Q: I work for a company that is a wholesaler of cement and I am trying to put together a layman's type of manual for our office so the secretaries can have more knowledge of the cement and concrete business. I feel if we had more simplified information, it would be easier to understand.

We want to get more involved in our jobs but we don't have the knowledge and we are not the sales force. Do you have any information about terminology that is used for situations that might arise daily, without getting too technical, that could be of use to us?

A: We would like to suggest a publication that has been very helpful to us for a number of years. It is "Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures," published by the Portland Cement Association. Although this book is not strictly a layman's manual, it does present a lot of good information on the fundamentals of concrete, written in language which we think you will find quite understandable. As a sample of some of the contents of the book:

  • Chapter 2 describes the manufacture of portland cement and explains what all of the different ASTM types of portland cement are, including white portland cement, air-entraining cement and special cements such as waterproof. This gives you an idea of all of the kinds of cement that might be available for concrete construction.
  • There is a short chapter explaining what kind of water is required for mixing concrete and what various impurities in water will do to the concrete mix.
  • One chapter explains all of the kinds of aggregates that are used for making concrete and tells something about the grading of those aggregates as well as the potential deleterious reactivity that a few aggregates may undergo with portland cement.
  • Another chapter tells very briefly about the kinds of tests that have to be made to assure production of good concrete.
  • A final chapter in the book deals with special types of concrete, lists almost one hundred different kinds of concrete made with portland cement, and then shows another dozen types of concrete made without using portland cement.

Those are descriptions of five of the fifteen chapters. We feel sure that you would find this book very helpful as a basic introduction to the technology of concrete. This paperback book of 144 pages is available from the Portland Cement Association, 5420 Old Orchard Road, Skokie, Illinois 60077. In addition, we suggest that you write to the American Concrete Institute, Box 19150, Detroit, Michigan 48219 to secure a copy of their publications catalog. They have a "Concrete Primer" as well as much additional information that would be helpful on specialized topics in concrete.