Exploring the Various Types of Lightweight Concrete, their Key Advantages & Uses.



Lightweight Concrete is a specialized type of concrete that has numerous applications and benefits in construction. Its unique properties make it an ideal choice for various structural and non-structural purposes. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the different types of Lightweight Concrete, their key advantages, and their uses in modern construction. 

What is Lightweight Concrete?

Lightweight Concrete is a specialized concrete mixture that incorporates lightweight coarse aggregates and sometimes lightweight fine aggregates instead of traditional aggregates. The primary characteristic of this concrete is its reduced density, which typically ranges from 90 to 115 lb/ft³ (1440 to 1840 kg/m³). This is in contrast to normal weight concrete, which has a density range of 140 to 150 lb/ft³ (2240 to 2400 kg/m³). For structural applications, Lightweight Concrete must exhibit a compressive strength greater than 2500 psi (17.0 MPa).

The lightweight aggregates used in structural Lightweight Concrete include materials such as expanded shale, clay, or slate, which undergo a firing process in a rotary kiln to develop a porous structure. Additionally, products like air-cooled blast furnace slag are also utilized. There are other classes of non-structural Lightweight Concrete with lower density, made with different aggregate materials and higher air voids in the cement paste matrix, as seen in cellular concrete.

Classification of Lightweight Concrete

Lightweight Concrete can be classified based on its method of production and intended use.

Method of Production

  1. Lightweight Aggregate Concrete: Utilizes porous lightweight aggregates with a low apparent specific gravity, typically lower than 2.6.
  2. Aerated Concrete: Incorporates large voids within the concrete or mortar mass, achieved through methods such as aeration with stabilized foam or air entrainment.
  3. No-Fines Concrete: Omits fine aggregate from the mix, resulting in a large number of interstitial voids. Normal weight coarse aggregate is generally used in this type of concrete.

Intended Use

  1. Structural Lightweight Concrete (ASTM C 330-82a): Meets specific strength requirements for structural applications.
  2. Concrete for Masonry Units (ASTM C 331-81): Used in the production of concrete blocks and other masonry units.
  3. Insulating Concrete (ASTM C 332-83): Primarily used for thermal insulation purposes.

Types of Lightweight Concrete

1. Lightweight Aggregate Concrete

In the early 1950s, the use of lightweight concrete blocks gained acceptance in the UK for load-bearing inner leaf of cavity walls. New types of artificial lightweight aggregates (LWA) paved the way for introducing Lightweight Concrete suitable for structural work. Some types of lightweight aggregates suitable for structural reinforced concrete include:

  • Pumice: Used for reinforced concrete roof slabs, mainly for industrial roofs in Germany.
  • Foamed Slag: The first lightweight aggregate suitable for reinforced concrete produced in large quantities in the UK.
  • Expanded Clays and Shales: Capable of achieving sufficiently high strength for prestressed concrete, established under various trade names.

2. Aerated Concrete

Characterized by its lowest density, thermal conductivity, and strength, aerated concrete can be sawn, screwed, and nailed like timber. It is usually high-pressure steam-cured and available as precast units for floors, walls, and roofs.

3. No-Fines Concrete

Composed of cement and coarse aggregate only, with uniformly distributed voids throughout its mass. It finds applications in load-bearing walls, internal wall casting, non-load-bearing walls, and under-floor filling.

Types of Lightweight Concrete Based on Density and Strength

Lightweight Concrete can also be classified into:

  • Low Density Concrete: Primarily used for insulation purposes with low unit weight, high heat insulation value, and relatively low compressive strength.
  • Moderate Density Concrete: Positioned between low-density and structural concrete, offering a balance of strength and insulation.
  • Structural Concrete: Featuring aggregates suitable for structural efficiency, with minimum compressive strength requirements.

Most structural Lightweight Concrete is capable of producing concrete with compressive strength in excess of 34.47 N/mm². While the unit weight of structural Lightweight Concrete is considerably greater than that of low-density concrete, its thermal insulation values are substantially better than those of normal-weight concrete.

Uses and Advantages of Lightweight Concrete

Lightweight Concrete finds diverse applications due to its unique properties. Here are some of the key advantages and uses:

Advantages of Lightweight Concrete

  1. Reduced Dead Load: The lower density of Lightweight Concrete reduces the overall weight of the structure, leading to savings in foundation costs and enabling the design of lighter structures.
  2. Enhanced Thermal Insulation: Lightweight Concrete has better thermal insulation properties compared to normal-weight concrete, contributing to energy efficiency in buildings.
  3. Improved Fire Resistance: The porous nature of Lightweight Concrete provides better fire resistance, making it a safer choice for various applications.
  4. Ease of Handling and Installation: The reduced weight of Lightweight Concrete components makes them easier to handle and install, leading to faster construction times and reduced labor costs.
  5. Lower Transportation Costs: The lighter weight of Lightweight Concrete elements results in lower transportation costs, especially for prefabricated units.

Uses of Lightweight Concrete

  1. Screeds: Lightweight Concrete is used for floor screeds to provide a smooth, level surface for finishing materials.
  2. Walls: It is ideal for both load-bearing and non-load-bearing walls, offering good strength and thermal insulation.
  3. Insulation: Lightweight Concrete is used in roofing and floor insulation to enhance thermal performance.
  4. Structural Elements: It is used in beams, slabs, and other structural elements where reduced weight and enhanced performance are desired.

Durability of Lightweight Concrete

Durability is defined as the ability of a material to withstand the effects of its environment. Lightweight Concrete faces challenges such as chemical attack, physical stress, and mechanical damage, which require proper precautions and protective measures to ensure long-term performance in various environmental conditions.

Factors Affecting Durability

  1. Chemical Attack: Lightweight Concrete must be protected from aggressive chemicals that can deteriorate its structure. This can be achieved through the use of appropriate coatings and sealants.
  2. Physical Stress: Proper design and construction practices are essential to mitigate the effects of physical stress on Lightweight Concrete structures.
  3. Mechanical Damage: Lightweight Concrete should be handled and installed carefully to prevent damage during construction and throughout its service life.

Protective Measures

  1. Use of Sealants and Coatings: Applying protective coatings and sealants can enhance the durability of Lightweight Concrete by preventing water ingress and chemical attack.
  2. Regular Maintenance: Regular inspection and maintenance of Lightweight Concrete structures can help identify and address potential issues before they become significant problems.
  3. Proper Design and Construction: Ensuring that Lightweight Concrete structures are designed and constructed according to best practices can significantly enhance their durability and performance.


Lightweight Concrete is a versatile and beneficial material in the construction industry, offering numerous advantages such as reduced dead load, improved thermal insulation, and enhanced fire resistance. By understanding the different types of Lightweight Concrete and their respective uses, builders and engineers can make informed decisions to optimize their projects. Whether for structural or non-structural applications, Lightweight Concrete provides a sustainable and efficient solution for modern construction needs.

Incorporating Lightweight Concrete into your projects can lead to significant cost savings, improved performance, and a reduced environmental impact, making it an excellent choice for various construction applications.

Subscribe to my channel on YouTube to gain access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can elevate your understanding of Real Estate, project management concepts, & Construction.

More posts on this category: Construction


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top