Sie sind auf Seite 1von 94

Good Concrete Guide 8

2016 Edition
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Good Concrete Guide 8

Guidance on the practical aspects of concreting

ISBN 978-1-904482-90-1

CS 164

Good Concrete Guides give concise, “best practice” guidance on materials,

design and construction.

For other publications in the Good Concrete series visit the Concrete Bookshop at:
The Concrete Society

The Concrete Society

Riverside House, 4 Meadows Business Park, Station Approach
Blackwater, Camberley, Surrey, GU17 9AB
Tel: +44 (0)1276 60 7140 Fax: +44 (0)1276 60 7141
Email: Visit:
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

The original text for Concrete Practice was developed by the Cement and Concrete Association. G F Blackledge
and, for the third edition, R A Binns created the publication on which this Good Concrete Guide is based. R N
Crook and R I Day of The Concrete Society updated the text with the assistance of the Society’s Standing
Committees and Society members.

Photographs have been sourced from articles in CONCRETE magazine, Concrete Engineering International,
Concrete Society archives or through industry contacts. Acknowledgements are provided where known.

Concrete Practice - Good Concrete Guide 8

Published by The Concrete Society
CS 164
First Published November 2008, this edition August 2016
ISBN 978-1-904482-90-1
© The Concrete Society

The Concrete Society

Riverside House, 4 Meadows Business Park, Station Approach, Blackwater, Camberley, Surrey GU17 9AB
Tel: +44 (0)1276 607140 Fax: +44 (0)1276 607141

Other publications in this series are available from the Concrete Bookshop at
Tel: +44 (0)7004 607777
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system,
published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior
permission of the copyright owner. Enquiries should be addressed to The Concrete Society.

Although The Concrete Society does its best to ensure that any advice, recommendations or information it may give either in this publication
or elsewhere is accurate, no liability or responsibility of any kind (including liability for negligence) howsoever and from whatsoever cause
arising, is accepted in this respect by the Group, its servants or agents.

Readers should note that publications are subject to revision from time to time and should therefore ensure that they are in possession of the
latest version.

Printed by Hobbs The Printers, Hampshire, UK.

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

2016 Edition

Good Concrete Guide 8

Guidance on the practical aspects of concreting

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Good Concrete Guide 8

Guidance on the practical aspects of concreting

Foreword.................................................................................iv 05 Admixtures..................................................................... 17
Normal water-reducing admixtures.....................................................17
01 Introduction..................................................................... 1
History....................................................................................................................... 1 High-range water-reducing admixtures.....................................................17

Uses of concrete................................................................................................. 1 Air-entraining admixtures..........................................................................18

The future............................................................................................................... 1 Water-resisting admixtures........................................................................19

Retarding water-reducing admixtures...............................................20
02 Cement............................................................................... 3
Accelerating admixtures.............................................................................20
Portland cement CEM I.................................................................................. 3
Other admixtures.............................................................................................21
Sulfate-resisting cements............................................................................. 4
Storage and dispensing...............................................................................21
White Portland cement.................................................................................. 4
Trial mix design.................................................................................................21
Composite and combination cements................................................ 5
Notation of cements and combinations............................................. 8 06 Concrete properties.................................................... 22
Delivery and storage of cement............................................................... 8 Fresh concrete...................................................................................................22
Sampling and testing of cement............................................................. 9 Hardening concrete.......................................................................................22
Hardened concrete.........................................................................................26
03 Aggregates..................................................................... 10
Sizes of aggregate...........................................................................................10 07 Concrete specification................................................ 31
Quality requirements.....................................................................................10 Designated concretes...................................................................................31
Grading of aggregates..................................................................................11 Designed concretes.......................................................................................31
Marine-dredged aggregates....................................................................12 Prescribed concretes.....................................................................................32
Recycled aggregates (RCA & RA)............................................................13 Standardised prescribed concretes......................................................32
Lightweight aggregates..............................................................................13 Proprietary concretes....................................................................................33
Delivery of aggregates.................................................................................13 Strength, conformity and identity testing........................................33
Storage of aggregates..................................................................................13 Effect of concrete constituents...............................................................37

04 Water................................................................................. 15 08 Ready-mixed concrete................................................ 38

Quality.....................................................................................................................15 Batching plants.................................................................................................38
Reclaimed and recycled water................................................................15 Exchange of information.............................................................................38
Measuring the quantity of water...........................................................15 Provision of access..........................................................................................39

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Delivery..................................................................................................................39 16 Formwork........................................................................ 60
Discharge..............................................................................................................40 Types of formwork..........................................................................................60
Design of formwork........................................................................................61
09 Site batching and mixing.......................................... 41
Surface treatment............................................................................................61
Storage of materials.......................................................................................41
Striking of formwork......................................................................................62
Concrete mixers................................................................................................41
Care of formwork.............................................................................................62
Operation of site mixers..............................................................................42 17 Curing............................................................................... 63
Purpose of curing............................................................................................63
10 Transporting concrete................................................ 44
Methods of curing...........................................................................................63
Uniformity of colour.......................................................................................65
Crane and skip...................................................................................................45
White and coloured concrete..................................................................65
Other methods..................................................................................................46 18 Formed surface finishes............................................. 66
Range of finishes..............................................................................................66
11 Placing and compaction............................................ 47
Standard of finish.............................................................................................67
Smooth finishes................................................................................................68
Textured and profiled finishes.................................................................68
12 Construction joints...................................................... 50 Exposed aggregate finishes......................................................................69
Location of construction joints...............................................................50
Tooled concrete finishes.............................................................................69
Preparation of construction joints.........................................................50
Remedial work...................................................................................................69
Concreting at construction joints..........................................................52
19 Unformed surface finishes........................................ 70
13 Concreting in cold weather...................................... 53 Standard of finish.............................................................................................70
Raising the temperature..............................................................................53
Choice of finish..................................................................................................70
Strength development.................................................................................53
Plant and equipment....................................................................................54
Weather records...............................................................................................54 20 Testing concrete and concreting materials......... 73
Sampling materials.........................................................................................73
14 Concreting in hot weather........................................ 55 Testing materials..............................................................................................75
Loss of consistence.........................................................................................55
Testing fresh concrete...................................................................................76
Moisture loss.......................................................................................................55
Testing hardened concrete........................................................................78
15 Reinforcement............................................................... 56 Non-destructive testing...............................................................................81
Bar types and identification......................................................................56
References/further reading............................................ 83
Bar sizes and bending...................................................................................56
British Standards...............................................................................................83
Welded steel fabric.........................................................................................56
Prefabricated reinforcement.....................................................................57
Other sources of information...................................................................86
Handling, storage and cleanness...........................................................57
Cover to reinforcement................................................................................57
Fixing reinforcement......................................................................................58

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Concrete Practice was first published by the Cement & Concrete Association in 1975, though the title had been used on earlier
occasions by the C&CA for unrelated texts. It was a collaborative work by eight authors and three editors from the Association’s
advisory and publishing divisions.

It was intended “for the guidance of those concerned with the construction and day-to-day supervision of concrete work”, referring
the reader, where necessary, to the current Specifications, Regulations and Codes of Practice as well sources of information on more
specialist topics. It accompanied, and in due course replaced, D.E. Shirley’s more slender Introduction to Concrete of the same year. It
soon became a standard textbook and was reprinted in 1976, and then in 1979 and 1984 with an amended cover design. Updating
was kept under review during the early 1980s and work on a re-write made gradual progress.

In 1987, a new edition was issued with a completely new layout and illustrations, and in the name of G.F. Blackledge alone. Many of
the same topics were included, though a greater emphasis was placed on ready-mixed concrete than on site production, and both
‘prestressed concrete’ and ‘accuracy of construction’, regarded as specialist areas of interest, were dropped as headings. Among the
references cited in the new edition greater prominence was given to titles from The Concrete Society.

The C&CA became a constituent of the newly-formed British Cement Association shortly after publication and so reprints in 1990
and 1992 reflected this new identity, as did updating insert sheets issued in January and March 1993.

An indication of the document’s international standing is given by its publication in Malay translation by Mohammad bin Ismail for
the Malaysian Technical University of Johor in 1992: Amalan Kerja Konkrit, by G.F. Blackledge.

For many years Concrete Practice, along with Designed and Detailed and Introduction to Prestressed Concrete, was supplied in bulk to
universities in Britain and Ireland for distribution to students of civil and structural engineering. For several generations of students,
Concrete Practice was their introduction to the subject.

To reflect the ever-changing conditions of the concrete industry, particularly as directed by new Codes and Standards – BS EN 197,
BS EN 206, BS 8500, for example – Concrete Practice was extensively revised again for publication in the Spring of 2002.

The work of updating Blackledge’s text was carried out by Tony Binns (who had contributed to the second edition), in consultation
with the staff at BCA. The cover design was new and many of the illustrations replaced, but the updated contents followed the
same format as the previous edition. In this form, Concrete Practice continued to be one of the concrete industry’s best selling titles.

With the eventual transfer of the BCA’s backstock of publications, along with its library and bookshop, to The Concrete Society in
2006, the Society undertook the task of updating this classic textbook as part of it’s Good Concrete Guide series. This is the 2016
second revision.

Edwin A.R. Trout

The Concrete Society

Chapter 1: Introduction

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Concrete is a construction material composed of crushed rock
or gravel and fine aggregate, bound together with a hardened The future
paste of cement and water. A range of different cements and
aggregates, chemical admixtures and additions can be used The way forward for concrete construction will be largely
to make an array of concretes that have the required properties in influenced by the need to conserve the earth’s resources,
both the fresh and hardened states for a wide range of applications. whether they are materials, land or energy. Concrete has
a major role to play in sustainable construction, as it can
be recycled after use, requires relatively little energy in its

History manufacture and provides thermal mass in buildings, thus

reducing the need for air conditioning.

Concrete was known to the Romans, Egyptians and to even earlier Skilled site labour is another resource that is likely to become
Neolithic civilisations. After the collapse of the Roman Empire its scarce in the future. Innovative construction techniques can
secrets were almost lost, to be rediscovered in more recent times. help overcome this. Self-compacting concrete is easier to
Its modern development spans less than 200 years – 1824 is the place and unmanned equipment could be used to finish
date on the patent for the manufacture of the first Portland cement, concrete floors.
one of the important milestones in the history of concrete.
Transferring the construction process to a controlled operation
Since the middle of the 19th century, open sea has been spanned, in a factory is another way of handling a skills shortage.
huge buildings erected, mighty rivers dammed and extensive For example, whole
networks of roads constructed. In these, and a thousand other bathroom pods can be
ways, the face of the world has been changed as a result of the assembled off-site, even
development of concrete. Concrete has also been instrumental including the installation
in improving the health of the world’s inhabitants through its of the plumbing, and
use for sewage disposal and treatment and for dams and pipes then slotted into place at
providing clean water for drinking and washing. the site.

Accompanying all these

Uses of concrete advances will be the

development of concrete
as a material. Continued
Concrete plays a major role, often unseen, in every aspect of our improvements in
daily lives. Its strength and durability are exploited to the full by constituent development
North Sea oil platforms and sea defences, while its thermal and and concrete production,
acoustic insulation properties help make houses and flats more alternative reinforcing
comfortable places in which to live. materials and the use of
computer-aided design
Concrete bases to motorways and runways provide a solid will all have parts to play.
transport infrastructure and the material’s ability to span large
rivers makes a useful and often striking addition to our landscapes. These developments
Dams, ring mains and water towers make use of concrete’s ability will be complemented
to contain water, and its resistance to chemicals make it an ideal by the adoption of
choice for sewage works, slurry pits and even wine vats. construction techniques
that will eliminate
Not surprisingly, artists make full use of concrete, as its potential waste and reduce time Figure 1.1: Nature’s colours – one of the
to take any shape, colour or texture is limited only by their taken on site, thereby many sculptures by artist Carol Vincent
imaginations. shortening the period who works in coloured concrete.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

before a building or structure can be brought into use and

begin to earn its keep.

The success of all these endeavours, both now and in the

future, will greatly depend on sound concrete practice on site.
This publication combines many years of practical experience
gained on site with information about the latest techniques
and developments in standards. It is aimed both at those starting
out on a career in construction as well as those who may wish to
refresh their knowledge on a particular aspect of site practice.

Chapter 2: Cement

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Cement is the most important material in concrete as it is this example CEM I 42,5N where 42,5 denotes the standard strength,
that binds the aggregates together to provide strength and in N/mm2, at 28 days and N indicates a normal early strength.
It is important to recognise that cement strength classes do not
Several types of Portland cement, previously known as Ordinary limit the strength of concrete that may be produced using
Portland Cement (OPC), have been developed over the years. As these cements: they simply represent a cement classification
well as Portland cement there are cements for rapid hardening, and quality conformity system based on prisms of mortar tested
cements for sulfate resistance and white cement for architectural in a laboratory.
finishes and what are termed composite and combination cements.
The standard strength classes for most manufactured
The European and British Standard for cement (EN 197-1) lists composite cements are 32,5, 42,5 and 52,5. These can take
numerous common types of cements, all of which contain either N (normal) or R (rapid) identifiers, depending on the
Portland cement clinker. Other than Portland cement (CEM I), early strength characteristics of the product. Certain cement
all these cements contain other main constituents such as fly types have a low early strength class, which is designated by
ash, limestone or ground-granulated blastfurnace slag. These the letter ‘L’. . Standard strength class 22,5 tends to be
cements are called ‘factory made composite cements’ with associated with cements made for special applications.
nomenclature CEM II to CEM V.
All British cement manufacturers declare that their products
However, in accordance with the British Standard for Concrete conform to the appropriate British and European Standard by
(BS 8500) it is common to combine CEM I with either fly ash marking their cement test reports, bags and delivery
or ground granulated blastfurnace slag at the concrete mixer documents with the name, number and date of the relevant
together with the other concrete constituents. In practice, the Standard. Most cements are manufactured and supplied in
‘combination’ cement is technically equivalent to its respective conformity to Standards with declaration and certification
factory-made composite cement with similar nomenclature demonstrated by affixing the CE marking. In addition, they are
CII, CIII and CIV. Note that CEM V is not listed by BS 8500 and also certified to the nationally-recognised third-party product
therefore does not have an equivalent combination, but as it certification scheme – the BSI Kitemark Scheme for Cement.
is in EN 197-1 it may be used as a composite if specified. An
explanation to nomenclature is given on page 8.

For special purposes, cements are also made from materials Portland cement CEM I
other than those used for Portland cements, but the use of these
non-Portland cements are outside the scope of this publication. The traditional cement was generally known as Ordinary
Portland cement (OPC), but is now known in standards as
The setting and hardening of cement results from a chemical Portland cement with the nomenclature CEM I, manufactured
reaction between cement and water, not from a drying to conform to BS EN 197-1.
process. This reaction is called hydration. It produces heat
and is irreversible. Setting is the gradual stiffening whereby Portland cements are made by burning together limestone and
the cement paste changes from being a wet and workable clay, or other chemically similar suitable raw materials, in a
material into a hardened state. Subsequently, the strength of rotary kiln to form ‘Portland cement clinker’ rich in calcium
the hardened mass increases, rapidly at first then becoming silicates. This clinker is ground to a fine powder with a small
progressively slower, and this gain of strength will continue proportion of gypsum (calcium sulfate), which regulates the
for a considerable time provided moisture is present. rate of setting when the cement is mixed with water. All
Portland cements are produced to provide performance and
Cements are classified in terms of both their standard strength, properties that are of value in appropriate applications. They all
derived from their performance at 28 days and at an early age, contain the same active compounds, only the proportion of
normally two days, using a laboratory test based on a standard each is different. Technically all the cements listed in Table 2.1
mortar prism (BS EN 196-1). This is called their strength class; for meet the requirements to BS EN 197-1 for CEM I, but Sulfate-

Chapter 2: Cement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Table 2.1: Main compounds of Portland cements (typical percentage composition).

Compound Rate of hardening CEM I 42,5N SRPC White Portland cement
Tricalcium silicate C3S Rapid 56 64 65
Dicalcium silicate C2S Slow 16 10 22
Tricalcium aluminate C3A Rapid 8 2 5
Tetracalcium aluminoferrite C4AF Extremely slow 9 14 1
1. The abbreviated chemical notation given for the above compounds is based on: C = CaO, S = SiO2, A = Al2O3 and F = Fe2O3
2. Only main compounds are listed; therefore they do not total 100%.

Resisting Portland Cement (SRPC) has the additional requirement controlled temperature and humidity conditions; the stiffening
for the tricalcium aluminate (C3A) not to exceed 3.5% which is and setting of concrete on site are not directly related to these
associated with enhanced resistance to sulfate attack. White standard setting regimes, and are more dependent on its
Portland cement is a CEM I with a low tetracalcium aluminferrite consistence (workability), the cement content, any admixture
content but there is no specified requirement. used, the temperature of the concrete and ambient conditions.

CEM I cements contain the main compounds given in Table 2.1

but can include up to 5% of minor additional constituents such
as limestone fines in order to modify particle size gradings and Sulfate-resisting cements
improve certain properties.
Various types of cement and combinations are classified as
All UK CEM I cement is produced in ‘standard’ (28-day) strength sulfate resisting, ranging from the low C3A CEM I - SR0 and
classes CEM I 42,5 and CEM I 52,5 and their main active CEM I - SR3 to the composite cements of the CEM IIB-V
chemical compounds are proportioned so that they have (Portland-fly ash), CEM IVB-V (Portland Pozzolanic) and CEM III
medium to high strength development and heat evolution. (blastfurnace) types conforming to BS EN 197-1 and the
CEM I in bags is typically a 42,5N cement whereas CEM I for equivalent BS 8500 combinations. The use of traditional SRPC is
bulk supply tends to have a higher strength classification such being superseded by the use of factory-made composite
as 42,5R or 52,5N. cements or their equivalent combinations.

If cement clinker is ground more finely, the greater surface When concrete is exposed to sulfate solutions that are found in
area of the finer cement produces a faster rate of early some soils and groundwaters, a chemical reaction can occur
strength development. This is often used to advantage by between the sulfate and certain hydration products, thereby
precast concrete manufacturers in order to achieve a more causing deterioration of the concrete. There are several forms of
rapid turn round of moulds, or on site where it may be sulfate attack and the recommendations in BS 8500 provide
desirable to reduce the time for which formwork must remain parameters for concretes that are resistant to all forms of sulfate
in position. CEM I cements that have these rapid-hardening attack. However, resistance to sulfate attack depends on the
properties, formerly known as Rapid-Hardening Portland water:cement ratio and impermeability of the concrete as well
Cement (RHPC), are generally produced in the UK within the as on the composition of the cement.
52,5 strength classes. They generate more early heat than
CEM I 42,5 and can often be useful in cold weather. Details of requirements can be found in BS 8500 and BRE Special
Digest 1; further details about durability and sulfate resistance
The term ‘rapid-hardening’ should not be confused with are given on page 27 under Durability of concrete.
‘quick-setting’. The term ‘setting’ is used to denote the change
from a workable to a solid state and the term ’hardening’ is
used to describe the gain of strength of the solid. Concrete
made, for example, with CEM I 52,5N stiffens and initially White Portland cement
hardens at a similar rate to a CEM I 42,5N; it is after the initial
hardening that the strength increases more rapidly. White Portland cement is made from specially selected raw
materials, usually pure chalk and white clay, containing only a
It is worth noting that the setting times specified in cement very small quantity of iron. Manufacturing processes are also
Standards relate to the performance of a cement paste of modified so that discolouring materials are not included during
standard consistence in a particular test under closely firing or grinding.

Chapter 2: Cement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

White Portland cement available in the UK is generally a 52,5 early strength of concrete in thin sections. Provided that the
strength class, which means it has a higher early strength concrete is not allowed to dry out, they can increase the long-
and higher standard 28-day strength than a CEM I 42,5N term strength and decrease permeability of concrete.
but with similar setting properties. It is made to satisfy the
requirements of CEM I to BS EN 197-1, so there is no separate Table 2.2 indicates the differences that can be expected between
Standard. It is usually used for architectural concrete where concrete made with CEM I and concrete incorporating fly ash,
a white or light colour finish is desired, often in conjunction ggbs or limestone fines.
with special aggregates. Extra care must be taken in handling
white cement to avoid contamination and in the batching, When the terms ‘water:cement ratio’ or ‘cement content’ are
mixing and transportation of the concrete to ensure that used in British Standards, these are understood to include
all equipment is kept clean. It is equally important to make combinations. Sometimes the word ‘binder’ is used which is
sure that the finished concrete is protected, because it gets interchangeable with the words ‘cement’ or ‘combination’.
dirty very easily in the early stages of its life and is almost
impossible to clean later. Because composite and combination cements reduce the
proportion of Portland cement clinker with by-products such
as fly ash and ggbs, the environmental impact (embodied

Composite and combination carbon dioxide) is reduced.

These are cements that are either interground or blended Blastfurnace slag cements
with mineral materials at the cement factory or combined
in the concrete mixer with additions. The mineral materials Ground granulated blastfurnace slag (ggbs) is a by-product
and additions most frequently used in the UK in composite of iron smelting. It is made by quenching selected molten
cements and combinations and to which British Standards blastfurnace slag to form granules. Ggbs has only slow
apply are fly ash (BS EN 450-1) ground granulated blastfurnace hydraulic activity of its own but is activated by the lime
slag (ggbs) (BS EN 15167-1) and limestone fines (BS 7979). (calcium hydroxide) and other alkaline solutions produced by
Notation for cements is given on page 8. the hydration of Portland cement: it is referred to as ‘a latent
hydraulic binder’. The granulated slag may be interground or
Other additions include condensed silica fume (BS EN 13263), blended with Portland cement by the cement manufacturer to
extracted during the smelting process of ferrosilicon alloy, and produce various slag or blast-furnace cements conforming to
metakaolin (no BS), produced from China clay (kaolin). These BS EN 197-1:
are intended for specialised uses of concrete beyond the scope
of this publication. ■■ a Portland-slag cement or combination (IIA-S or IIB-S) with a
slag content of 6–35%
The incorporation of fly ash and ggbs with CEM I has been ■■ a blastfurnace cement or combination (IIIA, III/B or IIIC)
particularly useful in larger volume pours where they have which contains from 36–95% slag. In the UK, the IIIA
been used primarily to reduce the temperature rise of the containing 36–65% is most common and IIIC is only
concrete, and thus to reduce temperature differentials and available as a combination.
peak temperatures. The risk of early thermal contraction
cracking is thereby reduced. More commonly, the ggbs is ground separately to an off
white powder, with fineness similar to that of cement, and
One of the options available for minimising the risk of combined in the concrete mixer as a Type II addition, with
damage due to alkali-silica reaction, which can occur with CEM I cement to produce a combination complying with BS
certain aggregates, is to use appropriate percentages of 8500. The Standard for ggbs as an addition is BS EN 15167-1.
additions with Portland cement CEM I (in accordance with
BS 8500) or to use appropriate CEM II or CEM III cements. Blastfurnace cement, either composite CEM III/A or
Similarly, appropriate composite and combination cements combination CIIIA, may be used for all purposes for which
are used for increasing the resistance of concrete to sulfate CEM I is used but, because it has a lower early strength
attack, as an available alternative to SRPC. development, particularly in cold weather, it may not be
suitable where very early removal of formwork is required.
Most additions do not react very quickly at early ages It is a moderately low-heat cement so can be used to
at normal temperature and at reduced temperature the advantage by reducing early heat of hydration in thick
reaction, particularly in the case of high ggbs additions, can sections and large volume pours; it is also sulfate resisting.
be considerably retarded and make little contribution to the When the proportion of ggbs is 66–80% the notation IIIB

Chapter 2: Cement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

applies. It is specified because of its lower heat characteristics ■■ the reactivity of fly ash and its effect on water demand,
or to enhance resistance to sulfate attack. and hence strength, depend on the particular fly ash and
the Portland cement with which it is used. A change in the
Because the reaction between ggbs and lime released by the source of either material may result in a change in the
Portland cement is dependent on the availability of moisture, replacement level required
care is needed in curing concrete containing these cements or ■■ where fly ash concrete is to be air-entrained, the admixture
combinations in order to prevent premature drying out and to dosage rate may have to be increased, or an alternative
permit the development of strength. formulation that produces a more stable air bubble
structure should be used.

Typical proportions are 25–30% fly ash (IIB-V) and these

Fly ash cements cements and combinations may be used in concrete for most
purposes. When the cement or combination contains 25–40%
The ash resulting from the burning of pulverised coal, possibly fly ash it has sulfate resisting properties and is also beneficial in
with a limited amount of co-combustion, in power station reducing the risk of alkali-silica reaction.
furnaces is known as fly ash. This ash is fine enough to be
carried away in the flue gases and is removed from the gases Where higher replacement levels of fly ash (36–55%) are used
by electrostatic precipitators to prevent atmospheric pollution. for improved low-heat characteristics, the resulting product is
Fly ashes from other sources are not covered by British or called a pozzolanic cement or combination (IVB).
European Standards.
Because the pozzolanic reaction between fly ash and free lime
The precipitated material is a fine powder of glassy spheres is dependent on the availability of moisture, extra care has to
that have pozzolanic properties, i.e. when mixed into concrete be taken in curing concrete containing mineral additions in
it can react chemically with the calcium hydroxide (lime) order to prevent premature drying out and to permit the
that is released during the hydration of Portland cement. The development of strength.
products of this reaction are cementitious and fly ash may be
used to replace part of the Portland cement in concrete.

The requirements of fly ash for use as a cementitious Limestone cements (PLC)
component (Type II addition) in concrete are specified in BS
EN 450-1. Coarse fly ash may be used as a filler aggregate Cement that incorporates 6–35% of carefully selected fine lime-
conforming to BS EN 12620 or interground with Portland stone powder is known as Portland-limestone cement conforming
cement clinker to make fly ash cements. to BS EN 197-1. Typically, in the UK where a 42,5 strength class is
manufactured, the proportion of limestone will be 10–20%, with
Fly ash from coal fired power stations conforming to BS EN the notation IIA-L or IIA-LL. The ‘L’ indicates that the total organic
450-1 may be used, in accordance with BS EN 206 and BS 8500, carbon in the limestone is not greater than 0.50% by mass and the
as a ‘Type II addition’ (pozzolanic or latent hydraulic material) ‘LL’ indicates that it is not greater than 0.20% by mass.
in order to improve certain properties or to achieve special
properties. Substitution of fly ash cements for Portland cement The properties of fresh concrete made with PLC are similar to
CEM I is not a straightforward replacement of like for like, and those of a concrete containing a CEM I cement, although the
the following points have to be borne in mind when preparing tendency to bleeding is significantly reduced. At the same
a mix design for a fly ash concrete: water:cement ratio, concrete made using PLC can have a slightly
lower 28-day compressive strength than concrete made using
■■ the density of fly ash is about three-quarters that of CEM I. At the same concrete strength, PLC concrete has similar
Portland cement performance to CEM I concrete in respect of carbonation rate,
■■ at early age, and particularly at low temperatures, it chloride ingress and resistance to freezing and thawing
contributes less strength; to achieve the same 28-day (whether air-entrained or non air-entrained concrete).
compressive strength and the amount of cementitious
material may need to be increased – typically by about 10% Decorative precast and reconstituted stone concretes benefit from
or a water-reducing admixture would be used its lighter colouring and it is also used for general-purpose concrete
■■ the water demand of fly ash for equal consistence may be in non-aggressive and moderately aggressive environments.
less than that of Portland cement

Chapter 2: Cement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Table 2.2: Early-age properties of concrete incorporating fly ash, ggbs or limestone fines – summary of comparisons with Portland cement CEM I.
Property Fly ash Ggbs Limestone fines Comment
Workability/ Increased for same w/c Small differences, slightly Increased for same w/c
consistence ratio. Possible to keep same greater mobility ratio. Possible to keep
consistence but reduce w/c same consistence but
ratio reduce w/c ratio
Setting times Increased Increased at high ggbs content Similar All within BS limits
Formwork pressures Increased by about 10–20kN/ May be increased Similar See Concrete Society Report
m2 CS 030 and CIRIA Report 108
Bleeding Generally reduced Increases at higher ggbs Reduced
(some exceptions) contents
Quality of finish Improved quality with lean Much the same. Lighter final Improved quality with
mixes. Not much difference colour. May give temporary lean mixes. Not much
with rich mixes. Darker colour blue/green colour on striking difference with rich mixes.
Lighter colour
Time interval to Increased Increase if ggbs content is high Similar Increased time until finishing
finishing and concrete temperature is can be a disadvantage in
low cold conditions and an
advantage in hot weather
Plastic settlement Generally reduced where Greater risk, which increases as Generally reduced where Re-vibration at the correct
cracking bleeding is reduced the ggbs content increases bleeding is reduced time will remove any plastic
settlement cracking

An alternative is to reduce
Plastic shrinkage Increased because there is less Similar Similar Prompt curing will prevent
bleed water plastic shrinkage cracking
Early age strength: Reduced at 28 days. Strength Reduced lower strengths with Similar Particular problems with
Equal binder content at later ages increased increasing % ggbs ggbs based cements in thin
sections in cold weather
Early age strength: Small reduction at 3 and 7 days Reduced e.g. after 3 days at Broadly Similar
Equal 28-day strength 20°C, a 40% ggbs concrete will
have about 65% strength of
Formwork striking Increased Increased Similar See CIRIA Report 136
equal binder content
Formwork striking Small increase in thin sections Increased in thin and medium Similar
time: sections
equal 28-day strength
Early-age thermal Risk reduced in sections between 500mm and 2.5m thick Similar Using aggregate with low
cracking coefficients of thermal
expansion is more effective
Curing Increased sensitivity to poor Increased sensitivity to poor Possibly less sensitivity to Views differ on this subject.
curing but larger potential curing. Longer curing periods poor curing See BS EN 13670 for curing
for recovery. Longer curing needed periods
periods needed
Air-entrainment Considerable increase in Similar Similar Special admixture may be
admixture dosage likely to be required where fly ash is
required used

Chapter 2: Cement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Notation of cements and The strength class and strength development characteristics,
explained earlier, have their identifiers added to the end of the
combinations notation so that the full title, for example, of a factory-made
cement with a relatively low proportion of ggbs would be
Portland-slag cement BS EN 197-1 CEM II/A-S 42,5N as shown
The notations to be used in specifications are given in Table in Figure 2.1.
2.3. Factory-made cements are all identified by the prefix letters
CEM, whereas mixer combinations are identified by the prefix
notation C. CEM II/A-S 42, 5N

As the roman numeral increases, the proportion of Portland R, rapid early strength
cement clinker reduces: N, normal early strength
L, low early strength
■■ CEM I include up to 5% of a minor additional constituent. Standard strength class
■■ II include up to 35% of mineral addition.
■■ III include 36% and higher proportions of blastfurnace slag. Sub-type
■■ IV include higher proportions of pozzolana (such as fly ash). In this case blastfurnace
■■ V are ‘ternary’ cements in that they have three main slag
constituents, clinker, slag and a pozzolana/fly ash. They are Proportion of cement
currently unavailable in the UK as cements and are not clinker
covered by BS 8500 as combinations. A, high
B, medium
Within these types there are sub-divisions indicated by letters. C, low
The letter ‘A’ indicates the higher levels of Portland cement Main cement type
clinker within the type and the letter ‘B’ or ‘C’ indicates the lower Figure 2.1: Example of cement notation.
levels of Portland cement clinker within a type.

For composite cements, the type of the second main

constituent or addition is also identified by a letter:
Delivery and storage of cement
■■ V – siliceous fly ash
■■ W – calcareous ash (not covered in BS 8500) Cement may be delivered in bulk or in bags. Bulk cement is
■■ S – blastfurnace slag delivered by tanker, usually in loads of more than 25 tonnes and
■■ D – silica fume blown into storage silos by compressed air. Bagged cement is
■■ L and LL – limestone usually supplied in bags containing 25kg, while one tonne bags
■■ M – more than one of the above (these types of cement are are also available from some suppliers for special purposes. It is
not available in the UK). often convenient to use bags on smaller building sites.

Table 2.3: Cements and combinations in general use.

Cement type Nomenclature and Standards Constituents %a
Broad designation Cement to Combination to Clinker Fly ash Ggbs Limestone
to BS 8500 BS EN 197 BS 8500
Portland CEM I CEM I — 95–100 — — —
Portland fly ash IIA-V CEM II/A-V CIIA-V 80–94 6–20 — —
IIB-V CEM II/B-V CIIB-V 65–79 21–35 — —
Portland slag IIA-S CEM II/A-S 80–96 — 6–20 —
IIB-S CEM II/B-S 65–79 — 21–35 —
Portland limestone IIA-L or LL CEM II/A-L or LL CIIA-L or LL 80–94 — — 6–20
Blastfurnace IIIA CEM III/A CIIIA 35–74 — 36–65 —
IIIB CEM III/B CIIIB 20–34 — 66–80 —
Pozzolanic IV/B (V) CEM IV/B (V) CIVB (V) 45–64 36–55 — —
a. 5% minor additional constituent may be added to EN 197-1 Cements

Chapter 2: Cement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Cement should be kept dry during storage as moist air leads to

the phenomenon of air-setting, which results in the formation
of lumps of hydrated cement. Air-set cement should not be
used, as concrete made from it could have a considerably
reduced strength. Silos have to be weatherproof but, during
prolonged periods of storage, some air setting may occur
due to condensation in the silo. This is minimised by aeration,
which should be carried out frequently during periods of damp
weather. In addition, the weather-tightness of the silo should
be checked if there is any evidence of the formation of lumps
in the cement.

Regular maintenance of cement silos is essential. All moving

parts should be kept free from coatings of cement. Weigh
hoppers should also be cleaned every day, both inside and
out, since a build-up of cement can result in too little cement
being dispensed, and weigh gear checks should be carried out
at least once a month. Silo air filters must be checked regularly
to prevent them from becoming choked; reverse-air jet units
prevent contamination of the environment whereas old style
filters require thorough shaking.

Bagged cement should be stored on a raised floor in a

weather-tight shed in order to prevent deterioration. Failing
this, it should be stacked on a raised timber platform and
covered with water-proof covers with generous overlaps. The
bags should be used in the order in which they are received;
thus each delivery should be kept separate to avoid confusion.
To avoid ‘warehouse set’, which results from the compaction of
cement, bags should not be stacked higher than approximately
1.5m. The paper or plastic bags used for packing cement are
vapour proof so undue exposure should be avoided. Even
when stored under good conditions, bagged cement may lose
20% of its strength after two months’ storage. To avoid risk of
accidental confusion, cements of different types should be
stored separately.

Sampling and testing of

The testing of cement requires the resources of a well-
equipped laboratory with strictly controlled temperature
and humidity. Manufacturers in the UK produce cement, the
conformity of which is certificated by a third party in a scheme
based on a strict regime of inspection and independent audit
testing. Cement test reports showing results of physical and
chemical tests are forwarded to users of the cement and it is
general practice for concrete producers to monitor cement
quality by continuously assessing the data, thereby avoiding
unnecessary duplication of costly tests on cement.

Chapter 3: Aggregates

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

The term ‘aggregate’ is used to describe the gravels, crushed 10–20% to achieve the same strength and consistence, because
rocks and sands that are mixed with cement and water to the fine aggregate content and water content normally have to
make concrete. As aggregates form the bulk of the volume of be increased to produce a cohesive mix.
concrete and affect its performance, the selection of suitable
material is important.

Fine aggregate (sand) includes natural sand, crushed rock or Quality requirements
crushed gravel that is fine enough for substantially all to pass
through a sieve with 4mm apertures. Coarse aggregate comprises
larger particles of gravel, crushed gravel or crushed rock.
Aggregates are designated by d/D where d is the lower limiting
size and D is the upper limiting size. BS EN 12620 permits a small Aggregates should be sound and hard and should not contain
proportion of the aggregate to be larger than the nominal upper significant quantities of materials that are likely to decompose
aggregate size. or change in volume when exposed to the weather. Examples
of undesirable materials are lignite, coal, pyrite, sulfate and
Most concrete is made from natural aggregates that are usually lumps of clay. Coal and lignite may swell and decompose
specified to conform to the requirements of BS EN 12620 together leaving small holes on the surface of the concrete; lumps
with the UK guidance document, PD 6682. Recycled aggregate of clay may soften and form weak pockets and pyrite may
(RA) and recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) conforming to BS decompose, causing iron oxide stains to appear on the
8500-2 can be used in certain circumstances. Manufactured concrete surface. When exposed to oxygen, pyrite has been
lightweight aggregates conforming to BS EN 13055-1 are known to contribute to sulfate attack. Some older, lightweight
sometimes used (see page 13). concretes and blocks made with clinker aggregates have
suffered from expansion due to the presence of quicklime,
or hard burned lime in lumps. High-strength concretes may
Sizes of aggregate require additional special properties. The mechanical properties
of aggregates for heavy-duty concrete floors and for pavement
wearing surfaces may have to be specially selected. Most
The maximum size of coarse aggregate, Dmax is governed by the producers of aggregate are able to provide information about
type of work to be performed. For reinforced concrete it should these properties and reference, when necessary, should be
be such that the concrete can be placed without difficulty, made to BS EN 12620.
surrounding all reinforcement thoroughly, particularly in the
cover zone, and filling the corners of the formwork. It is usual in There are no simple tests for durability or freeze/thaw
the UK for the coarse aggregate used for reinforced concrete to resistance, and assessment of particular aggregates may be
have a maximum nominal size of 20mm. based on experience of the properties of concrete made with
the type of aggregate in question with knowledge of its source.
Aggregate size of Dmax 40mm can be used for foundations and Some flint gravels with a white porous cortex may be freeze/
mass concrete and similar sections where there are no restrictions thaw susceptible because of the high water absorption of the
to the flow of concrete. However, it should be noted that concrete cortex, which results in pop-outs on the surface of the concrete
with Dmax 40mm aggregate is not always available from producers when subjected to freezing and thawing cycles.
of ready-mixed concrete. The use of a larger aggregate results in
a slightly reduced water demand and hence a slightly reduced Some aggregates are susceptible to alkali-silica reaction.
cement content for a given strength and consistence. Under some circumstances, where certain siliceous
constituents in aggregates are present, a reaction between
Smaller aggregate, usually Dmax 10mm, may be needed for the alkalis produced from the hydrating cement and the
concrete that is to be placed through congested reinforcement. aggregate occurs. This leads to expansive forces, see page 30
In this case, the cement content may have to be increased by Alkali-silica reaction.

Chapter 3: Aggregates
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Cleanness aggregates for concrete contain particles ranging in size from the
largest to the smallest; in gap-graded aggregates some of the
Aggregates should be clean and free from organic impurities; intermediate sizes are absent. Gap-grading may be necessary in
aggregate containing organic material makes poor concrete. order to achieve decorative exposed aggregate surface finishes.
The particles should be free from coatings of dust or clay, as The sieves used for making a sieve analysis should conform
these prevent the proper bonding of the material. An excessive to BS 410-1 or BS EN 933-2. The tests should be carried out in
amount of fine dust or stone ‘flour’ may prevent the particles accordance with the procedure given in BS EN 933-1.
from being properly coated with cement and thus lower the
strength of the concrete. They can also increase the water An aggregate containing a high proportion of large particles is
demand resulting in a higher than desirable water:cement referred to as being ‘coarsely’ graded and one containing a high
ratio. Water-reducing admixture may be used to compensate proportion of small particles as ‘finely’ graded.
for this. Gravels and fine aggregate are usually washed by the
suppliers to remove excessive fines (clay and silt, for example) Grading limits for ‘all-in’ aggregates are also given in BS EN
and other impurities, which, if present in excessive amounts, 12620. All-in aggregate, composed of both fine and coarse
result in a poor-quality concrete. However, excessive washing aggregate is limited for use in low strength applications
can remove all fine material passing the 250µm sieve. This may (strength classes ≤ C12/15). It should therefore not be used for
result in a concrete lacking in cohesion and, in particular, being structural reinforced concrete work because the grading will
unsuitable for placing by pump. Fine aggregates deficient in vary considerably from time to time and hence from batch to
fines also tend to increase the bleeding characteristics of the batch, resulting in excessive variation in the consistence and the
concrete, which can result in poor vertical finishes due to water strength. To ensure that the proper amount of fine aggregate is
scour or surface delamination in floor slabs. present, the separate delivery, storage and batching of coarse
and fine aggregates is essential.
Limits on the amount of fines are given in BS EN 12620 when
determined in accordance with the wet sieving method
specified in BS EN 933-1.
Coarse aggregates
An approximate guide to the fines content of fine aggregate can
be obtained from the field settling test. Results of this test cannot For a high degree of control over the production of concrete,
be used as the basis for accepting or rejecting material but they and particularly where high-quality surface finishes are required,
are nevertheless useful by detecting changes in the cleanness. it is necessary for the coarse aggregate to be delivered, stored,
More details are given in the section Aggregates on page 76. and batched using separate single sizes rather than a graded
coarse aggregate.
In order to reduce the risk of corrosion of embedded metal,
limits are specified in BS EN 206 and BS 8500 for the chloride The sieve sizes in general use in the UK are 40, 31.5, 20, 14, 10, 4
content of the concrete based on the sum of the contributions and 2 mm for coarse aggregate. Typical limits for common
from the constituent materials. Chloride contents should aggregate grading are shown in Table 3.1. Other sizes are
be checked frequently throughout aggregate production in available and outlined in BS EN 12620.
accordance with the method given in BS EN 1744-1 or, in the
Table 3.1: Grading limits for typical coarse aggregates, based on PD 6682-1.
case of recycled concrete aggregate (RCA), by the method
given in BS 1881-124. Sieve size Percentage by mass passing
(mm) Graded aggregates Single sized aggregates
Where colour of surface finish is important, supplies of 4/20a 10/20b 4/10b
aggregate should be obtained from one source throughout
the job whenever practicable. This is particularly important for 40 100 100 -
the fine aggregate and for the coarse aggregate if an exposed 31.5 98 to 100 98 to 100 -
aggregate finish is required. 20 90 to 99d 85 to 99d 100
14 - - 98 to 100
10 25 to 70c 0 to 20 85 to 99d

Grading of aggregates 4
0 to 15
0 to 5
0 to 5
0 to 20
0 to 5
a. category Gc90/15.
The proportions of the different sizes of particles making up the b. category Gc85/20.
c. BS EN 12620 specifies that for certain graded aggregates, the producer is required to
aggregate are found by sieving and are known as the ‘grading’ document and, on request, declare the typical grading passing the mid-range sieve.
of the aggregate: the grading is given in terms of the percentage Tolerance categories apply to these declared means.
d. The inclusion of 99% in lieu of 100% is to ensure consistency.
by mass passing the various sieves. Continuously-graded

Chapter 3: Aggregates
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Graded coarse aggregate obtained by combining the

appropriate proportions of single sized aggregates, should Marine-dredged aggregates
be mixed efficiently by the producer before loading lorries.
Large quantities of aggregates are obtained by dredging marine
deposits and they have been widely and satisfactorily used for
making concrete for many years. The main difference between
Fine aggregate the majority of land-based aggregates and marine aggregates
is the presence of shells and chloride (from sea water).
The sieve sizes in general use in the UK are 8, 6.3, 4, 2.8, 2, 1mm
and 500 and 250µm. The fines content is determined by wet
sieving through a 63µm sieve.
Shell content
The C-M-F system of classification for fine aggregate in Table 3.2
is useful for selecting appropriate proportions of fine and coarse Shells can be found in land-based aggregates but more
aggregates in a concrete, because the optimum proportion commonly in marine aggregates. If present in sufficient
of fine aggregate is partly related to its fineness. The suffix ‘P’ is quantities, hollow and/or flat shells may affect the properties
related to the allowable percentage range passing the 500µm. of the fresh and hardened concrete.
Good concrete can be made with fine aggregate within the
overall limits shown in Table 3.2. Shell, like limestone, is predominantly calcium carbonate, which
is stable in concrete. Nevertheless, a check on shell content of
Where the variability of grading needs to be restricted further for coarse aggregate should be carried out to ensure compliance
the design of particular concretes, or for the adjustment of fine with BS EN 12620.
aggregate content of prescribed concrete, this can be achieved
by reference to one or more of the three additional grading limits Categories (not limits) on shell content (determined by the
‘C’, ‘M’ or ’F’. Fine aggregate with grading ‘F’ should normally be method given in BS EN 933-7) for coarse aggregate are given
used only after trial mixes have been made with the proposed in BS EN 12620. These are ≤ 10% by mass or > 10% by mass.
combination of fine and coarse aggregates and cement to For concreting aggregates for general use, the recommended
determine their suitability for the particular purpose. shell content is ≤ 10% by mass. For fine aggregate there is
no limit.
There may be occasions, such as when a high degree of control
is required, and when high-quality surface finishes have to
be achieved, when it is necessary to specify fine aggregate
grading to closer limits than those permitted in BS EN 12620 Chloride content
and shown in Table 3.2. Alternatively, fine aggregate whose
grading falls outside the Standard limits may produce In order to minimise the risk of corrosion of embedded metal,
perfectly satisfactory concrete. It is not so much the grading limits are specified in BS EN 206 and BS 8500 for the chloride
limits themselves that are important, but that the grading is content of the concrete based on the sum of the contributions
maintained reasonably uniform. from all constituent materials.

Table 3.2: Grading limits for typical fine aggregates, based on PD 6682-1.
Sieve size (mm) Percentage by mass passing
0/4 (CP)a 0/4 (MP)a 0/2 (MP)a 0/2 (FP)a 0/1(FP)a
8 100 100 - - -
6.3 95 to 100 95 to 100 - - -
4 85 to 99b (±5) 85 to 99b (±5) 100 100
2.8 - - 95 to 100 95 to 100
2 - - 85 to 99b (±5) 85 to 99b (±5) 100
1 (±20) (±20) (±20) (±20) 95 to 99b (±5)
0.500 5 to 45 30 to 70 30 to 70 55 to 100 55 to 100
0.250 (±20) (±20) (±25) (±25) (±25)
0.063 (±3) (±3) (±5) (±5) (±5)
a. Category Gf85
b. The inclusion of 99% in lieu of 100% is to ensure consistency.

Chapter 3: Aggregates
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

As chlorides may be present in concrete from other constituent Lightweight aggregates have been used in concrete for
materials, e.g. cement and admixtures, the chloride content many years; the Romans made use of pumice in some of their
of aggregates is not specified in BS EN 12620 or in guidance construction work. Small quantities of pumice are imported
document PD 6682-1. and still used in the UK, mainly in lightweight concrete blocks,
but most lightweight aggregate concrete is made using
When processing the marine aggregate, and to ensure that manufactured aggregates. All lightweight materials are relatively
the aggregate does not contain excessive chloride levels, it weak because of their higher porosity, which gives them reduced
is necessary for the aggregate to be carefully and efficiently weight. This imposes a limitation on strength, though this is
washed with frequently changed fresh water to reduce the not often a serious problem because the strength that can be
salt content and monitoring the wash water for chloride obtained is comfortably in excess of most structural requirements.
concentrations. However, well-drained, unwashed marine fine Light-weight aggregates are used to reduce weight in structural
aggregate also has a history of successful use where it is used in elements or to give improved thermal insulation.
combination with non-marine coarse aggregates.

Manufacturers will normally provide certification of chloride

content of their products. Delivery of aggregates
Some sea-dredged fine aggregates tend to have a Quality control of concrete should start with a visual inspection
preponderance of one size of particle and a deficiency in the of the aggregates as they are delivered, combined with some
amount passing the 250µm sieve. This can lead to a concrete quick, simple testing if there is any doubt about their quality
prone to bleeding, unless mix proportions and constituent or grading.
materials are adjusted to overcome the problem.
The cleanness of fine aggregates can be checked quickly by hand.
Beach sands as fine aggregates are generally unsuitable for good If a sample of fine aggregate is rubbed between the palms of
quality concrete since they are likely to have high concentrations the hands, staining of the palms may be an indication that an
of chloride because of the accumulation of salt crystals above excessive amount of clay and silt are present, due to inadequate
the high-tide mark. They are also often single-sized, which can washing. An indication can be determined by the field settling
make the mix design difficult. Where no alternative is available, test described under Cleanness on page 10. Coarse aggregates
careful washing and monitoring is necessary. should be inspected visually for clay lumps and clay coatings,
grading and particle shape. Clay lumps are not always obvious
and careful inspection of deliveries is advised. Loads containing
Recycled aggregates (RCA & RA) such lumps should be rejected before discharge.

Loads which have been produced from single-sized aggregate

There are two types of recycled aggregate permitted for use in which are not adequately mixed should be rejected as problems
concrete. Recycled concrete aggregate (RCA) is recycled aggregate will occur in obtaining a uniform concrete.
principally comprising crushed concrete, whereas general recycled
aggregate (RA) is aggregate resulting from the reprocessing of A further problem with gravel coarse aggregates may occur
inorganic material previously used in construction. Specific limits when oversized material is crushed. Such material tends to be
on the composition and use of coarse RCA and RA are given in of an angular particle shape, rather than rounded or irregular,
BS 8500-2 and they should also conform to the same general and a load of all crushed material or a load containing a large
requirements in BS EN 12620 for normal-weight aggregates. part of crushed as well as uncrushed, can lead to variations in
the water demand, consistence and strength unless adjustments
Provisions for the use of fine RCA and RA are not given in BS are made to the mix. Coarse aggregate should have a uniform
8500 but this does not preclude their use. Their use should particle shape for production of high-quality concrete.
be assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the
particular source of the material. A useful means of detecting changes in grading or shape is by
the loose bulk density test in accordance with BS EN 1097-3.

Lightweight aggregates
Storage of aggregates
In addition to natural gravels and crushed rocks, a number of
manufactured aggregates are available for use in concrete. Light- Aggregates should be stored so that they are kept as uniform
weight aggregates such as sintered pulverised-fuel ash are as possible in grading and moisture content, and protected
required to conform to BS EN 13055-1. from intermingling and contamination by other materials.

Chapter 3: Aggregates
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

It is best to put down a concrete base over the areas where the
aggregates will be stored. The concrete should be laid to a fall to
allow free drainage of water from the aggregate, and should
extend well out from the stockpile so that all deliveries can be
tipped onto it. If a clean, hard base is not provided, the bottom
300mm of each aggregate pile should not be used, since dirt
and water can accumulate there.

It is essential to provide substantial partitions to separate the

different aggregate sizes and to prevent spillage from one bay to
another. Such partitions can be made using concrete, brick or
block retaining walls, or by driving H-section steel members into
the ground and placing heavy timber sections between them.

Stockpiles should be as large as possible, as this helps to

ensure uniformity of moisture content. Variations in the
moisture content of coarse aggregates as delivered, or in the
stockpiles, are usually not sufficient to have much effect on
the control of free water:cement ratio. However, the variations
that commonly occur in the moisture content of fine aggregate
will require adjustment to be made in order to control the free
water:cement ratio.

Ideally, stockpiled fine aggregate should be allowed to stand

for 12 hours before use so that, apart from the lower part of the
stockpile, the moisture content will be reasonably uniform at
about 5–7%. When fine aggregate is very wet (as sometimes
happens with fresh deliveries, or after it has been raining) the
moisture content can be as high as 12–15%. Adjustments should
be made to the water added at the mixer to avoid excessive
variations in consistence, strength and durability.

For concretes which are sensitive to changes in aggregate

moisture content, e.g. self-compacting concrete, stockpiles
should be covered.

For large batching plants, it is usual for the aggregate to be lifted

by a conveyor system to covered overhead storage hoppers
discharging directly into weigh-batchers.

Chapter 4: Water

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Water is an essential component of concrete required to hydrate the plant and washing out trucks and mixers after use can be
the cement, a process where the water chemically combines collected, solids allowed to settle and stored for re use. Some
with the cement to make it harden. However, in order to give the processes are able to reclaim a high percentage of the mixing
concrete sufficient workability/consistence for it to be placed water in this way.
and compacted, more water must be added than is needed to
hydrate the cement. This additional water increases the porosity When reclaiming water for use as recycled mixing water care needs
of the mix, reducing strength and durability and should therefore to be taken to avoid impurities, including harmful chemicals,
be kept to a minimum. The use of water reducing admixtures can oil or organic matter, and any traces of admixtures, such as air-
be beneficial in this respect as they reduce the water demand entraining admixtures, retarders or pigments, must be diluted
for a given consistence. Uncontrolled water should never be to render them harmless. A careful check must be kept on
added to ready-mixed concrete on site. the amount of suspended fines carried in the water and the
presence of excessive plastic or steel fibres.

Quality Large-volume settlement tanks are normally required. They do

not need to be particularly deep but should have a large surface
area and, ideally, the water should pass through a series of tanks,
The water used for mixing concrete should be free from any becoming progressively cleaner at each stage. Deflocculates
impurities that could adversely affect the process of hydration may be used to speed sedimentation and the water may be
and, consequently, the properties of concrete. For example, some chemically treated (to reduce alkalinity) in order to make it
organic matter can cause retardation whilst chlorides may suitable for discharge into drains in a condition that conforms
accelerate the stiffening process and also cause embedded to statutory requirements.
steel, such as reinforcing bars, to corrode.

Other chemicals such as sulfate solutions and acids may have

harmful long-term effects by weakening the cement paste by
dissolving it. It is important, therefore, to be sure of the quality
Measuring the quantity of
of water. If it comes from an unknown source, such as a pond
or borehole, it should be checked by making trial mixes. BS EN
1008 specifies the quality of water and gives the procedures for
checking its suitability for use in concrete. When drawn from a Mixing water is usually measured by volume but, in some plants,
borehole, the water should be regularly checked. Saline intrusions it may be more convenient for it to be batched by weight. One
have occurred, for example, in boreholes close to the coast, even litre of clean water weighs one kilogram and so the quantity of
where single tests have shown low chloride values. water remains numerically the same, regardless of whether it is
measured by volume or by mass, but corrections should be
Drinking water is suitable, of course, and it is usual simply to obtain applied when water contains fines.
a supply from the local water utility. Recycled water is being
increasingly used in the interests of reducing the environmental The important, and most difficult, issue is the correct assessment
impact of concrete production. Seawater is not suitable for of how much water is required. In the Sections dealing with
reinforced concrete or concrete containing embedded metal. aggregates and batching, the variability of moisture content is
discussed and in the quest to control free water:cement ratio it
is essential to allow for water contained in aggregates. As such

Reclaimed and recycled water a large proportion of concrete consists of aggregates, a small
shift in the moisture content results in a considerable change in
the quantity of water to be added.
Recycled water systems are usually found at large-scale
permanent mixing plants such as precast concrete factories or Devices based on advanced electronics technology exist for
ready-mixed concrete depots where water used for cleaning measuring the moisture content of a batch of aggregates and

Chapter 4: Water
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

for calculating the free water:cement ratio of concrete during

mixing, but most producers rely on the experience of the batcher
to judge the point at which the amount of water is correct from
the way in which the concrete moves and the sound it makes
in the mixer. Any equipment that is capable of indicating the
consistence of concrete while it is being mixed assists the batcher
in gauging the mixing water with greater speed and accuracy.
Where the mixer is powered by an electric motor, an ammeter
or kilowatt meter accurately indicates the power consumed in
mixing the concrete – less power is demanded as concrete
becomes more workable. Similarly, truck-mixer drums that are
turned by hydraulic drive can have the consistence of concrete
indicated by a pressure gauge.

Regardless of the method of gauging the mixing water, it is

recommended that the concrete is finally checked by a batcher
and/or driver to see that it has the specified consistence
and a uniform appearance. This is the most effective way of
ensuring that the concrete is thoroughly mixed and has the
designed free water content. When the free water content is
closely monitored and cement content accurately weighed,
the free water:cement ratio is controlled and therefore, strength,
durability and many other essential properties of the concrete
are assured.

Chapter 5: Admixtures

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

An admixture is a material, usually a liquid, which is added properties and should eliminate the practice of adding
to a batch of concrete during mixing in order to modify the water on site to aid placing.
properties of the fresh and/or hardened concrete and they 2. The water content can be reduced while maintaining the
are now used in most concrete. Admixtures benefit concrete same cement content and consistence; this results in a
by reducing the amount of free water required for a given reduced water:cement ratio (by about 10%), and therefore
level of consistence, often in addition to some other specific increased strength and improved durability. Most normal
improvements, including pumping, placing, strength, durability water-reducing admixtures can also be useful for reducing
and sustainability. There are occasions when the use of an bleeding in concrete prone to this problem, or for increasing
admixture is not only desirable but also essential. the cohesion and thereby reducing segregation. These
are particular problems in concrete of a high consistence
Because admixtures are added to concrete in small quantities, class, in harsh mixes with angular aggregates or low fine
they should be used only when a high degree of control can aggregate contents, or when the fine aggregate is deficient
be exercised. Incorrect dosage of an admixture either too in fines.
much or too little – may adversely affect the strength and other 3. A
given strength and consistence class can be achieved
properties of the concrete. with a reduced cement content. The water:cement ratio is
kept constant and, with a lower water content, the cement
BS EN 934-2 specifies the requirements for the main types of content can be reduced accordingly, resulting in a more
concrete admixture: cost-effective and sustainable mix. This property should
never be used if the cement content would be reduced
■■ normal water-reducing/plasticising below the minimum specified.
■■ high-range, water-reducing/superplasticising
■■ air-entraining An appropriate dosage may be used to achieve more than one
■■ water-resisting (waterproofing) of these effects. Overdosing may result in retardation and/or a
■■ retarding water-reducing degree of air-entrainment but does not necessarily increase the
■■ accelerating water-reducing. consistence.

Other types of admixture not covered by EN 934 should

conform to BS 8443.
High-range water-reducing
Normal water-reducing admixtures (superplasticising)
admixtures (plasticising) Superplasticisers are polymers that have a significantly greater
plasticising effect on concrete than normal plasticisers and also
Water-reducing admixtures act by reducing the inter-particle exhibit reduced secondary effects such as retardation and air-
attraction to produce a more uniform dispersion of the cement entrainment. They provide two main areas of benefit:
grains. The cement paste is more effectively ‘lubricated’,
and hence the amount of water needed to obtain a given 1. In superplasticising mode they greatly increase the
consistence can be reduced. consistence to produce a concrete that is easy both to place
and to compact. Typically, the consistence of superplasticised
This effect may be beneficial in one of three ways: concrete ranges from 180mm to a collapsed slump or
flowing consistence. Polycarboxylated ether (PCE)-based
1. Added to a normal concrete at normal dosage, they act in superplasticisers can be used to produce self-compacting and
plasticising mode to produce an increase in slump of about essentially self-levelling concrete that is free from segregation.
50–70mm. This allows a more workable and easier placed 2. In high-range, water-reducing mode superplasticisers
concrete for normal use without compromising other produce very durable and high-strength concrete by

Chapter 5: Admixtures
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

reducing the water content to a much greater extent types of superplasticiser based on PCE technology have allowed
than can be achieved by using a normal water-reducing the development of truly self-levelling and self-compacting
admixture. concrete (SCC) that requires no vibration and is free of segregation
and bleed. As well as being dependent on the superplasticiser to
Superplasticised concrete offers advantages in ease and speed give the very high levels of fluidity, the SCC concrete mix design
of placing. This is especially so where the reinforcement is is extremely critical and involves the use of a higher than normal
congested, making both placing and vibration difficult and content of powder (sub 0.125mm material) and carefully selected
where large areas such as slabs and trenches would benefit and graded aggregate that is very consistent.
from a flowing, easily placed and levelled concrete. High
consistence also facilitates pumping, particularly where A viscosity-modifying admixture may also be needed to ensure
long distances or heights are involved. The addition of a adequate cohesion and to reduce sensitivity. SCC should only be
superplasticiser to a concrete in the S2 consistence class produced by experienced concrete technologists on plants with
(50–90mm slump) will increase the slump to over 180mm and a high level of control over their constituents and production.
finds use in situations where there is dense reinforcement and
or where the concrete is required to flow horizontally. Only a
little vibration is required to keep the concrete flowing and
ensure full compaction. At higher super-plasticiser dosages,
a collapsed slump or flowing concrete can be produced, this
is more prone to segregation and bleed but can be effective
in thinner sections, such as floor slabs, or longer flows in less
critical applications such as footings and trenches. For slabs, the
concrete is easily moved using rakes or pushers and the surface
can be finished with a skip float drawn across it.

A concrete with high consistence will be more susceptible to

segregation and bleeding, so it is essential for the mix design
and proportions to take account of the use of a superplasticiser.
As a general guide, if a conventionally designed mix is
modified by increasing the fine aggregate content by about
5%, satisfactory high consistence or flowing concrete can be
Figure 5.1: Testing self-compacting concrete using the J-ring apparatus.
produced. A high degree of control over the batching of all the
proportions is essential, especially the water or excessive flow
and segregation may occur. Some superplasticiser types offer Self-compacting concrete finds use in precast applications
more cohesion and segregation resistance than others and where it offers noise free production, high early strength and
there are also differences in period over which high consistence excellent surface finish. On site it additionally offers the ability
will be retained so advice should always be sought from the to concrete into inaccessible situations where vibration would
admixture manufacturer depending on the application. be impossible, the potential to produce complex or difficult
shapes and allows innovative construction solutions.
The fluidity of flowing concrete increases the pressures on
formwork, which should be designed to resist full hydrostatic
pressure. Guidance on design pressures is given in CIRIA
Report 108. Air-entraining admixtures
When superplasticisers are used as high-range water reducers These are generally natural resins and or synthetic surfactant
the reduction in water content is typically 16–30% but can be blends that entrain a controlled amount of air into the concrete
more. This can give increases in 1-day strength of over 100% in the form of small air bubbles. The bubbles need to be very
and 28-day strengths can be increased by as much as 50%. small, mainly less than 1mm diameter with a high proportion
There is also a very significant reduction in porosity resulting in below 0.3mm and well dispersed. The presence of these tiny air
enhanced durability related to reduced permeability, chloride bubbles in the hardened concrete increases resistance to the
diffusion and carbonation. action of freezing and thawing, especially when aggravated by
the application of de-icing salts.
High-strength, water-reduced concrete is used both for high-
performance, in-situ concrete construction and for the manufacture Saturated concrete – as most external paving concrete will
of precast units where the increased early strength allows earlier be – can be seriously affected by the freezing of water in the
demoulding and may obviate the need for heat curing. The latest capillary voids which will then expand causing the concrete to

Chapter 5: Admixtures
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

crack and spall. In air-entrained concrete, the small air bubbles Table 5.1: Air content of air-entrained concrete in accordance with
that intersect the capillaries remain unfilled with water, even BS EN 206 and BS 8500-1.
when the concrete is saturated, and can act as a pressure relief Nominal Minimum Minimum Maximum
valve by providing voids into which the water can expand as maximum specified measured measured
it freezes. When the ice melts, surface tension effects draw the aggregate size, volume of volume of volume of
water back out of the bubbles. Dmax entrained air entrained air entrained air
32 or 40mm 4.0 3.5% 9.0%
Air-entrained concrete should be specified and used for all forms 20mm 4.5 4.0% 9.5%
of external paving, from major roads and airfield runways down 10mm 6.5 6.0% 11.5%
to garage drives and footpaths, all of which are likely to be
subjected to severe freezing and to the use of de-icing salts.
One factor which has to be taken into account when using
air-entrained concrete is that the strength of the concrete is
reduced by approximately 5% for every 1% of air entrained.
In low-strength or harsh mixes the plasticising effect of the
admixture means that the water content of the concrete can
be reduced, which will offset some of the strength loss but in
stronger concretes there will still be a strength loss. For this
reason, many air-entraining admixtures are combined with
a water-reducing admixture to further assist in offsetting the
strength loss.

The amount of air-entraining for a given dosage is affected by

several factors:

■■ cement content
■■ c hanges in fine aggregate grading
■■ variation in temperature
■■ mixing time.
Figure 5.2: Adjacent slabs of plain (upper) and air-entrained concrete of
the same nominal specification that have been subjected to freeze/thaw These may call for adjustments to the dosage for uniformity of air
action. content to be maintained. When fly ash is present in the concrete,
a considerably increased dosage of air-entraining admixture
De-icing salts may either be applied directly to the concrete, may be required, related to the content and type of any carbon
come from the spray of passing traffic or by dripping from the present. The measurement of air content in the fresh concrete is
underside of vehicles. This frequently occurs in multi-storey car described in BS EN 12350-7. Brief details are given on page 79
parks. Figure 5.2 shows the difference in freeze/thaw resistance under Air content test.
between air-entrained and non-air-entrained concrete.

The volume of air-entrainment required relates to the maximum

aggregate size Dmax (see Table 5.1). With a reduction in Dmax, the Water-resisting admixtures
specified air content increases to maintain the bubble spacing
in the paste as concrete with a smaller maximum aggregate Water-resisting admixtures fall into two distinct types:
size tends to have a higher volume of cement paste.
1. H
ydrophobic water resisting admixtures react with the
Air content should be specified by minimum value. The permitted cement to form an insoluble hydrophobic coating to the
measured air content is between 0.5% below and 5% greater than walls of the capillary voids. This prevents surface water
the minimum specified. being drawn into the capillary due to the surface tension
of the water. This type of admixture works well in situations
Air-entrainment also affects the properties of the fresh where there is no significant pressure head of water, such as
concrete. The minute air bubbles act like ball bearings and rain or the splash zone, but if there is water pressure this will
have a plasticising effect, resulting in higher consistence. Both quickly overcome the hydrophobic effect, forcing water into
concrete that is lacking in cohesion or is harsh and concrete the capillary. This type of admixture can also be effective
that tends to bleed excessively are greatly improved by air- in helping to prevent chloride being drawn into reinforced
entrainment. Air-entrainment also reduces the risk of plastic concrete in the splash zone of marine structures or from de-
settlement and plastic shrinkage cracks. icing salts.

Chapter 5: Admixtures
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

2. Capillary blocker types are generally based on polymer ■■ When the complexity of slipforming demands a slow rate
emulsions and or reactive inorganic minerals. These of rise.
admixtures are designed to block the capillaries thereby ■■ When there is a delay between mixing and placing – e.g.
forming a physical barrier preventing water ingress, even when ready-mixed concrete is being used and when there
under a significant water head. They are generally used may be traffic delays and/or long hauls or if an unexpected
in conjunction with a high-range water reducer to lower pump breakdown may delay placing in a critical structure.
the porosity of the concrete and are effective in concrete This can be seriously aggravated during hot weather,
placed below the water table or which will be under water. especially if the concrete has a high cement content.

The amount of retardation can be varied to give initial set times

up to approximately four to six hours by altering the dosage.
Retarding water-reducing Longer delays can be obtained for special purposes.

admixtures While the early strength of concrete is reduced by using a retarder

and may affect formwork striking times, the 7 and 28-day
These are chemicals that slow down the initial reaction between strengths are not likely to be significantly affected.
cement and water by slowing down the growth of the hydration
products. They only have a limited effect in maintaining initial Retarded concrete needs careful mix design to minimise
consistence but are very effective in preventing the initial set. This bleeding as a result of the longer period during which the
is essential if cold joints are to be prevented between batches concrete remains fresh.
of concrete placed with a significant time interval between
adjacent pours. Since retarders on their own are not very
effective at consistence retention they are often supplied as
retarding superplasticiser admixtures. Accelerating admixtures
The length of time during which a concrete remains workable Accelerators increase the initial rate of chemical reaction
depends on its temperature, water:cement ratio, cohesion and between the cement and the water so that the concrete
particularly on the initial consistence. If consistence retention stiffens, hardens, and develops strength more quickly. They
is required, the initial consistence should be increased using a have a negligible effect on consistence and 28-day strengths
retarding plasticiser or superplasticiser. Some types are more are seldom affected.
effective in maintaining consistence than others and at high
temperatures a retarding superplasticiser should be used. Accelerating admixtures are primarily used during cold weather
to partially offset the slowing down of the chemical reaction
Sufficient consistence retention is required to ensure that the between cement and water due to the low temperature. The
concrete can be placed and fully compacted but even if the most widely used and most effective accelerator was calcium
slump has fallen to zero, a monolithic joint can still be formed chloride but the presence of chlorides, even in small amounts,
with subsequent pours provided that the concrete has not increases the risk of corrosion to any embedded steel. Its use is
actually set. In these cases normal retarding admixtures are most now limited to unreinforced concrete.
effective as, even when the slump is at or close to zero, they can
significantly extend the time before setting starts. This gives Chloride-free accelerating admixtures are available but are
time for subsequent pours to be placed and compacted before generally less effective and tend to affect setting or hardening
a cold joint is formed. but not both. Some accelerators are blended with high-range
water reducers to increase the initial strength gain. For higher
Although the occasions justifying the use of retarding admixtures strength beyond approximately 16 hours, the use of a high-
in the UK are limited, they may be helpful and even essential range water reducer is usually more effective than using an
when one or more of the following conditions apply: accelerator.

■■ Warm weather, when the ambient temperature is higher Accelerators are sometimes marketed as ‘anti-freeze’ or ‘frost-
than, say, 20°C, to prevent early stiffening (initial set) and proofer’ but no accelerator is a true anti-freeze agent as they
help loss of consistence, which would otherwise make do not affect the freezing point of the water. The use of an
placing and finishing difficult. accelerator does not avoid the need to protect the concrete
■■ When a large pour of concrete will take several hours and from the cold by keeping it warm (with insulation) after it has
must be constructed without already placed concrete been placed until it has reached the necessary strength to
hardening before subsequent concrete is merged with it resist the internal stresses resulting from water freezing: usually
(i.e. without a cold joint). taken as 5N/mm2.

Chapter 5: Admixtures
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Other admixtures
There are a number of other admixtures that may occasionally
be used for special purposes. These include viscosity-modifying
admixtures (VMA), corrosion inhibitors, shrinkage-reducing
admixtures, sprayed concrete admixtures, underwater concreting
admixtures, foamed concrete admixtures, pumping aids,
polymer modifiers/bonding aids and mortar admixtures.

Storage and dispensing

Most admixtures are stable and have a shelf life of at least 12
months but they may require protection against freezing, which
can permanently damage them. Most admixtures are now
supplied in bulk from a tanker into fixed tanks or are supplied
in 1000 litre Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs). It is important
on site that the container is protected from contamination,
including ingress of rain through top openings, and that there
is a bunding system to contain the admixture in the event of a
leak. The manufacturer’s instructions should be followed.

Because admixtures are usually added in small quantities,

generally 200–2000ml per 100kg cement, accurate and
uniform dispensing is essential. This is best achieved using
automatic dispensers so that the admixture is thoroughly
dispersed in the mixing water as it is added to the concrete.
The manufacturer’s advice should be followed.

Trial mix design

Although the admixture manufacturer’s instructions will usually
include recommended dosages, the optimum dosage will often
depend on the cement type, the concrete proportions, the
grading of the fine aggregate and the temperature. Preliminary
trials are essential to check that the required modification of the
concrete property can be achieved. The use of an admixture is
likely to require some adjustment of the concrete mix design if
its use is to be optimised.

Chapter 6: Concrete properties

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Concrete properties
The properties of concrete are too many and varied to be dealt compactability and flow, conforming to BS EN 12350: Parts 3, 4
with fully in this publication: further information is available and 5 respectively. It should be noted that the compactability
in specialist textbooks. Therefore, only the main properties test to BS EN 12350: Part 4 is totally different from the compacting
of concrete in the fresh, hardening and hardened states are factor test given in the now withdrawn BS 1881: Part 103.
considered here. Fire resistance, elasticity and other properties,
which may be essential in some circumstances, have been

For methods of testing concrete, refer to Chapter 20 Testing

concrete and concreting materials, page 74, and to relevant
Standards, in particular BS EN 12350 for testing fresh
concrete, BS EN 12390 for hardened concrete and residual
parts of BS 1881.

Fresh concrete
It is essential that the correct level of consistence is chosen to
match the requirements of the construction process. The ease
or difficulty of placing concrete in sections of different sizes, the
type of compaction equipment, the complexity of reinforcement, Figure 6.1: Slump test.
the size and skill of the workforce are amongst the items
to be considered. In general, the more difficult it is to work
the concrete, the greater should be the level of consistence. Consistence and cohesion cannot be considered in isolation
However, the concrete must also have some cohesiveness in because they are affected by each other. In general, more
order to resist segregation and bleeding. For example, concrete workable concrete requires extra care to be taken with the mix
needs to be particularly cohesive if it is to be pumped or design if segregation is to be avoided. Although cohesiveness
allowed to fall from a great height. is not measured directly, the test methods do indicate whether
a concrete is likely to segregate.
The workability of fresh concrete is referred to in British and
European Standards as consistence. The slump test (Figure 6.1)
is the best known method for testing consistence and the
recognised slump classes are listed in Table 6.1.
Hardening concrete

Table 6.1: Consistence classes in BS EN 206 for slump tests

conforming to BS EN 12350-2.
Early thermal cracking
Slump class Range of slump (mm) The reaction of cement with water (hydration) is a chemical
S1 10–40 reaction that produces heat. If this development of heat
S2 50–90 exceeds the rate of heat loss, the temperature of the concrete
S3 100–150 will rise. Subsequently, the concrete will cool and contract.
S4 160–210
If the contraction were unrestrained there would be no cracking.
However, in practice there is always some form of restraint-
Three further test methods are recognised in BS EN 206, all with inducing tension and hence a risk of cracking. Restraint occurs
their unique consistence classes. They are the Vebe, degree of due to either external or internal influences.

Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Typical temperature histories of some concrete sections are Cement type

shown in Figures 6.2a–c (page 24). These have been generated Different cement types generate heat at different rates. The
using a computer model available with CIRIA report C660. peak temperature and the total amount of heat produced by
hydration depend upon both the fineness and the chemistry of
In all cases, the only variable was the cement type. The pour the cement. As a guide, those cements whose strength
thickness was modelled as 500mm using 18mm plywood develops most rapidly tend to produce most heat. Cements
forms. The forms were struck at 36 hours. It can be seen that that are interground or combined with additions such as fly ash
the peak temperature and differential between surface and or ground granulated blastfurnace slag (ggbs) generally give
core temperatures are different. Varying thickness, formwork off less heat than CEM I, and are often chosen for large volume
insulation properties, cement content and other parameters pours because they have lower heats of hydration.
will all affect the temperature history.
Initial temperature of the concrete
External restraint A higher initial temperature of the concrete results in a greater
Concrete is externally restrained if, for example, it is cast onto temperature rise, e.g. concrete placed at 10°C in a 500mm-thick
a previously hardened base, such as a wall kicker, or if it is cast section may have a temperature rise of 30°C, whereas the same
between two already hardened sections, such as an infill bay in concrete placed at 20°C may have a temperature rise of 40°C.
a wall or slab, without the provision of a contraction joint.
Ambient temperature
Internal restraint In cooler weather there is likely to be a greater differential
The surfaces of an element of concrete will cool faster than between peak and ambient temperatures, i.e. greater cooling
the core, producing a temperature differential, and when and contraction. During hot weather concrete will develop a
this differential is large, such as in thick sections, cracks may high peak temperature but the differential may be lower.
develop at the surface. In general, it has been found that by
restricting the temperature differential to around 20°C between Type of formwork
the core and the surface, little or no cracking will result. Steel and glass-fibre-reinforced polymer (GRP) formwork
will allow the heat generated to be dissipated more quickly
Delayed ettringite formation than will timber formwork, which acts as an insulating layer.
Ettringite is commonly formed at early ages in concrete Timber formwork and/or additional insulation will reduce the
cured under normal conditions. If subject to high temperature differential between the core and the surfaces.
temperatures during curing, the ettringite formation may be
delayed. Its gradual formation in the cooled set concrete can Admixtures
lead to expansion and potential cracking. This process could Retarding water-reducers delay the onset of hydration and
take up to 20 years to become apparent. Current guidance heat generation but do not reduce the total heat generated.
recommends that the peak temperature should not exceed Accelerating water-reducers increase the rate of heat evolution
70°C, to minimise the potential for delayed ettringite and increase the rate of temperature rise.
The problem of early thermal cracking is usually confined
to slabs over approximately 500mm thick and to walls of all
Factors affecting temperature rise thicknesses. Walls are particularly susceptible because they
are often lightly reinforced in the horizontal direction and
The main factors that affect the rise in temperature are given below. the timber formwork tends to act as a thermal insulator, thus
encouraging a larger temperature rise. The problem may be
Dimensions reduced by a lower cement content, the use of a cement with
Thicker sections retain the heat generated, and will have a lower heat of hydration or one containing ggbs or fly ash.
higher peak temperatures and cool down more slowly. While There is a practical and economic limit to these measures, often
peak temperatures rise with increasing thickness, above dictated by the specification requirements for strength and
approximately 1.5m thickness there is little further increase durability of the concrete itself.
in temperature.
In practice, cracking due to external restraint is best controlled by
Cement content the provision of crack control reinforcement and the spacing of
The heat generated is directly related to the cement content. contraction joints, which should be determined by the designer.
For Portland cement concretes in sections of 1m thickness It should be noted that reinforcement does not prevent crack
or more, the temperature rise in the core is likely to be formation, although it does control the widths of cracks and, with
approximately 14°C for every 100kg/m³ of cement. Thinner enough of the right reinforcement, cracks will be fine enough
sections will exhibit lower temperature rises than this. so as not to cause leakage or affect durability. With very thick

Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Temperature (oC) Temperature (oC)

70 70
Peak Formwork
60 Surface 60
50 50
Formwork removal
40 40

30 30

20 20 at peak temperature
at maximum differential
10 10
Figure 6.2a:
CEMI 0 0
18mm plywood form 0 50 100 150 200 0 200 400 600
500mm thick. Time (hours) Thickness (mm)

Temperature (oC) CEMi Temperature (oC)

70 70
Peak Formwork
60 Surface 60
50 50
Formwork removal
40 40

30 30

20 20 at peak temperature
at maximum differential
10 10
Figure 6.2b:
CIIB-V (25% flyash) 0 0
0 50 100 150 200 0 200 400 600
18mm plywood form
500mm thick. Time (hours) Thickness (mm)

Temperature (oC) Temperature (oC)
70 70 Formwork
60 Surface 60
50 50
Formwork removal
40 40

30 30

20 20 at peak temperature
at maximum differential
10 10
Figure 6.2c:
CIIIA (60% ggbs) 0 0
18mm plywood form 0 50 100 150 200 0 200 400 600
500mm thick. Time (hours) Thickness (mm)

Figure 6.2a-c: Temperature rise and differentials for three cement types in elements of same thickness and formwork type.
Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

sections having very little external restraint, the temperature can take place. However, cracks will form only where something
differential can usually be reduced by insulating, and thereby prevents the concrete ‘solids’ from settling freely. The most
keeping warm, the surfaces of the concrete for a few days. common cause of this is the reinforcing steel fixed at the top of
deep sections; the concrete will be seen to ‘break its back’ over
this steel and the pattern of cracks will directly reflect the layout
of the steel below, see Figure 6.3. The mechanism is shown in
Plastic cracking Figure 6.4.

There are two types of plastic cracks: plastic settlement cracks,

which may develop in deep sections and often follow the pattern
of the reinforcement; and plastic shrinkage cracks, which are
more likely to develop on slabs. Both types form while the
concrete is still in its plastic state, before it has set or hardened
and, depending on the weather conditions, form within about
one to six hours after the concrete has been placed and
compacted. They are often not noticed until the following day.
Both types of crack are related to the extent to which the fresh
concrete bleeds.

Bleeding of concrete
Fresh concrete is a suspension of solids in water, and after it
has been compacted there is a tendency for the solids (both
the aggregates and the cement) to settle. This sedimentation
displaces the water, which is pushed upwards, and, if the process
Figure 6.3: Plastic settlement cracks mirror the reinforcement.
is excessive, the water appears as a layer on the surface. This
bleed water may not always be seen, as it may evaporate
on hot or windy days faster than it rises to the surface. The
tendency of a concrete to bleed is affected by the constituents
and their proportions.

Bleeding can generally be reduced by increasing the cohesiveness

of the concrete by one or more of the following means:

■■ i ncreasing the cement content

■■ increasing the fine aggregate content
■■ using finer fine aggregate
■■ using less water
■■ air-entrainment
■■ using a rounded, natural fine aggregate rather than an
angular crushed one.

The rate of bleeding will be influenced by drying conditions,

especially wind, and bleeding will take place for longer on cold
days. Similarly, due to the slower stiffening rate, a concrete
containing a retarder has a tendency to bleed for a longer Figure 6.4 : Mechanism for formation of plastic settlement cracks .
period and their use will, in general, increase the risk of plastic

Plastic settlement cracks Settlement cracks may also occur in trough and waffle slabs or
Plastic settlement cracks are caused by differential settlement at any section where there is a significant change in the depth
and are directly related to the amount of bleeding. They tend of concrete.
to occur in deep sections, particularly deep beams, but they
may also develop in columns and walls. This is because the If alterations to the concrete, particularly the use of an air-
deeper the section the more sedimentation or settlement that entraining or water-reducing admixture, cannot be made due

Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

to contractual or economic reasons, the most effective way

of eliminating plastic settlement cracking is to re-vibrate the
concrete after the cracks have formed. Such re-vibration is
acceptable provided the concrete is still plastic enough to be
capable of being ‘fluidised’ by a poker, and yet not so stiff that
a hole is left when the poker is withdrawn. The timing will
depend on the cement type and ambient conditions.

Plastic shrinkage cracks

These cracks occur in horizontal slabs, such as floors and roads.
They usually take the form of one or more diagonal cracks at
0.5–2m centres that do not extend to the slab edges, or they form
a very large pattern of map cracking. Plastic shrinkage cracks,
such as those shown in Figure 6.5 do not usually increase in
length or width but they have been known to ‘zip’ to the slab
edge, depending on the size and shape of the slab, due to the
effects of drying shrinkage. These types of cracks seldom have a
detrimental effect on the load-bearing capability of suspended
slabs or on the carrying capacity of roads. They may occur in
both reinforced and non-reinforced slabs.
Figure 6.6: Mechanism for formation of plastic shrinkage cracks.
Plastic shrinkage cracks are most common in concrete placed on
hot or windy days because they are caused by the rate of
evaporation of moisture from the surface exceeding the rate of
bleeding. The mechanics for their formation are given in Figure 6.6. Remedial measures
The main danger resulting from wider plastic cracking is the
possible ingress of moisture, and sometimes de-icing salt,
leading to the corrosion of reinforcement. With both plastic
settlement and plastic shrinkage cracks, if the affected surface
will be protected subsequently either by more concrete or by a
screed, no treatment is usually necessary.

Often the best repair is simply to brush dry cement (dampened

down later) into the cracks the day after they form and while they
are still clean; this encourages natural or autogenous healing.

Hardened concrete
Figure 6.5: Plastic shrinkage cracking.
Compressive strength
It has been found that air-entrainment significantly reduces the
risk of plastic shrinkage cracks developing. The strength of concrete is specified by strength class; the
notation used gives the cylinder strength as well as the cube
Clearly, plastic shrinkage cracks can be reduced by preventing strength associated with the 28-day characteristic compressive
the loss of moisture from the surface of the concrete in the strength of specimens made from the fresh concrete under
critical first few hours. While sprayed-on, resin-based curing standardised conditions. The results of strength tests are used
compounds are very efficient at curing concrete that has routinely for both control of production and contractual
already hardened, they cannot be applied to fresh concrete conformity purposes.
until the free bleed water has evaporated. This is too late to
prevent plastic shrinkage cracking, so the only alternative is to Characteristic strength is defined as that level of strength below
protect the concrete for the first few hours, e.g. with polythene which a specified proportion of all valid test results is expected
sheeting. This is essential on hot and/or windy days. to fall. Unless otherwise stated, this proportion is taken to be

Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

5%. Due to the variability of constituent materials and testing, made only when there is some doubt about the quality of a
the concrete must be designed to meet a target mean strength, limited quantity of concrete placed, for example, if cube strengths
i.e. a margin above the characteristic strength is required to give have been unsatisfactory, or to assist in determining the strength
a 95% confidence in achieving the characteristic. The margin and quality of an existing structure for which records are not
is based on 1.64 standard deviations (sd), where a typical available.
production sd may be 6N/mm2, see Figure 6.7.
Great care needs to be taken in the interpretation of the results
of core testing: core samples drilled from the in-situ concrete are
expected to be lower in strength than the cubes made, cured
and tested under standard laboratory conditions.

Target mean strength For more information see Test cores on page 81. The standard
Fre quency

reference for core testing is BS EN 12504-1 and BS EN 13791

for the assessment of the core results and its complimentary
Margin = 1.64 SD Standard BS 6089.
Characteristic f ck, cube = f cu Assumed SD = 6N/mm2

10 20 30 40 50 60 70
CUBE strength Flexural and indirect tensile strength
The tensile strength of concrete is generally taken to be about
Figure 6.7: Normal distribution of strength results.
one-tenth of its compressive strength, but different aggregates
cause this proportion to vary and a compressive test is therefore
only a very general guide to the tensile strength.

Test cubes – either 100mm or 150mm – are the specimens The indirect tensile strength (cylinder splitting) is seldom
normally used in the UK but cylinders are used in some specified nowadays. Flexural testing of specimens, to measure
European countries. Because their shapes are different, the the modulus of rupture, may be used on some airfield runway
strength test results, even from the same concretes of the same contracts where the method of design is based on the modulus
ages, are also different, cylinders being weaker than cubes. For of rupture, and for some precast products such as flags and kerbs.
normal-weight aggregates, cylinders are approximately 80%
as strong as cubes, whereas cylinders made from lightweight
aggregates have 90% of the corresponding cube strength.
Durability of concrete
Accordingly, the strength classes recognised in BS EN 206/
BS 8500 are classified in terms of both values, with the Concrete has to be durable and resistant to various environments
cylinder strength followed by the cube strength. The standard ranging from relatively benign conditions to very severe,
compressive strength classes are listed in Table 6.2. See also including weathering, chemical attack, abrasion, freeze/thaw
Strength, conformity and identity testing, page 33. attack and fire. In addition, for reinforced and prestressed
concrete, the cover concrete must provide protection against
In principle, the compressive strength may be determined from the ingress of moisture, chlorides and air, which would
cores cut from the hardened concrete. Core tests are normally eventually cause corrosion of the embedded steel.

Table 6.2: Compressive strength classes taken from BS EN 206.

Concrete compressive strength classes
Concrete made with normal-weight and heavyweight aggregates Concrete made with lightweight aggregates
C8/10 C12/15 C16/20 C20/25 LC8/9 LC12/13 LC16/18 LC20/22
C25/30 C28/35 C30/37 C32/40 LC25/28 LC30/33 LC35/38 LC40/44
C35/45 C40/50 C45/55 C50/60 LC45/50 LC50/55 LC55/60 LC60/66
C55/ 67 C60/75 C70/85 C80/95 LC70/77 LC80/88
C90/105 C100/115

Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

The strength of the concrete alone is not necessarily a reliable

guide to the durability of concrete; many other factors also
have to be taken into account. Of all the factors influencing
the durability of concrete the most important is that of
impermeability. The degree of impermeability is mainly
dependent on:

■■ c onstituents of the concrete, and in particular the free

water:cement ratio, cement type and cement quantity A) Free w/c ratio 0.30.
■■ compaction, to eliminate air voids
■■ curing, to ensure continuing hydration.

Concrete has a tendency to be permeable due to the presence
of capillary voids in the cement paste matrix. In order to obtain
workable concrete it is usually necessary to use far more water
B) Free w/c ratio 0.50.
than is actually necessary for hydration of the cement; this excess
water occupies space and, when later the concrete dries out,
capillary voids are left behind.

Provided the concrete has been fully compacted and properly

cured, these voids are extremely small and their number and
size decrease as the free water:cement ratio is reduced. At high
free water:cement ratio the particles of cement along with
their hydration products will tend to be spaced widely apart C) Free w/c ratio 0.80.
(see Figure 6.8c), and the capillaries will be greater compared
with a mix at a lower free water:cement ratio (see Figures 6.8a
and 6.8b). The more open the structure of the paste, the more Figure 6.8a-c: Effect of initial cement particle spacing on the permeability
of concrete.
easily it will permit the ingress of air, moisture and harmful
chemicals. It will also be very sensitive to the drying regime,
both at early ages and in the more mature hardened state.

Table 6.3: Typical relationships between free water:cement ratio, aggregate type, consistence class and Portland cement content.
Free w/c Type of Consistence/slump class
ratio aggregate Low Medium High
S1 (10 – 40mm) S2 (50 – 90mm) S3 (100 – 150mm)
Free water Cement content Free water Cement content Free water Cement content
demand (kg/m³) demand (kg/m³) demand (kg/m³)
(litres/m³) (litres/ m³) (litres m³)
0.7 Uncrushed 160 230 180 260 195 280
Crushed 190 270 210 300 225 325
0.6 Uncrushed 160 265 180 300 195 325
Crushed 190 315 210 350 225 375
0.5 Uncrushed 160 320 180 360 195 390
Crushed 190 380 210 420 225 450
0.4 Uncrushed 160 400 180 450 195 490
Crushed 190 475 210 525 225 565
1. 20mm maximum aggregate size.
2. Uncrushed – natural gravels and natural fine aggregates.
Crushed – crushed gravel or rock and crushed fine aggregate.
3. For a given consistence class, cement content = water demand/free w/c ratio
4. Where concrete contains a water-reducing admixture the relationship will be different.
5. Actual free water demands may vary from the above values by ±10 litres/m3 and corresponding adjustments to the cement contents may be required.

Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Although free water:cement ratio is the main factor affecting Curing

impermeability, and hence durability, it cannot easily be The importance of curing in relation to durability is seldom fully
measured either in the fresh or hardened concrete. However, appreciated. It is essential that proper curing techniques are used
for a particular aggregate type and grading, the water demand to reduce the permeability of concrete by ensuring the continued
for the same consistence class is more or less constant and is hydration process. The formation of the reaction products, which
independent of the cement content. Therefore, by knowing fill up the capillary voids, ceases when the concrete dries to
the water demand for a particular consistence class the cement below 80% relative humidity.
content can be evaluated for the required and specified free
water:cement ratio. This is illustrated in Table 6.3. Further information is given in Chapter 17 Curing, page 63. It
should be noted that longer curing periods are required when
Exposure classes cements containing additions are used.
In BS 8500, exposure classes are given ‘X’ codes, ranging from
X0 for mild exposure through the following codes for exposure Cover
to different causes of deterioration: Many defects in reinforced concrete are the result of insufficient
cover, leading to reinforcement corrosion. Too often, not enough
■■ A for exposure to chemical attack.
X care is given to the fixing of reinforcement to ensure that the
■■ XC for risk of corrosion induced by carbonation. specified minimum cover is achieved. Reinforcement moves
■■ XS for exposure to the sea and sea spray. easily in the forms when concrete is poured, unless tightly
■■ XD for exposure to chlorides from sources other than fixed in place with properly introduced spacers. The position
the sea. of the reinforcement, and its cover, should be checked before
■■ XF for risk of freeze/thaw attack (with and without salt and during concreting, and may need to be checked after the
present). concrete has hardened. Further information about cover is
given in Chapter 15 Reinforcement, page 56.
Each group (apart from X0, mild exposure class) has a ranking
system from one to four depending on the severity of the Carbonation
exposure. Guidance on the recommended limiting constituent Reinforcement embedded in good concrete with an adequate
values, i.e. cement type, cement content and water:cement ratio, depth of cover is protected against corrosion by the highly
for resisting these exposure conditions is given in BS 8500-1, alkaline pore water in the hardened cement paste. Loss of
the actual values being dependent on specified characteristic alkalinity of the concrete can be caused by the carbon dioxide
strength, intended working life (either 50 or 100 years) and in the air reacting with and neutralising the free lime. This reaction
concrete cover to reinforcement. is called carbonation and if it reaches the reinforcement,
corrosion will occur in moist environments.
With increasing severity of exposure, the free water:cement
ratio needs to be decreased since durability is related to the Carbonation is a slow process progressing from the surface and is
impermeability of the concrete. It should also be noted that dependent on the permeability of the concrete and the humidity
requirements for exposure classes tend to include requirements of the environment. Provided that the depth of cover and
for lowest strengths of concrete. In the past, specified strengths quality of concrete are correctly specified and achieved to suit
tended to be lower than the minimum recommended for the exposure conditions, corrosion due to carbonation should
durability because the earlier specifications were largely related not occur during the lifetime of the structure. Notwithstanding
to structural rather than durability requirements. this, corrosion of reinforcement due to carbonation is a common
event where insufficient care is taken in placing the steel, or
Compaction where excessively permeable concretes are used.
In addition to the capillary voids (pores), which are dependent
on the water:cement ratio, air pockets or voids, and even large Resistance to freezing and thawing
cavities or ‘honeycombing’, may also be present if the concrete The freeze/thaw resistance of concrete depends on its
has not been fully compacted. Concrete that has not been impermeability and the degree of saturation when exposed to
properly compacted because of bad workmanship or because frost. Concrete with a higher degree of saturation is more liable
the mix design made compaction difficult can result in a porous to damage. The use of salt for de-icing roads greatly increases
concrete, which may, for example, allow water seepage as the risk of freeze/thaw damage.
well as easy ingress of air and chemicals harmful to concrete.
Well-compacted concrete should not contain more than 1% of The benefits of air-entrained concrete have been referred to
entrapped air. in Chapter 6 Air-entraining admixtures, page 22, where it was
recommended that all exposed horizontal paved areas subject
This subject is considered in more detail in Chapter 11 Placing to freezing temperatures whilst wet, from motorways to garage
and compaction, page 47. drives, footpaths and marine structures, should be air-entrained.

Chapter 6: Concrete properties
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Freeze/thaw damage can be greater where structures are both The reaction will cause damage to the concrete only when the
wet and in contact with salt or salt solution used for de-icing, following three conditions occur simultaneously:
e.g. parts of structures adjacent to highways and in car parks
that are likely to be splashed. ■■ a reactive form of silica is present in the aggregate in critical
Alternatively for these applications, a concrete with a strength ■■ the pore solution contains sodium, potassium and hydroxyl
class of C40/50 or LC40/44 with limitations on maximum ions and is of a sufficiently high alkalinity
water:cement ratio and minimum cement content can be used ■■ water is available.

Particular care needs to be taken to ensure that the concrete is If any one of these factors is absent, then damage from ASR will
properly protected and cured (see Chapter 17 Curing, page 63). not occur and no precautions need be taken. It is possible for
the reaction to take place in the concrete without inducing
Resistance to chemical attack expansion. Damage may not occur, even when the reaction
Concrete is attacked by acids and by acid fumes, including product is spread throughout the concrete, and the gel may fill
organic acids, which are often produced when food-stuffs are cracks induced by some other mechanism.
being processed. Vinegar, fruit juices, silage effluent, sour milk
and sugar solutions all attack concrete. Where acidic conditions Recommendations are available for minimising the risk of damage
exist, i.e. where the pH is 5.5 or less, careful consideration needs from ASR in new concrete construction, based on ensuring that
to be made in relation to the cement type, cement quantity and at least one of the three factors listed above is absent.
other limiting factors based on the type of exposure and the
intended construction. Alkalis have little effect on concrete, but
can increase the risk of alkali-silica reaction (ASR).

For construction exposed to made-up ground, including

contaminated and/or industrial material, specialist advice should
be sought so that the Aggressive Chemical Environmental
Condition (ACEC) class and therefore Design Chemical (DC) class
can be correctly determined and a suitable concrete specified.

The most common form of chemical attack that concrete has

to resist is the effect of solutions of sulfates that may be present
in some soils and groundwaters.

In all cases where concrete is subject to chemical attack,

resistance is related to the free water:cement ratio, cement
content, the type of cement and the degree of compaction.
Well-compacted concrete will always be more resistant
to sulfate attack than one which is less well compacted,
regardless of cement type. BS 8500 incorporates a primary
set of recommendations specific to concrete exposed to
sulfate-bearing soil or ground-water, natural or brownfield
sites, mobility and pH of the water and is based on the
information given in BRE Special Digest 1.

Alkali-silica reaction
Alkali-silica reaction (ASR) in concrete is a reaction between
certain siliceous constituents in the aggregate and the alkalis,
sodium and potassium hydroxide, that are released during the
hydration of cement. A gelatinous product is formed, which
imbibes pore fluid and in so doing expands, inducing an
internal stress within the concrete.

Chapter 7: Concrete specification

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Concrete specification

Two essential properties of hardened concrete are durability Full specifications for all designated concretes are given in
and strength. Both properties are affected by the voids and BS 8500-2. The use of the designation, e.g. RC28/35, is an
capillaries in the concrete, which are caused by excessive instruction to the producer to conform to BS 8500-2.
water or by incomplete compaction.
The producer of designated concretes must operate a
In principle, the lower the free water:cement ratio the recognised accredited, third party certification system, and
stronger and more durable the concrete will be. The concrete ensure that the concrete conforms to the specification given
should be fully compacted if it is to retain or exclude water in BS 8500-2, including:
and provide corrosion protection to reinforcement.
■■ strength class
Within the UK, the concrete producer is normally required ■■ minimum cement content
to take action to prevent damaging alkali-silica reaction and ■■ maximum free water:cement ratio.
therefore provisions in the specification are not normally
required. For these concretes, it is assumed that the nominal maximum
aggregate size will be 20mm; it is necessary simply to state that
The required consistence needs to be known at the time of the concrete is required to conform to BS EN 206/BS 8500-2
specification so that the concrete can be proportioned to give and to specify the designation. The consistence class is selected
the required strength and durability. High-strength concretes by the user of the concrete and this information is passed to
can be designed and proportioned to a very high or self- the specifier for inclusion in the specification.
compacting consistence thereby overcoming conditions that
make placing or vibration difficult. Aggregate sizes other than 20mm may be specified, but
this detail would be given along with any further additional
The methods of specification and what to specify are given in requirements, such as the use of fibres or a higher than normal
BS 8500-1. Three types of concrete – designed, prescribed and air content, to allow for any loss of air during pumping, for
standardised prescribed concretes – are recognised by BS EN example. BS 8500-1 lists the options that may be exercised by
206, but BS 8500 adds two more: designated and proprietary specifiers for these special cases. A guide to the correct selection
concretes. of designated concrete is reproduced in Table 7.1.

Quality assurance through accredited third party inspection

Designated concretes is a prerequisite for supplying designated concretes. There is

therefore no necessity for the purchaser of the concrete to
make test cubes, nevertheless it is not precluded. Product
This group of wide-ranging concretes provides for almost every conformity is ensured by the quality procedures.
type of concrete construction. They have developed from
the original designated mixes introduced in 1991 and, being
specific to the UK, are perpetuated in BS 8500. Divided into four
sub-groups, designated concretes are deemed to be fit for the Designed concretes
following specific purposes:
These are concretes for which the producer is responsible for
■■ general purpose low-grade applications (GEN concretes) selecting the mix proportions to meet the required performance
■■ for use as foundations in sulfate-bearing ground conditions as communicated by the specifier. Therefore it is essential that
(FND concretes) the specifier, in compiling the specification, takes account of:
■■ air-entrained concretes for external pavement applications
(PAV concretes) ■■ u ses of the fresh and hardened concrete
■■ normal structural classes for reinforced concrete ■■ environmental conditions
applications (RC concretes). ■■ dimensions of the structure; this affects heat development

Chapter 7: Concrete specification
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

■■ e nvironmental exposure conditions seldom need to be used but may be required for special
■■ surface finish surface finishes or where particular properties are required. The
■■ maximum nominal aggregate size specifier should include details of the cement content, the type
■■ restrictions on suitability of materials. and strength class of cement and either the free water:cement
ratio or consistence class.
The most common form of designed concrete is that defined
by the characteristic compressive strength at 28 days and
identified by the strength class. For example, strength class
C25/30 concrete is one having a characteristic compressive Standardised prescribed
cube strength of 30N/mm2 at 28 days. (The same concrete
would have a characteristic cylinder strength of 25N/mm2 at concretes
28 days if cylinders were used for testing, as in certain European
countries.) To understand the meaning of the term ‘characteristic’ Standardised prescribed concretes have their constituent
see Compressive strength on page 26. However, strength alone weights pre-defined and are given in BS 8500-2, Table 7.
does not necessarily define the required durability, and for While strength testing is not intended to be used to judge
structural concrete BS 8500 indicates minimum strength class, conformity for standardised prescribed concrete, the
the maximum free water:cement ratio and minimum cement characteristic compressive strength, as shown in BS 8500-1
content that are required for different degrees of exposure. Table A.15, may be assumed for the purposes of design.
The maximum free water:cement ratio, minimum cement
content and types of constituent materials are the main factors For these concretes it is necessary to specify:
influencing durability.
■■ a requirement to conform to BS 8500-2
If a specification for designed concrete is to be compiled correctly ■■ the concrete description, e.g. ST1, ST2, ST3, ST4 or ST5
the following details need to be included: ■■ the maximum aggregate size
■■ the slump class
■■ a requirement to conform to BS EN 206 and BS 8500-2 ■■ any restrictions on types of cement, cement combinations
■■ the compressive strength class or aggregates.
■■ the limiting values of composition, e.g. maximum free
water:cement ratio, minimum cement content or the Admixtures, apart from air-entraining admixtures, are
design chemical class where appropriate permitted in standardised prescribed concretes and, while
■■ type of cement or combination numerous cement types are permitted, it is not intended that
■■ the maximum aggregate size properties normally associated with some of those cements
■■ the chloride class – such as low heat or sulfate resistance – will be produced in
■■ the consistence class. the concrete.

Optional items may be included such as the target density of The concrete producer is responsible for ensuring that the
lightweight concrete, heat development or other technical materials used conform to those specified and that the batched
requirements listed in BS 8500-1. weights are based on the proportions given in the appropriate
Standard. A guide to the correct selection of standardised
Conformity of designed concretes is usually determined by prescribed concretes is reproduced in Table 7.1.
strength testing of 100mm or 150mm cubes and in BS 8500
this is the responsibility of the producer. Conformity with the specification for standardised prescribed
concretes is judged against supply of concrete with the correct
The producer will respond to the specification by producing a materials and proportions as defined in BS 8500-2. Strength
mix design that satisfies all of the specified requirements. Mix testing does not form part of the assessment of standardised
design methods are described in several publications and the prescribed concretes.
subject will not be dealt with in any great detail here.
Because the proportions of standardised prescribed concretes
have been selected to take into account different types of
Prescribed concretes aggregate and variations in cement strengths, cube compressive
strengths would be likely to exceed by as much as 12N/mm2 the
assumed characteristic strengths associated with the respective
These are concretes where the specification gives the mix strength classes. This compensates for the lack of strength testing
proportions in kilograms of each constituent in order to and the fact that standardised prescribed concretes are intended
satisfy particular performance requirements. Such concretes for site production with basic equipment and control.

Chapter 7: Concrete specification
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Table 7.1: Guide to the selection of standardised prescribed concrete and designated concrete in housing and general applications (BS 8500-1).
Standardised Designated Characteristic cube Application in conditions where Design Chemical Default
prescribed concrete concrete strength (N/mm²) class 1 (DC-1) concrete is appropriate consistence class

ST1 GEN0 8c Kerb bedding and backing S1

ST2 GEN1 10 c Pipe bedding and drainage works to give immediate S1
Other drainage works S3 a
Strip footings S3 a
Mass concrete foundations S3 a
Trench fill foundations S4
Blinding and mass concrete fill S3 a
Oversite below suspended slabs S3 a
House floors with no embedded metal – permanent
finish to be added (e.g. screed) S2
ST3 GEN2 15 c House floors with no embedded metal – no permanent S2
finish to be added (e.g. carpet)
ST4 GEN3 20 c Garage floors with no embedded metal S2
RC25/30 30 c Wearing surfaces – light foot and trolley traffic S2
RC32/40 40 Wearing surfaces – general industrial S2
RC40/50 50 Wearing surfaces – heavy industrial S2
PAV1 35 House drives and domestic parking S2 a
PAV2 40 Heavy-duty external paving with rubber tyre vehicles S3 a, b
RC28/35 35 Reinforced concrete inside enclosed buildings (e.g. S2
house floors) – nominal cover at least 25mm
1. See Resistance to chemical attack on page 30.
2. For concrete in the ground, where aggressive chemical conditions exist and the design chemical class is higher than DC-1, FND designations can be specified. These designated concretes
have a characteristic strength of 30N/mm2 – refer to BS 8500 for specific details on Design Chemical classes
3. Concrete containing embedded metal should be regarded as reinforced.

a. default slump class for this designated concrete

b. depends on method of placement
c. assumed for standardised prescribed concrete

BS EN 206/BS 8500 give options for checking the conformity of

prescribed and standardised prescribed concretes, indicating Strength, conformity and
that they may be assessed by one of the following methods:
identity testing
■■ o bservation of the batching
■■ examination of the records of batch weights used The strength of concrete is usually defined by the crushing
■■ analysis of the fresh concrete in accordance with strength of 100mm or 150mm cubes at an age of 28 days.
procedures defined in British Standards. However, other types and ages of test and other sizes and
shapes of specimen are sometimes used.

Proprietary concretes Test procedures are described under Testing hardened concrete
on page 79. The strength of a concrete will usually be specified
This sub-group of concrete is to provide for those instances when as a characteristic strength. This is the strength below which not
a concrete producer would give assurance of the performance more than a stated proportion of the concrete falls see page 26.
of concrete without being required to disclose full details of the In BS EN 206 this proportion is defined as 5% (1 in 20). To protect
mix constituents or composition. the user, an absolute minimum strength of any batch is specified.

Chapter 7: Concrete specification
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

The variability in results needs to be considered statistically, and be demonstrably similar and they would all either contain,
a detailed discussion on this subject is outside the scope of or not contain, an admixture. Test results are collected over
this publication. However, it is briefly mentioned to clarify the the full range of consistence classes and a limited range of
consideration of concrete strengths. strength classes, enabling statistical evaluation to be made in
determining whether a concrete remains within its family or
Because of the variability of test results, and the inherent must be removed from it.
variability of the constituent materials, the concrete must
be designed to have a mean strength high enough above During any contract, the materials will vary and by keeping
the characteristic strength to ensure that not more than the continuous records of test results it is possible to vary the margin
expected percentage of results fall below the characteristic so as to make the best use of the materials while conforming to
strength. The difference between this ‘target mean’ and the specification. Any changes that are made must not conflict
characteristic strength is known as the ‘margin’. with the specific limiting values. The cement content, for example,
must not be reduced below the specified minimum figure.
The spread of results from concrete strength tests has been
found to follow what is known, in statistics, as a ‘normal’ There are conformity requirements for properties, other than
distribution, which enables it to be defined by the ‘standard strength, which the producer needs to comply with. These are
deviation’ of the results. The standard deviation is a measure of given in BS EN 206.
the control that has been exercised over the production of the
concrete. Where the spread of results and the standard deviation
are large, the margin also must be large, but where control over BS EN 206/BS 8500-1 identity testing
materials, mixing and testing procedures is good, the standard
deviation will be smaller and the margin may be reduced, The concept of identity testing is introduced where there is doubt
leading to economies in materials. In practice, the margin will over the concrete quality, lack of independent assessment of
usually be about 7–12N/mm2. the producer’s data (e.g. no third party accreditation), for spot
checks, for structurally critical elements or where there is doubt
To use this statistical method reliably for judging conformity to over a particular batch before placing. An identity test is use to
the specification, a large number of test results are needed. Yet determine whether selected batches of concrete come from a
conformity is commonly judged by examining the results of conforming population in terms of a specific property.
smaller numbers of results, as outlined below.
BS 8500-1 recommends that the producer is informed by the
specifier that identity testing will be taking place on concrete
BS EN 206 conformity rules to be supplied, even if the specific volume is ‘still to be defined’.

During the initial stages of production, that is, until at least 35 Strength
test results have been obtained, the results are assessed in over- The procedure and conformance criteria for determining
lapping or non-overlapping groups of three results. The mean whether a defined volume of concrete comes from a conforming
strength of each group of three test results must be not less concrete of the specified strength class are outlined in BS EN
than 4N/mm2 greater than the specified characteristic strength, 206 Annex B, with clarification in BS 8500-1 Annex A.10 and
whilst the occasional individual test result is permitted to be Annex B.5. It is based on sets of non-overlapping results, i.e. a
4N/mm2 less than the specified characteristic strength. result is only used once and is not part of a rolling mean, unlike
the criteria in the withdrawn BS 5328.
After 35 test results have been generated within a period of not
more than 12 months the initial production period is over and BS EN 206 gives two criteria for assessing whether a given
continuous production is achieved. The standard deviation is volume of concrete is acceptable based on between two and
calculated, the test results are assessed in groups of at least 15 six results (a result is the average of at least two cubes from
and the minimum requirement is that the mean strength of each the same sample) from an identity testing regime; these are
group of results must be not less than the specified characteristic reproduced in Table 7.2. Both criteria must be satisfied. The
strength plus 1.48 x standard deviation. As with the initial concrete must have been sampled in accordance with BS EN
production period, the occasional individual test result is permitted 12350-1 (using the continuous method, not spot sample from
to be 4N/mm2 less than the specified characteristic strength. initial discharge), and the test specimens (usually 100mm cubes)
cast, cured and tested in accordance with BS EN 12390-2 and
Conformity may be established using individual concretes or BS EN 12390-3 to ensure the strength values obtained are valid.
defined concrete families. The ‘members’ of each family would
typically be concretes that use the same type and strength Where the range of the test values between each result is more
class of cement from a single source, their aggregates would than 15% of their mean, the result shall be disregarded unless an

Chapter 7: Concrete specification
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

investigation reveals an acceptable reason to justify disregarding structure in question. Generally, a defined volume should not
an individual test value. exceed the quantity of concrete represented by six test results
at the specified sampling rate.
A volume could be, for example:
Table 7.3: Suggested sampling rate criteria.
■■ t he concrete supplied for each storey of a building or group Risk class Elements Typical sampling rate
of beams/slabs or columns/walls of a storey of a building or Very Contract defined 1 sample per truck/batch
comparable parts of other structures critical
■■ the concrete delivered to a site within one week, but not Critical Prestressed, high-strength 1 sample per two
more than 400m³. columns, masts, cantilevers batches
Typical Reinforced walls, beams and 1 sample per 4 –10
Each volume should preferably be represented by six test results slabs batches
or, if a volume contains more than six test results, they should Non- Unreinforced, raft slabs May not be required
be split into groups of six for assessment. The results should critical
represent a short, chronological period to minimise the risk of
including a step change in quality. Conformity is thus judged
for the whole of the defined volume of concrete. Concrete is Properties other than strength
An identity test on the fresh concrete can be undertaken to
deemed to come from a conforming population if both the
check whether a concrete conforms to the specification. An
criteria in Table 7.2 are satisfied.
identity test on fresh concrete is immediate and properties can
be assessed quickly on site by experienced personnel before
It should be noted that, unlike under the withdrawn BS 5328
the concrete is fully discharged. Any identity testing failure can
system, a test result failing the individual criterion will cause
be dealt with immediately, either by rejection of the load or by
that whole defined volume to fail the identity test unless it can
making adjustments on the particular load or subsequent loads
be demonstrated that the result is invalid for some reason.
following consultation with the producer.
Table 7.2: Identity criteria for compressive strength (abstracted
from BS 8500-1). Identity test results do not necessarily form part of the BS EN
206 concrete supply conformity evaluation but may form part
Number of test results Criterion 1 Criterion 2
for compressive of the contract between the designer and the contractor.
Mean of results Any individual test
strength from defined N/mm² Typically, these tests are for checking consistence, entrained air
volume N/mm²
content and density.
1 Not applicable ≥ fck – 4
Before carrying out the test, the sampling rate needs to be set. For
2–4 ≥ fck + 1 ≥ fck – 4
fresh concrete tests, sampling is likely to be based on multiples
5–6 ≥ fck + 2 ≥ fck – 4 of truck deliveries and, due to different criteria for sampling
Where fck is the concrete characteristic strength, i.e. the strength class. and testing, may not be the same as that for identity testing for
compressive strength.

Defining a ‘volume’ and a sampling rate Consistence

Areas at higher risk if non-conformity occurs are shear walls, It is normally the contractor, not the architect or engineer,
columns, cantilevers, etc. These are generally small volumes but who decides on the consistence requirements, as consistence
relatively highly stressed. Areas of lower risk if non-conformity depends on the method of placement. Consistence, as
occurs are foundations, piles, rafts, etc. These are generally large determined by BS EN 12350-2 for slump, BS EN 12350-5 for flow
volumes but may not be relatively highly stressed. and BS EN 12350-8 for slump-flow, is specified as either a class or
target value. Degree of compactability for non-slump concretes
Rates should be appropriate to the construction activity and to BS EN 12350-4 is rarely used in the UK. For self-compacting
may vary depending on the phase. Note: the truck/batch concrete (SCC) the slump-flow test is typically used on site, with
capacity delivered may be 3, 6 or 8m3 or a part load. The the V-funnel test, L-box test, Sieve segregation test and J-ring test
specification may need to clarify: (BS EN 12350 parts 9 to 12 respectively) being typically used in
laboratories to classify the SCC’s properties.
1. the number of results required for a defined volume, period
or structure, each result being taken from a separate batch BS 8500-1:2015 + A1:2016 Tables B.1 to B.6 give the maximum
2. sampling rate based on batches irrespective of capacity. allowable deviation based on a spot sample taken from the initial
discharge of a ready-mixed concrete truck or as a composite
Table 7.3 provides guidance on suggested sampling rates but sample, both being taken in accordance with BS EN 12350-1.
no overall volumes, as these will very much depend on the See summary Tables 7.4 to 7.9 based on BS 8500.

Chapter 7: Concrete specification
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

For those batches or loads which are not physically checked, Table 7.4: Criteria for slump class.
consistence can be visual assessed by a suitably experienced Slump Slump Maximum allowable range including
person but no consistence value can be attributed without class range tolerance (mm)
testing. (mm) Spot sample Composite
The rate of testing should reflect the importance of the S1 10–40 0–60 0–50
element into which the concrete is being placed. It may be S2 50–90 30–110 40–100
the case that a relatively high rate would be advisable at the
S3 100–150 80–170 90–160
start of supply, but as confidence grows, the rate of sampling
could be reduced and, in the case of consistence testing, S4 160–210 140–230 150–220
more reliance can be placed on visual inspections as the main S5 ≥220 ≥200 ≥210
checking method. If the concrete is deemed to be deficient of
water, it can be corrected by controlled and recorded
Table 7.5: Criteria for target value for slump.
addition of water by the producer.
Target Maximum allowable deviation on target
Air entrainment slump value (mm)
The permitted range for air entrainment of concrete, dependent (mm) Spot sample Composite sample
on aggregate size, is given in Table 7.6, the total air content ≤40 ±20 ±10
being determined by BS EN 12350-7. The sample for test should 50–90 ±30 ±20
be representative of the load, i.e. a composite sample and not a ≥100 ±40 ±30
spot sample, obtained in accordance with BS EN 12350-1.

The minimum air content given is that recommended at the Table 7.6: Criteria for flow class.
point of placing, based on the assumption that the distance Flow class Flow range Maximum allowable range including
between discharge (i.e. the producer delivery truck) and the (mm) tolerance (mm)
point of placing is small. Where this distance is large, or the Spot sample Composite
concrete is pumped, there may be a loss of air. It may sample
therefore be necessary to increase the minimum specified F1 ≤340 ≤360 ≤360
value at the point of discharge to compensate for any loss F2 350–410 330-430 340-420
and to ensure that the entrained air at the point of placing is F3 420–480 400-500 410-490
within the specified limits.
F4 490–550 470-570 480-560
F5 560–620 540-640 550-630
It is considered prudent to carry out some identity testing each
F6 ≥630 ≥610 ≥620
day to check the air content for each batch from each
supplying plant until it stabilises and from then onwards
randomly throughout the rest of the pour. Table 7.7: Criteria for target value for flow.

Fresh density Target flow Maximum allowable deviation on target

It is unusual for the fresh concrete density, determined in diameter value (mm)
accordance with BS EN 12350-6, to be measured on site but (mm) Spot sample Composite sample
could be necessary if there is a requirement for a specified All values ±60 ±50
design property or in relation to checking the yield of a delivered
volume. To ensure a valid result, the sample for test should be
representative of the load, i.e. a composite sample and not a spot Table 7.8: Criteria for air content.
sample, obtained in accordance with BS EN 12350-1. Max aggregate Minimum Maximum allowable
size (mm) specified air deviation (%)
Sampling and testing rates should be sensible, agreed between content (%) Composite sample
the specifier and producer prior to commencement of supply, and 40 4.0 -0.5, +5.0
reflect the importance of determining this property of the concrete. 20 4.5 -0.5, +5.0
14 5.5 -0.5, +5.0
The following Tables are adapted from BS 8500-1. 10 6.5 -0.5, +5.0

Chapter 7: Concrete specification
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Table 7.8: Criteria for slump-flow.

Maximum allowable range including tolerance (mm)

Slump-flow class Slump-flow range (mm)
Spot sample Composite sample
SF1 550 to 650 540–660 550–650
SF2 660 to 750 650–760 660–750
SF3 760 to 850 750–860 760–850

Table 7.9: Criteria for target value for slump-flow.

Maximum allowable deviation on target value (mm)

Target slump-flow diameter (mm)
Spot sample Composite sample
All values -60 +70 ± 50

Effect of concrete constituents strength and durability, as well as resulting in a concrete

prone to segregation.

The effects of different types of cement have already been
described in Chapter 2 Cement, page 3. Within one type the Water quality is the most consistent of the constituents of
properties will vary, but if the supply is derived from one works concrete. However, water quantity is most important for control
only, this variation will be small. In the case of a combination of consistence, strength and durability as it affects the free
cement, the addition should be from the same source as should water:cement ratio. The amount of water used should be the
be the Portland cement. minimum necessary to ensure thorough compaction of the
concrete. When deciding how much water is required, allowance
must be made for absorption by dry or porous aggregates and for
the free surface moisture of wet aggregates, as explained under
Aggregates Storage of aggregates on page 13 and Chapter 4 Water, page 15.
The overall grading of the aggregate affects the amount of water
that must be added because, in simplified terms, ‘fine’ gradings
require more water than ‘coarse’ gradings to obtain the same Admixtures
degree of consistence. The aim is to combine the different sizes
of aggregate in such a way as to achieve the optimum packing Admixtures have been described in the section on Admixtures,
of the particles and so reduce voids to a minimum. The special page 17. All admixtures are batched in small quantities and
considerations applicable to air-entrained concrete are discussed need great care in dispensing and mixing to ensure dispersion
on page 18, under Air-entraining admixtures. through the mix.

Aggregate particles that have an angular shape or a rough texture,

such as crushed stone, give greater strength for a given free
water:cement ratio but need more water than smooth and Trial mixes
rounded particles to produce concrete of the same consistence.
With smaller sized aggregates, the amount of fine aggregate It may be necessary to establish that the proposed mix proportions,
needed to fill the voids increases with a corresponding increase including cement content, will produce concrete of the required
in water demand. To maintain the free water:cement ratio fresh and hardened properties, or satisfy a requirement to not
necessary for strength and durability, at the specified consistence, exceed a maximum free water:cement ratio. This can be
more cement and/or admixture is necessary. achieved either from examination of previous data or by the
use of trial mixes.
The fine and coarse aggregates need to be proportioned to
produce a stable, cohesive mix at the required consistence It should be noted that, when ready-mixed concrete is supplied
with the minimum amount of water. Badly proportioned with third party certification, trial mixes by the producer are not
constituents require an excessive amount of water to achieve needed. Purchasers may request a certificate for the intended
the required slump, and this will result in concrete of lower mix design.

Chapter 8: Ready-mixed concrete

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Ready-mixed concrete
About three-quarters of all concrete placed on site in the UK minute to keep the concrete turning over. When the truck
is supplied ready-mixed. To ensure ready-mixed concrete is arrives on the site the drum should always be rotated at
used successfully, it is essential that there is close liaison and between 10 and 15 revolutions per minute for at least three
cooperation between the main contractor and the concrete minutes and sometimes longer, to ensure thorough mixing
supplier at all stages, from quotation and ordering to discharging before discharge.
the concrete (see exchange of information below). The use of
ready-mixed, rather than site-mixed, concrete allows for wide
variations in demand.
Exchange of information
It is recommended that ready-mixed concrete should be
supplied from a plant that holds current accredited third Full details of the concrete specification must be submitted
party certification, such as QSRMC or BSI, ensuring that sound by the purchaser at the earliest stage, i.e. when quotations are
practices are followed and systems are in place to maintain being sought from the supplier.
high standards of quality and production control.
When several different concretes are used on one contract, the
essential items to specify for the different types of concrete
Batching plants (designated, designed, prescribed, standardised prescribed or
proprietary) are outlined in Chapter 7 Concrete specification,
page 31 and are fully described in BS 8500.
There are two basic types of batching plant.
In addition, the purchaser should specify the consistence
(normally slump) required for each concrete to suit the proposed
‘Dry batch’ plants placing and compacting techniques. Some concretes of the
same strength may need to be supplied at different consistence
The cement and aggregates are weighed and discharged into classes to suit the particular construction. For example, RC25/30
the waiting truck-mixer along with most, if not all, of the mixing concrete placed in a sloping ramp may be required at a slump
water, plus any admixture. The concrete is mixed in the truck- of 40mm (consistence class S1), whereas the same strength
mixer drum and any additional water required to obtain the class in a narrow wall may need a slump of 120mm (consistence
specified consistence may be added either at the plant or, in class S3). As the consistence will affect the cement content
the case of high-consistence concrete, on site. of a concrete it is essential that the consistence required on
site is given at the time of the enquiry. If it is not known, it is
Thorough mixing is essential to ensure concrete of uniform recommended that a high consistence class should be specified.
quality. In transit the mixer drum may rotate slowly at about
one or two revolutions per minute to keep the concrete turning Many specifications will also state maximum free water:cement
over. When the truck-mixer arrives on site, the drum should ratios, cement or combination type and minimum cement
always be rotated at between 10 and 15 revolutions per minute contents required for durability purposes, and it is essential that
for at least three minutes and sometimes longer, to ensure the supplier is notified about these requirements.
thorough mixing before discharge.
The benefits of using designated concretes include a simple
specification process and an assurance that the concrete
conforms to British Standard requirements.
Central mixing plants
Additional requirements should also be given to the supplier
The cement, aggregates and water, together with any admixture, when the concrete is for a high-quality surface finish or has to
are mixed in a central mixing plant before discharge into the be pumped, because modifications to the concrete proportions
truck-drum, which is then used as an agitator. In transit the may be needed for what might otherwise be a satisfactory
drum may rotate slowly at about one or two revolutions per concrete for general purposes.

Chapter 8: Ready-mixed concrete
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Quotations submitted will usually be accompanied by the

supplier’s mix design form. This should be carefully checked to Provision of access
ensure compliance with the contract specification and that the
proportions are suitable for the intended use and placing The route(s) from the site entrance to the point(s) of discharge
conditions. When high-quality finishes are required, particular need to be planned in advance. A fully-loaded, six-wheeled 6m³
care needs to be taken in assessing the proposed mix design to capacity truck-mixer weighs 26 tonnes and an eight-wheeled
ensure that the cement content and aggregate proportions 8m³ capacity truck-mixer weighs 32 tonnes, so access roads
and gradings are in accordance with the basic requirements, as must be strong enough to carry the load, even in wet conditions.
indicated under Concrete for high-quality finishes, page 68. Larger trucks with greater capacity are now becoming more
readily available.
When a maximum free water:cement ratio is specified, it is essential
to check that the amount of water in the design represents a realistic In many cases, truck-mixers have to reverse into position to
volume appropriate to the consistence required. discharge so an adequate turning space on firm ground may
be needed near to the discharge point; a turning circle of about
On all jobs the contractor and the supplier need to establish 18m is necessary for a typical truck. To avoid contamination of
a formal communication system to discuss the planning the site, an area should be designated for hosing down chutes
and ordering procedures in good time before delivery of and cleaning wheels.
concrete. This is best done by the contractor nominating one
person to be directly responsible for ordering the concrete
on a day-to-day basis and for making sure that all is ready on
site for the delivery. Delivery
Before discharging any batch of concrete, the delivery ticket
should be checked to confirm that the concrete is of the
Day-to-day ordering correct class and conforms to what was ordered. This checking
is best done by the contractor’s authorised and nominated
Details of all the concrete to be used on site should always be representative who is also responsible for the ordering.
given to the supplier well in advance. This will help to ensure
that when individual loads are ordered, the supplier’s dispatch Concrete mixed at a depot, either in a central mixer or in a
clerk (shipper) will know precisely what is wanted. Orders should truck-mixer, should arrive on site with the ordered consistence,
be placed at least 24 hours before delivery is required; large pours and no extra water should need to be added. Some suppliers
involving several hundred cubic metres require much longer using dry batching plants add a quantity of water when the
notice so that the supplier can organise and plan accordingly. truck arrives on site. It is then the driver’s responsibility to add
When making an order by ‘phone, the information given should only the amount of water as instructed to achieve the specified
include the following items: consistence as shown on the delivery ticket.

■■ Name of the purchaser. If the delivery ticket details are correct, the driver should be
■■ Name and location of site and order reference number if instructed to remix the load to ensure uniformity. For plant
there is one. mixed concrete this should be at least two minutes or longer if
■■ Mix reference: each concrete should be given an any water is added on site.
unambiguous reference that is linked to the full set of
specified requirements. Designated, designed, prescribed, When the site asks for additional water to make the concrete
standard or standardised prescribed concretes are simply more workable, this will have to be signed for on the driver’s
referred to by their BS titles. Where prescribed concretes are copy of the delivery ticket and, in such a case, the supplier
required, this should be clearly indicated. cannot be held responsible for the concrete failing to meet the
■■ Consistence class. specified strength.
■■ The total amount of concrete of each type required to be
delivered. The slump of concrete delivered in a truck can be measured
■■ The time at which deliveries are required. using a spot sample obtained from the initial discharge, but
■■ The rate at which deliveries are required and particular note that such a sample is not representative for cube making.
requirements for continuity of any pour. After allowing a discharge of about 0.3m3, sufficient scoopfuls
■■ Any special requirements, such as finishing methods or should be collected from the moving stream to provide a
surface finish, which may dictate special care in batching sample of about 1½ times the quantity required for testing, the
the concrete or the use of a particular aggregate grading or samples being taken as quickly as possible and preferably from
fines content. the next 0.3m3 of the discharge. The discharge should then be

Chapter 8: Ready-mixed concrete
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

stopped, the slump measured, and if it is within the specified

consistence class, the remaining part of the load may then be

If the concrete does not conform to the requirements either

by slump, ticket details or visual inspection, it must be refused
and may be returned to the depot. The reasons for return
should be written on the delivery ticket and the truck number
and time of rejection should be recorded. However, under
certain circumstances, it may be permissible for water to be
added to a load of stiff ready-mixed concrete in order to
achieve the specified consistence class.
Figure 8.1: Ready-mixed concrete supply.
This is in accordance with BS 8500 and applies when:

■■ the slump is less than the lower limit of the consistence

■■ the quantity of added water is controlled by being
measured accurately and recorded
■■ the stiffness is not due to an excessive delay since batching
■■ the amount of water added does not exceed any specified
limit for water:cement ratio.

The truck-mixer can discharge at a rate of about 0.5m3 per minute.
While it may not always be possible to handle the concrete as
fast as this, due to limitations of placing and compaction rates, it
is to the advantage of the site and the supplier for the concrete
to be discharged as quickly as possible – delays longer than 30
minutes from arrival on site to completion of discharge may be
charged for.

For construction at or below ground level, the quickest and most

efficient way to discharge concrete is directly from the truck. The
maximum discharge height for the chute is about 1.5m above
the ground and, with extensions, chutes can cover a radius of
approximately 3m from the back of the truck. If discharging
into trenches or pits, it is essential that the excavation sides are
properly shored to prevent collapse from the weight of the
vehicle. If the concrete is to be placed by crane and skips, a lot
of time can be saved by using two skips; the empty one can be
filled while the other is in use.

Samples of ready-mixed concrete for compressive strength

(identity) tests should be representative of the whole load,
with increments being taken from different parts of the
discharge. Cubes must be made from incremental samples,
not from spot samples.

Chapter 9: Site batching and mixing

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Site batching and mixing

Although most concrete is delivered ready-mixed, there may Special arrangements should be in place to prevent
be occasions when it is more economic and practicable for contamination of the site through the operation and cleaning
the concrete to be batched and mixed on site. This would down of plant and equipment.
tend to apply to Prescribed concrete (nominal proportions) or
Standardised prescribed concrete. It may also be applicable to
other types of concrete where the volumes required on a single
or associated site justify the setting up of a site plant. However, Concrete mixers
those plants producing Designed or Designated would still be
subject to the same accreditation procedures applicable to Concrete mixers are designated by a number representing the
offsite, ready-mixed concrete plants. nominal batch capacity in litres and a letter indicating the type
of mixer, as follows:
There are many different types and sizes of batching plants and
mixers; the following general recommendations apply to all ■■ T ilting drum, type T.
mixer set-ups, and may also be relevant to ready-mixed concrete. ■■ Non-tilting drum, type NT.
■■ Reversing drum, type R.
The main objective is to produce every batch with the required ■■ Forced action, type P (commonly known as a pan mixer).
consistence, strength and other specification requirements.
Thus a 200-litre tilting drum mixer is designated as 200T.

Storage of materials A concrete mixer must be accurately levelled and checked

regularly to see that it stays so; inaccurate levelling results in
poor mixing and increases mechanical wear as well as affecting
Materials must be stored so that they are not harmed in any weighing accuracy.
way during storage. Cement must be kept dry, either in silos or,
if in bags, kept under cover and off the ground as described on Mixers should not be overloaded beyond their rated capacities,
page 8 Delivery and storage of cement. otherwise spillage of materials will occur and the mixing will be
less efficient, leading to lack of uniformity within the batches of
Aggregates should be handled and stored so as to avoid concrete; mechanical wear will also be increased.
segregation and contamination by other aggregates, or by
fuel, mud, etc. Each site will impose its own conditions and When bagged cement is to be used, the selection of the size of
will have to be considered individually, but factors to be taken mixer should be related to the number of whole bags required
into account include: for each batch.

■■ a ccess for delivery

■■ adequate storage area available in relation to the quantity
to be stored Batching
■■ drainage
■■ avoidance of double handling For all but the smallest of jobs and for all strength classes of
■■ convenience in relation to subsequent use. concrete over 20N/mm2, all materials should be weigh-batched.
Provided the weighing mechanisms are carefully maintained and
Further information on aggregate storage is given on page 13. regularly calibrated, reasonable accuracy should be achieved in
the material proportioning.
Storage of water is not usually a problem if a normal mains supply
is used. If water is taken from a stream, well or lake some storage There are many different types and sizes of batching plant and
may be needed in addition to the tank provided on the batching the choice for a particular job will usually depend on the amount
and mixing plant. Water heating facilities may be required if of concrete to be produced, both daily and in total. For large
concreting is to continue during cold weather. quantities of concrete, the aggregate weigh hoppers are likely to

Chapter 9: Site batching and mixing
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

be fed from overhead storage bins and then discharged directly On the occasions when volume batching of aggregates is
into the mixer, or onto a conveyor belt feeding the mixer. The unavoidable, e.g. for nominal proportions for Prescribed concrete
cement from a silo with its own weigh hopper is usually fed or Standard Prescribed ST1, ST2 or ST3 concrete, it should be
directly into the mixer. done with buckets or gauge boxes, and on no account should
batching by the ‘shovelful’ be permitted.
On smaller sites, where the output may be 20–50m3 a day, the
materials are often weigh-batched into a loading hopper that Allowance should also be made for bulking of the fine
is integral with the mixer (see Figure 9.1). When in the lowered aggregate; it increases in volume by up to 20–30% as the
position, the hopper rests on a load cell or hydraulic capsule moisture content rises to about 5–6%. Further increases in
connected to a weighing dial, which should be positioned to moisture content result in a decrease in bulking until, when
allow it to be easily visible. On some models the cement will the fine aggregate is completely saturated, its volume is almost
be weighed in the cement silo dispenser and fed directly into the same as it was in a dry condition. Unless tests are made, it
the mixer or into the mixer hopper, else pre-weighed bagged is usual to assume an average value of 20% for the bulking of
cement may be used. damp fine aggregate.

Operation of site mixers

It is the mixer operator’s responsibility to ensure that the concrete
is properly mixed, uniform throughout each batch, and at the
required consistence. He must see that the materials are being
accurately batched and, when a loading hopper is in use, that they
are loaded in the right order and that the hopper is uni-formly
loaded (non-uniform loading can lead to weighing inaccuracies).

Adding the right amount of water to each batch is the mixer

Figure 9.1: BIO750 Reversible drum mixer. (Photo: Ultranazz) driver’s main responsibility, so that consistence is maintained
from batch to batch. The free water content should be the
same for each batch. However, as described on page 15, the
The method and order in which the materials are fed into the moisture contents of the aggregates are likely to vary so that
mixer can affect the uniformity of the concrete; this applies the actual amount of water to be added may also have to be
particularly to the water. Ideally, the cement, fine aggregate and varied in order to keep the free water in each batch the same.
coarse aggregate should be fed into the mixer simultaneously, This is best dealt with by adding most of the water, estimated
this produces a more uniform concrete than when the from the average moisture contents of the aggregates, but
materials are introduced one after another. Similarly, the water keeping a little back to add later if it is needed. A skilled mixer
and admixtures should enter the mixer at the same time and driver can tell by looking at the concrete in the mixer as it gets
over the same period as the other materials. This is not always to the end of mixing whether enough water has been added
possible, in which case it is advisable to start the flow of water a to give it the right consistence. Normally, the amount of water
little in advance of the other ingredients. If all the water is added to be added from batch to batch will not vary much, only by
before or after the other ingredients, the batch of concrete is approximately 5–10 litres/m3.
liable to vary in consistence from part to part.
Mix proportions are usually based on the saturated surface-dry
Where the loading hopper turns upside down to discharge into weights of aggregates. For weigh-batching purposes an allowance
the mixer, it is preferable if the coarse aggregate goes into the has to be added for the moisture contents. Batch weights of
hopper first so that it pushes the fine aggregate and cement aggregate need to be adjusted to allow for variations in their
out in front of it and gives a clean discharge of the hopper. moisture contents in order to reduce variations in consistence and
When the cement is fed into the hopper from the silo dispenser, strength, and if aggregate deliveries can be seen to have widely
it is best for it to be sandwiched between the coarse and fine different moisture contents and they are to be used immediately,
aggregates. batch weights may require adjustment. Similarly, after rain has
fallen on exposed stockpiles, adjustments may be necessary. If, on
If bagged cement is used, the weights of fine aggregate and the other hand, the weather is settled and stockpiles and deliveries
coarse aggregate should be adjusted to suit a whole number are known not to have widely varying moisture contents, such
of bags. Attempting to judge half or quarter bags by splitting adjustments are not necessary because of their smallness in
them leads to large errors and variability between batches. comparison with the total batch weights.

Chapter 9: Site batching and mixing
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Thorough mixing of concrete is essential. Mixing times will vary

according to the mix, the mixer and whether or not it is being
filled to capacity. A uniform colour is usually the best guide to
whether the mixing has been efficient.

For rotating drums up to approximately 1m3 capacity, the mixing

time needs to be 1½–2 minutes after all the materials have been
fed in. Very small mixers used on building sites and some large
free-fall mixers require longer times. For pan mixers, because of
the forced action, 30–45 seconds is usually sufficient.

When the concrete is mixed, it should be discharged in one

operation before loading the next batch.

When mixing the first batch in a clean mixer, allowances

and adjustment need to be made to the mix proportions to
compensate for some of the finer material sticking to the mixer Figure 9.2: MF400 Self-loading batching plant with upright silo.
sides and blades. (Photo: Ultranazz)

The mixer drum must be thoroughly cleaned out after

the end of concrete mixing for the day, and before long
stoppages, such as meal breaks, by filling the mixer with coarse
aggregate and water, for example, and allowing it to rotate for
approximately five minutes before being completely emptied;
this will remove any build-up of hardened mortar on the blades
or sides of the mixer.

Weigh hoppers should be cleaned daily to prevent any build-up

of material, especially if the cement is being put into the hopper,
otherwise dial gauge readings may be inaccurate. There is also
a risk of aggregate spillage building up around the weighing
mechanism under the hopper, resulting in inaccurate weighing,
and any such build-up should be removed daily.

Larger mobile batching plants capable of 8–60m3 per hour

can also be erected. These have greater control on constituent
material delivery, are programmable for a number of concretes
and are therefore more efficient at concrete production (see
Figure 9.2).

Chapter 10: Transporting concrete

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Transporting concrete
A number of methods for transporting concrete on site are In order to make best use of the pump, the concrete mix design
available, ranging from hand wheelbarrows to concrete pumps. may have to be adjusted to make it suitable for pumping
The choice of method will depend on the size and complexity of without using excess pressure. Rounded aggregates are
the project, and factors such as ground conditions and distance preferred but angular or irregular-shaped crushed rock should
to be covered and the availability of cranes or other plant. On not be precluded.
many jobs several different methods, or even a combination
of methods, may be required. In all cases the concrete must
be moved to the point of placing as quickly and economically
as possible without allowing setting, segregation, loss of
consistence, loss of any constituents, contamination with water,
or any other material, after it has left the delivery tank.

Pumps were first used to transport and place concrete in this
country in the 1930s, and their use has grown to the extent
that a significant amount of concrete is now placed in this way.
Many pumps are capable of moving up to 200m³ per hour,
depending on the pump type, the horizontal and vertical length
of the pipeline, the number of bends, and the consistence of
the concrete. In practice, the output of a modest sized pump is Figure 10.1: Mobile pump in action.
usually about 50m³ per hour due to supply and organisational
limitations. By comparison, a crane with a 1m³ skip and a five
minute turn around cycle can deliver only 12m³ per hour. Essentially, the concrete should not be prone to segregation
or excessive bleeding and should have a low enough frictional
Concrete is regularly pumped over 50m vertically or 500m resistance for the pump to be able to push the concrete along the
horizontally, although much greater height and distances delivery line. As a guide, the material passing the 0.25mm sieve
have been achieved. In pumping longer distances or heights, should be sufficient to control the fluid portion of the mix. Too
considerable attention is given to the mix design to prevent little and segregation will occur, too much and high pipe friction
segregation. will result. For a maximum nominal aggregate size of 20mm, a
minimum finer fines content of the concrete (cement, additions
Most mobile pumps can place concrete directly to where it is and fine aggregate passing 0.25mm) should be 420kg/m³. A
required (see Figure 10.1), removing the need for other forms smaller maximum aggregate size will require a higher proportion
of transport and pumping is particularly beneficial when of fines due to the higher coarse aggregate surface area.
access is difficult or restricted. Standard boom sizes range from
approximately 16–63m depending on the pump supplier, To achieve a pumpable concrete it may be necessary to increase
whilst greater distances require a static pipeline which bypasses the fine aggregate content by a few percent, along with an
the boom altogether. Labour costs are generally minimised increase in the cement content, in order to provide sufficient
since only one person is usually needed to operate the pump, fine material and to achieve an overall aggregate grading that
who may also receive the concrete, and usually one operative is continuous and without gaps.
to control the discharge, with others compacting and finishing,
although the workforce must be adequate to cope with the When pumping concrete very long distances it may be
fast rate of placing. For high-rise construction pumping allows necessary to specify a slightly higher consistence and with air-
placing rates to be maintained, regardless of the height, without entrained concrete a higher air content to compensate for losses
any increase in labour costs. during pumping.

Chapter 10: Transporting concrete
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

In this context, the consistence of the concrete is an important Most mobile concrete pumps are fitted with folding booms,
factor, since a very low consistence class may result in increased which are an advantage for placing concrete in difficult
resistance to pumping. A target slump of 70–90mm is generally situations. However, a boom is not necessarily the best method
considered to be about the right level and the addition of a of placing. There are circumstances where a static pipeline is
plasticising admixture avoids a higher free water:cement ratio. better, this system having less resistance to flow than a delivery
However, it must be noted that a concrete delivered at the boom of the same diameter.
lower end of the range associated with this target slump (see
Table 7.5) may not be pumpable. The pour should be planned so that pipes may be removed
as it progresses (pipes should never be added). All couplings
Discussion at an early stage with the ready-mixed concrete should be completely free from leakage, otherwise loss of
supplier and/or the concrete pumping subcontractor is fine material from joints is likely to result in problems due
therefore recommended in order to ensure that a satisfactory to blockage. In hot, sunny weather it may be necessary to
pumpable concrete is obtained. protect the pipeline from overheating. In such conditions,
concrete in the pipeline must be kept moving.
Where there are demanding pumping conditions, specialised
concretes or where non-standard aggregate is used, full-scale Concrete in pump pipelines is often under considerable
trials are recommended. In certain circumstances a pumping pressure, so that the safety of site staff must be considered
aid admixture may be required. (BS 8476 covers the safe use of concrete pumps). The pump
should be stopped, and if possible reversed, while pipes
For trouble-free pumping the concrete must be consistent, are being disconnected. Flexible end sections of pipes may
since minor variations in the mix proportions are sufficient to move violently when a cleaning plug is passed through
render an otherwise pumpable concrete difficult to pump, or and operatives should be kept well clear. Falsework should
even completely unpumpable. If only a small part of a load be designed to accommodate the vibration and additional
proves to be unpumpable the pump may become blocked, loading caused by pipelines resting on it.
leading to a time-consuming and expensive delay while
the pump and/or line is stripped down and the blockage
Crane and skip
In order to make the most economical and efficient use of
pumping, it is important to understand that the decision to The crane is still probably the most common method of handling
use a concrete pump ought to be made at the planning stage concrete for combined vertical and horizontal movement. A
of a project. Bringing the pump onto site to solve placement crane is frequently needed on site for handling formwork and
problems, when other alternatives have proved unsuccessful, is reinforcement, and its further use in transporting concrete may
likely to result in additional costs. be both economic and convenient. However, when concreting
requirements dictate the choice of crane capacity, or if the
For each site where pumping is proposed careful individual crane is likely to be fully occupied with other tasks, it may be
planning will be required but a number of considerations, more cost-effective to transport the concrete by other means.
likely to be common to all sites, can be identified. The concrete
placing gangs must be able to cope with the pump output for
the duration of the pour, without skimping on compaction,
finishing or curing. The pump should not be allowed to stand
idle waiting for concrete to be delivered and a steady supply of
concrete to the pump should be planned, consistent with the
rate of placing which can be accommodated.

For large or important pours, standby pumps should be

arranged. The sighting of the pump should be such that
delivery vehicles have easy access and two vehicles can be
accommodated at the pumps so that the second one can
start discharging as soon as the first one finishes, maintaining
a continuous flow of concrete. The choice of pump location Figure 10.2: Roll-over skip with geared discharge mechanism.
should also take into account the need to keep pipelines (Photo: Marwood Group)
as short and as straight as possible. Good communication
between the pump operator and the placing gang is Skips generally range in capacity from 0.2–1.0m³ (but there are
essential. many variations in detail), and are broadly of two types (see
Figures 10.2 and 11.1).

Chapter 10: Transporting concrete
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

■■ Lay-back or roll-over skips.

■■ Constant attitude skips.

The openings of skips should be large enough to allow easy

discharge and the consistence class needs to be adequate
to allow for controlled discharge into difficult sections. When
concrete with a low consistence class is placed by skip,
vibration may have to be used to assist discharge.

Skips should be properly maintained if they are to function

efficiently. After a day’s concreting the skip should be thoroughly
cleaned and washed down (inside and out) and the gate
operating mechanism should be oiled and greased.

Dumpers, generally of approximately 0.5m³ capacity, are a
common form of transport on many construction sites where
direct access to the works is not possible. They may be
discharged either forward or sideways and are best when
hydraulically operated so that the discharge can be controlled.
The main disadvantage of gravity discharge is the sudden
uncontrolled surge of concrete – the heavy impact can displace
reinforcement and other objects in the formwork. For small
sections, it may be necessary to discharge onto a banker board
first and then shovel in the concrete by hand.

If the haul routes are so long that segregation becomes a

problem, agitator trucks, or lorry-mounted transporters fitted
with screws or paddles to remix the concrete as it is discharged,
may be preferred.

Other methods
There are several other less common methods of transporting
concrete, including pneumatic placers, monorails and the
railcars sometimes used in tunnel work, which are not covered
in this publication.

Chapter 11: Placing and compaction

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Placing and compaction

The successful placing and compaction of concrete can be
achieved only if there has been careful forethought and planning.

Because they are done almost simultaneously, placing and

compaction are interdependent, and the two operations need
to be considered together. The rate of delivery of the concrete
should match the rate at which the concrete can be both
placed and compacted.

The consistence of the concrete at the point of placing

needs to suit both the placing technique and the means of
compaction available. Figure 11.1: Constant attitude skip with geared discharge mechanism.
(Photo: Marwood Group)

Placing ricochet off formwork or reinforcement, which may cause

segregation of the mix.

Before concrete placing begins, the insides of the forms should In deep lifts of columns and walls, delays and interruptions
be inspected to make sure they are clean and have been treated should be avoided to prevent colour variations on the surfaces;
with release agent. If the forms are deep, temporary openings the rate should exceed 2m height per hour. The correct rate of
and lighting may have to be provided for this inspection. rise will have been calculated by the temporary works coordinator
Rubbish, such as sawdust, shavings and reinforcement tying and must be observed in the interests of avoiding excessive
wire, should be blown out with compressed air. Any rainwater formwork pressure and achieving satisfactory surface finish.
at the bottom of the form should be removed. Similarly, the
reinforcement should be inspected to check that it complies Additional consideration of formwork pressures should be
with the drawings and that the correct and sufficient numbers exercised when placing flowable concrete, and particularly
of spacers have been used. self-compacting concrete, where a full static head should be
assumed. On columns and walls, care should be taken so that
The main objective with placing is to deposit the concrete as the concrete does not strike the face of the formwork,
close as possible to its final position, quickly and efficiently and in otherwise the surface finish may be affected; care also needs to
such a way that segregation and other changes to the concrete be taken to avoid displacing reinforcement or ducts and to
properties is avoided (see Figure 11.1). Moving the concrete with ensure that the correct cover is maintained.
poker vibrators should be avoided.
The placing of self-compacting concrete is similar to normal
Particular care is necessary when using a skip for placing in concrete, although no compaction will be required. However,
thin walls, and other narrow sections, in order to avoid heaps even though it is fluid the rate of pour must be controlled to
and sloping layers. The skip discharge needs to be carefully allow the entrapped air to escape. Ideally it should be placed
controlled and the skip moved so that a ribbon of concrete is with the minimal free fall to minimise the entrapment of air.
placed. The concrete should be placed in uniform layers not
more than 500mm thick or less, depending on the length of
the poker blade. Otherwise compaction may be impeded by
the weight of concrete on top. Compaction
Provided that the concrete has been well designed and After concrete has been mixed, transported and placed, it
proportioned and is sufficiently cohesive, there is generally no contains entrapped air in the form of large voids. The object of
need to restrict the height from which the concrete is dropped. compaction is to get rid of as much of this air as possible. Before
This assumes that the concrete is unimpeded and does not compaction, concrete of consistence class S2 may contain

Chapter 11: Placing and compaction
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

more than 5% entrapped air, while concrete of S1 consistence as is cement paste showing at the junction between the concrete
class may contain as much as 20%. and the formwork. The poker should be withdrawn slowly so that
the concrete can flow back into the space occupied by the poker.
If this entrapped air is not removed by proper compaction the
presence of these large voids will: External vibrators are occasionally used, but their usefulness
is limited on site by the heavy formwork needed to resist the
■■ r educe the strength of the concrete – more than 5% loss of stresses and shaking they produce. Their use is mainly confined
strength for every 1% air to precast concrete elements, but they may be necessary for
■■ increase the permeability and hence reduce the durability heavily reinforced walls and the webs of deep beams where it
and protection to the reinforcement is difficult or impossible to insert a poker.
■■ reduce the bond between concrete and reinforcement
■■ result in visual blemishes, such as excessive blowholes Slabs are best consolidated by vibrating beam compactors.
and honeycombing on formed surfaces. Fully compacted These combine the action of a screed and a vibrator, but they
concrete will be dense, strong, impermeable and durable. are only effective for a limited depth. In general, a slab more
than 150mm thick should be compacted with poker vibrators
The use of a properly designed self-compacting concrete will and finished with a vibrating beam.
negate the need for compaction.
The edges of all slabs butting up to side forms should always
be poker vibrated. Construction joints need particular attention
Vibration (see the next section).

Most concrete is compacted by means of internal poker vibrators

that ‘fluidise’ the concrete and permit the entrapped air to rise
to the surface. Pokers vary in size, usually from 25–75mm in
diameter. Table 11.1 gives a broad indication of poker sizes and
their characteristics and typical applications.

The radius of action will determine the spacing and pattern of

insertions. As a guide, a spacing up to 500mm centres is about
right for a 60mm-diameter poker with concrete of medium
consistence (see Table 11.1). The poker should be inserted
vertically and quickly and should penetrate some 100mm into any Figure 11.2: Inserting a poker in fresh (stiff) concrete in a beam – the
previous layer; thereby stitching the two layers together. It should concrete is fully compacted in the immediate vicinity of the poker.
remain in the concrete until the air bubbles cease to come to the
surface. Each layer should be no greater than 500mm. Figure 11.2
illustrates the reduced volume of concrete once compacted.
Being able to judge when the concrete has been fully compacted
is largely a matter of experience. Sometimes the sound can be a The dangers and problems arising from under-vibration are far
useful indicator, in that the pitch (whine) becomes constant when greater than any supposedly arising from over-vibration, since
the concrete is compacted. In addition, a thin film of glistening it is virtually impossible to over-vibrate a properly designed and
mortar on the surface is a sign that the concrete is compacted, proportioned concrete.

Table 11.1: Characteristics and uses of internal poker vibrators.

Diameter of head Radius of action Approximate rate of Uses
(mm) (mm)a compaction, assuming
rapid placing (m³/h)
20–30 80–150 0.8–2 Concrete with class S3 consistence and above in very thin sections
and confined places. May be needed in conjunction with larger
vibrators where reinforcement, ducts and other obstructions cause
35–40 130–250 2–4 Concrete with S2 consistence and above in slender columns and walls
and confined places
50–75 180–350 3–8 Concrete with class S1 consistence and above in general construction
free from restrictions and congestion
a. Modern high frequency vibrators may have a greater radius, consult manufacture for details.

Chapter 11: Placing and compaction
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Provided that it is still workable, no harm will be done if concrete
that has already been compacted is re-vibrated. In fact, tests
have shown that the strength is likely to be slightly increased.

Re-vibration of the top 75–100mm of deep sections can

minimise plastic settlement cracks, or close them if they have
been seen to develop. Similarly, the re-vibration of the tops of
columns and walls can often reduce the tendency of blowholes
to occur in the top 600mm or so.

Chapter 12: Construction joints

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Construction joints
A construction joint, or day-work joint, is one where fresh weak and, as well as being porous and not watertight, will not
concrete has to be placed on or against concrete that has give a good bond for fresh concrete.
already hardened. This type of joint differs from contraction
and expansion joints, which are used to accommodate Similarly, concrete cast against vertical formwork also has a skin
movement, and from joints incorporating water bars. of cement paste on the surface, which, although not quite as
weak as that at the top of a horizontal joint, is still likely to affect
Some construction joints do not need to be fully bonded, the the bond when fresh concrete is placed against it.
reinforcement across the joint being adequate to transmit
tensile or shear stresses across the slight gap that may occur due Laitance from both horizontal and vertical surfaces must be
to contraction. But many construction joints may require the removed if and when a good bond or watertightness is required
concrete to be bonded so that shear and tensile stresses are of the concrete itself. However, if watertightness is to be achieved
transmitted across the joint, in which case the risk of a shrinkage by the incorporation of a water bar or similar, removal of the
gap is to be avoided. laitance may not be necessary, although it would still be good
practice to do so.
In both cases, it needs to be recognised that joints always show,
no matter how well they are made, so they should always
be made to form a clean line on the surface. If appearance
is important, such as with high-quality finishes, there are Horizontal surfaces
advantages in making a feature of the joints with a rebate,
particularly on plain, flat surfaces, e.g. stairwells. There are a number of ways of removing laitance from the top of
cast concrete to provide a surface with an exposed aggregate

Location of construction joints 1. The easiest way is to brush off the laitance while the concrete
is still fresh but has stiffened slightly. The timing for this is
The position of construction joints should be decided before critical because it depends on the weather and the concrete
any concreting begins. As a general rule, joints in columns are proportions – in warm weather concrete stiffens faster than
made as near as possible to the underside of beams. Joints in in cold weather and a strong concrete stiffens faster than a
beams and suspended slabs are best avoided but are normally lean one. The best time will usually be approximately 1–2
made where the bending and shear forces are lowest, say hours after the surface water has evaporated. A small brush is
approximately at third distance. used to remove the laitance while gently spraying the surface
with water (see Figure 12.1). It is worth having two brushes
handy – one with soft bristles and one with harder bristles
– in case the concrete has stiffened more than expected.

Preparation of construction Brushing should be done gently so that pieces of the coarse
aggregate are not undercut or dislodged – just the tips of

joints the aggregate showing is correct.

2. If the laitance has hardened but the concrete is still ‘green’
– e.g. the following morning – a wire brush and some
The first requirement for a good bond is that the hardened washing will usually be enough to remove it. The surface
concrete surface must be clean, free from laitance and have a should be well washed afterwards to remove the dust.
lightly exposed aggregate appearance. 3. Pressure washing can be done up to approximately 48
hours after placing, but timing is again critical and will also
After concrete has been vibrated, bleeding occurs by surplus depend on the pressure, otherwise the aggregate particles
water rising to the surface. The bleed water brings with it a may be dislodged.
small amount of cement and fines and these are left on the 4. If the surface has been allowed to harden, mechanical
surface after the water has evaporated. This layer of laitance is scabbling may be used. Small hand-held percussion power

Chapter 12: Construction joints
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

tools, such as those used for tooling exposed aggregate when a joint is subject to high shear forces (and the engineer
finishes, or a needle gun, are the most appropriate. The must decide this) or when a monolithic watertight joint is
danger with this method is that it can shatter and weaken required will the surface need preparation.
coarse aggregate at the surface or loosen the larger particles,
so it should not be done until the concrete is more than
three days old, and then only carefully. It is a slow and Tie-bolt
expensive method. It is important to consider operative
health and safety issues when performing this type of work.
5. Water jetting or dry abrasive blasting is usually suitable
only when large areas have to be treated, such as in floor

Thin bead of sealant

or similar.

Fillet chamfer

Figure 12.2: Stop-end detail to a thin wall.

Suitable methods are as follows:

1. If the stop-end can be removed some 4–6 hours after

concreting without disturbing the main formwork and
reinforcement, a spray-and-brush method as described in
method 1 above for horizontal surfaces can be used.
Figure 12.1: Washing and brushing to remove laitance about two hours 2. I f the stop-end is removed the following morning, the
after placing. concrete will usually still be green enough for the cement
skin to be removed to a depth of about 2mm using a wire
Spraying the concrete surface with a retarder in order to delay or brush.
‘kill’ the set of the concrete to allow the laitance to be brushed off 3. T he surface should be brushed immediately after striking
the following day, or later, should only be used with the utmost the stop-end.
care or if an exposed aggregate finish is required for appearance. 4. I f the surface has hardened, then light scabbling, pressure
This method is not recommended for construction joints because washing or abrasive blasting are likely to be necessary to
it is difficult to be sure that all the retarded concrete has been obtain the right texture.
removed – if not, fresh concrete cast against it will have a poor 5. E xpanded metal mesh, suitably framed, is particularly
bond. The bond with reinforcement may also be affected. useful for stop-ends, especially when the reinforcement is
congested. In some situations, such as where watertightness
at the joint is not essential, expanded metal can be left in. If
it is removed the following day by pulling it off, the surface
Vertical surfaces should then be sufficiently rough and laitance-free for no
further treatment to be required. Where the joint line and
Vertical construction joints in walls, beams and slabs will usually appearance are important, the expanded metal should
have been formed against a stop-end. These should be located be kept approximately 40mm away from the face to avoid
where the reinforcement is least dense; they should be well breaking off the corners or arrises along the face.
made, easily strikable, and fixed to avoid grout loss. A typical 6. W hen horizontal or vertical joints are featured, or a good
stop-end detail is shown in Figure 12.2. clean line is required, care must be taken, especially when
tooling, to avoid chipping or breaking the arrises along the
Most vertical construction joints do not require any surface joint line. It is a good idea to leave untreated a margin at the
treatment, plain smooth surfaces being quite satisfactory. Only edge of about 25–40mm.

Chapter 12: Construction joints
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

7. A
n alternative method sometimes used is to apply a retarder Horizontal joints
onto the surface of the vertical formwork in order to delay
or ‘kill’ the set of the concrete, so that the laitance can be The first layer of concrete must not be deficient in fine material.
brushed off the following day or later. Procedures should be in place to prevent losing mortar from
the concrete by leakage while transporting or placing it (see
Operation of site mixers, page 42). With ready-mixed concrete
there may be a tendency for the beginning of the discharge to
Concreting at construction be rather coarse, in which case the first part of the load should
be discarded.
joints The first layer should be spread uniformly over the surface to a
thickness of only approximately 300mm. For small columns, the
It is essential for the fresh concrete to be placed and compacted
discharge should be controlled and limited to avoid putting in
so that it bonds with the prepared surface.
too thick a layer. Discharging a 0.5m3 skip into a 600mm square
column, for example, will result in honeycombing at the bottom.
Poorly compacted concrete or honeycombed concrete at the
When casting columns and walls the poker should always be
bottom of a lift in a wall or column leaves a joint that is both
put in before the concrete goes in, and be drawn up slowly as
weak and unsightly.
the concrete is progressively placed; this avoids compacting
the surface layer, which would make it very difficult for the air
First, any dirt, dust or rubbish (e.g. sawdust, pieces of wood, nails,
trapped lower down to be expelled upwards subsequently.
and bits of tie wire) must be removed from the surface of the
concrete. This can best be done by blowing out all the dirt and
If using a skip for walls it should be moved along the top.
rubbish with a compressed air hose. If compressed air is not
Baffle boards are useful to make sure the concrete is discharged
available, then thorough brushing out is necessary. This cleaning
cleanly to the bottom of the forms and not directed against the
out should be done before the formwork is erected, but if there
formwork or reinforcement, which could cause problems with
is still some debris left after erection it should be removed by
segregation and surface finishes. The first layer of concrete must
taking out one of the stop-ends.
be thoroughly compacted by poker vibrators inserted at close
centres, depending on the size of the poker and the consistence
On prepared concrete surfaces the use of mortars or grouts on
class of the concrete (see Table 11.1).
the face of a joint is not recommended for the following reasons:
Lighting may be necessary for seeing the concrete at the bottom
■■ Tests have shown that the bond between the hardened
of the pour to check that it has been properly placed and
and fresh concrete is not significantly increased.
■■ The restricted access to a horizontal joint at the bottom of a
lift for which the formwork has been erected makes it difficult
to ensure the grout or mortar has been uniformly applied;
in any case, it would need to be scrubbed into the surface Vertical joints
to be effective.
■■ It is virtually impossible to apply mortar or grout to a It is usually not recommended to make concrete flow horizontally
vertical joint – especially when the formwork is in place. using vibration, but at vertical joints some flow of the concrete
■■ There is a danger the grout or mortar will dry out before the towards the joints helps to avoid possible lack of compaction.
concrete is placed; any drying out puts back the laitance, As the layers of concrete are placed in a wall they should be
which had been carefully removed. kept back approximately 150–300mm from the vertical joint
■■ Significant mortar or grout drying on the surface of the and the poker used to make the concrete flow towards the
reinforcement can reduce the bond with the concrete joint; this needs particular care and a well-designed concrete if
subsequently placed. segregation is to be avoided.
■■ The appearance of the joint may be spoilt by a line of
different colour.

A wetted joint is acceptable so long as it is surface dry when

the new concrete is poured.

Successful construction joints are achieved simply by careful

placing and thorough compaction of concrete against a
properly prepared surface.

Chapter 13: Concreting in cold weather

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Concreting in cold weather

It is well known that water expands when it freezes. This can Sometimes, in very cold weather, aggregates must also be
cause permanent damage and disruption if freezing is allowed heated to achieve the desired concrete temperature. This can
to occur within fresh concrete, or in hardened concrete that has be achieved by injecting live steam or using hot air blowers,
not developed much strength. For practical purposes it has been closed steam coils or electric heating mats. Live steam probably
found that, provided the concrete has achieved a strength of produces the most uniform heating, but the increased moisture
5N/mm2, it can resist the expansive forces caused by the freezing content needs to be allowed for in determining batch weights
of the water in the concrete. For most concrete this critical and the water:cement ratio.
strength is reached within approximately 48 hours when the
temperature of the concrete has been kept above 5°C. If concrete with a sufficiently high initial temperature is
prevented from losing heat to its surroundings, the heat
The gain of strength is delayed at low temperatures so it is evolved during setting and hardening will protect it from
necessary to protect concrete against cold for some time damage by freezing. Thus, formwork should be insulated (in
after placing. Thin sections normally require more protection this respect it should be noted that 19mm of plywood has fairly
and for a longer period than thicker ones, corners and edges good insulating properties on its own) and slabs should be
being particularly vulnerable. An example of this is composite covered with insulating mats immediately after laying. The tops
construction where the steel decking provides minimum of walls and columns are particularly vulnerable and should be
protection to the concrete, particularly in structures that are covered with insulating material.
not enclosed.

Many of the precautions that can be taken to protect

concrete from cold make use of the heat that concrete Strength development
generates as it hardens. However, this is only effective if
the concrete temperature is sufficiently high at the time of Both the early and subsequent strength development in cold
placing for the heat evolution to start rapidly. To this end, the weather can be accelerated using a water-reducing admixture or,
temperature of the concrete when placed in the form should more conveniently, by increasing the strength class of concrete.
never be less than 5°C, preferably not below 10°C. To achieve
this, the concrete temperature in the mixer or ready-mixed External in-situ paving is particularly vulnerable to the effect
concrete truck needs to be higher to allow for heat losses of low temperatures because of the large surface area, which
during transportation and placing. Some ready-mixed plants loses heat quickly. In addition, slabs are open to drying winds
can deliver heated concrete. that can add a chilling factor to the effects of low temperature.
There are a variety of materials and methods that can be used
It should be noted that it is important to prevent water loss for protecting and providing insulation to exposed concrete
from newly laid concrete, see Chapter 17 Curing, page 63. surfaces, ranging from plastic sheeting and tarpaulins to
proprietary insulating mats. As an indication of the relative
merits of different methods, tarpaulin or plastic sheeting

Raising the temperature enclosing a 50mm dead air space has approximately the
same insulating value as 19mm-thick timber; but proprietary
insulation mats are more effective.
The easiest way to raise the temperature of the fresh concrete
is to heat the mixing water. Aggregates should be free from ice Even when concrete has been protected from freezing during
and snow because it requires as much heat to melt the ice as to its early life, the subsequent slow gain of strength in cold
heat the same quantity of water from 0°C to 80°C. Aggregates weather needs to be allowed for. Longer periods than are
should be covered and kept as dry as possible. Heated water necessary in warmer weather will be required before forms are
should be added to the mixer before the cement so that its struck. The gain of strength of concrete in cold weather can be
temperature will be lowered by contact with the mixer and the assessed by tests on cubes cured, as far as possible, under the
aggregates. If this is not done there could be a flash set when same conditions as the concrete in the structure. Alternatively,
hot water comes into contact with the cement. guidance can be obtained from CIRIA Report 136.

Chapter 13: Concreting in cold weather
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Concrete cast using composite or combination cements in cold Consideration should also be given to the use of cements of
weather can present a particular problem as they are more higher strength class or the use of a higher strength class of
adversely affected than Portland cement (CEM I) based concretes, concrete, which will give an increased rate of strength gain
depending on the percentage addition, due to their slower leading to the ability to strike forms earlier than would be
gain of strength. possible with the concrete originally specified.

Cold weather delays the stiffening of concrete, and ground

floor slabs, for example, are likely to take considerably longer
than normal before the trowelling operations can be started. Weather records
Keeping weather records and planning with an eye to the
weather forecast is necessary for efficient winter working.
Minimum striking times Records of maximum and minimum temperatures, together
with a more continuous record during working hours, will help
There are various methods for determining minimum periods towards an assessment of maturity and formwork striking times.
for retaining formwork in position. They will be based on the This assessment should take account of wind and cloud cover
required surface strength to avoid surface damage due to because the temperature of the concrete is the factor that
striking (5N/mm2) or a percentage of the design strength to matters and this is not always the same as the air temperature.
avoid deflection beyond a specified deviation (say 60%). They On a windy, cloudless night, concrete can be cooled below the
can be grouped broadly as: air temperature. The weather forecast is available by telephone,
or via the internet, and is an invaluable guide to the planning of
■■ Traditional methods that provide rather conservative winter work. Freezing conditions can usually be predicted and
estimates, typically tables quantifying striking times, e.g. precautions taken. Specifications frequently call for precautions
BS 8110-1 Table 6.1, CIRIA Report 136 and BS EN 13670 etc. to be taken at particular temperatures, depending on whether
that are constructed to provide the lower bound strength the temperature is rising or falling.
characteristic for the concrete class required related to
the ambient temperature or curing cubes alongside the
concrete by site testing.
■■ Other methods that may allow earlier striking of formwork,
e.g. pull out tests (BS EN 12504-3, LOK or similar) where
pre-planned insets are cast into the concrete and relate
tensile stress to compressive strength or temperature
matched curing of cubes (BS 1881-130) where the curing
temperature of the cube is driven by the actual temperature
of the structural element, hence mimics in-situ strength
development and maturity.

Back-propping or other support may be necessary after striking.

CONSTRUCT Guide to flat slab formwork and falsework provides
some useful information.

Plant and equipment

Preparations for winter working should be made well in advance
of the onset of cold weather, and the necessary plant and
equipment made ready for use when required. Modifications in
site organisation to help keep work going in winter may not
always be applicable, but they should be considered because
their cost is usually small in relation to the benefits of a smooth
flow of work, a quicker end to the job and no idle labour.

One technique that may be considered is the total enclosure of

the work area with, for instance, polythene sheeting fixed to the
scaffolding, and the use of space heaters within this enclosure.

Chapter 14: Concreting in hot weather

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Concreting in hot weather

In the UK when temperatures exceed approximately 20°C, there Over a delay period of 30 minutes the loss in slump can be
are two main factors leading to problems with concreting: 20–50mm and will become progressively worse with cement
contents higher than 300kg/m3. Rapid stiffening can be
■■ W hen the temperature of the concrete itself increases, minimised by using a retarding admixture and/or cements
the rate of reaction between the cement and the water is containing significant amounts of fly ash or ggbs, which
increased and this, in turn, leads to an increased rate of reduce temperature rise and minimise the risk of early-age
stiffening and loss of consistence. There is also an increased thermal cracking.
risk of early-age thermal cracking because the peak
temperature will be increased. Another factor which should be taken into account is that the
■■ High air temperatures, especially when accompanied by a low higher the temperature of the batch ingredients (and hence the
humidity, can increase the rate at which water evaporates concrete temperature) the greater will be the quantity of water
from the concrete and lead to plastic shrinkage cracking needed to produce any given consistence class. For example,
on exposed surfaces. Evaporation of water due to delays concrete with S2 consistence class at 20°C is likely to have a
between mixing and placing will cause loss of consistence. consistence class of only S1 at a temperature of 30°C when
Evaporation will also be increased from exposed horizontal made with the same free water content.
surfaces after the concrete has been placed.

Moisture loss
Loss of consistence
The rapid loss of moisture from the surface of exposed concrete
Stiffening due to high temperatures and/or water loss can cause increases the risk of plastic cracking, and the concrete should
problems by: be cured thoroughly as soon as possible after finishing. As soon
as the surface has hardened sufficiently, polythene sheeting can
■■ m aking it difficult to place and compact the concrete be used, or a sprayed-on curing membrane applied, preferably
■■ increasing the risk of ‘cold joints’ in large pours using a pigmented type that reflects solar radiation (see Chapter 17
■■ creating surface finishing problems with floors and paved Curing, page 63).
Concrete that has lost consistence due to early stiffening should
The existence of drying conditions makes it more important to not be retempered by additional water.
ensure that exposed surfaces of concrete after compaction and
finishing are protected against loss of moisture by efficient NOTE: Low water content makes concrete more susceptible to
curing methods. the adverse effects of the moisture loss.

Accelerated stiffening and loss of consistence can best be It is generally considered inadvisable for concrete to be placed
minimised by placing the concrete as soon after mixing as when its temperature exceeds approximately 35°C unless special
possible. It is essential that concrete should be of the required procedures are followed, such as those that apply in very hot
consistence at the point of placing, and any delays due to climates.
prolonged transportation should be allowed for by designing
the concrete so that the consistence of the concrete at the mixer
is higher than required at placing to allow for consistence loss.

It should be noted that this higher consistence may require an

increased cement content or the use of a plasticising admixture
in order to maintain the correct free water:cement ratio.

Chapter 15: Reinforcement

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Reinforcement for concrete may consist of deformed steel bars Minimum radii for bends are given in BS 8666 and these should
or welded steel fabric. These materials are covered by BS 4449, be used unless larger radii are detailed. The minimum inside
4482 and 4483. The requirements for scheduling, dimensioning, radius for reinforcement bars, up to and including 16, is twice
bending and cutting of reinforcement are covered by BS 8666. the bar size and 3.5 times for bar sizes of 20 and above.

All reinforcement should be bent on bespoke bar-bending

Bar types and identification machines and should be to the specified dimensions and
within the allowable tolerances. It may be impossible to fit the
reinforcement in the correct position and with the correct cover
High-yield reinforcement is produced by hot rolling a low-alloy if the bars have not been bent accurately. Reinforcement in the
steel. It has a characteristic strength of 500N/mm2 and is known wrong position may reduce the strength of the unit, and a
as ‘deformed’ steel because of its pattern of raised ribs (see reduction in the specified cover will reduce durability, fire
Figure 15.1). resistance and possibly the structural strength.

Reinforcement should not be bent or straightened in a way that

will fracture or damage the bars. All bars should preferably be
bent at ambient temperature, but when the temperature of the
reinforcement is below 5°C special precautions, such as a
reduction in the speed of bending, or increasing the radius of
bending, may be necessary. Alternatively, the reinforcement can
be warmed to a temperature not exceeding 100°C. Heated bars
should never be cooled by quenching. Reinforcement should not
be re-bent or straightened without the approval of the engineer.

Standard shapes of bent bar are readily available from suppliers

in a range of bar sizes, and most suppliers will also work from
the reinforcement schedule to supply steel ready cut and bent
to specified dimensions and tolerances.

Welded steel fabric

Figure 15.1: Typical deformed high-yield reinforcing bar.
Factory-made sheets of fabric made from welded bars or wires
are known as welded steel fabric. They are used extensively for
High-yield reinforcement is identified by ‘H’, ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ on the ground and suspended slabs and for reinforced concrete roads.
reinforcement drawings and schedules. The letter ‘S’ is for Fabric is available in a British Standard range of preferred meshes
stainless steel and ‘X’ is used to denote other steels. in stock sheets 4.8m long × 2.4m wide, but other mesh
arrangements and sizes of sheets are also available to order.

The preferred types of fabric designated in BS 4483 are divided

Bar sizes and bending into four categories, each classified by a letter, as shown in
Table 15.1.
The preferred nominal sizes of bars are 10, 12, 16, 20, 25 and 32,
referring to the nominal diameter in mm. Bars of 40 or 50 size are Each type is available in a limited number of weights, depending
not readily available. Stainless steel bars are generally available on the wire diameter used. References on drawings and
in a 6mm size and larger. schedules use the letter followed by a number denoting the

Chapter 15: Reinforcement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

cross-sectional area, in mm2/per metre width, of the main wires. rust, loose mill scale, snow, ice or any substance that will affect
For example, B503 is a structural fabric with a main wire area of the concrete or steel chemically, or reduce the bond between
503mm2 per metre width in the principal direction (with half the two materials.
that amount in the transverse direction). An ‘A’ or square mesh
has the same cross-sectional area in each direction. The effect of loose rust and mill scale on the bond between
steel and concrete is often a cause of contention on sites.
Fabric should be cut and bent to the tolerances and dimensions
given in BS 8666. Tests carried out on rust-free and rusty bars have shown that,
provided the cross-sectional area of the bar has not been reduced,
the effect of a little rust is not harmful and normal handling will
Table 15.1: Preferred types of designated steel fabric. remove loose rust and mill scale; the same effect can be achieved
Prefix Type of Size of mesh Typical applications by dropping bars on the ground or giving them a sharp tap,
letter fabric (mm x mm) preferably on the end.
A Square mesh 200 x 200 Slabs – suspended and
ground, walls Where it is suspected that the cross-sectional area of the bars
B Structural 100 x 200 Suspended slabs, walls has been reduced by corrosion, the most accurate way of
mesh checking, especially with deformed bars, is to weigh a known
C Long mesh 100 x 400 Roads, paved areas, ground length. Mortar or grout droppings on bars projecting from
floor slabs concrete do not need to be removed provided they are firmly
D Wrapping 100 x 100 Sprayed concrete work, bonded to the bars and not excessive.
200 x 200 concrete encased steelwork.

Cover to reinforcement
Prefabricated reinforcement
The strength, durability and fire resistance of a reinforced
concrete structure depend on, among other factors, the
It is often more convenient to obtain cages and complex
reinforcement being correctly positioned, within allowable
reinforcement arrangements already assembled from the
tolerances, in the hardened concrete. The most common cause
supplier’s factory. Delivery can be timed to fit in with the
of corroding reinforcement is insufficient cover (inadequate
construction programme but the same requirements for storage
concrete quality is another major cause). The position of
on site apply as for conventional reinforcement. Some of the
reinforcement should be checked before and during
assemblies are heavy and will need suitable lifting equipment.
concreting to ensure that the correct cover is maintained;
further checks should be carried out using a covermeter after
the concrete has hardened, as discussed on page 83
Handling, storage and Electromagnetic covermeter. The cover can be achieved every
time by following the requirements in BS 7973 Spacers and
cleanness chairs, Parts 1 and 2.

Whether the reinforcement is being delivered uncut (generally The nominal cover should be given on the working drawings.
in 12m lengths) or already cut and bent it is essential to offload it Nominal cover is the depth of concrete cover, shown on
carefully. Pushing bundles of bars off lorries or throwing them drawings, to the reinforcement nearest to the surface of the
onto stacks inevitably leads to bends or kinks. concrete, including links. The actual cover should nowhere be
less than the nominal cover minus a fixing margin which, in BS
The bars should be stacked off the ground and be well supported EN 1992-1-1 the recommended default dimension is taken as
to ensure that they do not become covered with mud and dirt. 10mm, unless there are justifiable reasons to have a greater or
Bars of different types and diameters for bending on site should lesser dimension.
be stacked separately and be well labelled so that the bar bender
can identify them easily. Cut and bent reinforcement should be If the surface of the concrete is to be tooled or the aggregate
delivered already bundled and labelled with the bar schedule exposed, the depth of tooling or exposure must be taken into
reference and the bar mark to enable the fixers to find the bars account. The nominal cover will depend on the conditions of
they need. exposure of the particular element of concrete and the cement
content, cement type and free water:cement ratio of the
Before concreting, the reinforcement needs to be free from specified concrete.
mud, oil, grease, release agents, paint, retarders, loose flaky

Chapter 15: Reinforcement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Spacers and chairs Fixing reinforcement

The cover to reinforcement can be achieved by using spacers and
chairs to BS 7973-1, positioned in accordance with BS 7973-2. The reinforcement bars should be securely tied together with
soft iron wire or tying devices in accordance with BS 7973. Care
Spacers are made of plastic, fibre cement or concrete, and are should be taken to ensure that projecting ends of ties or clips
supplied in several shapes and various sizes to give the correct do not intrude into the concrete cover.
cover (see Figure 15.2). Chairs are used to space layers of
reinforcement the correct distance apart. They are used in Structural connections between bars are usually made by lapping.
slabs and walls (see Figure 15.3). Mechanical couplers can be employed if lapping is not feasible or
if long lap lengths would cause unacceptable congestion. If there
Spacers and chairs must be durable, and not cause corrosion of is any uncertainty about the arrangement of the reinforcement, or
the reinforcement or spalling of the concrete. Those made from any discrepancy between the bar schedules and the drawings, the
fibre-cement or concrete should be comparable in strength, engineer should be consulted.
durability, porosity and appearance if the finish of the surrounding
concrete is important. Site-made concrete blocks must not be Welding of reinforcement should be avoided wherever possible.
used. Guidance on using spacers is given in publication BS 7973. Tack welding may be used for fabrication of pre-assembled
reinforcement cages but only by firms holding appropriate
certification. Tack welding on site should not be permitted other
than in particular circumstances for which specifier approval
must be sought.

The reinforcement must be fixed rigidly in the correct position

and with the correct cover in such a way that it is not displaced
during concreting. Top layers of reinforcement in slabs should be
well supported on chairs to BS 7973-1 or bent reinforcement, so
that they are not displaced by operatives walking on them or
by being used as a storage area for plant or equipment – both
practices should be actively discouraged. Special care should
be taken in fixing the top tension reinforcement in cantilevers.

Figure 15.2: Spacers to BS 7973.
Steel and macro-synthetic fibres can be considered to provide
some structural performance, unlike micro-synthetic fibres that
have no post-cracking properties (see Figures 15.4, 15.5, 15.6).
They may be added to the concrete either at the ready-mixed
concrete plant or to the mixer truck on site. The addition of
fibres to the concrete should be in accordance with an agreed
method statement to ensure that the fibres are adequately
distributed throughout the concrete, that there are no fibre
balls that may cause pump blockages and the quality of the
final concrete is not adversely affected.

Fibres can be supplied in degradable paper bags or containers,

plastic bags or in bulk. The type of fibre and/or packaging has a
direct impact on how the fibres are dosed into the concrete.
Care should be taken to ensure proper dispersal and complete
mixing. Degradable paper bags or containers can be put directly
into the concrete truck or mixer. Fibres can also be blown with
compressed air into the concrete to aid dispersion.
Figure 15.3: Continuous goalpost and individual chair to BS 7973.

Chapter 15: Reinforcement
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Figure 15.4: Close-up of micro-synthetic Figure 15.5: Close-up of macro-synthetic Figure 15.6: Close-up of steel fibres.
fibres. (Photo: Fibermesh) fibres. (Photo: Enduro) (Photo: Novacon)

Mixing of the concrete after the addition of the fibres depends

greatly on the efficiency of the mixer truck. It is recommended
that the fibres should be mixed for approximately five minutes
at optimum speed, or a minimum of 100 revolutions of the drum.
Where fibres are added at the ready-mixed plant, it is suggested
that they should be the first item in the mix. The subsequent
addition of aggregate helps to distribute the fibres.

Chapter 16: Formwork

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

The purpose of formwork is to contain freshly placed and be used as permanent formwork; the supplier’s instructions
compacted concrete until it has gained enough strength to be regarding bearings, supports and ties must be carefully
self-supporting, produce a concrete element of the required observed.
shape and size, and to produce the desired finish to the concrete.

To achieve this, the general design and construction requirements

of formwork are as follows:

■■ T he formwork should be sufficiently rigid to prevent undue

deflection during the placing of the concrete.
■■ It should be of sufficient strength to carry the working loads
and the weight or pressure of the wet concrete, and to
withstand incidental loading and vibration of the concrete.
■■ It should be set to line and level within the specified
tolerances and include any camber that may be required.
■■ Joints should be sufficiently tight to prevent loss of water or
cement paste from the concrete, which can have a serious
effect on the appearance of the finished concrete.
■■ The size of panels or units should permit safe and easy
handling using the equipment available on site. The design
should permit an orderly and simple method of erection
and striking. Figure 16.1: Proprietary formwork panel system. (Photo: PERI)
■■ The arrangements of panels should be such that they are
not ‘trapped’ during striking, and it should be possible to
strike side forms from beams without disturbing the soffit The system of falsework supporting the formwork must be
formwork. designed to withstand the loads imposed on it. Tubular metal
scaffolding and adjustable proprietary props are the most
common forms of support, although heavy-duty specially

Types of formwork designed supporting systems are often required. When

adjustable steel props are used, they must be installed so that
they are vertical and loaded axially, and the hardened steel
Over the years, the number of materials used for formwork has pins provided by the manufacturers must be used.
grown considerably, although traditional methods using
materials such as timber are still used. Formwork facing Slipforms are occasionally used for walls, lift shafts and
materials include timber, plain and resin-faced plywood, steel, building cores, silos, towers, chimneys and shaft linings. This
alloy, concrete, glass-fibre-reinforced plastic (GRP), glass-fibre- type of form is moved almost continuously, usually by means
reinforced cement (GRC), hardboard and expanded polystyrene. of hydraulic jacks, leaving concrete of the required shape and
In addition, form liners of rubber, thermoplastics or other sheet dimensions behind.
materials, including permeable liners, may be used to produce
controlled-permeability formwork (CPF) systems (see Influence of Slipforming saves time by eliminating the task of striking and
formwork on page 67). Some liners are re-usable but others can resetting formwork and by allowing continuous concreting, but
only be used once. it is not normally an economic solution for vertical structures
less than approximately 15m high. The design and operation of
Many systems of proprietary formwork are available, and large slipforms require considerable experience and are usually
contracts often make use of special formwork designed as a undertaken only by specialist subcontractors.
system specifically for that job (see Figure 16.1). Precast concrete,
profiled steel decking units, GRC panels or other materials may

Chapter 16: Formwork
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Design of formwork Release agents can be classed as barrier types or reactive

(chemically active) types. Barrier types work by creating a
barrier between the form and the concrete and have several
Formwork should be designed to withstand all expected loads. disadvantages including:
These include the self-weight, weight of reinforcement, weight
of wet concrete, construction and wind loads, all incidental ■■ h igh application rate
loads caused by placing and compacting the concrete, and the ■■ high wastage
horizontal pressure of the wet concrete against vertical formwork. ■■ concrete surface is contaminated with the oil.
Detailed information about these loadings is given in BS 5975,
CIRIA Report 108 and The Concrete Society publication, Formwork. However, the main advantage that well-formulated barrier
mould oil has over a reactive release agent is that it enables
Particular care is needed to provide an adequate number of form moulds to be stripped quickly in the precast yard. A reactive
ties, where these are used to link together the opposite panels of release agent generally needs 12 hours (at ambient temperature)
a wall form. Whereas slightly inadequate design of other elements to produce the parting agent.
of the formwork may lead to large deflections or leakage, the
failure of form ties can more easily cause a dangerous collapse. Reactive types include an ingredient that reacts with the fresh
Failure in ties may also occur when they are over-tightened or concrete paste forming a soap. This soap remains as a dust on
put into bending rather than simple tension. the form and must be brushed off to prevent build up which
can lead to surface imperfections. It may also be left on the
The strength of formwork, although very important, is often concrete and has been confused with rapid drying in the past.
secondary to its stiffness, which must be sufficient to prevent
it deflecting significantly under load, otherwise the resulting Release agents should be applied to give a very light film.
concrete surface will show the deformation. When using A common fault is the use of too much agent or repeated
plywood, it is important to recognise that stiffness parallel to application of the agent. If it is thin, application using an airless
the face grain is less than the stiffness at right angles to it. spray is recommended. Thicker oils may be applied by brush or
cloth and spread as far as possible, all excess being removed
Formwork must be watertight, because small leaks lead to with a cloth.
unsightly stains on the concrete surface and large leaks can
cause honeycombing. The use of foamed plastic sealing strip, or The use of barrier paints produces a hardwearing surface and
moisture-curing gunned silicone rubber, provides an effective may extend the life of timber or plywood forms. If paint is
means of sealing joints. Joints may also be sealed by adhesive not used, two or three coats of mould oil should be applied
tape, but it must be accepted that such joints will be apparent before the form is used for the first time. Some barrier paints
on the finished surface. Such patterning is generally acceptable are not suitable for use with certain tropical hardwoods, and the
in public spaces such as car parks if it is formalised or set manufacturer’s advice should be sought on this point. To avoid
uniformly with the bays of the structure. contamination of reinforcement, the release agent should
be applied before the forms are erected, but then it may be
necessary to protect the forms from the weather.

Surface treatment Unpainted timber forms become progressively less absorbent as

the pores of the wood become filled with cement paste during
Where the appearance of the concrete is of importance, use. This affects the appearance of the finished work – an abrupt
it is vital that care is taken with the surface of the form. All colour change will be seen on the concrete – so new and old
marks on the form, such as vibrating poker ‘burns’, as well as materials should not be used alongside each other. Similarly,
varying properties in the form-face material, e.g. uneven water patches of new material in old formwork will produce noticeable
absorbency in timber, will show on the finished concrete. Loose colour changes.
wire and other debris should be cleaned out of forms prior to
concreting; this is usually done with a compressed air hose. It In a similar way, forms made from painted timber and various
is particularly important that all steel particles are removed as types of plastics having a glazed or glossy surface produce an
they will rust and spoil the final appearance of the concrete. appearance that changes with the number of uses. In this case,
the surface glaze is reduced by the first use, and subsequent
To allow easy striking of the formwork and to reduce the uses produce a less highly polished surface on the concrete.
incidence of blowholes, the surface of the form must be coated Some plastic-faced plywoods give a similar effect.
with a release agent prior to concreting. The most useful are
chemical release agents, neat oils with surfactants, and mould The first few uses of these materials can sometimes produce
cream emulsions. a very hard, dense, and almost black surface to the concrete.

Chapter 16: Formwork
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

This normally occurs only with impervious form faces. Similar Striking must be carried out with care, and it may be necessary
discolouration of concrete placed against a steel form may to protect some of the work from damage immediately after
sometimes be attributed to the presence of mill scale on the removing the forms.
Curing should start as soon as the formwork has been removed
and, if necessary, the concrete should be insulated as a protection

Striking of formwork against low temperatures. Timber formwork is a good insulator

in its own right, so in winter it is particularly important to avoid
thermal shock to the warm concrete when timber or insulated
The period which should elapse before the formwork is struck steel forms are removed and the concrete is exposed to the
will vary from job to job and will depend on the concrete cold air.
used, the weather and the exposure of the site, any subsequent
treatment to be given to the concrete, the method of curing If the formwork is not required elsewhere, it may be convenient
and other factors. Formwork must not be removed until the to leave it in place until the concrete has cooled from its high
concrete is strong enough to be self-supporting and able to carry early temperature. The formwork must be removed slowly as
imposed loads. Thus, the time of striking should be related to the the sudden removal of supports is equivalent to a shock load
strength of the concrete, and obviously soffit forms to beams on the partly hardened concrete. Careful removal is also less
and slabs must be left in place longer than is necessary for the likely to damage the formwork itself
side forms. However, where appearance is important, striking
times should be as consistent as possible to ensure the least
colour variation in the finished surface.
Care of formwork
Subject to the requirements of the specification, and where no
other information is available, the periods given in CIRIA Report Formwork frequently accounts for over a third of the cost of the
136, BS 8110-1 Table 6.1 or BS EN 13670 may be taken as a finished concrete, so it should be handled with care. The life of
general guide for the removal of formwork. It should be noted forms can be extended considerably by careful treatment, thus
that periods will vary depending on the cement type; shorter decreasing the overall cost of the job. Rough treatment may make
periods may apply where a higher strength class cement is used, timber and plywood forms useless after one pour, whereas eight
but longer periods may be required where the concrete contains or more uses may be obtained by following good site practice.
significant amounts of ggbs or fly ash.
All formwork should be cleaned as soon as it has been struck.
CIRA Report 136 takes into account the strength class of the Timber and plywood forms are best cleaned with a stiff brush to
concrete, the cement type, the dimensions of the section, the remove dust and grout; stubborn bits of grout can be removed
type of formwork, the temperature of the concrete at the time of using a wooden scraper. With GRP and other plastics, a brush
placing and the mean air temperature. Shorter formwork striking and wet cloth are all that should be needed. The use of steel
times are achievable by measuring the strength development scrapers should be restricted to steel formwork.
of the in-situ concrete, e.g. pull-out (LOK) tests or temperature
matched curing. Steel forms should be lightly oiled to prevent rusting if they
are not going to be reused immediately; similarly, timber and
Soffit formwork may be struck when the in-situ strength of un-treated plywood should be given a coat of release agent for
the concrete is 10N/mm2 or twice the stress to which it will be protection.
subjected, whichever is the greater. The in-situ strength can be
assessed by pull-out tests (see page 83) or from cubes cured, Any formwork surface defects such as depressions, splits, nail
as far as possible, under the same conditions as the in-situ holes or other unwanted holes should be repaired and made
concrete or by temperature-matched curing by which test good.
cubes are immersed in water whose temperature is made to
copy that of the structure. Formwork should be properly stored and protected. Panels and
plywood sheets are best stored horizontally on a flat base, clear
Proprietary quick-strip systems permit the removal of soffit of the ground, so that they lie flat without twisting, and should
formwork without disturbing the propping. be stacked face-to-face to protect the surfaces. Large panels
are usually best stored vertically in specially made racks. Stored
When formwork to beam sides, walls and columns is struck at formwork should be protected from the sun and weather by
early ages the concrete will still be ‘green’ and easily damaged, tarpaulins or plastic sheeting.
so extra care is required to avoid damage to arrises and other
features; this is particularly important during cold weather.

Chapter 17: Curing

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Curing is the process of preventing the loss of moisture from ■■ t he type of cement or combination
the concrete in its early life while maintaining a satisfactory ■■ the cement content and the free water:cement ratio
temperature regime. ■■ the temperature of the surface layer
■■ the ambient conditions
■■ the intended use of the concrete.

Purpose of curing In addition to these factors, ambient conditions after casting

will vary during the period of curing, concrete maintained at a
Concrete in its early life should be cured and protected to high temperature will cure more quickly.
minimise plastic shrinkage, ensure adequate surface strength
and surface zone durability. The concrete should also be The Standard for execution of concrete structures, BS EN 12670
protected form early age freezing and damage from harmful describes four Curing classes, see Table 17.1, defined by curing
vibration or impact. period or percentage of the specified characteristic strength.

At the time the concrete is placed there is always an adequate For curing classes 2–4 the minimum curing period in days is
quantity of water present for full hydration but it is necessary to given in a series of Tables based on the surface temperature
ensure that this water is retained so that the chemical reaction (t)°C of the concrete and the ratio (r) of the mean compressive
continues until the concrete has developed the necessary degree strength after two days to the mean compressive strength after
of impermeability and strength. Methods for curing should 28 days, determined from initial testing or based on known
achieve low evaporation rates from the concrete surface or performance of comparable concrete composition.
keep the surface permanently wet.
The ratio falls into one of three ranges rapid, medium and slow
The areas most affected by poor curing are the surface zones, corresponding to the rate of strength gain, so a cement with
and these are critical with respect to durability. In particular, the 65% ggbs (IIIA) may be ‘slow’ compared with a CEM I-based
protection of reinforcement against corrosion depends on the concrete.
quality of the concrete in the cover zone and the depth of cover.
If the curing is inadequate the concrete may neither be durable
nor provide adequate protection to the reinforcement, despite
conforming to specification in all other aspects. Similarly, abrasion Methods of curing
resistance depends on concrete quality in the top few millimetres.
Continuous curing from the time the concrete is placed helps to Methods of curing can conveniently be considered in two
ensure a hard, dense surface which reduces the risk of crazing groups:
and dusting, increases impermeability and improves weathering
characteristics. Early curing will reduce evaporation of water ■■ T hose which keep water or moisture in close contact with
from the surface of fresh concrete in drying conditions. Unless the surface of the concrete, such as ponding, spraying/
evaporation is controlled, ‘plastic’ cracks may appear while the sprinkling, damp fine aggregate and damp hessian.
concrete is still setting. See page 25 Plastic cracking. ■■ Those which prevent the loss of moisture from the
concrete, such as plastic sheeting, building paper, leaving the
The duration of curing is a function of the development of the formwork in place, and sprayed-on curing membranes.
concrete properties in the surface zone but it is not possible to
establish the precise times when curing is adequately achieved, Although tests have shown that the methods in the first group
i.e. the capillary voids are discontinuous. are the most efficient and may be appropriate for some work,
they tend to suffer from the practical disadvantages of being
The minimum time required for preventing loss of moisture expensive in both materials and labour and, perhaps more
from the surface of the concrete depends on a number of importantly, it is difficult to ensure that they are done properly;
factors including: damp hessian, for example, is seldom kept continuously damp.

Chapter 17: Curing
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Table 17.1: Curing classes BS EN 13670.

Curing class 1 Curing class 2 Curing class 3 Curing class 4
Period (hours) 12a – – –
Percentage of specified characteristic 28-day – 35% 50% 70%
a. Provided setting does not exceed five hours and the surface concrete temperature is ≥5°C

Curing membranes Horizontal surfaces

Curing membranes are liquids sprayed onto either fresh or It is essential for most horizontal surfaces to be well cured. This
hardened concrete surfaces, which, when dry, leave a thin film is particularly important where the concrete will be trafficked,
of resin to seal the surface and reduce the loss of moisture. They either by foot or by vehicles. Curing should always start as soon
can be used on both horizontal areas of fresh concrete and as possible after the concrete has been compacted and finished,
vertical surfaces after the removal of formwork. Most sprayed- generally within 30 minutes of the water sheen (bleed water)
on curing compounds should be applied immediately after the disappearing.
water sheen that results from bleeding has evaporated.

The resin film remains intact for about four weeks, but then Road slabs and other external concrete
becomes brittle and peels off under the action of sun and (paths and drives)
weather. Curing membranes were developed for roads and airfield
pavements, which are difficult and impractical to cure satisfactorily Major concrete roads are usually sprayed with a curing
by any other means. Although they are now used extensively for membrane by a machine that is part of the paving train. This
curing structural concrete there are some occasions when they is not discussed in this publication. For smaller paved areas
may not be suitable, e.g. where a subsequent anti-graffiti coating is where semi-manual methods of construction are used, a
to be applied and may be incompatible. curing membrane can be applied using a hand-operated
spray of the garden type. A white pigmented or aluminised
Most proprietary makes are available in various grades of curing super grade of compound should be used, taking particular
efficiency. A standard grade has 75% curing efficiency to BS 7542 care to ensure an even coat is applied, especially in strong
with 90% being much better, especially for unformed surfaces. winds.
Generally pale amber/straw in colour, they are also available with
a white or aluminised pigment, or containing a fugitive dye. The Although curing membranes can be used for small areas of
white and aluminium-powder pigmented types are specifically external concrete, it may be more convenient, and equally
for external paved areas, where the pigments reflect the rays of efficient, to use polythene sheeting. The covering should be
the sun, thereby reducing the amount of heat absorbed by kept in place for at least seven days, paying particular attention
the concrete. at the edges of sheets as there is a tendency for the concrete to
dry out here due to wind tunnelling effects.
Those containing a fugitive dye make it easier to see where
the membrane has been applied and that it has been applied
uniformly; the dye quickly disappears after application and Slabs to receive a screed
will not stain the surface provided that it is not applied to a dry
concrete surface. Special non-toxic compounds are available for A curing compound should not be used when a slab will
use on concrete that is to contain drinking water. Pigmented later receive a cement–sand levelling screed, a wearing
and aluminised varieties should be agitated frequently to screed or any other bonded covering, as the bond may be
ensure uniform dispersion of the solids. affected.

Generally, and certainly in the UK, the pigmented higher- Polythene sheeting will usually be the most convenient
efficiency grades should be used for external paved areas, method of curing. Covering with damp hessian is not
and the non-­pigmented lower efficiency grades on structural recommended because of the difficulty of keeping it moist in
concrete. In tropical climates, the higher-efficiency grades dry weather, especially overnight and at weekends. The
should be used for all applications. It is therefore essential to concrete should be covered as soon as possible after finishing,
ensure that the appropriate type of curing membrane is used. especially in a drying wind.

Chapter 17: Curing
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Direct-finished concrete and wearing Exposed concrete

All vertical surfaces of concrete, including white and coloured,
Power-finished surfaces and wearing screeds have to be which will be permanently exposed to the weather need extra
hard-wearing and abrasion-resistant, and particular attention to care with curing. A well-cured surface will be more impermeable
curing is essential. and better able to withstand the action of freezing and thawing
and wetting and drying; surface crazing will also be reduced.
After the final trowelling (either by hand or by power trowel) Good curing will also help the long-term appearance of the
the surface should be firm enough for immediately covering concrete by reducing dirt collection.
with plastic sheeting or similar, or applying a curing compound.
All concrete surfaces that will be permanently exposed to the
The surface should not be allowed to dry out before curing. weather, including those to be abrasive blasted or tooled, should
Polythene sheeting should be kept in place for at least seven days. be cured for at least seven days. Although polythene sheeting
Some loss of moisture may occur at the edges and at laps and it can be used for this, it will usually be more convenient to use a
may be necessary every other day to turn back the sheeting and sprayed-on curing compound.
spray with water, and then replace the sheeting. Resin-based
hardeners also act as curing agents.

Uniformity of colour
Cement-sand screeds The colour of concrete can be affected by the age at which
formwork is removed and by the weather, both at the time of
Curing compounds are not recommended because of the need striking and subsequently.
for floor covering materials to bond to the screed. After laying, a
cement-sand screed should be kept continuously damp for at Where uniformity of colour is important, e.g. with off the form
least seven days, preferably by covering with polythene sheeting. and board-marked surfaces, either the formwork should be left in
position for four days, in which case no further curing is usually
necessary; or, when the formwork is removed in less than four
days, the concrete should be covered or wrapped in polythene
Vertical surfaces sheeting for at least another three days.
The curing of columns, walls and beam sides is more difficult
However, differential contact with the polythene can cause
than horizontal surfaces. Curing membranes can sometimes be
colour variation caused by differences in surface hydration.
used but are not generally suitable when any subsequent
Alternatively, but only if the concrete will be permanently
treatment or rendering is to be applied.
exposed to the weather, a curing compound may be applied.
While in position, formwork protects the concrete against loss
Damp hessian is not recommended because it contains a dye
of moisture and it is only after striking that further curing may
that can stain the surface. It is also ineffective if it dries out.
be necessary.

When formwork has been kept in position for four days, as a

general rule, there is usually no need for further curing of
concrete. For concrete surfaces not exposed to the weather,
White and coloured concrete
which are to receive an applied decorative treatment such as
It is not advisable to use a curing compound on white or
rendering, plaster or paint, or will be tooled or abrasive blasted,
coloured concrete if there is a risk of discolouration. Polythene
no further curing is usually necessary after the formwork is
sheeting is the preferred material because it cannot stain
the concrete. Sheeting that is firmly fixed and left in place
also protects the surface from dust caused by other site
In general, further curing of vertical surfaces of concrete is
work. Subsequent removal of dirt and stains is both time-
required in temperate climates only when the formwork is
consuming and expensive.
struck less than four days of placing the concrete and either:

■■ the surface will be permanently exposed to the weather

■■ the surfaces have to be uniform in colour, e.g. a number of
similar columns or series of pours making up a wall.

Chapter 18: Formed surface finishes

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Formed surface finishes

Visual concrete, which is designed to be seen in a completed
building or structure, requires special consideration at an early
stage, since its appearance will largely determine the quality of
the whole job. To produce concrete with a good finish, the
formwork, the concrete itself and the way it is placed and
compacted must all be to a consistently high standard,
following the guide-lines outlined in the following sections.

Range of finishes
There are three main types of formed finish:

■■ T hose produced direct from the formwork, often called ‘as

struck’ finishes, comprising plain, smooth finishes.
■■ Those produced direct from textured and profiled form-
faces such as board-marked concrete and ribbed or striated
and modelled surfaces.
■■ Those produced indirectly by further treatment after the
formwork is removed, including exposed aggregate and Figure 18.2: High-quality finish showing 50mm wide x 20mm deep
tooled finishes. vertical grooves at 300mm centres.

The types are often combined to produce, for example, a

striated and tooled finish, or a modelled exposed aggregate
finish (see Figures 18.3 and 18.4).

Figure 18.3: An example of an Figure 18.4: Examples of different

in-situ exposed aggregate finish textures produced from one
obtained with the aid of a surface casting.
Figure 18.1: High-quality finish showing panel joints and filled (recessed) retarder.
tie-bolt holes.

Chapter 18: Formed surface finishes
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Standard of finish Influence of formwork

A concrete surface will reproduce every detail of the form surface
Concrete can be produced within close dimensional tolerances, from which it was cast. The formwork, in particular the joints,
but the inherent variations in colour and the presence of some must remain watertight against the pressure of concrete in order
small air bubbles or blowholes on the surface produce a finish to prevent leakage. Any loss of water from the fresh concrete
that is seldom entirely blemish-free. It is unrealistic to expect will result in a dark area on the completed surface, which extends
perfection in appearance. into the concrete and cannot usually be removed by tooling –
in fact, more often than not, tooling makes the blemish more
It is essential to have a full-size section of part of the structure obvious.
produced as a sample in order to avoid later dispute about
the quality of the work. Guidance on the standards of surface Gaskets may be necessary to maintain watertightness at the
finish is given in Concrete Society Technical Report 52, Plain joints and, in the case of exposed aggregate and tooled finishes,
formed concrete finishes. To judge the quality of the finish, the the formwork joints may be sealed with adhesive tape. Joints in
sample should be viewed at the same distance from which the the formwork, even well made ones, will show in the finished
concrete will be seen when in use. concrete. The position of formwork joints, as well as tie holes,
should therefore be a planned and coordinated feature.
There are many specifications used to specify the finish of the
concrete. These include: BS EN 13670 Execution of concrete, The standard of finish specified and the number of uses
Specification for Highway Works (SHW), National Building required for the formwork usually affect the choice of facing
Specification (NBS), National Specification Concrete Structures material. The surface characteristics of the formwork have a
(NSCS) and the Civil Engineering Specification for the Water profound effect upon the appearance of the concrete.
Industry (CESWI). Unsealed plywood (because it is slightly absorbent) will cause
relatively few blow-holes, but variations in the absorbency of
BS EN 13670 has the following classification for formed surface the timber grain will produce corresponding variations in the
finishes: colour of the concrete. On the other hand, impermeable
formwork will give rise to more blow­holes, although the colour
■■ Basic may be more uniform.
■■ Plain
■■ Ordinary A further complication is that concrete cast against smooth
■■ Special impermeable surfaces may have a dark, almost black, surface
(as described on page 61 Surface treatment). The colour variation
These have been adopted by the NSCS and NBS. may be reduced if the formwork has a matt surface which will
retain the release agent, rather than a smooth, shiny one from
which the release agent is removed during placing and
Table 18.1: Extract from BS EN 13670 Table F.4: Types of surface finish.
compaction of the concrete.
Type of Normal application
finish A thin coating of release agent should be applied to the
Basic Where no particular requirement is needed formwork each time before the concrete is placed to prevent
Ordinary Where not of visual importance or to receive applied adhesion, and thus make formwork removal easier when the
finishes concrete has hardened. Release agents must be applied
Plain Where visual effect is of some importance sparingly otherwise the surface of the concrete could be
Special Where special requirements have to be given adversely affected through staining and dusting from set-

It is important that whichever specification is used they There are several different types of release agent and it is
are clear and achievable. Often, disputes arise due to a important to use one that is suitable for the form material in
misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the requirements. question. Recommendations of types and applications are
The complexity of the structure will also be a factor; the more given earlier (page 61) under the heading Surface treatment.
demanding the specification, the greater the effect on the
construction programme and the cost. The quality of surface finish may be significantly improved with
the use of a controlled-permeability formwork (CPF) system (see
Types of formwork, page 60). Here, a patent woven synthetic
fabric is securely fixed to the form face and the concrete cast in
the normal way. Bleed water that would cause unsightly marking

Chapter 18: Formed surface finishes
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

of vertical surfaces is drained away and blowholes of entrapped Supervision and workmanship
air are also absorbed through the fabric.
A high level of supervision is essential, with special attention to
The resulting concrete surface benefits both from a blemish-free the following:
appearance and, by virtue of having been effectively dewatered,
the free water:cement ratio in the cover zone is reduced, resulting ■■ The formwork should be checked for alignment, level and
in more durable concrete. The finish is plain but slightly textured. plumb, for bracing and tightness of all fixings. Joints must
be watertight to prevent leakage. The formwork should also
Note that the specified cover to the reinforcement must be be checked for accuracy of dimensions.
maintained for durability so any surface profiling or texturing ■■ Reinforcement needs to be checked so that the correct
must take this into account. cover will be achieved.
■■ The first part discharged from a truck-mixer should either
be used in a visually unimportant part of the work, or set
Concrete for high-quality finishes aside and used later after some of the more homogeneous
concrete has been placed.
In order to be able to control the quality of the concrete to the ■■ Once begun, placing should be continuous until the pour
standard required for visual concrete, it is essential to have the has been completed; continuity in the supply of concrete is
coarse aggregate stocked and batched separately in two sizes, therefore essential.
one of 10/20mm and the other of 4/10mm and to combine ■■ Placing should proceed at a uniform rate of not less than
them in the concrete in the proportions required, according to 2m height per hour. This requires careful consideration and
the following guidelines: planning of pour sizes.
■■ The actual rate of placing needs to be restricted by the rate
■■ a minimum cement content of 350kg/m3, at which the concrete can be compacted, i.e. layers of no
■■ a fine aggregate content of not more than twice the weight more than 500mm.
of cement
■■ total aggregate not more than six times the weight of Careful selection is required of the type of release agent and, if
cement used, the sprayed-on curing membrane. The use of damp hessian
■■ avoidance of an excessive quantity of 10mm aggregate is not recommended as it will stain the concrete. This is especially
(ideally not more than 20% of total coarse aggregate) true for white concrete.
■■ free water:cement ratio of 0.50 or less.

The proportion of 1:2 for the cement:fine aggregate fraction is

based on 0/4MP grade. In the case of finer aggregate, the quantity
Smooth finishes
should be reduced to compensate for its increased surface area.
Contrary to a widely held belief, plain smooth surfaces are the most
Trial mixes and sample panels are essential to determine the difficult to produce to a consistently high standard because of the
suitability of the concrete for the particular job in question. inherent variation in the constituent materials and the fact that
even the smallest blemishes are readily visible on plain surfaces.
The colour of the concrete is influenced by the colour of both
the cement and the fine fines within the fine aggregate. Both There is still need for a good finish, even when grit blasting or
these materials should be kept as constant as possible and bush hammering is to be used to expose the aggregate. It is not
obtained from the same source throughout the period of supply. true that bush hammering will make a poor finish acceptable; in
practice, any tooling of a poor finish only serves to accentuate
The type of spacer used will have an affect on be the finished the surface defects.
appearance. Spacers used in soffits can be highly visible. Care is
required in the selection of the type which will have the least
visual impact but will be sufficiently robust to support the weight
of formwork. The formwork face material can also be influential Textured and profiled finishes
as those spacers that have a small contact area can be pushed
into the softer formwork surface which will leave them proud of The simplest textured finishes can be obtained by using
the concrete surface when the formwork is removed. In some formwork made from rough sawn boards so that the imprint of
circumstances, the reinforcement can be supported from the the wood grain is reproduced on the surface of the concrete. To
back formwork so that no spacers are on the exposed face. This be effective, great care is necessary in the design and fabrication
is difficult to achieve. of the formwork, particularly the joints and any fixings.

Chapter 18: Formed surface finishes
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Formwork linings are made in a variety of patterns from A deep or heavy exposure, in which the coarse aggregate is
materials such as expanded polystyrene (which can only be exposed by a third of its depth, is best carried out when the
used once) and flexible rubber-like plastics (which will give concrete is approximately two days old. If it is left until the
repeated use). Manufacturers of these materials usually provide concrete is harder, it will take much longer to produce the finish.
guidance as to their use. A medium-depth finish can be carried out at three to four days
after placing the concrete, and a light abrasive blast finish at seven
Ribbed finishes are usually produced by fixing timber battens days or later. The operator must have considerable experience
securely to the formwork; fixing should be by both gluing and of working with concrete but, given this, abrasive blasting is
screwing to prevent grout loss under the battens. The battens often quicker and less sensitive to variations in the finish than
must have a generous taper (‘draw’) to enable them to be other methods of exposing the aggregate. High pressure water
struck from the hardened concrete. The formwork for intricately jetting can also be used.
modelled surfaces is often made from glass-fibre-reinforced
plastics. Battens can also be used to create a recess, thereby
hiding difficult to form construction joints, e.g. in continuous
flat surfaces like stairwells. Tooled concrete finishes
Tooled finishes are not produced until the concrete has

Exposed aggregate finishes achieved a compressive strength of at least 20N/mm2, so

this particular operation can often be left until near the end
of a contract. Tooling removes a layer of concrete from the
Coarse aggregate is exposed by removing cement and mortar surface (typically 5mm with bush hammering and 10mm or
from the face of the concrete. The variability in the distribution even 20mm with point tooling) and reveals the colour but
of the coarse aggregate in ordinary concrete tends to give an not necessarily the shape of the aggregate. Care is required
uneven appearance when the aggregate is exposed. It is therefore when working near the edge of an element, and it is usual to
necessary to use a special prescribed concrete using gap-graded provide a plain margin that is left un-tooled to minimise the
aggregates containing as large a proportion as possible of the risk of breaking the edges.
coarse aggregate, (this concrete will require particular care in
transporting and placing). For example, all the coarse aggregate
should be 10/20mm in size instead of 4/20mm or 10/20mm plus
4/10mm. Trial mixes will have to be produced to determine the Remedial work
mix design, firstly to achieve the finish and secondly to satisfy
durability and compressive strength requirements. Except for the need to cure the concrete, plain and textured
finishes should not need any further attention once the formwork
One method of exposing the aggregate is to coat the has been removed. However, it will be necessary to fill any tie-
formwork with a chemical retarder that prevents the cement bolt holes, and these are best dealt with as soon as possible so
in contact with it from hardening. When the formwork is that the mortar gains strength at the same rate as the concrete
removed, the surface mortar is brushed away to uncover the itself. It is often best to make a feature of the tie-bolt holes and
aggregate embedded in the hardened concrete. Timing of leave them slightly recessed as filling flush nearly always leaves
the operation is fairly critical since some retarders will delay an undesirable appearance. If blowholes are to be filled, these
the hardening only while the surface is tightly covered. When should be ‘made­good’ as soon as possible.
the formwork is removed and air gets to the surface, the
mortar soon hardens. It is therefore important to organise the Making good is a skilled job that should not be entrusted to
work so that the surface can be treated within a short time of a general labourer. The mortar that is used has to be blended
the formwork being stripped. Brushing should begin near the by introducing a proportion of white cement, or some white
bottom of the wall or column because the concrete will be limestone fine aggregate, to match the grey of the concrete
harder there than towards the top. and smoothness of a formed face.

The surface mortar can also be removed from hardened Correcting a fault such as a locally honeycombed area, which may
concrete by abrasive blasting. This technique involves the use have to be cut back to sound, well-compacted material before
of compressed air to carry a stream of selected grit along a being reinstated, may be satisfactory from a structural point of
flexible hose to a nozzle, from where it emerges as a jet and is view, but is unlikely to be acceptable in terms of appearance
directed at the surface of the concrete. The operator must wear because the patch will often tend to weather differently and
a helmet with a piped air supply to protect him from the dust become more obvious with time. It is therefore all the more
that is created. The working area must be screened off to avoid necessary to take particular care in the production of visually
endangering other site personnel and passers-by. important sections of the work.

Chapter 19: Unformed surface finishes

Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Unformed surface finishes

A good-quality concrete, well laid and finished, makes a It is important that whichever specification is used that it is clear
satisfactory floor surface for many purposes. The concrete and achievable. Often, disputes arise due to a misunderstanding
surface can be smooth, easily cleaned, have good resistance or misinterpretation of the requirements. The more demanding
to abrasion, be non-slip and have a low maintenance cost. the specification, the greater the effect on the construction
These properties depend largely on the choice of suitable programme and cost.
materials, concrete quality and good workmanship in
construction and finishing.

Choice of finish
Standard of finish The finish of a concrete floor should be chosen after considering
the type of traffic, loading, impact abrasion and chemical resistance
Concrete can be produced within close dimensional tolerances, that is likely to be applied to the floor. If subsequent surface
but with inherent variations in colour and the presence of marks finishes are to be applied, such factors as hygiene, dust prevention,
and ridges, depending on the method of finishing, the surface slipperiness and decorative treatment should also be considered.
will seldom be entirely blemish-free. It is unrealistic to expect
perfection in appearance. In many industrial situations, a structural slab of adequate quality
may be direct-finished to provide a satisfactory wearing surface.
For some finishes it may be essential to cast a bay as a sample The finish may be produced by power-trowelling (or hand-
in order to avoid later dispute about the quality of the work. To trowelling if the operatives are sufficiently skilled) or early-age
judge the quality of the finish, the sample should be viewed power grinding.
at the same distance from which the job will be seen, bearing
in mind the actual in-service conditions and the floor covering To achieve good regularity of the final surface it is essential to
where applicable. provide accurately set and levelled square-edged side forms,
and to give careful attention to concrete placing, compaction
There are many specifications used to specify the finish of the and levelling. Compaction and levelling can be done efficiently
concrete. These include: BS EN 13670 Execution of concrete, and speedily by using a double-beam vibrator or a tri-screed
Specification for Highway works (SHW), National Building (known as a razorback) and flat surfaces can be achieved, even
Specification (NBS) and the National Specification Concrete on slopes, with a rotating striker tube. Temporary screed rails,
Structures (NSCS). spot levelling or laser-screeding can be used to achieve the
required surface regularity for large area pours.
BS EN 13670 has the following classification for unformed
surface finishes: Basic, Plain, Ordinary and Special and these In some heavy industrial situations, especially where fork-lift
have been adopted by the NSCS and NBS. trucks with solid wheels are used and where heavy abrasion or
impact and chemical attack will occur, special applied wearing
Table 19.1: Extract from BS EN 13670 Table F.4 Types of surface finish. screeds may be necessary.
Type of finish Normal application
Basic A closed uniform surface produced by levelling.
No further work required
Ordinary A level uniform surface produced by floating or A texture can be applied by imprinting the fresh concrete
similar process
using a tamping beam. In its simplest form, the beam is moved
Plain A dense smooth surface produced by trowelling across the levelled surface in a series of close up and down
or similar
horizontal movements. The frequency and amplitude of the
Special A surface where special requirements have been ridges produced will depend on the thickness of the beam, the
given for further working of another finish concrete consistence and the skill of the operatives.

Chapter 19: Unformed surface finishes
Licensed copy:, IBI Group, 02/07/2018, Uncontrolled Copy, © Concrete Society

Brushed dry-shake hardeners are used to give greater abrasion resistance

and pigmentation. The material is spread onto the fresh concrete
This finish is achieved by pulling a brush over the surface of and power-floated and trowelled to form a monolithic topping.
the wet concrete after the surface has been levelled. The finish The timing of each operation is critical.
obtained will depend on the harshness of the bristles or tines
on the brush and the consistence of the concrete.

This is normally the first finishing process after the surface
has been compacted and levelled. Skip-floating closes up the
sur-face of the concrete by spreading the mortar over the top
of the coarse aggregate. A skip-float consists of a large narrow
float on the end of a long handle. This is skimmed over the
surface of the fresh concrete, probably 2 passes only. The float
is able to tilt by means of rotating the handle so that it easily
glides over the concrete surface in both directions. The result
is a surface that has ridges and float marks which may not be
suitable for the direct application of thin flooring materials.
Figure 19.1: Power-trowelling operation.
Another consequence of using this method is the formation of
a phenomenon termed ‘reinforcement ripple’. Here the skip-
float action over the surface moves the coarse aggregate away
from above the reinforcing bar. This is filled with mortar but Polished finish
subsequent settlement causes a slight depression to form over
the reinforcing bar position and a raised profile between the Concrete can be polished by grinding to varying degrees of
bars. Subsequent bleeding of the concrete often results in the smoothness, from matt to high gloss. The latter can have the
formation of a thin layer of surface laitance. appearance of marble or polished granite. The polishing of small
components is generally carried out with hand held tools, but
larger units are polished mechanically. Grinding away the outer
2 or 3mm will reveal the aggregate. The final finish depends on
Power-floating the fineness of the abrasive polishing heads and the number of
times that they are passed over the concrete surface.
After the surface has been levelled, the surface is power-floated
to smooth and close the previously levelled concrete surface The final process involved in internal polished concrete is the
after it has stiffened sufficiently, about three hours after laying. application of a surface sealer to give a durable, longwearing
This process, often called ‘panning’ involves the use of a power protective coating. Sealants can take the form of wax, solvent
float which has a rotating circular disc attachment or large flat or water (acrylic) based products, all of which can be clear or
individual blades. The finish is not highly polished and gives coloured.
charac-teristic swirl marks with a sandpaper/gritty texture to
the surface.

Applied concrete wearing screeds

Power-trowelling Where wearing screeds are considered necessary, it is preferable
that they are laid monolithically with the base concrete, i.e.
A power-trowelled finish is obtained by first using a power float. within three hours of placing the base. Where screeds are laid
After a delay to allow excess surface moisture to evaporate, separately and bonded, experience has shown that there is a
the slab surface is further smoothed and made dense with a high failure rate, mainly due to lack of care in the preparation of
power trowel (see Figure 19.1) to provide a smooth, polished the concrete surface and bonding techniques. Where separate
appearance. bonding screeds must be used, an extremely high standard of
preparation is necessary (removal of laitance and surface