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Making Concrete Durable - Part 3

By Jim Shilstone, Sr.

Chairman, The Shilstone Companies, Inc.

Editor's Note: This installment of a four-part editorial on concrete mix designs

covers aggregate gradation. Part 4 will discuss air entrainment in concrete.

While consulting for construction of a major project for the Saudi Arabian
government during the early 1970s, this writer was charged with development of a
performance specification for a difficult cast-in-place architectural concrete

There was a problem - there were no aggregate

standards and no suppliers of standard
aggregates. After casting and testing various
mixtures and research of old documents, the
solution was to address the grading of the
combined aggregate.

That led to the Coarseness Factor Chart (CFC)

(Figure 1), which is used widely by the U.S. Air
Force, a growing list of state highway agencies,
the American Concrete Institute, and the
American Concrete Pavement Association.

In 1985, Jay Shilstone developed proprietary

Figure 1 - Percent of aggregate
software program to help users proportion,
retained on the No. 8 sieve that
evaluate, and adjust mixture proportions (Ref. 1).
is also retained on the 3/8-inch
That program included the Coarseness Factor
sieve vs. the percent passing the
Chart (CFC) and other means to analyze potential
No. 8 sieve. The trend bar is a
performance of a concrete mixture and make mix
boundary between rocky and
adjustments as necessary.
sandy mixes.
The feedback from hundreds of users and
consulting work has led to a unique
understanding of concrete mixtures and their

The CFC, 0.45 Power

Chart, and "Percent of
Aggregate on Each
Sieve" (Figure 2)
provide valuable
information that can be
used to anticipate the
performance of any
Figure 2
concrete project.

The CFC addresses the

overall combined
aggregate effect on a
mixture by dividing the
grading of the
combined aggregate
into three parts: coarse
to fill volume,
intermediate to fill
voids in the coarse, and
fine to provide

The coarse is all aggregate retained on the 3/8" sieve, the intermediate aggregate
passes the 3/8" but is retained on the No. 8, and the fine passes the no. 8 sieve.
The X-axis is the percent of the combined aggregate retained on the No. 8 sieve
that is also retained on the 3/8" sieve. The Y-axis is the percent passing the No. 8
sieve with an adjustment in cementitious materials content from the base of 564
lbs/cuyd. Zone I projects segregation, Zone II identifies a range of potentially
optimized mixture using nominal maximum aggregate sizes from 2" to ¾", Zone III
is like Zone II except for minus ¾" aggregate, Zone IV identifies mixtures that have
too much fine aggregate that contributes to many problems, and Zone V mixtures
are non plastic due to high coarse aggregate. Mixtures that plot at coordinates 60 -
35 have been found to result in high quality concrete. Literally thousands of
different aggregate blends can be used following this concept.

The 0.45 Power Chart chart shows trends. It was developed for asphalt but is now
widely used for concrete except less material passing the No. 8 sieve is required.
There should be no major deviations in trends. The best fit line can be determined
by human examination of the data once plotted. One should not try to fit it to a
given aggregate size.

The Percent of Aggregate Chart

(Figure 3) shows details. The Figure 3
sum of percent retained on two
adjacent sieves should be more
than 13% or segregation will
occur at that gap. Many areas
are troubled by a shortage of
aggregate retained on the
number 16 and 30 sieves and
too much on the number 50
and 100 sieves. This leads to
"fatty mortar" that rises to the
top and creates many

There are other factors,

including segregation,
entrained air, and maturity
(and, of course, factoring the
effect of radiant heat from the
Improper curing of test specimens during the first 48 hours in hot weather can
reduce the reported compressive strength by as much as 1,000 psi.

(1) Shilstone Companies' proprietary software, seeMIX II for Windows, can be examined at

About the Author - Representing three generations of service to the transportation industry, Jim Shilstone,
Sr., is Chairman of the Shilstone Companies, Dallas, TX. For more than 60 years, Shilstone has conducted
extensive research on concrete mixture development and analysis. The research results led to standard
changes for several institutions, including the American Society for Testing and Materials; the American
Concrete Institute; and the U.S. Air Force.

Shilstone was recently recognized by the American Concrete Pavement Association, which awarded him its
distinguished Honorary Life Membership, an award reserved exclusively for those who have rendered
outstanding service to the concrete pavement industry and to the Association. Contact the author at The
Shilstone Companies, 9400 N. Central Expy., #105, Dallas, TX, 75231. Phone: 214-361-9681. Fax: 214-361-