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In the article on sealing joints of tilt-up panels (April 1974, page 171) the word "laitance" is used. This word has frequently appeared in our concrete specifications over the years but we have never been able to find it in our dictionary. What is a good definition? Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged says that laitance is derived from the French word lait meaning milk plus -ance, which in this instance perhaps means quality. It defines laitance as "an accumulation of fine particles on the surface of freshly placed concrete occurring when there is an upward movement of water through the concrete due to the presence of too much mixing water, to excessive tamping, or to vibration of the concrete." The book "Cement and Concrete Terminology," American Concrete Institute Publication SP-19, defines laitance as "a layer of weak and nondurable material containing cement and fines from aggregates, brought by bleeding to the top of overwet concrete, the amount of which is generally increased by overworking or overmanipulating concrete at the surface, by improper finishing or by job traffic." In general the word laitance is used to identify a thin, flaky layer of hardened but weak hydrated cement and fine sand which began life as a milky scum on the top surface of concrete. Laitance is a major cause of failure in flooring installations. It takes the form of a weak, friable layer on the surface of concrete and sand cement screeds which appears after curing. It is made from cement and fine aggregates that rise to the surface when too much water is added. It may also be due to rain damage during placing, or from over trowelling. Subsequent poor curing of the surface will also contribute towards the formation of laitance. I Identifying the problem: Surface preparation is the most important step of any flooring installation. Removing surface contaminants, such as laitance, is therefore paramount to a long- term successful installation.

Laitance is always present on new concrete and must be removed. However, surface laitance is not to be confused with a poor quality concrete or screed that needs addressing in another way. Laitance comes in varying degrees of thickness, from a fine dust to several millimeters or more, depending on contributing factors. To determine the thickness of the laitance, flooring contractors should score the surface of the substrate with a steel edge until reaching the main aggregate. Proprietary scratch testing equipment is available which can be used as a guide to determining the depth of laitance. If laitance is left untreated, the application of subsequent materials, such as smoothing under layments, will have a high risk of failing. Although it may not be immediately evident, trafficking impact and the stress imposed on the bond line through repeated fluctuations in temperature will eventually cause the laitance inter face layer to delaminate, resulting in the flooring installation failing and costly remedial work. I Methods of removal: Removing any existing laitance is vital to ensure that subsequent treatments can successfully adhere to the concrete substrate. There are several ways to remove laitance and the method chosen should depend on the working environment and purpose of the floor. Shot blasting is the fastest and most efficient form of laitance removal, especially in large areas. Shot blasting machines are available in varying sizes making them ideal for use on most surfaces, no matter the size. Using a shot blaster will allow up to 1000sq m of flooring to be prepared in just one day and, as shot blasting is a d y process, floor laying may continue in other areas of the room while the surface preparation process is taking place. Mechanical planning is a method often used to remove greater thicknesses of laitance. Also referred to as concrete planning, the machines used carry rows of rotating cutters tipped with tungsten to provide an excellent removal of laitance. Scrabbling, grinding and abrading are also recommended for removing laitance. Handheld grinding machines, designed for precision, control and safe operation are recommended for use in smaller areas and edge detail. I Successful preparation: Unless it has been removed by previous surface preparation techniques, laitance may still be present on old concrete and screeded floors. Removal is vital to allow a successful subfloor installation and avoid any costly and timely corrective work in the future. For more information and advice on how to remove laitance, contact F Ball and Co or your local concrete preparation centre.

After concrete is placed, a satisfactory moisture content and temperature (between 50F and 75F) must be maintained, a process called curing. Adequate curing is vital to quality concrete. Curing has a strong influence on the properties of hardened concrete such as durability, strength, watertightness, abrasion resistance, volume stability, and resistance to freezing and thawing and deicer salts. Exposed slab surfaces are especially sensitive to curing. Surface strength development can be reduced significantly when curing is defective. Curing the concrete aids the chemical reaction called hydration. Most freshly mixed concrete contains considerably more water than is required for complete hydration of the cement; however, any appreciable loss of water by evaporation or otherwise will delay or prevent hydration. If temperatures are favorable, hydration is relatively rapid the first few days after concrete is placed; retaining water during this period is important. Good curing means evaporation should be prevented or reduced.