Who would want to read a book that covers every major concrete-and cement-based product used in small buildings? The concrete contractor could use it to learn about the full range of business opportunities available in low-rise construction. The stick builder could use it to get the lowdown on concrete-based alternatives for projects. The builder specializing in concrete structures could compare competing concrete systems and learn about nonstructural products of interest. This book is directed to all of those.

Concrete Systems for Homes and Low-Rise Construction, published by McGraw-Hill and authored by Pieter VanderWerf, Ivan Panushev, Mark Nicholson, and Daniel Kokonowski, is a useful background and reference book for the building professional. It brings the reader basic information on the many concrete products and systems that are available and their relationship to one another. It helps readers explore the options in depth to decide which are right for their businesses.

Historically, most small buildings in North America are constructed with light framing, and finish and landscape products are largely wood and oil-based. The authors argue that the advancement of concrete mixes, forming, molding, and aesthetics have produced many concrete-based products that compete successfully. They prove their point with statistics that show a sharp growth or resurgence in everything from segmental retaining walls to concrete wall systems to concrete countertops.

The removable-form first story is complete and the forms have been moved up to create the second story. The system's straight and curved walls add architectural interest. The roof will also be cast-in-place concrete.
The removable-form first story is complete and the forms have been moved up to create the second story. The system's straight and curved walls add architectural interest. The roof will also be cast-in-place concrete.

Now there are many more valuable products and systems made with concrete than most of us are able to keep up with. This book gives the professional a solid introduction to compare and consider.

The book covers 21 different products and systems, separated into five sections, each about 15 pages long. Each section includes photos and diagrams, and covers a standard set of subjects such as key properties, market demand, typical costs, installation procedures, and where to find more detailed information. The five sections are:

  • Wall systems (concrete masonry, insulating concrete forms, precast, removable forms, tilt-up, and autoclaved aerated concrete)
  • Floor and roof systems (composite steel, insulating concrete form, precast, removable forms, and autoclaved aerated concrete)
  • Exterior finish products (stucco, concrete brick, fiber-cement siding, manufactured stone, and concrete roof tile)
  • Landscape products (pavers, flatwork, and segmental retaining walls)
  • Decorative concrete (counter-tops and floors).

These five main sections are surrounded with other useful information. Starting off is an overview that covers concrete basics and principles. Several chapters on developments describe more specialized or newly developed products and new technologies that promise to shake things up in the future. The black and white book has a center section of color photos, showing the beauty of the products and a variety of decorative finishes.

VanderWerf has written other books on insulating concrete forms and is an expert on concrete structural systems for small buildings. He is president of Building Works, Inc.

Online resources for the book are www.amazon.com, www .barnesandnoble.com, the Portland Cement Association Bookstore (www.cement.org/bookstore), and the Hanley Wood Bookstore, www.wocbookstore.com.