything like that when hit with water.
The water won’t make aircrete become porous or deformed – it holds up against the elements like rain and weather.
Cons of Using Aircrete
Check out these potential cons of using aircrete as well.
Aircrete is strong in its own way but if you are expecting it to be as strong as concrete, you will be disappointed.
Aircrete was never really meant to be a foundation but rather an internal support piece more than anything.
While it is able to absorb shock, it is not really designed to bear loads. This may be a hindrance but just be familiar with the limitations and you will find that aircrete can still be very useful, just not for that particular purpose.
One of the downsides to aircrete is that it can become brittle in nature, particularly when the density is really high.
If the density of the foam is high, this can cause the aircrete to become brittle and might even lead to chipping of the material as well.
You primarily just need to be familiar with this and pay attention to the density of the aircrete to avoid issues.
Does Not Replace Concrete
Many people think that using aircrete will replace concrete and that is not the case.
While there are certainly some areas where they stand out against each other or you might be able to use aircrete instead, it is not a replacement of concrete in all regards.
Remember that aircrete is not really meant to be load-bearing so you may have to use concrete for these needs. Be sure to watch the capabilities rather than just assume you can replace concrete.
R-Value of Aircrete
The R-Value of Aircrete can actually vary depeding on how it was made.
Remember that the density can vary and some densities are not as suitable for some purposes.
In general, the degree for aircrete is R-6 per inch. This means a block that is 6 inches would have and R-36 rating.
Is Aircrete As Strong As Concrete?
Aircrete is strong in its own way but we can’t really say that it is as strong as concrete.
Aircrete has areas that stand out above concrete but when it comes to overall strength, concrete will win because it is designed to be heavy-duty and load bearing.
Aircrete is designed to be a filler more than anything else.
How Thick Should Aircrete Walls Be?
The thickness could vary for walls built with aircrete. A good rule of thumb that most turn to is about 6 inches thick.
This is because you can achieve R-36 insulation with 6 inch blocks so this is the optimal setup to have the best insulation.
On that same note, 8-inch is also a common choice for places like attics, ceilings, and foundational use.
Is Aircrete Load Bearing?
Some of the prefabricated products out there are made to be lightly load bearing.
In general, aircrete is not meant to be heavily load-bearing but things like lintels with aircrete can be used for beams to support wall weight.
How Expensive Is Aircrete?
If you compare the cost of aircrete to other materials like concrete, it is relatively inexpensive.
You can plan on approximately $1-$2 per square foot of aircrete used. This can add up for large surfaces like a home but it is far more affordable than some materials.
Aircrete has a lot of really incredible uses. While it most likely won’t just outright replace concrete in some instances.
When you compare aircrete to other materials out there, it has a lot of valuable points that make it a great option for certain construction needs.
As with any other type of material, it won’t be perfect and it won’t be solution for every single need but it is a valuable eco-friendly alternative to concrete and it certainly has some value that is unique and useful in its own way.