When it comes to setting and strengthening concrete slabs, today’s contractors have a variety of options designed to fit almost any application or setting. As has long been the case, many contractors still turn to rebar given its durability and versatility. However, some teams have started to favor wire meshes and fiber meshes instead.
That’s left some contractors wondering – which of these options is the best overall?
The answer, as you can imagine, depends on the specifics of your concrete pouring job.
This guide will help you better understand all three by breaking them down to their basic elements. From there, we’ll highlight some of their main differences and demonstrate which of them is best suited for your upcoming slab creation job.
Rebar, Wire Mesh and Fiber Mesh: The Basics
To start off, let’s look at rebar, wire mesh, and fiber mesh at a basic level.
What Is Rebar?
You know rebar, and chances are, you’re accustomed to using it on a construction site. But if you’re new to this field, then you should know that rebar (an abbreviation of “reinforcing bar”) is a type of narrow steel bar that is often placed in a mesh arrangement to reinforce concrete.
These rods are often made from carbon steel and cut to size, with an entire rod running the length of a particular slab.
Rebar is notably versatile because it can be placed in almost any arrangement based on a job’s requirements. However, its actual placement can be cumbersome (due to its weight) and time-consuming (due to the need to secure rods at joint points with ties or welds).
This method remains the concrete reinforcing standard around the world, meaning that it is often reasonably cost-effective.
What Is Wire Mesh?
Concrete wire mesh is designed to take much of the hassle out of reinforcing concrete. Specifically, wire mesh is built from thin steel bars which are pre-welded together into a net-like pattern. This mesh is then rolled up into massive rolls, allowing it to be unrolled and cut to size right on a job site.
Wire mesh’s most noteworthy advantage is that it does not require supplemental welding or trying together. Wire mesh is also fairly easy to place over a wide area with a smaller construction team. As a tradeoff, though, this material is considered slightly weaker due to the smaller gauge of its rods.
As such, it cannot be used in all load-bearing projects.
What Is Fiber Mesh?
Fiber mesh is actually a fairly modern method of reinforcing concrete. However, unlike the previous two types, this method does not require a framework of steel to be set into wet concrete.
Instead, this method involves the addition of synthetic fibers, glass fibers, natural fibers, and steel fibers during the concrete application process. Then, as the concrete dries, it creates an internal mesh throughout the slab.
This method is notably more expensive and requires some expertise to perform properly. However, it does impart a heightened level of impact resistance. As such, it is often used for smaller walkways and patios.
Rebar vs. Wire Mesh vs. Fiber Mesh: What Are the Differences?
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at the major differences among the three.
When it comes to placement times, these three support materials have some noticeable differences.
Rebar is by far the slowest of the three, with its separate rods requiring time for alignment and connection (via ties or welding). Wire mesh is on the faster side given that it simply needs to be rolled out, aligned, and cut to fit.
Fiber mesh can be the fastest option in the pack, depending on what materials are added to your concrete during the curing process. In any case, this method does not require any cutting, making it slightly less effort-intensive.
As you can imagine, each of these options differs when it comes to its overall durability.
Rebar has remained the gold standard due to its strength, for example. This is true in both vertical and horizontal applications, actually. Wire mesh is less strong by comparison, not least because of the diminished size of each of its steel rods.
Fiber meshes are, in theory, the strongest option available to contractors today. However, much of the impact resistance this option imparts only works over a limited area. Also, its uses in vertical slabs have not yet been well-studied.
Many contractors prefer to choose their materials based on cost.
If that’s you, then you’ll be able to make use of rebar in a fairly cost-effective manner. That is the case if you already own a method of connecting rebar rods and plan on buying rebar rods in bulk. Wire mesh prices can vary, but it can also be fairly affordable if you have space to store spools of the material.
Fiber mesh is not a cheap option by any means. This is a result of the assorted fiber materials used in its application. This, too, is one of the reasons it is only used on fairly small concrete placement jobs.
Which of the Three Should You Use?
All things considered, rebar is still the most appropriate option for the majority of industrial-scale concrete projects. So, if you are building a floor, wall, or any load-bearing structure, then rebar would be a solid reinforcing option.
Meanwhile, DIYers will find wire mesh to be a more useful option given its overall ease of application.
All that said, if you are planning on building your own patio, driveway, or garage floor, then you should give fiber mesh a hard look too. At those scales, this option’s price can be managed well while still allowing you access to its enhanced level of tensile strength.
As you can now see, you have a number of worthwhile options before you when it comes to reinforcing your new concrete slabs. Each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks, both in professional and DIY settings.
Be sure to keep these all in mind when it comes time for your team to choose rebar, wire mesh, or fiber mesh for your next concrete construction project.