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CE’s Circular No.225 Dated 05.11.2001

Sub: Durability of Plain and Reinforced Cement Concrete Structures.

INTRODUCTION:- In the recent times, durability of concrete structures is

causing serious concern in the Railway. Eventhough we have complete detailed
specifications and other informations and instruction etc. readily available in our
G.C.C and S.O.R. etc., it is unfortunate that concreting is not receiving the
attention it deserves. Over the years the quality control has deteriorated arising
out of use of poor quality ingradients, uncontrolled use of water both in terms of
quality and quantity, poor quality shuttering, poor or no compaction and
inadequate curing. There is also a deterioration in the level of standard skill
among the Artisans as well as among those, who supervise and accept the
works. While the older structures provide adequate service, the recent
constructions are showing signs of distress in a couple of years of their
completion. It is high time that deep attention is paid to the basic issues more

It is to be kept in mind that structural concrete does not have an infinite life.
The quality of concrete in terms of its composition and not merely the 28 days
strength will determine its life. More than that, regular maintenance of concrete
is a real need and this means regular inspection and occasional repairs also.

The concrete is considered acceptable provided the cube tests shows the
strength within the acceptance criteria. Strength is the only parameter on which
the quality of concrete is being judged. Recent experiences have shown that
while strength is a necessary attribute, durability of concrete should draw equal

Durability of concrete cannot be achieved by tinkering few
attributes of production of concrete. A holistic approach is required to
produce the durable structures. It involves -

(a) Proper selection of site.

(b) Competent structural design and reinforcement detailing.

(c) Improvements in concrete technology in terms of selection of

proper materials, their composition as well as the process of
production of concrete.

(d) System of construction.

(e) Protection of surface by proper drainage cover and water proofing.

(f) Periodic in-service inspection, maintenance and repairs.

One of the main characteristics influencing the durability of concrete is its

permeability. With strong dense aggregate, a suitably low permeability is
achieved by having an adequate cement content, low water/cement ratio,
ensuring complete compaction of the concrete followed by proper curing

For achieving the above objectives, proper designing of the concrete

mix is a pre-requisite. However, introducing the design mix straight way without
building up adequate infrastructure will do more harm than good, specially for
small and scattered works and which are being handled by smaller contractor.

In case of large works, consisting of large volume of concreting,in addition to

the introduction of design mix, the following shall also be insisted upon.

i) The well experienced contractor should be selected.
ii) Use of weigh batcher with provision of automatic water dozer be
made compulsory.
iii) Only steel shuttering shall be permitted.
And for bigger works/project:-

a) Only an approved system of shuttering shall be used.

b) Contractors should employ a qualified Civil Engg. Diploma / Degree

holder as site incharge.

For small works, whenever Ready Mixed Concrete is available in the local market,
the same shall be insisted upon.


Corrosion of reinforcement plays a major part in the durability of concrete
structures and, therefore, it deserves due consideration.
Damage of concrete due to corrosion is one of the most important reasons for
the lack of durability of concrete structures. The statistics given in the Fig. 1
shows that more than 40% of the failure of structure is due to rusting of steel


For corrosion to occur, it is necessary that the passive film ( which gets created
around the steel while the concrete is setting and gaining strength) is destroyed
and there exists a differential electrochemical potential within the steel-concrete
system. Fig 3 shows the corrosion permeability interaction model. It is clearly
seen that the permeability of concrete contributes to the corrosion and corrosion
induces cracking of concrete and cracking further promotes permeability and this
cycle continues till concrete is completely destroyed.

It is a common site around us that we see cracking almost everywhere due to
rusting of steel. Fig.2 shows that depending on oxidation state, the iron can
increase more than six times in volume due to rusting. Fig.4 shows the typical
cracking spalling and delamination of concrete cover which expose the
reinforcement fully. Further corrosion of exposed steel reduces the cross section
of steel and finally steel vanishes from the concrete.


The tendency of steel reinforcement to corrode or not to corrode in an

environment like concrete may be expressed in terms of the electrical potential
of steel with respect to the environment.


mortars and concrete are highly alkaline and the potential of steel in alkaline
solution is positive, the steel being maintained in a passive condition and steel is
not allowed to corrode.


chemical potential of steel in a solution containing sodium chloride or sodium
sulphate is negative and the steel corrodes freely in these solutions.
Introduction of these salts in the alkaline solution breaks down the passivity of
steel obtained in alkaline medium and the positive potential becomes negative.

2.5 Chlorides in concrete

Whenever there is chloride in concrete there is an increased risk of corrosion of

embedded metal. The higher the chloride content, or if subsequently exposed to
warm moist conditions, the greater the risk of corrosion. All constituents of the
concrete may contain chlorides and in addition, concrete may be contaminated
by chlorides from the external environment. To minimize the chances of
deterioration of concrete from harmful chemical salts, the levels of such harmful
salts in concrete coming from concrete materials, that is, cement, aggregates
water and admixtures, as well as by diffusion from the environment should be
limited. The total amount of chloride content (as Cl) in the concrete at the time
of placing shall be as given in the table .

The total acid soluble chloride content should be calculated from the mix
proportions and the measured chloride contents of each of the constituents.
Whenever possible, the total chloride content of the concrete should be
Limits of Chloride Content of Concrete
Sl Type or Use of Concrete Maximum Total
No. Acid Soluble
Chloride Content
Expressed as kg/m3 of
i) Concrete containing metal and steam cured at elevated 0.4
temperature and pre-stressed concrete.
ii) Reinforced concrete or plain concrete containing 0.6
embedded metal.
iii) Concrete not containing embedded metal or any material 3.0
requiring protection from chloride.

2.6 Sulphates in concrete

Sulphates are present in most cements and in some aggregates; excessive

amounts of water-soluble suplhate from these or other mix constituents can
cause expansion and disruption of concrete. To prevent this, the total water-
soluble suplhate content of the concrete mix, expressed as SO3, should not
exceed 4 percent by mass of the cement in the mix. The sulphate content
should be calculated as the total from the various constituents of the mix.


Reinforcement corrosion in reinforced brick and reinforced cement- concrete

construction takes place, (a) when corrosive salts, for example chlorides and

sulphates, increase beyond a critical limit and (b) sufficient alkalinity is not
obtained within the concrete to maintain steel in a passive condition.

Corrosion of reinforcement results in the formation of rust which occupies a

much larger volume than the steel from which it is formed. This corrosion
product exerts large internal pressure resulting in cracks and spalling in concrete.
The formation of cracks in concrete further leads to quicker rate of corrosion,
due to ingress of moisture and air resulting in failure of structures in due course.

The following factors are also responsible for corrosion of steel reinforcement in
reinforced brickwork and reinforced cement concrete work:

3.1 QUALITY OF CONCRETE - concrete consists of coarse aggregate, fine

aggregate cement and water. The right quality of materials with proper
water/cement ratio, correct mixing, adequate compaction by tamping or vibration
and proper curing, results in good quality concrete. Dense concrete rich in
cement content is impervious to a large degree and generally resists the
corrosion of embodied steel.


reinforcement is protected by the concrete cover over it. The greater the cover
thickness, more is the degree of protection against the various climatic and other
environmental conditions such as pollutions. For various structural members, the
cover thickness should be different depending upon their importance and degree
of exposure.
Evenness of the cover over the reinforcement is also very important for its
corrosion protection.

Concrete cover plays an important role in delaying and reducing the cracking
behaviour of concrete. The importance of depth of cover and quality of concrete
cover is receiving more and more importance. Cover depth has become an

important factor is structural design to extend the life of structure and to limit
the crack width.

3.2.1 Cover as per the IS-9077 - 1977

Cover Thickness - The thickness of cover on concrete reinforcement should be

as follows:-

a) At each end of reinforcing bar - Not less than 25mm, nor less than twice
the diameter of the bar.
b) For a longitudinal reinforcing bar in a column - Not less than 40mm nor
less than the diameter of such rod or bar. In the case of columns of
minimum dimension of 20 cm or under, the reinforcing bars of which do
not exceed 13mm, a cover of 25mm may be used.

c) For longitudinal reinforcing bars in a beam - Not less than 25mm nor less
than the diameter of the rod or bar.

d) For tensile, compressive, shear or other reinforcement in a slab - Not less

than 13mm nor less than the diameter of such reinforcement.

e) For any other reinforcement - Not less than 13mm nor less than the
diameter of such reinforcement.
Increased cover thickness should be provided when surfaces of concrete
members are exposed to the action of saline atmosphere (KGP, KUR & WAT
Division sulphurous smoke (as in case of diesel locomotive sheds) harmful
chemicals, acids, vapors etc. Structures to watch are the Diesel Loco sheds as
well as ROBs, and FOBs in the diesel traction areas. The increase in cover
thickness may be between 15mm and 40mm beyond the figures given above but
the total cover thickness should not exceed 50mm.

For reinforced concrete members, totally or periodically immersed in sea water or

saline water, the cover should be 50mm.

Concrete cover of more than 50mm is not recommended as it may give rise to
increase crack widths which may further allow direct ingress of deleterious
materials to the reinforcement ( However IS-456-2000 stipulates that in extreme
exposure condition not less than 75 mm cover should be provided ). In case of
reinforced concrete members in areas exposed to the action of harmful
chemicals or sea water, it is desired to use richer mixes of concrete, like grade
M200 or M250.

3.2.2 Cover as per the IS-456-2000

Nominal Cover of Reinforcement to Meet Durability Requirement

Nominal cover is the design depth of concrete cover to all steel reinforcements,
including links. it is the dimension used in design and indicated in the drawings.
It shall be not less than the diameter of the bar.

Minimum values for the nominal cover of normal-weight aggregate concrete

which should be provided to all reinforcement, including links depending on the
condition of exposure shall be as given in Table below.

However for a longitudinal reinforcing bar in a column nominal cover shall in any
case not be less than 40 mm, or less than the diameter of such bar. In the case
of columns of minimum dimension of 200 mm or under, whose reinforcing bars
do not exceed 12 mm, a nominal cover of 25mm may be used.

For footings minimum cover shall be 50 mm.

Nominal Cover to Meet Durability Requirements

Exposure ## Nominal Cover

Mild Not less than 20 mm
Moderate Not less than 30 mm
Severe Not less than 45 mm
Very Severe Not less than 50 mm
Extreme Not less than 75 mm

1. For main reinforcement up to 12 mm diameter bar for mild exposure the nominal
cover may be reduced by 5 mm.

2. Unless specified otherwise, actual concrete cover should not deviate from the
required nominal cover by +10 mm.

3. For exposure condition ‘severe’ and ‘very severe’, reduction of 5 mm may be made,
where concrete grade is M35 and above.

## 4. Exposure Conditions
i) Mild : Concrete surface protected against weather or aggressive conditions
except those situated in coastal area.

ii) Moderate : Concrete surfaces sheltered from severe rain or freezing whilst
wet. Concrete exposed to condensation and rain. Concrete continuously under
water. Concrete in contact with or buried under non-aggressive soil/ground
water. Concrete surfaces sheltered from saturated salt air in coastal area.

iii) Severe : Concrete surfaces exposed to severe rain, alternate wetting and
drying or occasional freezing whilst wet or severe condensation.

iv) Very severe : Concrete surfaces exposed to sea water spray, corrosive
fumes or severe freezing conditions whilst wet. Concrete in contact with or
buried under aggressive sub-soil/ground water.

v) Extreme : Surface of members in tidal zone. Members in direct contact

with liquid/ solid aggressive chemicals.

3.3 CONDITION OF THE REINFORCEMENT - The surface condition of the

steel reinforcement, at the time of its placing in concrete, affects its corrosion
rate. If the reinforcement is contaminated with salt or badly corroded, the
corrosive action on reinforcement after placement in concrete is aggravated and
promoted rapidly.



4.1 QUALITY OF CONCRETE – (i) The grade of cement concrete should be

M150 or higher for reinforced concrete work. The concrete should be
properly compacted by tamping or vibration and adequately cured. The
reinforced concrete may be rendered with cement plaster of 1:2 or 1:3
proportion. The rendering should be done only after the structure is passed
and accepted for quality and finish.

(ii) Calcium Chloride should not be used as far as possible for accelerating the
setting and hardening of cement concrete, as this may accelerate corrosion
of the reinforcement in all mixes of concrete.

(iii) Sea sand should not be normally used in RCC work.

(iv) Provision of adequate and even Cover Thickness to steel reinforcement

should be ensured.

4.2 ROOF DESIGN - Flat roofs should be designed to have adequate slope (1 in
80) so that rain water flows off quickly without stagnating and penetrating into
roof slab through hair or minor cracks or soaking. The top of the roof slab
should be finished even and smooth with a trowel before the concrete begins to
set. The exposed surfaces of RCC work should be rendered smooth with 1:3
cement mortar. Further, the tops of the roofs should be painted with a coat of
bitumen or provided with other water-proofing material as given in CE’s Circular
No_193 . Pitched R.C.C. roof may be more preferable than flat R.C.C. roof.
Especially in high rainfall areas.


Existing RCC structures may be protected from reinforcement corrosion in

aggressive atmospheres by applying protective surface coatings to the exposed
surfaces of concrete.

4.3.1 Cement-sand-asphalt/coal tar pitch mixture coating - The dry

concrete surface should be roughened by chiselling. A mixture of dry cement,
molten asphalt or coal tar pitch and dry sand in the ratio 1 : 1 : 3 by weight,

should be applied on the dry concrete surface by trowelling to a thickness of
6mm and the surface should be finished by flaming.

4.3.2 Cement-sand-mortar with neat cement finish - Dry concrete surface

should be roughened by chiselling and a workable mixture of 1 : 3 cement sand
mortar should be applied on the concrete surface, after watering the surface
properly, by trowelling to a thickness of 6mm. The surface should be finished
with a neat cement slurrys consisting of water and cement in the ratio 2 : 1.

4.3.3 Use of Waterproofing compound:- Dry concrete surface should be

provided with a layer of cement sand mortar with good quality water proofing
compound to be applied as per the manufacturer’s recommended procedure.

4.3.4 Epoxy coating or epoxy mortar rendering may also be applied to

existing structures for better performance.


The shape or design details of exposed structures should be such as to promote
good drainage of water and to avoid standing pool and rundown of water. Care
should also be taken to minimize any cracks that may collect or transmit water.
Adequate curing is essential to avoid the harmful effects of early loss of moisture
Member profiles and their intersections with other members shall be designed
and detailed in a way to ensure easy flow of concrete and proper compaction
during concreting.

Concrete is more vulnerable to deterioration due to chemical or climatic attack

when it is in thin sections, in sections under hydrostatic pressure from one side
only, in partially immersed sections and at corners and edges of elements. The
life of the structure can be lengthened by providing extra cover to steel, by
chamfering the corners or by using circular cross-sections or by using surface

coatings which prevent or reduce the ingress of water, carbon dioxide or
aggressive chemicals.


Specialist literatures may be referred to for durability requirements of concrete

surfaces exposed to abrasive action, for example, in case of machinery and metal
tyres normally encountered in the workshop and Loco shed floors, Goods shed
platforms and sometimes on the passenger platforms.



The free water-cement ratio is an important factor in governing the durability of

concrete and should always be the lowest value. Appropriate values for
minimum cement content and the maximum free water-cement ratio are given in
the Table in para 5.3 for different exposure conditions. The minimum cement
content and maximum water-cement ratio apply to 20 mm nominal maximum
size aggregate.


“More cement does not make more durable concrete but less cement do make
weak concrete so use right cement content”. Cement content not including fly
ash and ground granulated blast furnace slag is excess of 450 kg/m3 should not
be used unless special consideration has been given in design to the increased
risk of cracking due to drying shrinkage in thin sections, or to early thermal
cracking and to the increased risk of damage due to alkali silica reactions.


For concrete to be durable, careful selection of the mix and materials is

necessary, so that deleterious constituents do not exceed the limits.

Minimum Cement Content, Maximum Water-Cement Ratio and

Minimum Grade of Concrete for Different Exposures with Normal
Weight Aggregates of 20 mm Nominal Maximum Size.
Sl Exposure Plain Concrete Reinforced Concrete
No. ______________________ _______________________
| | | | | |
Maximum Maximum Minimum Minimum Maximum Minimum
Cement Free Water- Grade of Cement Free Water- Grade of
Content Cement Ratio Concrete Content Cement Ratio Concrete
Kg/m3 Kg/m3
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)

i) Mild 220 0.60 -- 300 0.55 M 20

ii) Moderate 240 0.60 M 15 300 0.50 M 25
iii) Severe 250 0.50 M 20 320 0.45 M 30
iv) Very Severe 260 0.45 M 20 340 0.45 M 35
v) Extreme 280 0.40 M 25 360 0.40 M 40

1. Cement content prescribed in this table is irrespective of the grades of cement. The additions
such as fly ash or ground granulated blast furnace slag may be taken into account in the concrete
composition with respect to the cement content and water-cement ratio if the suitability is
established and as along as the maximum amounts taken into account do not exceed the limit of
pozzolona and slag specified in IS 1489 (Part I) and IS 455 respectively.
2. Minimum grade for plain concrete under mild exposure condition is not specified.
3. Adjustment for minimum cement content for aggregate other than 20 mm size:-
10 mm. + 40 Kg / m3.
20 mm. 0
40 mm. – 30 Kg / m3.

( S.P.S.Jain )
Chief Engineer,
South Eastern Railway,Kolkata.

No.G/ Maint/Bldg/Pt.4 Dated: 05.11.2001.

DISTRIBUTION (as per mailing list).

1) Secy. to GM for kind information to GM.

2) All THODs.
3) CVO(Engg.)/S.E.Rly./GRC.
4) CAO(C)/GRC, CAO(C)/BBS, CE/East Coast Railway.
5) All Dy.HODs at HQ.
6) All Sr.DEN/Co’s/S.E.Rly./ADA,BSP,CKP,KGP,KUR,NGP,SBP & WAT ( 10 copies each).
7) Principal/ZTC/SINI.
8) OS/G-II for keeping in file.
9) Director, IRICEN/ PUNE.
10) AM/CE, Rly.Bd., Ministry of Railways.
11) AM//Works, Rly.Bd., Ministry of Railways.
12) CEs/CAOs of all Railways.