If you are looking at a new piece of outdoor furniture that looks like it uses concrete or stone, but you see that it is made of something called ‘glass fiber reinforced concrete,’ you may be wondering if this material is just as good or better than regular concrete or stone.
Glass fiber reinforced concrete, also known as GFRC, is a specially formulated type of cement that includes glass fibers, polymers, and aggregates, such as sand, gravel, and rocks.
Glass fiber reinforced concrete is commonly used to construct many outdoor elements, including firepits, tables, benches, outdoor concrete countertops, outdoor fireplace elements, and decorative rock elements.
But does this mean it is right for your backyard? Read below to learn more about GFRC and if it is a great fit for what you want in your next outdoor furniture purchase!
Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete
Glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) is an excellent outdoor material for your next outdoor furniture or fire element purchase. Its high durability and weather resistance, coupled with its lightweight, make it an ideal material to use instead of actual concrete or stone. There is little reason to worry if you are wondering if you should opt for an outdoor item made from real concrete or stone: GFRC is a great material that is widely used by many manufacturers to make high-quality and long-lasting outdoor items.
What is Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete?
In its most simple form, glass fiber reinforced concrete (sometimes spelled glass fibre reinforced concrete) is a composite material. This material is composed of cement, glass fibers, and a mixture of other resins and polymer materials. Most mixtures also have aggregates mixed into the cement, with sand being the most common aggregate material used.
How is Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete Made?
Two primary methods are used to make GFRC pieces and elements; pre-mix and a spray-up version. The most common method is spray-up GFRC mixture. The spray-up mixture involves taking a GFRC mix and putting it into a mold so that items can be made, such as benches and tables. Larger projects, such as GFRC countertops, GFRC panels, and rock formations around an inground pool involve using a pre-mix and pumping the pre-mix into place.
What is Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete Used For?
GFRC can be used in many indoor applications instead of a concrete mixture. For example, instead of concrete countertops, furniture, and fireplaces, you can have countertops, furniture, and fireplace surrounds all made from GFRC.
For the outdoors, you will mainly find that GFRC can be used for fire pits and other fire features that are traditionally made from stone or concrete. Additionally, there are some patio furniture items like tables and seating items that may use GFRC. Lastly, decorative items in your outdoor space that are typically made from concrete or stone can be made from GFRC. This includes large stepping stones or the rockwork around spas and pools.
Some GFRC Outdoor Items
8 Pros and Cons of Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete
If you are wondering if an item made from GFRC is the right choice for your next outdoor purchase, here are some pros and cons to help you make the right decision.
#1: GFRC is Lightweight
One of the biggest benefits associated with GFRC is that it is lightweight. In fact, the weight is much lighter than items that are made with a concrete mix, typically weighing about 75 to 95 percent less in weight.
Being lightweight has a few benefits. First off, since it is lightweight, it is easier and cheaper to ship. This results in lower shipping and delivery costs for you.
Additionally, since it is lightweight, it is easier to move GFRC items into your backyard. So this makes it easy to move the item around in your backyard to find the perfect spot. All in all, the lower weight of GFRC makes GFRC elements more manageable than elements made from traditional concrete.
#2: GFRC is Very Durable
Another benefit associated with GFRC is that it is extremely durable and long-lasting. While it may be light in weight, it is high in strength. The glass fibers in GFRC help to prevent cracks from forming. Also, since there is no steel or metal rebar used to reinforce the concrete, there is no chance of rust forming, even in humid or damp environments.
#3: High Weather Resistance
Unlike a concrete mix, GFRC does not erode due to weather elements and is more freeze-thaw resistant than concrete. Freeze-thaw happens when temperatures are low and then naturally increase as the sun comes out. This causes concrete to expand and contract, which can lead to cracking, chipping and spalling. GFRC is more resistant to this contraction, which makes it resistant to damage from extreme weather temperatures.
#4: Low Environmental Impact
One of the lesser-known benefits associated with glass fiber reinforced concrete, or GFRC, is that this material has less of an environmental impact when compared with natural stone materials or concrete. GFRC is made with minerals and aggregates that are naturally occurring and renewable. As such, this requires less manufacturing and has a reduced impact on the environment compared to the process of producing concrete. If you are looking for materials that have a reduced impact on the environment, this material may be ideal for your needs.
#5: GFRC Looks Like Real Stone or Concrete
The fifth benefit associated with GFRC is that it can be made to look like real stone or concrete. Different manufacturers create different color schemes, patterns, textures, and veining on their products using a variety of pigments and paints to make them mimic different stone or concrete materials.
If you are considering purchasing GFRC for an outdoor project, take a look around at the various looks that can be made from various GFRC mixes. You may find that GFRC is a great fit for the aesthetic and look you are trying to achieve.
#6: GFRC is Fire Resistant
If you are planning on constructing fire pits, fire features, or outdoor fireplace surrounds, you need to ensure the whole thing is made from materials that are fire-resistant. If the material you select is not fire resistant, it can catch fire, combust, or become damaged due to the heat or the fire itself. GFRC is made from non-combustible materials and is fire-resistant. This is why it is a great choice for customers who want to use it for their fire features.
#7: GFRC is Low Maintenance
The final benefit associated with glassfiber reinforced concrete is that it is an extremely low-maintenance product. The finished product is extremely easy to clean and care for.
GFRC can be cleaned using a mild detergent, such as your preferred dish soap and warm water. You can dip a soft cloth into the soap and scrub your surface clean. For deeper cleaning, you can use a soft-bristled brush. The surface layer, or face coat, features a sealant that helps to prevent staining, helping to ensure this material is low maintenance.
#1: Can Be More Expensive Than Regular Concrete
The only downside associated with GFRC is that it can be more expensive than regular concrete. If cost is the number one factor when selecting elements to use in your next outdoor purchase, then GFRC might not be the best option for you because this material can create outdoor furniture than is sometimes more expensive than other similar items.
Final Thoughts on Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete
So by now, you may be asking yourself if glass fiber reinforced concrete, or GFRC, is right for your backyard. GFRC checks all the right boxes for outdoor use in that it is weather-resistant, low maintenance, and very durable. As such, you should have little worry that you are getting value for your money when you select items made from GFRC.
For most people, it will come down to whether or not the pieces made from a GFRC will fit the style and aesthetic that they are going for in their outdoor space and if the pieces will fit within the budget that they have for these materials.
Sitting down and thinking about the price of GFRC elements versus concrete elements and considering whether the benefits of GFRC are worth the higher price for you is one of the best ways to determine if GFRC is ideal for your outdoor space.