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The Importance of Concrete Form Liners to Construction

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Concrete is an incredibly useful and flexible building material without which modern architecture and construction would not be possible. Composed of cement, sand and coarser aggregates, concrete can easily be poured into forms and molds to create any number of shapes, yet quickly hardens to become a durable stone-like material. It is used in buildings, foundations, bridges, footings, roads and in many other applications. Not everyone, however, is fond of the bare texture of standard molds. This is where concrete form liners come in.

What form liners do is create a pattern on the concrete. These patterns can be used to create surface treatments and textures that are more pleasing to the eye than the imprint of the random wooden boards generally used in concrete molds and forming structures. While some feel that the basic design and shape of a concrete structure speaks for itself and the rough random surface generated by standard wooden molds is part of its beauty, others view formliners as an essential component of the design. As such, a formliner becomes as much part of the design as does the choice of siding material and color, or the selection of paint or wallpaper.

Depending on the intended application, there are single-use plastic formliners, multi-use elastomeric formliners, and urethane formliners that can last for dozens or hundreds of uses. Picking the right form liner therefore is an important part of the architectural design of a structure. Some architects, engineers and contractors design their own formliners with special patterns whereas others select from the catalogs of formline providers. Since the end-result of using formliners - the surface of the concrete - is highly visible, the design, selection, placement, alignment and removal of formliners are essential. Working with formliners is as much an art as it is a craft.

Where do formliners come from? From companies that specialize in them. A good formliner vendor must cater to a variety of different interests: Architects who design patterns or have a certain look in mind will demand absolute attention to all details. Engineers will expect the ability to read and interpret complex construction plans and generate shop drawings from them. And contractors expect the formliner specialists to work with them in handling difficult parts of projects and creating custom panels and special rustications (strips used in joints) when needed.

Why are formliners so important? Because they add a whole other dimension to working with concrete, one of the most flexible and useful building materials available. Lacking the materials and manufacturing methods to create formliners, the pioneers of modern architecture initially celebrated the stark surfaces of bare concrete, which often displeased the public. Today, architects can give concrete any look and texture they and their clients want, thus greatly increasing its visual appeal and its ability to be used in conjunction with other construction materials. From wood grain to brick to block to rock and many more, there is no look or pattern that cannot be created with concrete form liners.

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