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Cold Joint

A cold joint is an undesirable discontinuity between layers of concrete that occurs when one
layer of concrete is allowed to harden before the rest of the concrete is poured in what is
meant to be a single, solid mass. The discontinuity occurs between the layers due to the
inability of the freshly poured, wet concrete to intermix with and bind properly to the
hardened concrete. Such a discontinuity is often the result of logistical issues such as a
contractors work schedule or an unexpected material shortage.
Problems associated with cold joints range from the relatively minor to the very serious. At
the less serious end of the spectrum, a cold joint may result in a visually unappealing
discontinuity that is visible on the surface once the concrete has hardened. This kind of
aesthetic defect may simply be concealed rather than repaired.
A more serious problem associated with a cold joint is the possibility of moisture intrusion
into the concrete section. If water settles in the joint, it may lead to degradation of the
concrete under certain environmental conditions. For example, as water expands when it
freezes and then contracts when it melts, water trapped in a cold joint may cause cracking or
erosion of the material. Moisture may also damage other things beyond the concrete mass if it
is able to seep all the way through it.
Additionally, a cold joint is an area of compromised strength. Concrete is notable for its high
strength under compression, but it is much weaker under tension. A cold joint is even weaker
under tension, and it is susceptible to shearing at the discontinuity.
Generally, cold joints are not a problem structurally if the joint is under static
conditions. Most civil engineers and on site technicians forget the if part. Cold joints
perform poorly when transmitting the vibration energy generated by the machine; thus the
upper part of the foundation, above the cold joint, is essentially the only one dampening the

Whenever possible, these joints should be avoided in concrete construction by completing the
entire pour for a given section in one session. This allows the entire section to harden in a
continuous, solid mass. If this is not possible, several steps can be taken to mitigate the more
serious problems.
1. Specialized waterproofing joint sealant may be applied to the joint to make it
watertight, thereby protecting against potentially damaging moisture intrusion. A
special surface preparation may be applied to the hardened layer before applying a
fresh layer of concrete. This will strengthen the bond between the two layers
2. Another way to increase the strength of the cold joint is to insert reinforcing bar, or
rebar, into the first layer before pouring the next layer. This will better help tie them
together and increase the tensile strength of the joint. It is also sometimes possible to
locate the weakened joint in an area that is not critical to supporting a large load.

3. To prevent cold joints in walls, beams and other structural components it is necessary
to place concrete in layers about 18 inches deep and intermix each layer with the
previous one by using a vibrator. Placement of concrete should begin in the corners
and work toward the center. When slabs are placed the concrete should be placed
against the preceding batch and not dumped in an individual pile. On sloping grades
the work should proceed uphill. In hot weather a retarding admixture may be needed
to slow the setting time.