March 18, 2021

Precast vs Cast-in-Place Concrete—What’s the Difference?

If you’re familiar with concrete, you’re likely familiar with the debate surrounding precast concrete vs cast-in-place concrete. Both methods have their advantages, but there is one clear winner.

Precast concrete has continued to grow in popularity over the years due to its efficiency, strength and durability. But why are more businesses turning to precast concrete? We’ll discuss the differences in this blog and provide examples for what makes precast concrete more advantageous. 

What is precast concrete?

Precast concrete, sometimes called “prefabricated” or “pre made” concrete, is a concrete product that is created offsite, then delivered to its project destination for final use. 

Precast concrete products, such as Pole Base®, are created by pouring a cement mixture into a mold that can contain wire mesh, rebar or even prestressed cable. The filled mold is then cured in a controlled environment to ensure greater control over material quality.

Because this all happens offsite, the delivered product is ready for use right away, which can save crucial time on construction projects.

Because precast concrete is so customizable, it’s the ideal choice for a variety of applications, both large and small, including:

  • Light pole and sign bases
  • Pillars and columns 
  • Parking structures
  • Culverts
  • Retaining walls
  • Building construction

What is cast-in-place concrete?

Cast-in-place concrete, also known as “site-cast” or “poured-in-place” concrete, is poured and cured onsite in the concrete’s finished position.

For specific applications, this type of casting can be ideal. For example, some foundations and other very large concrete components would be difficult to transport between a concrete plant and job site, making cast-in-place concrete more feasible. Cast-in-place concrete is also commonly used for small projects. Precast concrete pricing scales with projects, so smaller projects can actually cost more. In these cases, cast-in-place concrete may be preferred. But overall, precast concrete is the best choice for building foundations with structural integrity and dimensions built to your precise specifications.

Advantages of precast concrete

As we’ll expand on below, precast concrete outperforms cast-in-place in a variety of crucial ways. Precast concrete is more efficient, durable and higher-quality than cast-in-place concrete for almost all applications.

Simplified material inputs and cost

Because precast products already contain the concrete, conduits and rebar needed, they eliminate the need to purchase and prepare these materials. Offsite casting also removes onsite casting needs, such as cardboard forms, from the equation. This simplifies the construction process to reduce hassle and increase efficiency. 

Less time needed to install

Precast concrete components are ready for immediate use upon delivery while cast-in-place concrete are not. This eliminates unnecessary time needed to set up cardboard forms, bend and position rebar, pour and vibrate concrete and then wait for the concrete to cure. The removal of these steps saves valuable time in terms of project duration and cost from labor needed.

Cost-effective for large projects

When compared to cast-in-place concrete, the cost associated with precast concrete decreases as project scale increases. Large-scale projects that require repeatable concrete components, such as installing airport taxiway lighting, are great candidates for precast concrete products, as the setup and install time required to hand pour all concrete would quickly increase project cost. Precast concrete is truly an economy of scale, which makes it ideal for businesses and contractors of large-scale construction projects.

Stronger than cast-in-place concrete

Precast concrete is often stronger than cast-in-place concrete. Not only are precast concrete products already reinforced with steel rebar, but the controlled curing process also ensures that the concrete will set correctly under ideal conditions for maximized strength. Precast concrete can also be stress-tested before being delivered to the final job site.

Higher-quality control

Another advantage of precast concrete is its higher standard of quality control. Because precast concrete forms are created offsite, all products are inspected for defects before shipping out. The controlled process also eliminates unknowns related to temperature, humidity and imprecise tools. 

Get quality Precast Pole Base products from TDS

In the case of precast vs cast-in-place, precast concrete has a clear advantage which is why when deciding what type of concrete products to offer, we decided to operate with Pole Base®. While utilizing our new concrete plant and recycling facility, TDS can complete your projects and produce ready-to-install Pole Base® foundations.

Choose TDS for your future concrete needs. Our precast concrete products are made with more sustainable materials, such as recycled concrete and glass, to improve product quality and durability, which can help support projects aiming for LEED certification.

Learn more about how precast concrete can revolutionize your construction process by contacting one of our concrete specialists today and requesting a quote.