Cast-in-place concrete is often overlooked by people needing concrete items quickly. Precast concrete is convenient and often cheaper than cast-in-place once you take all the supplies into account, but cast-in-place still has a major role in creating hardscaping and other concrete forms. When to use precast or cast-in-place varies, though there are some definite pointers that can make your decision easier.
If there is any hint of bad weather forecast for your project, look at using precast concrete. These items are cast in a factory, so they're sheltered from the elements and can be cast and dried without a delay. Cast-in-place requires good weather with no rain. That doesn't mean that a small chance of drizzle one day should force you to use precast for the entire project. But if you're working during a season that is known for having frequent rainstorms, you may want to order precast items when possible.
If you're creating something that is highly customized, you may want to stick with cast-in-place if the weather allows. Factory items can be customized to an extent, but if you need to be sure your finished concrete item fits in a specific way, pouring the concrete in place is best.
Project Size and Safety
Precast concrete items have to be shipped from the factory and arrive in an undamaged state. This gets harder as the items become bigger. Cast-in-place concrete, however, does not offer that same risk. You pour the concrete in place, and that's all. You will have to protect it while it dries so no one scratches initials in it, but that can be patched over if someone does manage to initial the concrete. With a factory item that was chipped in transit, you may have to have the form poured all over again.
This one is a winner for precast concrete. Have the factory create the piece once you know you need it, have it shipped (assuming it can be shipped without the aforementioned damage), and install it, and then you're done with that section of the project. There's no waiting for the excavation to finish first before pouring, and no wait time for the concrete to dry when you want to wrap up the project.
Each contractor has his or her own preference for precast or cast-in-place concrete, but keep these situations in mind. Knowing what might work better in one situation or another will make your projects go more smoothly. Contact a concrete contractor at a place like Pendleton Ready Mix Inc for more information.