Ferrocement can be considered a type of thin reinforced concrete construction in which large amounts of small-diameter wire meshes are used uniformly throughout the cross section instead of discretely placed reinforcing bars and in which Portland cement mortar is used instead of concrete. Metallic mesh is the most common type of reinforcement.
Ferrocement construction can be divided into four phases: fabricating the skeletal framing system, applying rods and mesh, plastering, and curing. Note that special skills are required for Phases 1 and 3 while Phase 2 is very labor intensive, a possible shortcoming for industrially developing countries but an advantage for countries where unskilled labor is relatively abundant. Laminating techniques can reduce the labor cost. Experience has shown that the quality and application of mortar are critical. Mortar can be applied by hand or by shotcreting. Since no formwork is required, ferrocement is especially suitable for structures with curved surfaces such as shells and free-form shapes.
Whether ferrocement can economically compete with alternate materials depends on the type and location of application. For industrially developing countries where the cost of materials is relatively higher than the cost of labor, construction of boats, silos, tanks and roofs appears especially attractive. For industrially developed countries, ferrocement seems economical for medium-size storage tanks, some type of roof shell construction, boats and ships, and wherever the ease of forming complicated shapes and the lighter weight of ferrocement can be safely exploited.