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Hardened concrete

Fresh concrete, if left undisturbed, gradually stiffens until it may be said to have “set”.
However, its setting and hardening is not a simple process. In general it is known that
there is no well defined point at which concrete sets or passes from the plastic to rigid
condition. It is also reported that the setting time of neat paste can not be taken as an
index to the setting time of concrete, but the setting time of mortar correlates fairly well
with that of concrete.

In practice, concrete in which ordinary Portland cement is used, should remain


sufficiently plastic over a period of at least ½ an jour, and preferably, 1 hour or so, in
order to be transported, properly placed and consolidated without undue measure and
adverse effects; on the other hand, it should harden within a reasonable time for the
construction to precede.

During the hardening process the water reacts with the cement and a new product,
hardened cement paste (cement stone) is produced.

Fresh concrete containing only exact amount water required for hydration would be very
dry and exceedingly hard to place. In order to produce a workable concrete, far more
water is incorporated in the mixture than is necessary to hydrate all the cement. This extra
mixing water dilutes the cement paste and weakens its strength.

There is another disadvantage resulting from the use of too much mixing water.
Water occupies space in the fresh concrete. The surplus water, which does not go into the
reaction, evaporates and doing so it leaves capillary pores or voids. The more
uncombined water, the more voids will be left in the concrete, hence, the less the density,
strength and durability of the concrete.

The desired characteristics of concrete vary from one construction to the other and as
such they should be considered in relation to the quality required.

The properties that need great attention are:
 
­ Strength   ­ Compressive strength, Tensile strength and Shear strength 
­ Elasticity   ­Modulus of Elasticity

Compressive strength

Since   most   concrete   structures   are   designed   to   resist   compressive   stresses,   it   is   this
property which gets great attention. The strength of concrete is affected by a number of
factors the most important being the water cement ratio and the degree of compaction.

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The other factors include the component materials (cement and aggregates), the age and
curing condition.

The  effect   of cement  on  the  strength  of  concrete  is   dependent  both  on  the  type  and
quantity of cement in the concrete.

For the same water cement ratio and degree of compaction, the compressive strength of
concrete decreases with the specific surface of the aggregate increases. Because as the
quantity of fine increases and the demand for water rises which consequently leads to a
weaker concrete.

Generally strength of concrete increases with time or age. Properly cured concrete will
gain good strength.

Tensile Strength 

Concrete is brittle material and is not designed to carry tensile forces. Tensile capacity of
concrete is about 10% of its compressive strength.

Shear Strength 

The shear strength is about 20 to 30% greater than the tensile strength or about 12 to 13%
of its compressive strength.

Elasticity

Concrete, like most other brittle materials, is imperfectly elastic. When subjected to a
compressive force, it deforms partly as a result of elastic strain or creep, and partly as a
result of plastic strain or creep, and as a consequence its stress-strain diagram is
curvilinear.

Concrete subjected to a sustained load exhibits two types of deformation. The first which
is referred to as the elastic strain, refers to the increasing strain under increasing load.
The second which is creep, relates to increase in strain under constant load.

Durability

In practice, concrete is designed and constructed in order to build permanent structures.


However, sometimes, its service life may be markedly reduced by the disintegrating

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effects of either the environment to which it is exposed or by internal causes within its
mass.

The environmental causes may be:


a) Physical, i.e. weathering, due to the action of rain, freezing and thawing and
dimensional changes (expansion and contraction) resulting from temperature variations
and/or alternate wetting and drying,

b) Chemical, due to aggressive waters containing sulphates, leaching in hydraulic


structures and chemical corrosion, and

c) Mechanical wear, by abrasion from pedestrian or vehicular use, by wave action in


structures along the sea shore or erosion from the action of flowing water.

The resistance of concrete to the effect of weather, to salt scaling and to chemical attack,
to mechanical damage resulting from abrasion or impact and the different aspects of
durability of concrete; and a concrete which withstands the conditions it is intended for,
without deteriorating, over a long period of time, is said to be durable.

In countries with temperate and tropical climate such as Ethiopia, the problem of freezing
and thawing does mot practically exist; however, it is quite possible that concrete in
service becomes exposed to chemical. Chemical attack is brought about by the
penetration of various agents of the environment (such as reactive liquids particularly
sulphates, polluted air, etc..) into the mass concrete and the chemical reaction of the such
agents with the different components of the concrete. The chemical reaction results in the
disintegration of the concrete. Failure of concrete to resist chemical attack is primarily a
failure of the cement paste; if the cement paste can be made resistant, the concrete will be
resistant and serviceable.

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