The Lighter Side of Concrete – an occasional series

Concrete for the Holidays

With the continued economic slowdown, each of us ought to be looking around, close to home, to see how we can contribute to the recovery.

Construction has been particularly hard hit, since its downturn began a year in advance of the overall recession.  The concrete industry, makers of the world’s most commonly used construction material, has obviously been heavily impacted.  It employs many people, all over the country, and is a worthy target for a little concerted goodwill to help out neighbors and kickstart the economy at the same time.

Here’s my proposal: Concrete for the Holidays.

Since all concrete is local, buying concrete means Buying American and supporting people in your community.  Instead of spending your holiday dollars on ephemeral foreign-made gifts, decorations, etc, why not use concrete?  Here are a few suggestions how you could support your neighborhood readymix producer without any real changes to your traditions.

House & Garden

One obvious place for concrete is your front lawn. A concrete snowman is durable and attractive. If you use photo-catalytic additives, your snowman will not only be white but self-cleaning. It’s not subject to the vagaries of the weather, either.  This is an equal opportunity snowman, well-suited to both Bismarck, North Dakota and Phoenix, Arizona.  It’s comforting to know that, even if you don’t get a white Christmas, Frosty will be there lending a cheery atmosphere to the yard and (if properly positioned) protecting your house from a ramming attack by a truck full of ammonium nitrate. And best of all, you can use it year ‘round. (In fact, good luck trying to get rid of it.)

There are many other décor possibilities.  In the absence of snow, you could place a light fall of concrete all over the lawn.  (This will save you the expense of watering in the summer, too.)

Some caution should be exercised when substituting concrete for traditional décor materials, however.  A concrete Christmas tree, for example, might be less than practical, even assuming the floorboards could support it.  If it dropped a needle on you, it might break your toe.

Beyond 'Tickle Me Elmo'

The holidays are, more than anything else, about the spirit of giving.  Why not give the gift of concrete?  It’s such a versatile material, anyone can use some.  Who wouldn’t appreciate 2 or 3 yards of fresh, creamy concrete, delivered right to their door, to use in any way they choose?

Contact your local ready-mix supplier about getting a concrete gift certificate. Then the lucky recipient can choose whether they want a pool, a driveway, or just a cozy little bunker to ride out possible nuclear holocaust.  And for stocking stuffers, think about additives.  Everyone can use a little high range water reducer to help deal with the post-Christmas slump.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

If you celebrate Chanukah, you may be uncertain whether there’s an appropriate response to your neighbor’s elaborate Yuletide light displays.  Perhaps this is the year to build the giant concrete lawn-menorah you’ve always dreamed of, the one with the propane-powered candles spitting four-foot jets of flame into the sky and emitting a roaring, grating noise that teaches all your neighbors how to pronounce the “Ch” in Chanukah. In one simple gesture, you can advance interfaith understanding, help light up the entire neighborhood to deter prowlers, and help out your local concrete industry.

Putting a little more concrete in your holidays will not only help the economy, it’ll work right in with your New Year’s resolutions, too.  What better way to get more exercise in 2011 than breaking up all that concrete?