he term ferrocement is most commonly applied to a mixture of Portland cement and sand applied over layers of woven or expanded steel mesh and closely spaced small-diameter steel rods rebar. It can be used to form relatively thin, compound curved sheets to make hulls for boats, shell roofs, water tanks, etc. It has been used in a wide range of other applications including sculpture and prefabricated building components. The term has been applied by extension to other composite materials including some containing no cement and no ferrous material. These are better referred to by terms describing their actual contents.
The term “ferrocement” was given to this product by its inventor in France, Joseph Monier. At the time, (1850’s) he wanted to create urns, planters, and cisterns without the expense of kiln firing. In 1875 he created the first steel and concrete bridge. The outer layer was sculpted in its wet state to mimic rustic logs, thereby also introducing Faux Bois concrete into practice. (Recent trends have “ferrocement” being referred to as ferro concrete or reinforced concrete to better describe the end product instead of its components. By understanding that aggregates mixed with Portland cement form concrete, but many things can be called cement, it is hoped this may avoid the confusion of many compounds or techniques that are not ferro concrete.)
Ferro concrete has relatively good strength and resistance to impact. When used in house construction in developing countries, it can provide better resistance to fire, earthquake, and corrosion than traditional materials, such as wood, adobe and stone masonry. It has been popular in developed countries for yacht building because the technique can be learned relatively quickly, allowing people to cut costs by supplying their own labor. In the 1930s through 1950’s, it became popular in the United States as a construction and sculpting method for novelty architecture, examples of which created “dinosaurs in the desert”, or a “giant pair of cowboy boots and hat” for a service station.