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DETERIORATION OF EXISTING

CONCRETE STRUCTURES
5.1

CHAPTER 5

INTRODUCTION

The image of concrete as a maintenance free and durable material has been
tarnished during the last two decades due to rapid rise in the deterioration of
concrete structures worldwide. This phenomenon has assumed serious magnitude
today both in terms of volume of damage and the repair costs involved.
According to one estimate, in view of rapid deterioration of the building stock
constructed during last two or three decades, over 17000 structures are expected
to be in the need of extensive repairs (or rehabilitation in several cases) in the
next 5 to 10 years in the city of Bombay alone. The situations in other major cities
of the country will not be much different from that of Bombay. Thus, it is clear that
the problem of deterioration of concrete structures in India is bound to assume serious
proportions in the years to come.
The service life of concrete structures is reduced drastically because of the
deterioration of concrete. Deterioration of concrete takes place due to many reasons
such as poor quality materials, degradation due to environmental effects, design and
constructional errors or an adverse combination of these factors. The performance of
concrete structures depends upon the quality of construction and the environment
among other factors. Poor quality of materials and construction may induce rapid
deterioration of the structure manifest in the form of cracks, spalling of concrete
and

the

consequent rusting of reinforcement. Identification of the extent of

deterioration will help plan suitable measures to reduce maintenance costs and extend
the service life of structures.
5.2

CAUSES OF DETERIORATION

Deterioration of concrete structures is frequently caused by a combination of various


adverse factors. It can result from physical damage, chemical

attack, structural

movement and from material degradation on exposure to severe environment


conditions. The chemical causes of concrete deterioration includes carbonation,
sulphate

attack and steel

corrosion. Other factors contributing to concrete

degradation include high structural stress, thermal stresses, shrinkage, poor quality of

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materials and workman ship and poor maintenance. Deterioration of concrete due to
any of the aforesaid factors affects the overall strength, serviceability of concrete
structures throughout their design life. Various signs of distress such as cracks,
carbonation and corrosion of steel reinforcement are observed during investigations.
The probable causes for the signs of distress and remedial measures are discussed
briefly.
5.2.1

Cracks in Buildings

Cracks in concrete structures may indicate significant structural distress depending


upon their width, location and extent or may only effect

their appearance.

Cracking may result in the penetration of moisture into the structure besides being
unsightly. Cracking of concrete have many causes, some of which can be listed as
indicated below.
1. Drying shrinkage
2. Thermal stresses
3. Chemical action
4. Weathering
5. Poor construction practices
6. Errors in design and detailing.
An evaluation should be made to determine the location and extent of
cracking, the causes of cracking, and the need for repair. Location and extent of
cracking can be determined by visual inspection, non-destructive testing and tests of
cores taken from the structure. Ultrasonic tests can be conducted to estimate the
presence of internal cracks and voids and depth of penetration of the cracks visible at
the surface. Crack widths can be measured with an accuracy of about 0.025 mm using
a crack comparator, which is a small hand held microscope.
5.2.2

Corrosion of Steel Reinforcement

Corrosion of steel bars leading to concrete cracking and spalling is the most recurrent
and damaging cause of concrete deterioration. Concrete usually provides protection
against rusting of adequately embedded steel because of highly alkaline environment

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of the Portland cement paste. The adequacy of that protection is dependent upon the
amount of concrete cover, the quality of concrete, the details of construction and
the degree of exposure to chlorides. Under the deleterious effects of the environment,
concrete undergoes changes in its structure and composition with time and loses its
capacity to protect the embedded steel.
Deterioration of concrete due to corrosion results because the products of
corrosion (rust) occupy a greater volume than the steel and exert substantial stresses
on the surrounding concrete. The outward manifestations of the rusting include
staining, cracking, and spalling of concrete. Concurrently the cross section of steel is
reduced. With time structural distress may occur either by loss of bond between the
steel and concrete due to cracking and spalling or as a result of the reduced steel
cross sectional area. Corrosion of steel embedded in concrete is an electro chemical
process that requires the presence of water, water soluble salts and oxygen. The
absence of any of these factors would prevent corrosion completely (1).
5.2.3

Carbonation of Concrete

The hydrated concrete has a tendency of combining with carbon dioxide present in
the atmosphere and forming carbonates , which partly neutralizes the alkaline
nature of the concrete. This process is known as carbonation (49). Carbonation
reduces the concrete quality, results in additional shrinkage in the carbonated region,
and reduces the concrete`s ability to protect reinforcement from corrosion (49).
Carbonation typically develops in poor to medium quality concrete exposed to normal
conditions after several months to several years depending on conditions.
Carbonation of concrete which leads to corrosion of steel reduces the useful life of the
structures besides causing maintenance problems.
The various factors affecting carbonation are concrete quality, environment,
age, water-cement ratio, curing, permeability of concrete, and homogeneity of
concrete and detailing of reinforcement. The depth of carbonation can be easily
identified by means of chemical indicators like phenolphthalein or thymol blue
which change color in an alkaline medium. They can be sprayed on a freshly
fractured concrete surface and the thickness that indicates carbonated concrete is
noted. Alternatively a hole of about 10 mm diameter can be drilled and the indicator

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sprayed. Protection of reinforcement from carbonation initiated corrosion can be


achieved by selecting the concrete cover and mix design so that carbonation will not
reach the bar surface with in the expected life of the structure.
5.3

SITE INVESTIGATIONS

Investigations were carried out on some common concrete structures of various ages
to study the extent and causes of deterioration. The site work involved the following
steps.
Identification of structures
Cracks and crack patterns
Carbonation tests
5.3.1

Identification of Structures

For the purpose of investigations 12 structures of different ages in service and are
having signs of distress are selected. These include five multistory blocks which are
serving as educational institutions for the last 3 to 30 years and others are one or two
storey residential buildings of age 1 to 30 years. The extent of deterioration in these
structures varied widely. All these structures are located in a non- aggressive
atmosphere.
5.3.2

Cracks and Crack Patterns

The location and the pattern of cracking were mapped in all the structures
investigated. The length of the cracks was measured using a simple steel tape. The
crack widths were measured using a hand held microscope with a scale on the lens
closest to the surface being viewed with a least count of 0.01 mm Crack were
measured at 10 to 15 locations on each crack and the value is averaged. The depth
of the crack was estimated only by visual inspection.
In most of cases it was observed that the cracks were propagating along the
diagonal of openings and near the centre of the opening. Crack widths in these
locations ranged from 1 to 1.5mm. Generally reentrant corners provide location for
the concentration of stress and the observed cracks can be attributed to the stress

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concentration around the openings. Cracks were observed in most of the structures at
beam and column joints. In these cases crack widths ranged from 2.0 to 3 mm. These
cracks were due to non-homogeneity of the materials at the joint and their difference
in coefficient of thermal expansion.
Cracks were also observed in some of the beams on their vertical faces with
width ranging from 0.1 to 0.3 mm. There are may be due to improper detailing of
reinforcement. In the vicinity of beam and column connection, cracks in walls with a
width ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 mm. were observed. This may be due to partial transfer
of load from concrete on to the wall.
5.3.3

Carbonation Tests

Carbon dioxide in the air reacts with chemicals in concrete to create calcium
carbonates which partially neutralizes the alkaline nature of concrete. This may result
in decrease in the pH of the cement paste leading to corrosion of reinforcement, if the
depth of carbonation is large.
In order to evaluate the depth of carbonation, holes were drilled into the
concrete with the help of hand held drilling machine of 10 mm diameter to a depth
ranging from 30 to 40 mm. After drilling the hole is cleaned of all

the dust

emanating during drilling with water and left to dry for about 30 minutes. There
after a piece of cotton soaked in phenolphthalein indicator is sprayed over the inside
surface of the hole. Colorless surface indicates that carbonation has taken place
where as violet blue color indicates no carbonation. Depth of carbonation was
measured using a scale. Before applying the indicator care was taken to see that the
dust obtained during drilling is wiped out completely to avoid faulty results. For each
element observations were made at 5 to 6 locations for carbonation depth and the
value is averaged.
Result of tests for carbonation on some of the structures having different ages
and concrete strengths are given in Table 5.1.

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Table 5.1 Depth of Carbonation in Various Structures


S.No.
1
2

Type of
Structure
Single storey
Multistorey

Multistorey

Multistorey

Age in
Years
2

Single storey

25

Single storey

Beams

M15

2.0 - 3.0

Slabs

M15

2.0 - 4.0

Columns

M20

2.0

Beams

M15

2.0 - 3.0

Slabs

M15

2.0 - 4.0

Columns

M20

2.0

Beams

M15

4.0 - 8.0

Slabs

M15

6.0 - 10.0

Columns

M20

4.0

Beams

M15

4.0 - 6.0

Columns

M20

4.0 - 5.0

Beams

M15

30.0 - 40.0

Slabs

M15

35.0 - 40.0

Beams

M15

6.0 - 12.0

Slabs

M15

6.0 - 12.0

Columns

M20

4.0 - 6.0

Beams

M15

30.0 - 40.0

Slabs

M15

30.0 -40.0

Columns

M20

30.0 -40.0

10

12

Depth of
Carbonation (mm)
1.0 - 2.0

Single storey

Multistorey

Grade of
Concrete
M15

Structural
Element
Slab

28

30

From the data it was observed that the beams and the slabs were carbonated to
a greater extent than columns. The carbonation depth increased with age of the
structure. For the same structure, the carbonation depth was different for different
elements i.e. it was less in case of columns where M20 grade of concrete was
used and slightly more in beams and slabs where M15 grade of concrete is used.
Even for the same grade of concrete the depth of carbonation observed was different
in beams and slabs; this may be due to difference in compaction while concreting. In
two of the residential buildings the depth of carbonation exceeds 30mm. In both these
structures it was observed that the concrete has spallen and the bars inside were
corroded completely. (Plate 5.1 & 5.2)

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Plate 5.1 Spalling of Concrete and Corrosion of Steel

Plate 5.2 Spalling of Concrete and Corrosion of Steel

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5.4

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Based on the investigations carried out on various structures with respect to cracks in
concrete and carbonation depth of concrete the following conclusions are drawn.
Cracks were formed in the directions of the diagonals of opening in most of the in-fill
walls of the framed structures. Cracks were also discernible in the walls along the
junctions of the wall with beam and columns. These cracks could be prevented by
reducing drying shrinkage strains in the walls.
Cracks were also observed in many of the structures at beam and column
joints below the beams. Vertical cracks were also observed on the faces of beams.
These cracks could be prevented by proper detailing of reinforcement at the beam
column junction and compaction of concrete. It is desirable to provide nominal skin
reinforcement in beams when depth exceeds 500 mm.
The depth of carbonation of concrete is increased with the age of the structure.
Also it decreased with increase in grade of concrete and degree of compaction.
Carbonation initiated corrosion can be prevented by providing sufficient cover
to reinforcement and ensuring good quality control of construction.

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