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Hot Weather Concreting

Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design & Construction >Hot

Weather Concreting
Things to Consider about Hot Weather Concreting
When the temperature of freshly mixed concrete approaches
approximately 25C (77F) adverse site conditions can impact the quality
of concrete. Ambient temperatures above 32C (90F) and the lack of a
protected environment for concrete placement and finishing (enclosed
building) can contribute to difficulty in producing quality concrete.
The precautions required to ensure a quality
end product will vary depending on the actual
conditions during concrete placement and the
specific application for which the concrete will
be used. In general, if the temperature at the
time of concrete placement will exceed 25C
(77F) a plan should be developed to negate
the effects of high temperatures.
The precautions may include some or all of
the following:
1. Moisten subgrade, steel reinforcement,
and form work prior to concrete
2. Erect temporary wind breaks to limit wind velocities and sunshades
to reduce concrete surface temperatures.
3. Cool aggregates and mixing water added to the concrete mixture to
reduce its initial temperature. The effect of hot cement on concrete
temperature is only minimal.
4. Use a concrete consistency that allows rapid placement and
5. Protect the concrete surface during placement with plastic sheeting
or evaporation retarders to maintain the initial moisture in the
concrete mixture.
6. Provide sufficient labor to minimize the time required to place and
finish the concrete, as hot weather conditions substantially shorted
the times to initial and final set.
7. Consider fogging the area above the concrete placement to raise the

The use of liquid nitrogen
is one option to reduce
concretes temperature
during hot-weather

relative humidity and satisfy moisture demand of the ambient air.
8. Provide appropriate curing methods as soon as possible after the
concrete finishing processes have been completed.
9. In extreme conditions consider adjusting the time of concrete
placement to take advantage of cooler temperatures, such as early
morning or night time placement.
With proper planning and execution concrete can be successfully placed
and finished to produce high quality durable concrete at temperatures of
35C (95F) or more.
Setting Time

The effect of high ambient temperatures and
high temperature concrete component
materials have on the setting time of concrete
mixtures is a topic of concern due to the
reduced time in which concrete must be
placed, consolidated and finished; increased
potential for plastic shrinkage cracking,
thermal cracking and cold joints; potential
strength reduction due to high water demand
and high curing temperatures; difficulty in
controlling air content; and increased urgency
for applying appropriate curing method at an early age.

As a general rule of thumb an increase of 11C (20F) will reduce the
setting time of a concrete mixture by as much as 50%. As an example a
concrete mixture that reaches final set in 3 hours at 16C (60F) may
reach final set in as little 1 hours at 27C (80F). As the concrete
temperature increases the setting time is further reduced. The actual
temperature of the concrete mixture as delivered is effected by the
temperature of the materials used in the mixture, the cementitious
content of the mixture, the temperature of the equipment used to batch
and transport the concrete, and the ambient temperature and conditions
at the project site. Concrete applications may be considered hot weather
concrete at temperatures ranging from 25C to 35C (77F to 95F)
depending on the specific application. Precautions should be planned in
advance to counter the effects of high temperature well in advance of
execution to counter these effects.

Precautions may include use of materials with a good performance history
in high temperature conditions, cool concrete materials or concrete
mixture, provide concrete consistency and placement equipment and crew
for rapid placement, reduce time of transport, schedule placement to limit
exposure to atmospheric conditions (night time placement or more
favorable weather), plan to limit rapid moisture loss (sun screens, wind
screens, misting or fogging), and consider the use of an evaporation
retarder. Schedule a preconstruction meeting including all of the
participants to discuss the plan to control the effects specific to the
project and expected conditions.

Additional information is available in the following references:
"Hot Weather Concreting," Chapter 13 of Design and Control of Concrete
Mixtures,EB001.14, Portland Cement Association, 2002, 12 pages.

Hot and Cold Weather Concreting, CD057, Portland Cement Association,
ACI 305, Hot Weather Concreting

Cold Weather Concreting
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design &
Construction >Cold Weather Concreting
What Happens When Concrete Freezes?
Weather conditions at a jobsite hot or cold, windy
or calm, dry or humid may be vastly different from
the optimum conditions assumed at the time a
concrete mix is specified, designed, or selected or
from laboratory conditions in which concrete
specimens are stored and tested. Concrete can be
placed in cold weather conditions provided adequate
precautions are taken to alleviate the negative
impacts of low ambient temperatures. The current
American Concrete Institute definition of cold-
weather concreting, as stated in ACI 306 is, a period

when for more than 3 successive days the average
daily air temperature drops below 5C (40F) and
stays below 10C (50F) for more than one-half of
any 24 hour period. This definition can potentially
lead to problems with freezing of the concrete at an
early age.

All concrete must be protected
from freezing until it has
reached a minimum strength
of 3.5 MPa (500 psi), which
typically happens within the
first 24 hours. If concrete
freezes while it is still fresh or
before it has developed sufficient strength to resist
the expansive forces associated with the freezing
water, ice formation results in the disruption of the
cement paste matrix causing an irreparable loss in
strength. Early freezing can result in a reduction of
up to 50% in the ultimate strength. Once concrete
has attained a compressive strength of around 3.5
MPa (500 psi), it is generally considered to have
sufficient strength to resist significant expansion and
damage if frozen. Whenever air temperature at the
time of concrete placement is below 5C (40F) and
freezing temperatures within the first 24 hours after
placement are expected, the following general issues
should be considered:
1. Initial concrete temperature as delivered
During cold weather, it may be necessary to
heat one or more of the concrete materials
(water and/or aggregates) to provide the
proper concrete temperature as delivered. Due
to the quantities and heat capacity of cement,
using hot cement is not an effective method in
raising the initial concrete temperature.
2. Protection while the concrete is placed,
consolidated, and finished
The exposure of concrete to cold weather will
extend the time required for it to reach initial
set, which may require finishing crews to be
available for a longer period. Depending on the
actual ambient temperature, protection of a
concrete placement may require the use of
windbreaks, enclosures, or supplementary heat.
It may also be appropriate to adjust the
concrete mixture constituents for the effect of
ambient temperature on setting time. This may
require an increase in cement content, the use
of an accelerating chemical admixture or both.
Windbreaks protect the concrete and
construction personnel from biting winds that
cause temperature drops and excessive
evaporation. Typically, a height of 2 m (6 ft) is
sufficient. Windbreaks could be taller or shorter
depending on anticipated wind velocities,
ambient temperatures, relative humidity, and
concrete placement temperatures.
Heated enclosures are very effective for
protecting concrete in cold weather, but are
probably the most expensive option. Enclosures
can be made of wood, canvas tarpaulins, or
polyethylene. Prefabricated rigid-plastic
enclosures are also available.
Three types of heaters are used
in cold-weather concrete
construction: direct fired,
indirect fired, and hydronic
systems. To avoid carbonation of
fresh concrete surfaces, indirect-
fired heaters should be used. If
the concrete is not exposed to
the heater or exhaust directly,
then a direct-fired heater is
suitable. Caution should be taken to ensure that
workers are not overexposed to carbon
monoxide anytime a heater is used inside an
enclosure. Hydronic systems transfer heat by
circulating a glycol/water solution in a closed
system of pipes or hoses. Typical applications
for hydronic systems include thawing and
preheating subgrades and heating areas that
are too large to be practical for an enclosure.
3. Curing to produce quality concrete
Curing not only requires adequate moisture, but
also appropriate temperature. The temperature
of the concrete as placed should be above 5C
(40F) using methods described above,
however the duration of heating is dependent
on the type of service for the concrete, ranging
from 1 day for high-early strength concrete that
is not exposed to freeze-thaw events during
service to 20 days or more for a concrete
element that would carry large loads at an early
age. In structures that will carry large loads at
an early age, concrete must be maintained at a
minimum of 10C (50F) to accommodate
stripping of forms and shoring and to permit
loading of the structure.
In no case should concrete be allowed to freeze
during the first 24 hours after it has been
placed. Since cement hydration is an
exothermic reaction, the concrete mixture
produces some heat on its own. Protecting that
heat from escaping the system using
polyethylene sheeting or insulating blankets
may be all that is required for good concrete
quality. More severe temperatures may require
supplemental heat.
Concrete retained in
forms or covered with
insulation seldom loses
enough moisture at 5C
to 15C (40F to 55F)
to impair curing.
However, drying from
low wintertime humidities and heaters used in
enclosures is a concern. It is good practice to
leave forms in place as long as possible,
because they help distribute heat more evenly
and help prevent drying of the concrete. Live
steam exhausted into an enclosure around the
concrete is an excellent method of curing
because it provides both heat and moisture.
Liquid membrane-forming compounds can also
be used within heated enclosures for early
curing of concrete surfaces.
It is also important to prevent rapid cooling of
the concrete upon termination of the heating
period. Sudden cooling of the concrete surface
while the interior is warm may cause thermal
cracking. Methods for gradual cooling of
concrete include loosening the forms while
maintaining cover with plastic sheeting or
insulation, gradual decrease in heating inside
an enclosure, or turning off the heat and
allowing the enclosure to slowly equilibrate to
ambient temperature. Massive structures may
require several days or even weeks of gradual
cooling to mitigate the probability of thermal
cracking (see Mass Concrete).

Curing vs. Drying Concrete
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Construction >Curing vs.
Drying Concrete

The Difference Between Curing and Drying
The terms curing and drying are frequently used interchangeably with
regard to the moisture condition of new concrete slabs. To clarify these
terms the following definitions may be useful.
Curing: Curing of concrete is defined as
providing adequate moisture, temperature and
time to allow the concrete to achieve the
desired properties for its intended use. This
would mean maintaining a relative humidity in
the concrete of greater than 80%, a
temperature greater than 10C (50F), and for
a time typically ranging from three to fourteen days depending on the
specific application. When these recommendations are properly
specified and performed in the field the final properties of the concrete
mixture will be achieved.
Drying: Drying of concrete is defined as
providing the proper conditions to allow the
concrete to achieve a moisture condition
appropriate for its intended use. The moisture
condition of a concrete slab is of significant
importance for the application of moisture
sensitive floor finishes (vct tile, linoleum, wood
flooring, and non-breathable coating such as
epoxy). The moisture condition is specified as a maximum relative
humidity by percent (%) or a vapor transmission rate in
(lb/1000 ft
/24 hr.). A typical value specified for relative
humidity may be less than 75% to 80% to assure the successful
application of the flooring materials, while a commonly specified value
for vapor transmission rate may be 170 g/secm
(3 lb/1000 ft

Drying of Concrete
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete
Construction >Drying of Concrete

How long does it take concrete to dry?

A concrete surface may look
dry, but the slab can still
contain sufficient moisture to
cause problems when
covered. The term concrete
moisture is understood to
mean the total water used in
the concrete batch, plus
curing water, minus the
water bound in hardened
cement due to hydration. The
amount of concrete moisture can be considerable. In
practical terms, several pounds of water must
evaporate from every square foot of concrete for the
slab to be considered adequately dry for floor
finishes. An industry rule of thumb for estimating the
drying time necessary for concrete floors to reach
acceptable moisture content is 1 month of drying for
each inch of concrete thickness (1 mm per day).
Drying begins when water is no longer available at
the exposed surface. If concrete is moist cured by
sealing in the original mix water with wet burlap or
plastic sheets, drying will begin when these covers
are removed. Spray-applied curing membranes are
somewhat breathable, and therefore, drying begins
shortly after the membrane is applied. However,
curing compounds can drastically reduce the drying
rate and significantly extend the drying period.
It is possible to calculate the drying time for a given
concrete. For this calculation, information is needed
about the absorption characteristics, diffusion
coefficients for water and water vapor, porosity and
pore size distribution, and degree of hydration. Since
such information usually is not available, practice
relies on experimental data combined with
measurements of the actual moisture condition of
the concrete slab in the field.
A method of characterizing the moisture condition of

Moisture in concrete.
a concrete slab is to measure the relative humidity of
the air in the concrete pore system. This is done by
placing a relative humidity probe into a hole drilled in
the concrete. The relative humidity achieved within a
concrete slab depends on a combination of factors
including the initial water-to-cement ratio, drying
history, pore structure, and concentration of soluble
ions in the pore water solution.
The Swedish Concrete Association describes a
method to estimate drying times for concrete slabs
using relative humidity. Correction factors for
thickness, number of drying sides, ambient
conditions, and curing conditions make it possible to
adjust for deviations from a set w/cm and target
relative humidity. The purpose of this calculation is
to enable a contractor or construction manager to
estimate minimum drying times for concrete slabs
during the planning stage of a project. SeeConcrete
Floors and Moisture, 2nd edition, EB119, for the
details of this method and to understand moisture in

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Frequently Asked Questions
Cement & Concrete Technology Home > FAQs > Moisture content in
Q: What is the moisture content of concrete?
A: The moisture content of concrete must be viewed from the context
of total water content of the fresh concrete mixture and the available
moisture content of the hardened concrete. The total water content of
a fresh concrete mixture is a function of the total cementitious
materials and water cement ratio (w/cm). Typical fresh concrete
mixtures vary in cementitious material content in a range of 279
to 415 kg/m
(470 lb/yd
to 700 lb/yd
). Water cement ratios
typically vary from 0.4 to 0.55. To estimate the available moisture
content of hardened concrete one must start with the total water
content of the fresh mixture and define the service condition of the
hardened concrete with regard to relative humidity (%). In addition
the water that is chemically bound with the cement in the hydration
process must be accounted for. The water bound with the cement is in
the range of 0.22 to 0.24 of the cement content.
As an example, the moisture content of a concrete mixture with 334
(564 lb/yd
) of cement and a w/c of 0.45 and in a service
environment with a 50% relative humidity could be estimated as

Total water content:
334 kg cement/m
times 0.45 w/c ~ 150 kg water/m

(564 lb cement/yd
times 0.45 w/c ~ 254 lb water/yd
Chemically bound water at 0.24 w/c:
334 kg cement/m
times 0.24 w/c ~ 80 kg water/m

(564 lb cement/yd
times 0.24 ~ 135 lb water/yd
Moisture content:
150 kg water/m
- 80 kg water/m
times .50 relative humidity ~ 35 kg

(254 lb water/yd
135 lb water/yd3 times .50 relative humidity ~ 60
lb water/yd
In reality the relative humidity of the concrete will only reach 50% at
the near surface of the concrete and the moisture gradient with depth
will increase toward 100% relative humidity so this method of
estimation would typically overstate the quantity of moisture available
to leave the concrete due to the initial mixing water in the mixture.

This is only an estimate of the moisture available to leave the
concrete, but may help to give some perspective to the limited amount
of water that the concrete can contribute when considering the drying
time of hardened concrete.

Relaltive Humidity Profile

Vapor Retarders
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design &
Construction >Vapor Retarders
Vapor retarders are
sheet materials used
under concrete slabs on
ground to restrict the
flow of moisture vapor
from the subgrade into
and through the slab
(Figure 1). Moisture
migration through
concrete slabs can lead
to microbial growths
(mold and mildew) and
failures of adhesives,
flooring coverings, and
coatings. Therefore, all
concrete slab-on-ground
floors that will receive
floor coverings or
coatings must have a
vapor retarder below the slab. Even floors that might
not initially receive floor coverings should have
subslab vapor retarders to reduce humidity in the
conditioned space, to prevent mold and mildew, and
to provide for future adaptive reuse. Installation of

Figure 1. A variety of vapor
retarders is available for
use under concrete floor
slabs. These materials offer
a wide range of resistance
to moisture movement and
mechanical properties,
such as puncture and tear

floor coverings during reuse or remodeling of
industrial or warehouse space often leads to failures
when the slab lacks a vapor retarder.

Vapor retarders must have a permeance rating less
than 0.3 perms according to ASTM E1745. There is
no standard specification for vapor barrier compared
to vapor retarder. However, ACI 302.1R states,
True vapor barriers are products that have a
permanence (water-vapor transmission rating) of
0.00 perms when tested in accordance with ASTM
E96. It is generally accepted in the construction
industry that a material having a permeance rating
less than 0.01 perms is considered a vapor barrier.
Vapor barriers are commercially available with
permeability ratings of less than 0.001 g/m
hr. Even
so, much published literature mistakenly refers to
vapor retarders as vapor barriers.
Quality portland cement concrete has extremely low
permeability to liquid water, but will permit passage
of water vapor. It is essential to keep liquid water
from contacting the underside of a concrete slab and
at the same time minimize the exposure to water
vapor. A vapor retarder installed directly under the
slab fulfills this dual purpose. Materials with a variety
of properties are available as vapor retarders.
Specifications for Vapor Retarders

Vapor retarders are produced to meet specifications
such as ASTM E1745,Standard Specification for
Water Vapor Retarders Used in Contact with Soil or
Granular Fill Under Concrete Slabs, or ASTM
D4397, Standard Specification for Polyethylene
Sheeting for Construction, Industrial, and
Agricultural Applications.ASTM E1745 defines three
classes of membranes with a single moisture vapor
permeability rating and three levels of physical
strength, Class A has the most resistance to tearing
and puncture, and Class C the least, as shown in
Table 1:
Table 1. Classification of Vapor Retarders*
Class A Class B Class C
Water vapor
permeance (ASTM
Tensile strength (ASTM
D828 or D882)
7.9 kN/m
Puncture resistance
(ASTM D1709)
2200 g (5
1700 g
(4 lb)
475 g
(1 lb)
*ASTM E1745
Construction methods may rule out less robust
materials (such as simple polyethylene sheeting) if
mechanized ride-on screeds are used to consolidate
and strikeoff concrete or if many electrical or
plumbing penetrations must be sealed.

Location of Vapor Retarder

Construction practice and placement of vapor
retarders has been the subject of much debate for
many years. Some experts believe that concrete
placed directly on a vapor retarder will bleed
excessively, warp and crack more frequently, and
take longer to dry than a slab placed on a compacted
granular subbase. Other experts believe that vapor
retarders function best to exclude moisture when
directly below the concrete with no intervening
material that can act as plenum space for the
passage of moisture. This debate has resulted in
many articles and letters in construction trade

ASTM E1643, Standard Practice for Installation of
Water Vapor Retarders Used in Contact with Earth or
Granular Fill Under Concrete Slabs, includes an
Appendix with a detailed discussion of materials that
should or should not be used above and below the
vapor retarder, along with arguments in favor and
opposed to cushions, blotters, and protective

The 1996 ACI Committee 302 Guide recognized the
importance of maintaining the integrity of the vapor
retarder and its resistance against moisture
transmission by recommending a minimum vapor
retarder thickness of 0.25 mm (10 mils).
Additionally, a thin layer of fine material was
recommended over any crushed stone subbase to
protect the underside of the vapor retarder sheet. In
April 2001, after much debate, ACI Committee 302
issued an update to its 1996 report defining
recommendations for vapor retarders. The
Committee now recommends that any floor that will
receive a moisture-sensitive finish should have a
vapor retarder directly under the concrete slab with
no intervening blotter or cushion layer (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Flowchart to determine how vapor retarder
should be installed. Note it permits omitting vapor
retarder for floors without floor coverings where
humidity will not be controlled, such as
unconditioned warehouse space. However, adaptive
reuse and installation of flooring in such spaces
often leads to flooring problems due to subslab
moisture. Therefore, vapor retarders should be
considered for use under all floor slabs (adapted
from Figure 3-1 of ACI 302.1R-04). Click for larger

See Concrete Floors and Moisture, EB119,
and Concrete Slabs on Ground, EB075, for more
information on vapor retarders.

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Identifying and Evaluating Concrete Defects
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design &
Construction >Identifying and Evaluating Concrete

Concrete structures are regularly constructed without
complications. However, defects can occur that can
be traced to problems related to environmental
conditions during construction or with the concreting
procedures used. In order to determine a repair
method, it is necessary to identify what caused the
defect. Evaluation of deficiencies helps ensure that
repairs will be effective and the defect will not

extend into the surrounding concrete.

Identifying Concrete Defects

Many concrete defects are immediately recognized
and others are not. Being able to properly identify
the defect will aid in choosing the best evaluation
methods and subsequently the best repair methods.
Concrete defects can be broken down into four broad
groups based on visual observation: deformation of
the surface, cracking of the surface, disintegration of
the surface, and other defects.

Deformation of the Surface
Three defects cause deformation of the concrete
surface, but may not exhibit any other symptoms.
The first is curling or warping. This is the
deformation of the edges and corners of a slab-on-
ground in the absence of any loads. When caused by
moisture, this deformation is called warping; when
caused by temperature, it is called curling. The
second defect is the delamination of surface mortar
from underlying concrete. It is difficult to visually
observe a delamination before it becomes dislodged
from the surface. However, in small discrete
locations, the surface may exhibit convex rising
called blistering. Blisters are generally isolated, but
may be closely spaced and can combine to form a
large blister or delamination. A third defect occurs
when isolated low spots on the surface collect water
and have no means of drainage. These surface water
pools are known as birdbaths.

Cracking of the Surface
Cracks appear in concrete for many reasons. Some
cracks can appear as secondary symptoms of other
defects, such as a long rounded crack following the
structural failure of a warped slab. Discussed here
are cracks that are primary symptoms of distress,
caused by volume changes and structural failure.

Shrinkage cracks have many
different looks and can be
difficult to distinguish from
cracks caused by other
mechanisms. Discreet,
parallel cracks that look like
tearing of the surface are
caused by shrinkage while the concrete is still fresh,
called plastic shrinkage. Fine random cracks or
fissures that may only be seen when the concrete is
drying after being moistened are called crazing. This
defect may also become evident when a translucent
coating is applied to the concrete surface. Cracking
that occurs in a three-point pattern is generally
caused by drying shrinkage. Large pattern cracking,
called map-cracking, can be caused by alkali-silica
reaction within the concrete. Structural failure
cracking may look like many other types of cracking;
however, in slabs they are often associated with
subsequent elevation
changes, where one side of
the crack is be lower than the

Disintegration of the
Disintegration of the surface is generally caused by
three types of distress. When laitance forms on the
surface, it is called dusting. This can be caused by a
number of reasons, which include carbonation of the
surface by unventilated heaters or by applying water
during finishing. Raveling or spalling at joints occurs
when aggregates or pieces of concrete from the joint
edges are dislodged. The last form of disintegration
is the breaking of pieces from the surface of the
concrete generally caused by delaminations and
blistering. Popouts are conical fragments that come
off the surface, typically leaving a broken aggregate
at the bottom of the hole. Popoffs, or mortar flaking,
is similar to popouts, except that the aggregate is
not broken and the broken piece is generally smaller.
Flaking of the concrete surface over a widespread
area is called scaling.

Other Defects
Other defects include discoloration of the concrete,
which is covered in depth by PCAs Removing Stains
and Cleaning Concrete Surfaces, IS214; bugholes,
which are small voids in the surface of vertical
concrete placements; and honeycombing, which is
the presence of large voids in concrete caused by
inadequate consolidation.

Evaluating Concrete Defects

Visual examination typically does not provide enough
information to determine the cause or causes of a
defect. In some cases, it may not provide evidence
of a defect at all. In order to narrow the scope of an
investigation to probable causes and suitable repair
methods, the appropriate information factors and the
proper evaluation methods need to be identified.

Evaluation Information Factors
Information about the structural capacity and loading
of a concrete placement may provide important
details as to the cause of defect or failure. The
thickness and the loading of the slab will allow
assessment of the inplace strength versus actual
loads in use. Crack properties, such as its width and
location of reinforcement, will provide information
that can be used to determine activity and origin.
Joint characteristics, such as spall dimensions and
activity, will provide information on the effectiveness
of the joint. Many other factors that improve the
quality of an investigation are listed in
PCAs Concrete Floors on Ground, EB075.

Evaluation Methods
The visual examination is
typically the first method of
evaluation used as it identifies
that a problem exists and that
further evaluation is needed.
Surface elevation profile
measurements taken
according to ASTM
E1155, Standard Test Method
for Determining F
Flatness and F
Floor Levelness Numbers, can be
used to quantify deformations of the surface.
Sounding according to ASTM D4580, Standard
Practice for Measuring Delaminations in Concrete
Bridge Decks by Sounding, can locate delaminations.
Coring can be used for a variety of reasons including
strength testing according to ASTM C42,Standard
Test Method for Obtaining and Testing Drilled Cores
and Sawed Beams of Concrete, or petrographic
examination according to ASTM C856, Standard
Practice for Petrographic Examination of Hardened


There are many different evaluation methods and
each provides specific information that can be used
to identify or help identify the cause of a specific
defect; thereby allowing for proper design of a repair
method to ensure a quality repair and mitigation of
further damage. Using visual examination as the
initial evaluation method allows for identification of
the information factors that are needed to complete
the evaluation and repair.

More information on concrete defect causes,
prevention and repair, see PCAsConcrete Floors on
Ground, EB075, Concrete Finishers Guide, EB122,
andConcrete Slab Surface Defects: Causes,
Prevention, Repair, IS177.

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Quality Control of Pavements
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design &
Construction >Quality control of pavements

Issues and Test Methods
The final quality of concrete pavement may be
affected by any one or combination of the following

1. Water-cement ratio (w/c) - accurate control
of water-cement ratio is a key component to
control of strength properties of the material.

2. Aggregate gradation - changes in aggregate
gradation, increased fineness or void content,
may increase water demand, workability, and
paste requirements. These changes may
increase the potential for segregation, bleeding,
and shrinkage.

3. Mixture setting characteristics - setting
characteristics of the concrete mixture are
critical to placement, consolidation and
finishing practices.

4. Cement fineness - cement fineness affects
heat of hydration, water demand, strength gain
characteristics, and workability. Changes in
fineness can introduce the possibility of
incompatibilities between cement and chemical
admixtures, shorten setting times, and affect
setting characteristics complicating timing for
sawing of joints.
5. Unit weight - unit density is an easy method
to track sudden changes or mistakes in mixture

6. Heat signature of the mixture - rapid
changes in the heat signature of the concrete
mixture can be useful to identify variations in
cement and admixture chemistry as well as

changes in proportioning.

7. Concrete temperature, subgrade
temperature, and weather at the time of
concrete placement - initial concrete
temperature and external influences from
subbase temperatures and weather conditions
which add to the rate of evaporation effects
setting characteristics, setting times, and
plastic shrinkage potential

8. Concrete maturity may be useful to
estimate the strength properties of the
concrete at any given time to allow the
pavement to be placed in service at the most
appropriate time.

9. Compressive and flexural strength
strength properties are used as a indication of
concrete quality and commonly impacts the pay
factors for the owner and contractor.

10. Air content careful control of air
content is required to assure durability of
concrete pavements.

11. Concrete permeability permeability is
another good indicator of concrete quality, and
is particularly important where the concrete
section contain steel reinforcement or

12. Coefficient of thermal expansion
this property is of importance as it effects the
volume change of the pavement throughout its
service life. A lower coefficient of thermal
expansion improves joint performance and
lowers cracking potential.
Given the importance of these issues the following
table contains test methods that are recommended
for quality control of concrete pavements.
Table 1. Quality Control Tests for Concrete
Pavements (adapted from Taylor and others
Test name
(standard test
Differential scanning
calorimetry (DSC)
Central lab

Blaine fineness
T 153)
Central lab
Combined grading Mobile lab

resistance (false set)
T 185)
Mobile lab

temperature profile
Mobile lab

materials ratio
(AASHTO T 318)
Mobile lab

Unit weight (ASTM
C138/AASHTO T 121)
Mobile lab
Heat signature Mobile lab

temperature, project
conditions (weather
Mobile lab
Concrete maturity
Mobile lab

Flexural strength and
compressive strength
97/AASHTO T 22)
Mobile lab
Air content Air-void analyzer Mobile lab

Air content
(pressure) (ASTM
C231/AASHTO T 152)
Mobile lab

Air content
(hardened concrete)
(ASTM C457)
Central lab
Chloride ion
penetration (ASTM
Central lab
Coefficient of thermal
expansion (ASTM
C531/AASHTO TP 60)
Central lab

Taylor, Peter C.; Voigt, Gerald; Kosmatka, Steven
H.; and Brink, Marcia, Test Methods for Quality
Control in Concrete Paving, Concrete International,
Vol. 33, No. 3, March 2011, pages 57 to 62.
Taylor, Peter C.; Kosmatka, Steven H.; Voigt,
Gerald; and others, Integrated Materials and
Construction Practices for Concrete Pavement: A
State-of-the-Practice Manual, National Concrete
Pavement Technology Center/Center for
Transportation Research and Education, Iowa State
University, Ames, Iowa, October 2007, 350 pages.

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Early-Age Cracking
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design and
Production > Early-age cracking
Early-Age Cracking
By Matthew DAmbrosia
and Nathaniel Mohler

Early-age cracking can be a significant problem in
concrete. Volume changes in concrete will drive tensile
stress development when they are restrained. Cracks
can develop when the tensile stress exceeds the tensile
strength, which is generally only 10% of the
compressive strength. At early ages, this strength is
still developing while stresses are generated by volume
changes. Controlling the variables that affect volume
change can minimize high stresses and cracking.

Mechanisms of Early-Age Volume Change
The volume of concrete begins to change shortly after
it is cast. Early volume changes, within 24 hours, can
influence tensile stress and crack formation in
hardened concrete.
Chemical Shrinkage
Chemical shrinkage occurs due to the reduction in
absolute volume of solids and liquids in the
hydrating paste. Chemical shrinkage continues to
occur as long as cement hydrates. After initial set,
the paste resists deformation, causing the

formation of voids in the microstructure.
Autogenous Shrinkage
Autogenous shrinkage is the dimensional change
of cement paste, mortar, or concrete caused by
chemical shrinkage (Figure 1). When internal
relative humidity is reduced below a given
threshold (i.e., extra water is not available), self-
desiccation of the paste occurs, resulting in a
uniform reduction of volume.

Figure 1 Chemical shrinkage and autogenous
shrinkage volume changes of fresh concrete.
Not to scale.
Creep is the time-dependent deformation of
concrete under sustained load. During early age,
concrete creep is generally as much as 3-5 times
higher than for mature concrete. Early load
application due to construction forces or
prestressing operations can therefore have a
significant impact on total deformation.
Furthermore, the magnitude of creep in tension is
greater than in compression, and early tensile
creep can be relied upon as a stress relaxation
mechanism. Creep is influenced by drying or self-
dessication at early age, and this synergy is often
referred to as the Pickett Effect, after Gerald
Pickett, a PCA researcher who discovered the
phenomena in the 1940s (Pickett 1947).
Concrete, mortar, and cement paste will
sometimes swell when sealed or in the presence
of external water. Swelling is generally caused by
pore pressure, but can be accentuated by the
formation of some expansive hydration products.
The swelling is not significant, between 50-100
millionths at early ages; therefore, we will not be
discussing swelling further.
Thermal Expansion
As cement hydrates, the reaction provides a
significant amount of heat. In large elements, this
heat is trapped and can induce significant
expansion. When thermal changes are
superimposed upon autogenous shrinkage at
early age, cracking can occur. In particular,
differential thermal stress can occur due to rapid
cooling of massive concrete elements.

Testing of Early-Age Volume Changes
Chemical shrinkage test
Volume change due to chemical shrinkage can be
estimated from the hydrated cement phases and
their crystal densities or it can be determined by
physical test. The physical test places a measured
amount of lime-saturated water in an open pipet
over a known amount of cement paste inside a
closed container. The change in water level within
the pipet indicates the change in volume due to
chemical shrinkage (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Test for chemical shrinkage of
cement paste showing flask for cement
paste and pipet for absorbed water
ASTM C157 - Modified for early age
The standard drying shrinkage test for concrete
can be modified to capture early age volume
change by elimination of the curing period
(usually 7-28 days) and beginning measurements
as early as possible. Prisms may also be sealed
after casting to provide an estimate of
autogenous shrinkage. Surfaces should be sealed
as quickly as possible to eliminate loss of
moisture. It should be emphasized that
autogenous shrinkage depends on temperature
history (maturity) and will be different in a
laboratory prism when compared to a larger
concrete member in service under variable
ambient temperatures. As with drying shrinkage
measurements, the test result will not represent
the actual shrinkage in the structure.
ASTM C1581 Restrained Ring Shrinkage
The restrained ring shrinkage test consists of a
concrete ring specimen 150 mm (6 in.) tall, 13
mm (0.5 in.) thick and 330 mm (13 in.) diameter
that is cast surrounding an instrumented steel
ring (Figure 3). The steel ring prevents the
concrete from shrinking from the time that the
concrete is first cast. Shrinkage stresses continue
to grow as the concrete passes from initial set to
final set and beyond. Tensile creep relaxation
alleviates stress development and is considered
beneficial at early age.The instrumented ring uses
strain sensors to monitor the development of
stress. If the shrinkage in the concrete is
significant, the stresses will eventually cause
cracking. The strain sensors provide an indicator
of the cracking time, which is used to compare
the cracking tendency between different concrete

Figure 3 Restrained ring shrinkage test
setup. (Courtesy of CTLGroup)
ASTM C512 - Compressive Creep
The standard creep test consists of a frame and
hydraulic loading system to apply constant stress
to 150X300 mm (6x12 in.) cylindrical specimens
(Figure 4). Deformation is monitored periodically
over time and compard to compansion unloaded
specimens to obtain the creep strain of the
concrete, which can then be used to calculate the
creep compliance, or specific creep of the
material. Tests are typically started at 7 or 28
days of age, but this test can be modified for
early age by starting the test as early as 24
hours. Sealed tests are used to evaluate basic
creep and unsealed tests incorporate the Pickett
Effect, or drying creep.

Figure 4 Standard creep test
frames. (Courtesy of CTLGroup)

Mitigating Early-Age Cracking
Optimization of aggregates to reduce total
cementitious content
Since volume changes are more a function of the
cement paste, rather than the more volume-
stable aggregates, reducing the overall
cementitious content is the best way to mitigate
early-age volume changes. Typical concrete
mixtures have gap-graded aggregates that leave
significant void space for cement paste to fill. By
optimizing the aggregate gradation across the
entire spectrum, as opposed to the coarse and
fine aggregates individually, the amount of paste
required to surround each aggregate particle and
fill the void space is minimized (Figure 5);
thereby minimizing the effects of early-age
volume change of the paste.

Figure 5 A comparison of void space with
different aggregate gradations.
Minimum w/cm ratio
Autogenous shrinkage increases with a decrease
in water to cementitious materials ratio (w/cm).
Concrete mixtures with a w/cm of 0.30 can
experience autogenous shrinkage upwards of half
of the normal drying shrinkage. Using the highest
w/cm that still provides adequate strength and
durability can reduce the impact of autogenous
Internal curing
Internal curing is a method by which water is
encapsulated within a concrete mixture for
continued release during the hydration process.
Typical internal curing materials include high
absorption lightweight aggregate particles and
super-absorbent polymers. The self-dessication of
the paste draws the water out of these particles
to continue the hydration of the cement particles.
This is particularly helpful in mitigating
autogenous shrinkage of concrete mixtures with
very low w/cm (0.30 or less).
Shrinkage-reducing admixtures
Shrinkage-reducing admixtures (SRAs) are
typically used as mitigation of cracking and
curling caused by drying shrinkage; however,
SRAs can be utilized to mitigate autogenous
shrinkage as well. The SRA, typically propylene
glycol or polyoxyalkylene alkyl ether based, alters
the surface tension of the pore water and reduces
the stresses developed during desiccation,
whether self-induced or by evaporation.
Concreting procedures
Several concreting procedures can be used to
minimize early-age volume changes. When
autogenous shrinkage is a concern, the use of
moist curing methods will help mitigate self-
desiccation near the concrete surface. The use of
a well-developed thermal control plan will
mitigate the effects of thermal-based volume

Kosmatka, Steven H.; Wilson, Michelle L.; Design and
Control of Concrete Mixtures, EB001.15, 15th edition,
Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Illinois, USA,

Pickett, Gerald, The Effect of Change in Moisture
Content on the Creep of Concrete Under a Sustained
Load, Research Department Bulletin RX020, Portland
Cement Association, 1947.
Associate, CTLGroup
Concrete Engineer, PCA

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Concrete Technology Home > Durability
Durability is the ability of concrete to resist weathering
action, chemical attack, and abrasion while
maintaining its desired engineering properties.
Different concretes require different degrees of
durability depending on the exposure environment and
the properties desired. Concrete ingredients, their
proportioning, interactions between them, placing and
curing practices, and the service environment
determine the ultimate durability and life of the
Exposure Conditions and Deterioration
The table below shows important exposure conditions
and deterioration mechanisms in concrete structures.
In practice, several of these deterioration mechanisms
can act simultaneously with possible synergistic










Corrosion of



T 259
T 260
TP 11
TP 22
TP 26
TP 55





T 161
TP 18





TP 58


Guide To Durable Concrete
Different concretes require different degrees
of durability depending on the exposure
environment and the properties desired. The
Specifers Guide for Durable Concrete is
intended to provide sufficient information to
allow the practitioner to select materials and mix
design parameters to achieve durable concrete in a
variety of environments.

Addressing Durability with the Prescriptive or
Performance Approach

Durability of concrete can be addressed by two
approaches. The first is called the prescriptive
approach, where designers specify materials,
proportions, and construction methods based on
fundamental principles and practices that exhibit
satisfactory performance. The second is called the
performance approach, where designers identify
functional requirements such as strength, durability,
and volume changes, and rely on concrete producers
and contractors to develop concrete mixtures to meet
those requirements. Performance specifications define
performance for a given exposure and life expectancy,
and include tests, which are tied to the field
performance of concrete. Refer to
NRMCAs Performance-Based Specifications for
Concrete for details. Very often a specification will
contain prescriptive as well as performance
elements. Click here for durability requirements of the
2008 ACI 318 Building Code.
Case Studies
Confederation Bridge. Concrete used
for the Confederation Bridge across the
Northumberland Strait between Prince
Edward Island and New Brunswick was
specifically designed for high durability
in a severe environment. The bridge has to resist
freezing and thawing, seawater exposure, and
abrasion from floating ice. With a design life of 100
years, the use of high performance concrete and
careful attention to production and construction
practices were imperative. Over 400,000 cubic meters
(520,000 cubic yards) of concrete was used for the
structure. More.
Wacker Drive. Determined to build
maximum durability into the heavily
traveled Wacker Drive thoroughfare,
the City of Chicago set an ambitious
goal: a 75- to 100-year design life of
the structure. The material of choice?
High-performance concrete. According to Paul Krauss,
senior consultant with WJE, the mix was designed with
the goal of maximizing durability, not compressive
strength. More.

Concrete in the Marine EnvironmentTreat
Island Marine Exposure Site
Located on the Bay of Fundy
near Eastport, Maine, the Treat
Island exposure station was
established by the US Army
Corps of Engineers (USACE) in
1936 to study concrete
durability in long-term programs. The exposure site
inherently imposes a unique combination of natural
severe environmental conditions ideally representative
of severe field exposure conditions.
Under the heading of Improved Durability of
Concrete, the field exposure durability studies at
Treat Island have provided data useful in determining
concretes resistance to frost attack, alkali-aggregate
reaction, sulfate attack, and corrosion of steel with
variable cementitious types and contents, aggregate
types, chemical admixtures, and water-cementitous
ratios. More.
Preventing Joint Deterioration

Concrete provides a durable, attractive
paved surface for roads. It provides a
longer life than any other leading paving
materials and does not rut or shove due to
traffic or warm temperatures. Concretes
higher reflectance keeps surfaces cooler, helps
minimize the urban heat island effect, and can lower
infrastructure and ongoing lighting costs, while
boosting safety for vehicles and pedestrians.

Some pavements in northern states have exhibited
joint deterioration: the premature disintegration of
concrete around the joint. This deterioration typically
begins to show after several years in place. The
mechanism behind joint deterioration is complex and
is understood to have basis in freeze-thaw damage
and mechanical damage. More.

Detwiler, R. J., and Taylor, P. C., Specifiers Guide to
Durable Concrete, EB221, Portland Cement
Association, Skokie, Illinois, USA, 2005, 68 pages.
References related to:
Alkali-Aggregate Reaction
Chemical Resistance

Steel Corrosion

Freeze-Thaw Resistance
Kerkhoff, Beatrix, Effects of Substances on Concrete
and Guide to Protective Treatments, IS001, Portland
Cement Association, 2001, 36 pages.
Miller, F. M.; Detwiler, R.; and Powers,
L., Investigation of Deteriorated Concrete in
Pavement, Portland Cement Association, Skokie,
Illinois, August, 2000.
Pavement Durability: A Case Study, Concrete
Technology Today, Vol. 21, No. 2, CT002, Portland
Cement Association, Skokie, Illinois, July, 2000
SHRP, Distress Identification Manual for the Long-
Term Pavement Performance Project. SHRP-P-338,
Strategic Highway Research Program, Washington,
DC, 1993
Sutter, L. L.; Peterson, K. R.; Van Dam, T. J.; Smith,
K. D. and Wade, M. J.;Guidelines for Detection,
Analysis, and Treatment of Materials-Related Distress
(MRD) In Concrete Pavements
Guidelines for Detection, Analysis, and
Treatment of MRD in Concrete Pavements Vol I
Final Report, FHWA-RD-01-163, March 2002.
Guidelines for Detection, Analysis, and
Treatment of MRD in Concrete Pavements Vol II
Guidelines Description and Use, FHWA-RD-01-
164, March 2002.
Guidelines for Detection, Analysis, and
Treatment of MRD in Concrete Pavements Vol III
Case Studies, FHWA-RD-01-165, March 2002.
PCA, Types and Causes of Concrete
Deterioration, IS536, Portland Cement Association,
PCA, Concrete Slab Surface Defects: Causes,
Prevention, Repair, IS177, Portland Cement
Association, 2002
PowerPoint Presentations/Images

Identification of Alkali-Silica
Reactivity in Highway
Structures, PT315

Concrete Slab Surface
Defects, PT177
To search for related images, click here.

Search PCAs library, which include over 22,000
books, reports, standards, journals, electronic
documents, and videos.
A list of many of the durability-related publications
may be found HERE. Although library loans are
available only to PCA Members, the Library staff is
happy to assist nonmembers in obtaining items
through interlibrary loan.
In addition, the Library has access to many technical
databases and can provide literature searches on
particular aspects of durability. The result is a
bibliography, often with abstracts, of articles,
conference papers, reports, patents, and other
literature on that topic. If the requestor then requires
copies of the actual papers, the Library can provide
that as well.
Major journals addressing durability issues include ACI
Materials Journal, Cement and Concrete Research,
Cement and Concrete Composites, Concrete
International, Concrete Producer, Materials and
Structures. For subscription information, contact the
Library at

Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design &
Construction >Bugholes

The ever-increasing use of
structural concrete as an
architectural building material
has catapulted concretes
measure of quality in surface
appearance to a prominent
position within the concrete
construction industry. One of
the primary influences
affecting the surface
aesthetics of concrete is bugholes. Bugholes are
surface voids that result from the migration of
entrapped air (and to a lesser extent water) to the
fresh concrete-form interface. These surface defects
manifest themselves mostly in vertically formed
During consolidation, the densification and
subsequent volume shrinkage of the fresh concrete
forces entrapped air voids and excess water out of
the cementitious matrix. The water tends to migrate
upward due to a density differential and become
bleed water. The air bubbles, however, seek the
nearest route to reach pressure equilibrium. When in
a vertical form, the closest distance for the air
bubbles migration is to the interior form surface. If
these bubbles are not directed vertically to the free
surface of the setting concrete, after form removal,
bugholes will be present if not abundant. Bugholes
are found more frequently in the upper portion of the
concrete structure or at angled form surfaces as a
result of additive accumulation from escaping air
voids along the height of the structure. These surface
voids are primarily an aesthetic problem for exposed
structural concrete. However, problems do arise if the
concrete surface is to be painted or if the voids reach
a larger diameter (typically greater than 25mm [1

Perhaps the most influential cause of bugholes is
improper vibration. Consolidation, usually through
vibration, sets the air and water bubbles into motion.
A proper amount of vibration sends both entrapped
air and excess water to the free surface of the
concrete either vertically winding through the
matrix or laterally in a direct route to the form wall.
Improper vibration will either insufficiently liberate
the voids or over-consolidate the concrete resulting in
segregation and bleeding. (See ACI 309 or
PCAs Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures for a
full description of consolidation using vibration.)
Another factor that promotes bughole formation is
the form material itself. Nonpermeable forms (i.e.
polymer impregnated wood and steel) and the use of
form-releasing agents can restrict the movement of
the air voids between the concrete-form interface
that is necessary for bughole reduction. It is
imperative that when form-releasing agents are used,
they are used according to the manufacturers
recommendations and used only with specified form
Mix design can also be considered a significant
contributor to bughole formation. Mix designs vary
widely in their use of aggregate type, size, and
grading and their use of admixtures and air-
entrainment. A sticky or stiff mixture that does not
respond to consolidation can be directly linked to
increased surface void formation.

(1) Proper consolidation. Vibration should be
completed with each lift of concrete placed. As
successive lifts are placed, the vibrator should
penetrate the previous lift, working the entrapped air
towards the form and then vertically up the sides.

(2) Permeable Forms. When impermeable forms
are used, more vibration is necessary to move the air
voids to the free surface of the concrete. The use of
permeable forms has been shown through research to
reduce bugholes significantly by allowing escaping air
to move through the form to the ambient air.
Choosing the proper form releasing agent in the
proper amount can also improve the surface quality.

(3) Mix design. Workable, flowing mixtures are
easier to place and consolidate and therefore reduce
the risk of bughole formation. Concrete with an
optimally graded aggregate that avoids excessive
quantities of fine aggregate, properly proportioned
cement content, and any admixture that provides
increased flow, workability, or ease of consolidation
contributes to bughole reduction. Self-Consolidating
Concrete (SCC) is becoming increasing popular for
industries (precast especially) to improve surface
Bugholes as surface defects are not
detrimental to structural concrete
from a durability standpoint.
Nevertheless, with the increased
use of structural concrete in
finished construction, surface quality is increasingly
important. Through careful selection of materials,
quality workmanship, and dutiful supervision, surface
voids can be minimized.

Related Publications:

Bugholes in Concrete Surfaces: Annotated
Bibliography (LB14)

Guide for Surface Finish of Formed Concrete (LT233)

Painting Concrete (IS134)

Concrete Slab Surface Defects: Causes, Prevention,
Repair (IS177)
Berger, Dean M., Preparing concrete surfaces for
painting, Concrete Construction, v. 22, no. 9, Sept.
1977, p. 481-484, 526-527.
Identification and Control of Visible Effects of
Consolidation on Formed Concrete
Surfaces (ACI309.2R-98) Reported by ACI Committee
309. American Concrete Institute, 2003, p. 6, 11, 18-
Price, W.F.; Widdows, S.J., The effects of permeable
formwork on the surface properties of
concrete, Magazine of Concrete Research, v. 43, no.
155, 1991, p. 93-104.
Samuelsson, Paul, Voids in concrete surfaces, ACI
Journal, Proceedings, v. 67, no. 11, Nov. 1970, p.

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Pervious Concrete
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete
Construction > Pervious Concrete and Durability
Placement, Finishing, and Curing of Pervious Concrete

Pervious concrete mixtures are stiff, zero-slump
mixtures with placement, finishing, and curing
requirements falling outside of normal concrete
flatwork processes. Due to the dry nature of the
mixture (w/cm < 0.35) and high surface area, it is
important to consider rapid concrete placement
methods. As these mixtures are not appropriate for
pumping, rapid placement methods may include
chute placement directly from the truck mixers,
wheel barrows or buggies, conveyors, or dump
placement into an asphalt type paving machines.
Regardless of the placement method, the quicker the
placement is, the better.
Strike-off of the pavement may also be accomplished
in a number of ways:
1. While strike-off with a simple straight edge is
rare it is acceptable as long as the forms are
elevated with a removable strip 50 mm to 75
mm ( in. to in.) in thickness which can be
removed to allow compaction of the pavement
using a steel roller.
2. Low frequency vibrating
screeds and asphalt
pavers may also be used
for strike-off.
Again it is recommended to
strike-off slightly higher than
the final elevation and compact with a roller to
achieve the final height.
3. Hydraulically powered roller screeds rotate
against the direction of travel providing strike-
off and compaction in a single operation.

Finishing of pervious
pavement requires a minimum
of effort and is simple. After
strike-off and compaction with
a roller, a finned roller
(sometimes referred to as a
pizza cutter) is used to tool joints, and the edges are
compacted with an edging tool. Additional decorative
treatments can be added such as stamped
impressions using braided rope over plastic and an
additional pass with the roller to embed the shape of
the rope. Other more traditional stamping tools may
also be used provided the operation is done in rapid
The reason rapid placement
and finishing techniques are
stressed is due to curing
requirements for pervious
pavements. Since the
moisture content of the
mixture is initially so low it is
particularly susceptible to
moisture loss that would inhibit hydration of the
cement. For this reason curing is typically specified as
a minimum 0.15 mm (6 mil) plastic cover placed and
securely anchored within 15 minutes of the pervious
mixture being discharged from the mixer truck.
Additionally, white plastic is used for hot weather to
reduce the solar loading on the pavement.

Tennis, Paul, D.; Leming, Michael, L.; and Akers,
David, J., Pervious Concrete Pavements, EB302,
Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Illinois, and
National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, Silver
Spring, Maryland, USA, 2004, 36 pages.

Air-Entrained Concrete
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design &
Construction >Finishing Air-Entrained Concrete
Finishing Air-Entrained Concrete

Used in many applications,
air-entrained concrete uses a
chemical admixture (or
sometimes, air-entraining
cement) to produce a system
of small voids during the
mixing process. These voids
are stabilized by the air-entraining admixture and
remain in the hardened concrete paste. The primary
use of air-entraining concrete is for freeze-thaw
resistance. The air voids provide pressure relief sites
during a freeze event, allowing the water inside the
concrete to freeze without inducing large internal
stresses. Another related use is for deicer-scaling
resistance. The air voids again provide relief sites for
the buildup of salt concentrations and the pressures
that result due to concentration gradients. Other
uses of air-entrained concrete include sulfate
resistance, resistance to alkali-silica reactivity, and
improved workability.

Hard troweling is a process by which a finisher uses
a steel trowel to densify the surface of the concrete.
This finish is optional and produces a hard, smooth
surface. Repeated passes of steel troweling will
result in a burnished finish, which has a mirror-like
appearance. Hard-troweled surfaces are not
recommended for exterior concrete slabs, because
the smooth finish becomes slippery when wet.

Hard troweling is also not recommended for air-
entrained concrete for several reasons. The primary
reason is densification. Densification pushes air out
of the surface, leading to a decrease in the air
content. This increases the probability of freeze-thaw
damage and deicer-scaling damage. Additionally, the
densification can push the air down and rupture the
voids, leading to a large void just below the surface
mortar. This will cause delaminations and may cover
a significant portion of the placement. Once the
surface has been opened, through scaling or
delamination, the densified surface gained through
hard troweling is lost.

Many alternatives to hard-
troweled surfaces exist for
concrete. A simple broom texture
is the easiest method. A broom
texture provides a slip resistant
and durable surface. Other options
include decorative finishes, such
as stamped or colored concrete.

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2012 Portland Cement Association - All Rights
Curing Concrete in Construction
By Jerzy Z. Zemajtis, Ph.D., PE (WA)*

Curing plays an important
role on strength development
and durability of concrete.
Curing takes place
immediately after concrete
placing and finishing, and
involves maintenance of
desired moisture and temperature conditions, both
at depth and near the surface, for extended periods
of time. Properly cured concrete has an adequate
amount of moisture for continued hydration and
development of strength, volume stability, resistance
to freezing and thawing, and abrasion and scaling

The length of adequate curing time is dependent on
the following factors:
Type of cementitious materials used

Mixture proportions

Specified strength

Size and shape of concrete member

Ambient weather conditions

Future exposure conditions
Slabs on ground (e.g. pavements, sidewalks, parking
lots, driveways, floors, canal linings) and structural
concrete (e.g. bridge decks, piers, columns, beams,
slabs, small footings, cast-in-place walls, retaining
walls) require a minimum curing period of seven
days for ambient temperatures above 5C (40F)
American Concrete Institute (ACI) Committee 301
recommends a minimum curing period corresponding
to concrete attaining 70% of the specified
compressive strength
. The often specified 7-day
curing commonly corresponds to approximately 70%
of the specified compressive strengths. The 70%
strength level can be reached sooner when concrete
cures at higher temperatures or when certain
cement/admixture combinations are used. Similarly,
longer time may be needed for different material
combinations and/or lower curing temperatures. For
this reason, ACI Committee 308 recommends the
following minimum curing periods
ASTM C 150 Type I cement 7 days

ASTM C 150 Type II cement 10 days

ASTM C 150 Type III cement 3 days

ASTM C 150 Type IV or V cement 14 days

ASTM C 595, C 845, C 1157 cements variable
Effect of curing duration on compressive strength
development is presented in Figure 1

Figure 1. Moist Curing Time and Compressive
Strength Gain
Higher curing temperatures promote an early
strength gain in concrete but may decrease its 28-
day strength. Effect of curing temperature on
compressive strength development is presented in
Figure 2

Figure 2. Effect of Curing Temperature on
Compressive Strength

There are three main functions of curing:

1) Maintaining mixing water in concrete during the
early hardening process
a. Ponding and immersion
Ponding is typically used to cure flat surfaces on
smaller jobs. Care should be taken to maintain
curing water temperature at not more than 11C
(20F) cooler than the concrete to prevent cracking
due to thermal stresses.

Immersion is mainly used in the laboratory for curing
concrete test specimens.

b. Spraying and fogging
Spraying and fogging are used when the ambient
temperatures are well above freezing and the
humidity is low. Fogging can minimize plastic
shrinkage cracking until the concrete attains final

c. Saturated wet coverings
Wet coverings saturated with water should be used
after concrete has hardened enough to prevent
surface damage. They should be kept constantly

d. Left in Place Forms
Left in place forms usually provide satisfactory
protection against moisture loss for formed concrete
surfaces. The forms are usually left in place as long
as the construction schedule allows. If the forms are
made of wood, they should be kept moist, especially
during hot, dry weather.

2) Reducing the loss of mixing water from the
surface of the concrete
a. Covering concrete with impervious paper or plastic
Impervious paper and plastic sheets can be applied
on thoroughly wetted concrete. The concrete surface
should be hard enough to prevent surface damage
from placement activities.

b. Applying membrane-forming curing compounds
Membrane-forming curing compounds are used to
retard or reduce evaporation of moisture from
concrete. They can be clear or translucent and white
pigmented. White-pigmented compounds are
recommended for hot and sunny weather conditions
to reflect solar radiation. Curing compounds should
be applied immediately after final finishing. Curing
compound shall comply with ASTM C309
3) Accelerating strength gain using heat and
additional moisture
a. Live steam
Live steam at atmospheric pressure and high-
pressure steam in autoclaves are the two methods of
steam curing. Steam temperature for live steam at
atmospheric pressure should be kept at about 60C
(140F) or less until the desired concrete strength is

b. Heating coils
Heating coils are usually used as embedded
elements near the surface of concrete elements.
Their purpose is to protect concrete from freezing
during cold weather concreting.

c. Electrical heated forms or pads
Electrical heated forms or pads are primarily used by
precast concrete producers.

d. Concrete blankets
Concrete insulation blankets are used to cover and
insulate concrete surfaces subjected to freezing
temperatures during the curing period. The concrete
should be hard enough to prevent surface damage
when covering with concrete blankets.

Other forms of curing include internal moist curing
with lightweight aggregates or absorbent polymer
particles. For mass concrete elements (usually
thicker than 3 ft.), a thermal control plan is usually
developed to help control thermal stresses.
Additional information can be found in ACI
Committee 308 report Guide to Curing Concrete
For specialty concretes, it is recommended to refer
to other ACI reports as follows:
Refractory concrete ACI 547.1R

Insulating concrete ACI 523.1R

Expansive cement concrete ACI 223

Roller-compacted concrete ACI 207.5R

Architectural concrete ACI 303R

Shotcrete ACI 506.2

Fiber-reinforced concrete ACI 544.3R

Vertical slipform construction ACI 313

Curing in either cold or hot weather requires
additional attention. In cold weather, some of the
procedures include heated enclosures, evaporation
reducers, curing compounds, and insulating
blankets. The temperature of fresh concrete shall be
above 10C (50F). The curing period for cold
weather concrete is longer than the standard period
due to reduced rate of strength gain. Compressive
strength of concrete cured and maintained at 10C
(50F) is expected to gain strength half as quickly as
concrete cured at 23C (73F). In hot weather,
curing and protection are critical due to rapid
moisture loss from fresh concrete. The curing
actually starts before concrete is placed by wetting
substrate surfaces with water. Sunscreens,
windscreens, fogging, and evaporation retardants
can be used for hot weather concrete placements.
Since concrete strength gain in hot weather is faster,
curing period may be reduced. Additional information
can be found in ACI 306.1, Standard Specification for
Cold Weather Concreting, ACI 306R, Cold Weather
Concreting, ACI 305.1, Specification for Hot Weather
Concreting, and ACI 305R, Hot Weather Concreting.

Curing Concrete Test Specimens

Curing of concrete test specimens is usually different
from concrete placed during construction. American
Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has
developed two standards for making and curing
concrete specimens. ASTM C192
is intended for
laboratory samples while ASTM C31
is intended for
field samples. Both documents provide standardized
requirements for making, curing, protecting, and
transporting concrete test specimens under field or
laboratory conditions, respectively.

ASTM C192 provides procedures for evaluation of
different mixtures in laboratory conditions. It is
usually used in the initial stage of the project, or for
research purposes.

ASTM C31 is used for acceptance testing and can
also be used as a decision tool for form or shoring
removal. Depending on its intended purpose, the
standard defines two curing regimes: standard
curing for acceptance testing and field curing for
form/shoring removal. Variation in standard curing of
test specimens can dramatically affect measured
concrete properties. According to the National Ready
Mix Concrete Association
(NRMCA), strength for
concrete air cured for one day followed by 27 days
moist cured will be approximately 8% lower than for
concrete moist cured for the entire period. The
strength reduction is 11% and 18% for concrete
specimens initially cured in air for 3 days and 7 days,
respectively. For the same air/moist curing
combinations, but 38C (100F) air curing
temperature, the 28-day strength will be
approximately 11%, 22%, and 26% lower,

* Jerzy Z. Zemajtis, Ph.D., PE (WA)
Senior Engineer, CTLGroup, Skokie, IL
(847) 832-0260,

S. Kosmatka et al, Design and Control of Concrete
Mixtures, 14th Edition, PCA Engineering Bulletin EB
001, Portland Cement Association , Skokie, IL 2002

Specifications for Structural Concrete, ACI 301

Guide to Curing Concrete, ACI 308R-01

ASTM C309, Standard Specification for Liquid
Membrane-Forming Compounds for Curing
Concrete (

ASTM C1315, Standard Specification for Liquid
Membrane-Forming Compounds Having Special
Properties for Curing and Sealing
Concrete (

ASTM C192 / C192M, Standard Practice for Making
and Curing Concrete Test Specimens in the
Laboratory (

ASTM C31 / C31M, Standard Practice for Making and
Curing Concrete Test Specimens in the
Field (

David N. Richardson, Review of Variables that
Influence Measured Concrete Compressive Strength,
NRMCA Publication 179, NRMCA, Silver Spring, MD,

The Link Between Concrete Sustainability and Curing

Sustainability, according to the Bruntland Report and
adopted by many experts, is development that
meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to
meet their own needs. This can be accomplished in
one of two ways: either by using recyclable,
reusable, or so little resources that future
generations have the same access to them; or by
producing development that meets our needs as well
as the needs of future generations. We can use
proper curing of concrete to advance towards the
reduction of resource use.

A concrete element is expected to last a certain
number of years. In order to meet this expected
service life, it must be able to withstand structural
loading, fatigue, weathering, abrasion, and chemical
attack. The duration and type of curing plays a big
role in determining the required materials necessary
to achieve the high level of quality.

Curing is the process in
which the concrete is
protected from loss of
moisture and kept within
a reasonable
temperature range. The
result of this process is
increased strength and
decreased permeability. Curing is also a key player
in mitigating cracks in the concrete, which severely
impacts durability. Cracks allow open access for
harmful materials to bypass the low permeability
concrete near the surface. Good curing can help
mitigate the appearance of unplanned cracking.

When smart, suitable, and practical curing is used,
the amount of cement required to achieve a given
strength and durability can be reduced by either
omission or replacement with supplementary
cementitious materials. Since the cement is the most
expensive and energy intensive portion of a concrete
mixture, this leads to a reduction in the cost as well
as the absolute carbon footprint of the concrete
mixture. Additionally, being practical with curing
methods can enhance sustainability by reducing the
need for resource intensive conditioning treatments,
should the curing method be incompatible with the
intended service environment.

Curing Pavements and Bridge Decks

While curing of concrete is an important issue with
all concrete applications concrete pavements and
bridge decks require careful consideration and have
significantly different needs with regard to curing of
the concrete of these structures. Both categories
have basic requirements for the durability of the
structures including strength, abrasion resistance,
freezing and thawing and deicer resistance, and, in
the case of bridges, low permeability for corrosion
protection of the reinforcement of the structure.

Typical recommendations
for curing of pavements
allow the use of sheet
curing, moist curing, or
application of a film
forming curing compound.
Due to the large surface
areas typical of concrete
paving the application of curing compound to all
exposed surfaces is the most common curing
method. Moist curing and sheet curing of large
surface areas may become cost prohibitive due to
the large quantity of materials required to cover the
full surface of concrete placed in any single day. In
addition moist curing and sheet curing require
maintenance to assure the curing method is properly
completed for the full time duration chosen for
paving (typically 7 days). Moist coverings require
rewetting and sheet goods are prone to being
disturbed by wind, either of which would reduce the
effectiveness of the curing method.

Curing compounds should be applied to pavements
as soon as possible after bleed water has left the
surface of the concrete at a rate of 5 m
/L (200
/gal) for standard mixtures and application, 3.75
/L (150 ft
/gal) for fast track paving, and 2 1/2
/L (100 ft
/gal) for slabs thinner than 125 mm
(5.0 in.)

In contrast concrete bridges require a higher
standard of curing to achieve the low permeability
required for protection of steel reinforcement.
Standard recommendations for curing bridge decks is
moist curing for a minimum of 7 days for concrete
mixtures containing only portland cement and as
long as 14 days when supplementary cementing
materials are included in the concrete mixture. Some
states also require the application of curing
compound upon removal of the moist curing

Typical moist curing for bridge decks requires the
application of adequate quality water saturated
burlap or other approved absorptive material
covered with minimum 6 mil plastic covering. The
temperature of the saturated materials should be
within 11C (20F) of the temperature of the in-
place concrete. In most cases plastic will be specified
to be white in color to reflect solar radiation,
reducing the temperature rise beneath the plastic,
while cold temperatures (less than 10C (50F)) may
allow the use of black plastic to add heat to the
system. Proper moist curing will also require
uncovering and rewetting the absorptive material to
assure that there is a constant supply of water
available to satisfy the evaporation rate at the
project site.

Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures, 14th
Edition, EB001

Construction Specification Guidelines for Concrete
Streets and Local Roads, IS119

HPC Bridge Views, Issue No. 45, Fall 2006
Read an FAQ on "What should be considered when
choosing a curing method for slabs that will receive a
moisture sensitive floor covering?"

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Mass Concrete
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design and
Production > Mass Concrete
Mass ConcreteHow Do You Handle the Heat?
By John Gajda, PE

Mass concrete is a hot topic.
Owners desire long service
lives so engineers design
concrete mixes for low
permeability. These
mixtures typically have high
cementitious material
contents, which results in
high temperatures within
the concrete. To avoid
cracking and other
temperature related damage
to the concrete, contractors
must control the maximum
temperature and
temperature difference between the interior and the
surface of the concrete. This can pit the schedule
against the service life. When all involved parties
work together, appropriate changes can be made to
achieve the desired service life with minimal impacts
to the schedule. The key is an understanding of mass
First of all, what is mass concrete? Mass
concrete is defined by the American Concrete
Institute (ACI) as: Any volume of concrete with
dimensions large enough to require that measures
be taken to cope with generation of heat from
hydration of the cement and attendant volume
change to minimize cracking. While this is a perfect
definition, the question is often asked, so, is this
placement considered mass concrete? As a general
rule of thumb, any placement of structural concrete
with a minimum dimension equal to or greater than
1 meter (36 in.) should be considered mass
concrete. Similar considerations should be given to
other concrete placements that do not meet this
minimum dimension, but contain ASTM C150 Type
III or ASTM C1157 HE cement, accelerating
admixtures, or cementitious materials in excess of
355 kg/m
(600 lb/yd
) of concrete.

Mass concrete columns
and footings for the
James River Bridge.
(Courtesy of Fred
Parkinson, PB.)
Now that we know what
placements are
considered mass
concrete, what makes a
mass concrete placement
any different than a
typical placement? The
answer is that temperatures
in a mass concrete
placement can get high
enough to damage the
concrete. All concretes generate heat. Heat is a
byproduct of the hydration reactions which gives
concrete its strength and durability. In most
placements, the heat escapes almost as rapidly as it
is generated. In a mass concrete placement, the
heat escapes more slowly than it is generated. The
result is that temperatures within the concrete can
get quite hot. If the internal temperature exceeds
70C (158F), the long term durability of some
concretes can be affected by delayed ettringite
formation (DEF). DEF is rare and only certain
concretes can be affected. When DEF occurs, the
concrete paste expands and cracks the concrete with
detrimental results, which may not be evident for
many years. Additionally, while the interior can be
quite hot, the surface can be relatively cool. The
resulting large temperature difference results in
large thermal stresses which can cause cracking of
the surface. Historically, limiting the temperature
difference between the interior and surface so that it
is less than 20C (35F) has been found to prevent
or minimize thermal cracking. Certain concretes are
more tolerant of thermal cracking than others, and
these concretes can withstand a higher temperature
difference without thermally cracking.
How do I prevent high internal temperatures
and large temperature differences? The first step
is to select an appropriate mix design. This will
reduce other efforts to control temperatures and

A severe case of
thermal cracking in a
concrete footing.
temperature differences after placement. The
temperature rise of concrete is directly related to the
types and quantities of cementitious materials in the
concrete. An appropriate mix design contains the
least amount of cementitious materials needed for
strength and durability. Placeability of concrete must
also factor into the concrete mix design. This
sometimes increases the cementitious content. To
reduce heat of hydration, Class F fly ash or slag
cement is typically used to replace a portion of the
cement. The percentage depends on several factors
including environmental exposure and durability
Once I have a reasonable
concrete mix design, do I
need to do anything else?
In most cases, the answer is
yes; two items must be
considered. First, you must
ensure that the maximum
temperature in the concrete will
not exceed 70C (158F). In
placements over about 1.80 m (6
ft) thick, the maximum
temperature is the sum of the
installed concrete temperature
plus the temperature rise of the
concrete. The temperature rise
can be measured or estimated. If
the maximum temperature of the
concrete is predicted to exceed
70C (158F), the concrete can be precooled by
using chilled batch water, substituting ice for a
portion of the batch water, or by liquid nitrogen
injection into the fresh concrete. If significant
precooling is required, internal cooling pipes can be
used to reduce the amount of precooling. Second,
the concrete surface will likely also need to be
insulated. Insulation is needed to limit the
temperature difference between the center and

blankets on a
surface so that thermal cracking is prevented or
minimized. One or two layers of concrete insulating
blankets are often used. Thermal modeling is
sometimes done to optimize the amount of insulation
and precooling, so that the most cost-effective
measures are used.
Do I need to do anything else? To document the
means and methods that are required and will be
used, a thermal control plan should be developed. A
thermal control plan is similar to a quality control
plan, and will allow all involved parties to agree on
the measures that will be used, and the expected
results. Such measures may include precooling of
the concrete, cooling pipe installation and operation,
insulation, temperature monitoring equipment and
Additional and more detailed information on mass
concrete can be found in PCAs publication Mass
Concrete for Buildings and Bridges (EB547).
Read a case study on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay
John Gajda, PE,
Principal Engineer
CTLGroup, Skokie, Ill.

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Self-Cleaning Concrete
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design and
Production > Self-Cleaning Concrete

Building a Better (Cleaner) World in the 21st

Self-cleaning buildings and
pollution-reducing roadways:
These may sound like futuristic
ideas, but they are realities of
some of todays concrete.
Recently introduced formulations
of cement are able to neutralize pollution. Harmful
smog can be turned into harmless compounds and
washed away. Anything made out of concrete is a
potential application, because these cements are
used in the same manner as regular portland
cements. These products provide value through
unique architectural and environmental performance

Proprietary technology (based on particles of
titanium dioxide) is what makes this cement special.
The technology can be applied to white or gray
cement and it works like any other portland cement:
it can be used in all varieties of concrete, including
plaster. Presumably, applications for mortar might
be beneficial, too., although the mortar has a smaller
surface area. The only difference is that it is capable
of breaking down smog or other pollution that has
attached itself to the concrete substrate, in a process
known as photocatalysis. As sunlight hits the
surface, most organic and some inorganic pollutants
are neutralized. They would otherwise lead to
discolored concrete surfaces.

The titanium-based catalyst is not spent as it breaks
down pollution, but continues to work. Typical
products are oxygen, water, carbon dioxide, nitrate,
and sulfate. Because rain washes away the pollution
from the concrete surface, buildings stay cleaner and
do not require chemical applications that are
potentially harmful to the environment. Maintenance
costs are reduced. This is true even for buildings in
highly polluted locationsone noted application is
the Air France headquarters at Roissy-Charles de
Gaulle International Airport near Paris, a white
concrete building that has remained white. Another
is the Church of the Year 2000 in Rome.

Clean buildings are great: A perhaps even more
astounding environmental benefit is the potential for
cleaner air. Concrete products that are exposed to
sunlight throughout their life, like precast building
panels, pavers, and roof tiles, are especially suited to
manufacture with photocatalytic cement. For
instance, city streets made with special pavers are
capable of reducing the pollution at its source
where it comes out of the tailpipe.

Photocatalytic Pavements Reduce Air Pollution

The need for pavements
is ubiquitous. As our
population increases,
more roads are needed
to get people and goods
from place to place.
Unfortunately, with this
added traffic comes a
higher concentration of
air pollution. To reduce our current and future levels
of air pollution, more attention is being given to the
use of photocatalytic concrete in pavements.

The internal combustion engine is used everywhere
in the United States, from cars to trains to jets.
These engines produce the power required to travel,
but also emit pollution. The primary pollution from
fossil fuel combustion is carbon dioxide (CO
), but
other gasses are formed, such as NOx and SOx, that
can lead to acid rain, smog, and respiratory
issues.According to the EPA, 34% of the national
NOx emissions come from vehicles on roads.

Photocatalytic concrete contains titanium dioxide
particles that act as the catalyst for the natural
breakdown of NOx into nitrates in sunlight. This
occurs at the surface of the concrete, where the
nitrates can be easily washed away. Without the
catalyst, the NOx will breakdown in the atmosphere,
creating photochemical smog and ground level
ozone. With an abundant surface area and proximity
to a major source of air pollution, the use of
photocatalytic concrete for pavements is a logical

A study conducted in the Netherlands used
photocatalytic concrete pavers on a section of a busy
roadway and monitored the air quality 0.5 m (19.5
in.) to 1.5 m (58.5 in.) above the pavement in both
a control area with normal pavers and the test
section. It was found that the NOx levels were
reduced by 25 to 45 percent.
The Missouri Department of Transportation, with
consultation from the CP Tech Center and the FHWA,
is currently preparing for a trial section of
photocatalytic pavement in the St. Louis area. The
St. Louis area is designated a non-attainment area
with regards to particulate matter with a moderate
concern for ground-level ozone, both being primary
components of photochemical smog. The use of
photocatalytic pavements or pavement-related
structures is being discussed to bring the region
down to attainment levels. The photocatalytic
cement is being evaluated in comparison to typical
local Type I cement for strength, permeability, deicer
scaling resistance, air void system, and compatibility
with admixtures and curing compounds. So far, the
differences between the control mixture and
photocatalytic mixture have been statistically

Ultimately, the photocatalytic concrete will be tested
on a roadway. The current concept for the design is
a two-lift pavement, with the photocatalytic portion
being a 2-inch bonded overlay on-top of an 8-inch
non-photocatalytic concrete base. The air quality
and, possibly, the run-off water quality will be
monitored. The ultimate goal is to assess the
effectiveness of photocatalytic concrete for use in
pavements, barrier walls, sound walls, or other
pavement-related structures.

Click here to buy our recently updated bibliography
of photocatalytic concretearticles, reports,
conference papers, and patents, identified through
searches of online scientific databases as well as the
Librarys collection.

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Identifying Material Incompatibilities
Concrete Technology Home > Concrete Design and
Production > Identifying Material Incompatibilities
Incompatibility Too Many Good Things?
The wide variety of materials options and mix
proportions possible in concrete allows it to be
customized for a wide range of applications and
placement and service environments. However, the
cementitious materials (cements, fly ashes, slag
cements, etc.) and chemical admixtures
(accelerators, retarders, water reducers, etc.) are all
chemically complex and this complexity can lead to
problems when they dont work together properly.
Even when all materials meet and exceed their

specification requirements individually, problems can
arise under field conditions. These problems might
manifest themselves as:
Early stiffening or excessive retardation (which
can lead to workability, placeability,
consolidation, and finishing issues)
Early-age cracking (including plastic shrinkage
and possibly the ability to attribute the cause of
cracking to chemical, physical, and
environmental phenomena)
Air-void system issues (including non-
uniformity, low air contents, coalescence of air
voids around aggregate, and excessively large
Although these problems are relatively rare, the
resulting construction delays, performance issues,
and loss of confidence in concrete as the preferred
construction material are unacceptable. FHWA and
PCA co-sponsored research into these phenomena,
with the goal of minimizing or preventing these
problems in the field. The project developed relatively
simple protocols for evaluating concrete material
combinations both pre-construction and during


The pre-construction protocol is suited for testing of
new mix designs and evaluating new materials
sources. Tests should be performed over the range of
temperatures expected in the field and cover the
range of mix proportions expected to be used.
Figure 1, from the FHWA TechBrief (see complete
reference below), summarizes the pre-construction
protocol. The protocol begins with a review of
material characteristics that have been implicated in
incompatibility issues, for example, cementitious
materials fineness and alkali contents. A review of
historical properties of the materials being used is
valuable as changes in some characteristics can raise
a flag that might cause the concrete producer to be
wary. Additional testing is suggested to bracket
potential problems, for example, some incompatibility
issues only appear with certain materials during hot
weather. Potential solutions are also recommended in
the pre-construction protocol, and testing can
confirm which of these solutions will be effective. This
allows the problems to be avoided or permits
changes to be quickly implemented if problems arise
during construction.

Figure 1. Summary of pre-construction protocol.
Source: FHWA TechBrief

During Construction

A separate testing protocol has also been developed
for use during construction and it is best suited to
identifying issues that arise during construction. The
goal of these tests is to assure that materials used
are similar to those used in pre-construction testing.
Figure 2 suggests routine tests during construction
that can be used to monitor performance, and quickly
detect potential problems as they arise, allowing a
more rapid response, particularly if various solutions
have been evaluated with pre-construction testing.

Figure 2. Summary of protocol for use during
construction. Source: FHWA Tech Brief
It is important to note that the protocol offers
flexibility because not all of these tests are routinely
available. Some are relatively more time consuming
or costly to run. The decision about which suite of
tests to use will be based on engineering judgment
based on the costs/benefits and project-specific risks.
A high-profile bridge project will obviously require
more tests than a neighborhood sidewalk.

Related resources:
TechBrief: Protocol to Identify Incompatible
Combinations of Concrete Materials, FHWA-
HRT-06-082, Federal Highway Administration,
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center,
Maclean, Virginia, USA, July 2006, 4 pages.
Taylor, P.C.; Johansen, V.C.; Graf, L.A.;
Kozikowski, R.L.; Zemajtis, J.Z.; and Ferraris,
C.F., Identifying Incompatible Combinations of
Concrete Materials: Volume IFinal Report,
FHWA HRT-06-079, Federal Highway
Administration, Turner-Fairbank Highway
Research Center, Maclean, Virginia, USA,
August 2006, 162 pages.
Taylor, P.C.; Johansen, V.C.; Graf, L.A.;
Kozikowski, R.L.; Zemajtis, J.Z.; and Ferraris,
C.F., Identifying Incompatible Combinations of
Concrete Materials: Volume IITest
Protocol, FHWA HRT-06-080, Federal Highway
Administration, Turner-Fairbank Highway
Research Center, Maclean, Virginia, USA,
August 2006, 86 pages.
Taylor, P.C.; Johansen, V.C.; Graf, L.A.;
Kozikowski, R.L.; Zemajtis, J.Z.; and Ferraris,
C.F., Identifying Incompatible Combinations of
Concrete Materials: Volume III
Additional Appendices, R&D SN2897c, Portland
Cement Association, Skokie, Illinois, USA, 2008,
89 pages.

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