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Proposed field test for drying

shrinkage of concrete
Shrinkage values help in predicting cracking behavior of concrete

BY PAUL P. KRAAI tions such as the required satura- 2). CONCRETE CO N S T RU C T I O N

CONCRETE CONSULTANT tion before drying shrinkage mea- confirmed (September 1981, page
LOS GATOS, CALIFORNIA surements start. This can be mis- 729) that usual amounts of calcium
leading when applied to field chloride cause increased shrinkage,
concrete which starts to dry imme- but they do not always result in in-
diately after placing and screeding. creased cracking.
Evaporation during the first week of
S ome of the many variables that
affect the cracking of concrete
concrete’s life has a significant effect
on the cracking tendencies. The test
New standard test specimen
p ro c e d u re does not consider this Based on considerable field expe-
• materials and design important time. rience, I recommend the 4x4-foot
• placing and finishing techniques Shrinkage specifications support- slab 8 inches thick (0.4 cubic yard)
ed by this type of information will as a new standard test specimen.
• temperature and humidity
limit the use of calcium chloride This size of specimen will give
• curing practices
• ground conditions (for slabs on
• structural loads
There is no standard condition for
evaluating cracking tendencies.
Many engineers equate the cracking
potential of concrete with its drying
shrinkage characteristics. The dry-
ing shrinkage is usually measured
according to ASTM C 157, “Standard
Test Method for Length Change of
Hardened Cement Mortar and Con-

Difficulties with existing test

One problem with the ASTM Figure 1. How specimen size affects
(admixture or accelerator in con-
method is a lack of agreement be- drying shrinkage test results.
crete). Current test data (upper Comparisons are based on actual
tween laboratory and field testing curve of Figure 2) show significantly
(based on the same materials and tests of 4x4x11-inch prisms and 4-
greater shrinkage for a 1 percent cal- foot-square slabs 8 inches thick. The
using the same test method). Unfor- cium chloride content when tested prisms were tested according to
tunately, the shrinkage observed in according to ASTM. Most engineers ASTM C 157, but the slabs were 100
ASTM tests is much higher than the would agree that these results are percent field cured. Information for
shrinkage results obtained from a typical. When the comparison is the two smaller prism sizes was
structure containing the same con- based on tests using a 4x4-foot slab based on conversion factors taken
crete. I believe this difference is due 8 inches thick, the chloride effect on from Table 4 in the reference cited in
in part to the size of the test speci- shrinkage appears negligible the editor’s note. Note that the
men—4x4x11 inches (see Figure 1). highest percentage of shrinkage
(shown in the lower curve of Figure
Another reason is ASTM test condi- occurs with the smallest specimens.
Prevention of cracking
Because of test experience such
as that shown in Figure 3, I consider
use of ASTM C 157 method to pre-
dict cracking of concrete to be errat-
ic, misleading and excessively ex-
pensive. The artificial conditions of
the test procedures and the small
specimen size give data which do
not relate to actual field conditions.
The differences apparent from
study of Figures 2 and 3 illustrate
misconceptions that are possible
when this type of test is applied to
Figure 2. Laboratory shrinkage test actual field conditions. Good mate-
results compared with field shrinkage test values similar to rials can be discriminated against
measurements on 4x4-foot slabs, 8 structure shrinkage measurements. unnecessarily.
inches thick. The same concrete mixes Figure 3 shows a comparison of the After many years of field experi-
were used for both types of test. Slab effects of chlorides on shrinkage ence I certainly believe the best
specimens were measured at the same c h a ra c t e ristics of concrete, using
times as ASTM prisms, but without the method of minimizing cracking ten-
this larger slab as the test specimen. dencies of concrete is proper atten-
initial saturation period. Three chloride-
The measuring studs were placed at tion to site preparation, concrete
containing slabs were measured, each
having five sets of measuring studs. A 24 hours and the initial or base-line materials and design, placing and
7-day base-line was used in accordance reading was established at that time. finishing techniques, and good cur-
with local California specifications. The test data show a maximum dif- ing pro c e d u re s. There is no easy
ference at 7 days between the two way—ASTM C 157 or otherwise—to
Figure 3. Comparison of shrinkage of types of concrete, with a gradual de- specify crack-free concrete.
chloride- and non-chloride-containing crease up to the age of 35 days. The
concretes, using 4x4-foot slab difference in shrinkage at 35 days, Editor’s note:
specimens, 8 inches thick. Measuring 0.005 percent, if applied to a 20x20- For additional information supporting
studs were placed in the slabs at 24 foot slab could be the basis for pre- the views presented here, please refer
hours, and the base-line reading was dicting a cracking difference of only to an article by Paul P. Kraai, “Con-
taken at that time. Difference in crete Drying Shrinkage: Facts or Fal-
1/64 inch due to the presence of cal-
shrinkage between the two concretes lacies,” published on pages 25-51 of
appears to be greatest between 7 and cium chloride in the concrete. This
the American Concrete Institute Publi-
14 days, then to diminish gradually. difference would amount to an in- cation SP-76, Designing for Creep and
Temperatures ranged between 50 and significant hairline crack (20 feet x Shrinkage in Concrete Structures,
80 degrees for these tests, with 12 inches x 0.00005 = 0.012 inch). available from American Concrete In-
humidity from 65 to 78 percent. stitute, Box 19150, Detroit, Michigan
To purchase copies of the referenced
test method, ASTM C 157, contact
American Society for Testing and Ma-
terials, 1916 Race Street, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania 19103.

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