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Quick and easy field tests on cement

Following four field tests may be carried out to ascertain roughly the quality
of cement. These are derived by the experience of the construction
personnel and can give rough indications about the unsuitability of cement.)

(1) Colour

(2) Physical properties

(3) Presence of lumps

(4) Strength

(1) Colour:
The colour of cement should be uniform. It should be typical cement colour
i.e. grey colour with a light greenish shade. This is not always a reliable test.
But it gives an indication of excess lime or clay and the degree of burning.
(2) Physical properties:
The cement should feel smooth when touched or rubbed in between
fingers. If it is felt rough, it indicates adulteration with sand.
If hand is inserted in a bag or heap of cement, it should feel cool and
not warm.
If a small quantity of cement is thrown in a bucket of water, it should
sink and should feel sticky on the surface (Take a bucket full of water
and through hand full of cement in the bucket. The cement should float
some time before sinking.) (If the cement floats on surface, the quality
is acceptable but if it sinks in the water, it is carrying impurities.).
A thin paste of cement with water should feel sticky between the
fingers. If the cement contains too much pounded clay and silt as an
adulterant, the paste will give an earthy smell.
Take a little cement in the pinch and rub it by fingers. If the feel is
gritty, it means setting has begun in the cement.
Cement should not feel oily when touched with fingers.

(3) Presence of lumps: The cement should be free from any hard lumps.
Such lumps are formed by the absorption of moisture from the atmosphere.
.If any lumps are found, press the lumps between fingers. If it becomes
powder (without lumps), it is alright. In case, lumps are still seen even after
pressing, it means that cement is already set and is not suitable.

(4) Strength
Take small quantity of cement (usually 100 -150 gms) and add
adequate water to make stiff cement paste.
Prepare a cake of cement paste and put it on flat glass.
.Submerge the cake in the water slowly. Observe after 24 hours, cake
should retain its original shape, set and not crack easily and also squire
some strength.
NOTE: - These field tests for cement only give an idea about cement
whether the cement is satisfactory or not. For determining the
engineering properties of cement, laboratory tests of cement should
be carried out.

It is necessary to check the quality of brick before using it in any construction

activities. There are some field tests that we can conduct in the field in order
to check the quality of bricks. These tests are as follows.

1. Water Absorption

2. Visual inspection

3. Efflorescence

4. Dimension

5. Hardness

6. Soundness

7. Structure


Bricks are oldest and important construction materials because of their

durability, reliability, strength and low cost. To produce good quality of
structure, good quality materials are required.
To decide the quality of the materials some tests are to be conducted on
bricks. The tests which are required to find the suitability of bricks for
construction purposes are discussed below.

1. Visual inspection
In this test bricks are closely inspected for its shape. It must be well burnt. Bricks
must have uniform, rectangular shape and sharp edges and corners.
Brick should not break when fallen from a height of 1 meter (for class A

2. Hardness Test:
This test is carried out to check the hardness of brick. In this test nail
is scratched on the surface of brick. If no impression of scratch is left
on brick then brick is sufficiently hard and can be used.
3. Soundness Test:
In this test two bricks are struck with each other. For good quality
bricks the bricks should not break and should produce metallic sound
when struck over each other.

4. Efflorescence Test:
This test should be conducted in a well-ventilated room. The brick is
placed vertically in a dish 30 cm x 20 cm approximately in size with
2.5 cm immersed in distilled water. The whole water is allowed to be
absorbed by the brick and evaporated through it. After the bricks
appear dry, a similar quantity of water is placed in the dish, and the
water is allowed to evaporate as before. The bricks are to be
examined and completely observed to check the presence of soluble salts after
the second evaporation and reported as follows:

NOTE: - Bricks for general construction should not have more than
slight to moderate efflorescence.

5. Impact Test: In this test bricks are allowed to fall from a height of 1
metre. If bricks break then it has low impact value and is not suitable
for construction. Good quality bricks do not break after fall.

6. Structural Test: In this test brick is broken and overall structure is

observed. Structure should be homogeneous, compact, equi-granular
and free from lumps & holes.

7. Dimensional Tolerance: Twenty bricks are selected at random to check measurement of

length, width and height. These dimensions are to be measured in one or two lots of ten
each as shown in figure. Variation in dimensions are allowed only within narrow limits, 3%
for class one and 8% for other classes.
8. Water Absorption Test: In this test 5 bricks are taken from the
sample and dry weight of each brick is taken (W1). After this bricks
are fully immersed in distilled water for 24 hrs. Then wet weight of
each brick is taken (W2).

Percentage of water absorption in brick should not exceed "20%" otherwise

brick will absorb moisture from cement or mortar which will reduce the
strength of brick work.

9. Crushing Strength: In this test a thin layer (5mm) of fine aggregate

is applied on the load bearing surface of brick. Then brick is placed on
Universal Testing Machine and load is applied axially. When a crack
appears in brick the amount of load is observed. Crushing strength is
given by load at which brick cracks divided by the area of load
bearing surface. As per BIS: 1077-1957, the minimum crushing or
compressive strength of bricks is 3.50 N/mm2. The bricks with
crushing strength of 7 to 14 N/mm2 are graded as A and those having
above 14 N/mm2 are graded.

(5) Shape and size

(7) Structure



To determine quantity of silt in fine aggregates in the field


There are two types of harmful substances preset in fine aggregates i.e. organic matter produced by
decay of vegetable matter and/or clay and silt, which form coating thus preventing a good bond
between cement and the aggregates. If present in large quantities, result in the increase water-
cement ratio and finally affecting the strength of concrete.

Field test is generally conducted in order to determine the volumetric percentage of silt in natural
sand for percentage up to 6%, otherwise more detailed test as prescribed by standard code are
required to be conducted.


Measuring cylinder of 250 ml capacity.


1. Fill 1% solution of common salt and water in the measuring cylinder up to 50 ml mark.
2. Now add sand to be tested to this solution till the level of the salt solution shows 100 ml

3. Top up the level of salt solution up to 150 ml mark.

4. Shake the mixture of sand and salt solution well and keep it undisturbed for about 3 hours.

5. The silt being of finer particles than sand, will settle above the sand in a form of layer.

6. Measure the thickness of this silt layer.

Silt content in Fine Aggregates


Sample Numbers
Sample Sample Sample
-1 -2 -2

Volume of sample, V1 (ml)

Volume of silt after 3

hours, V2(ml)
% silt by volume =(V2/V1)*100


If the average value of silt content exceeds 6% by volume, the aggregate requires washing before


Utmost care should be taken while taking sample for test