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Workability of Concrete

Workability of concrete is the property of freshly mixed concrete which

determines the ease and homogeneity with which it can be mixed, placed,
consolidated and finished’ as defined by ACI Standard 116R-90 (ACI 1990b).

ASTM defines it as “that property determining the effort required to

manipulate a freshly mixed quantity of concrete with minimum loss of

The workability of concrete depends on many factors which are explained

in factors affecting workability of concrete. Water cement ratio has
much effect in the workability. Workability is directly proportional to water
cement ratio. An increase in water-cement ratio increases the workability of

Types of Workability of Concrete

Workability of concrete can be divided into following three types:

1. Unworkable Concrete
2. Medium Workable
3. Highly Workable Concrete

1. Unworkable Concrete – Harsh Concrete

An unworkable concrete can also be called as harsh concrete. It is a concrete
with very little amount of water. The hand mixing of such concrete is not

Such type of concrete has high segregation of aggregates as cement paste is

not lubricated properly to stick to the aggregates. It is very difficult to
maintain the homogeneity of concrete mix and compaction of concrete
requires much effort. Water cement ratio of such concrete is below 0.4.

2. Medium Workable Concrete

This type of concrete workability is used in most of the construction works.
This concrete is relatively easy to mix, transport, place and compact without
much segregation and loss of homogeneity.

This type of concrete workability is generally used in all concrete construction

with light reinforcement (spacing of reinforcement is which allows the
concrete to be compacted effectively). Water cement ratio for medium
workable concrete is 0.4 to 0.55.

3. Highly Workable Concrete

A highly workable concrete is very easy to mix, transport, place and compact
in structures. Such concrete is used where effective compaction of concrete
is not possible or in mass concrete. Such concrete flow easily and settle
down without much effort. But there is high chances of segregation and loss
of homogeneity in this case.

The coarse aggregates tend to settle at the bottom and the concrete paste
comes up. Such concrete is used in case of heavy reinforcement is used
where vibration of concrete is not possible. Example of highly workable
concrete is self-compacting concrete. Water cement ratio of such concrete is
more than 0.55.

Workability requirement of concrete varies with each type of construction

and compaction method used. For example, concrete workability required for
a slab construction can be same as a mass concrete footing construction.

Workability requirement when vibrators are used for construction are

different from when vibrators are not used. Similarly, concrete workability
used in thick section is not workable when used in thin sections.

Factors Affecting Workability of Concrete

The workability requirements for a concrete construction depends on:

 Water cement ratio

 Type of construction work
 Method of mixing concrete
 Thickness of concrete section
 Extent of reinforcement
 Method of compaction
 Distance of transporting
 Method of placement
 Environmental condition

Continue Reading Factors affecting workability of concrete

Workability Vs. Strength of Concrete

The following figure explains the relation between workability and
compressive strength of concrete:

Fig: Workability Vs. Strength of Concrete

As you can see from figure, the strength of concrete decreases with increase
in water cement ratio. The increase in water cement ratio indicates increase
in workability of concrete. Thus, the strength of concrete inversely
proportional to the workability of concrete.

The reason for this relation is that water from the concrete dries up and
leaves voids when setting of concrete occurs. The more the water is, the
more will be the number of voids. Thus, increase in number of voids
decreases the compressive strength of concrete. Thus it is important to
balance the strength and workability requirement for concrete work.

The workability of concrete can be enhanced by use of rounded aggregates

and by the use of workability enhancing admixtures. With the use of
admixture such as air-entraining admixtures, the workability in increased
without increase in water-cement ratio. This helps in attaining required
strength and workability for concrete work.