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Materials and Structures / Matériaux et Constructions, Vol.

37, April 2004, pp 177-183

Shrinkage and creep of masonry mortar

J. J. Brooks1 and B. H. Abu Bakar2

(1) University of Leeds, United Kingdom
(2) Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia

Shrinkage and creep results are presented for different Les résultats de retrait et de fluage sont présentés pour
types of masonry mortars having a wide range of strength. différents types de mortiers de maçonnerie ayant une large
The range of values implies that the type of mortar has an gamme de résistances. Le type de mortier aurait ainsi une
appreciable influence on deformation of masonry. The influence négligeable sur la déformation des maçonneries.
results are analysed, together with other data obtained from Les résultats sont ensuite analysés ; d’autres données ont été
other investigations carried out over several years in the obtenues conjointement à partir d’autres études effectuées
same laboratory, and predictive models developed. Factors pendant plusieurs années dans le même laboratoire et des
quantified are strength, volume/surface/ ratio, time of modèles prédictifs ont été développés. Les facteurs qui ont
exposure to drying (shrinkage) and time under load (creep). été quantifiés sont la résistance, le rapport volume/surface, le
While creep is unaffected, for a given strength, shrinkage of temps de séchage (retrait) et le temps sous charge (fluage).
water-cured mortar is greater than shrinkage of mortar that Alors que le fluage n’est pas affecté, pour une résistance
is cured under polythene. When based on 28-day strength, donnée, le retrait du mortier exempt d’eau est plus important
the average error of prediction for shrinkage is 19% but if que le retrait du mortier exempt d’humidité sous
based on the strength at the start of shrinkage, the error polyéthylène. Lorsque la résistance est fixée à 28 jours,
coefficient is reduced slightly to 16%. Creep is estimated l’erreur moyenne de prévision du retrait est de 19% mais si
with an average error of 24%. elle est mesurée en début de retrait, l’erreur est légèrement
améliorée (16%). Le fluage est estimé avec une erreur
moyenne de 24%.

1. INTRODUCTION of units. For example, according to Eurocode 6 [2], the

range of moisture movement strain for clay masonry is –
Creep and moisture movement strain of masonry are 200 to 1000 u 10-6 and the shrinkage is 200 u 10-6 for
dependent on the time-influencing factors of the mortar. calcium silicate and concrete masonry. Corresponding
Moisture movement strain can be a shrinkage or a moisture guidance in the UK [3] is a negligible movement for clay
expansion, depending on the type of clay unit and the masonry, and 500 u 10 –6 for calcium silicate and concrete
duration of exposure to drying [1]. Although occupying less masonry. In the US [4], it is recommended that the moisture
than 15 % of the volume of masonry, mortar is main source expansion of clay masonry is taken as 300 u 10-6 while, for
of movement, as it is in concrete in which the coarse concrete masonry, a coefficient of shrinkage is taken as
aggregate restrains the movement of the mortar. The latter 0.15 to 0.5 u shrinkage of the unit.
is the result of hardened cement paste being restrained by For creep, Eurocode 6 [2] gives the ultimate creep
the fine aggregate or sand. Generally, in masonry, the coefficient (ratio of creep to elastic strain) as 1.0 and 1.5 for
stiffer the unit the more the restraint to the creep and clay and calcium silicate/concrete masonry, respectively. In
shrinkage of mortar and therefore the less the movement of the UK [3], the corresponding values are 1.5 and 3.0. In the
masonry. US [4], coefficients of creep (ultimate specific creep) are
Current design methods of predicting creep and moisture 102 and 306 u 10-6 per MPa for clay and concrete,
movement strain (shrinkage or irreversible moisture respectively.
expansion) do not recognise the influence of mortar. They Forth and Brooks [5] showed previously that a change in
give a range of values that account for the different variety type of mortar increases the creep and moisture movement

1359-5997/04 © RILEM 177

Brooks, Abu Bakar

strain of masonry by a factor of at least three when the mortar application of the load, creep was determined as the time-
reduces from 29 to 13 MPa. Consequently, it appears that there dependent load strain minus the shrinkage as given by the
is a need to quantify deformation of mortar in order to estimate control (not loaded) specimen.
more precisely movements in masonry buildings and to design
movement joints more efficiently. The present paper gives
further experimental data on shrinkage and creep of different 3. RESULTS
types of mortar and then, together with previously determined
results, empirical models are developed to predict The shrinkage results for the six types of mortar are
deformations from strength and operating conditions. shown in Fig. 1, while creep under a constant load is shown
Prediction of mortar movements is of interest for decorative in Fig. 2. In general, shrinkage and creep increase as the
surface renders in connection with cracking. Moreover, by water/cement ratio increases or as the strength reduces. It
knowing the deformation of the mortar, it may then possible to can be seen that while the maximum shrinkage is 28%
develop a method of predicting masonry movement by two- greater than the minimum shrinkage, the corresponding
phase composite models [6, 7]. However, it should be range of creep is much greater, namely, by a factor of 2.5.
mentioned that the curing condition of the mortar joints in In terms of specific creep, i.e. creep per unit of stress, the
masonry is likely to be different from the curing condition of range of values is even greater by a factor of 18.7 from the
the laboratory specimens used in the subsequent analysis weakest mortar (mix E) to the strongest mortar (mix A).
because of the absorption properties of the unit. This effect is
very difficult to simulate in practice but has to be taken into
account when considering the use of composite models for
estimating masonry movements. An alternative approach is to
develop modification factors for the prediction model
expressions [8].

Six types of masonry mortar were selected to have a
wide range of compressive strength, and the water/cement
ratios were chosen to give a dropping ball consistency of 10
r 0.5 mm. Table 1 lists the details together with the secant
modulus of elasticity as determined from loading the
specimens at the start of the creep tests. After casting, the
specimens were covered with polythene sheet until the age
of 24 hours when they were de-moulded and placed in
water until the age at testing, namely, 14 days.

Table 1 - Details of mortars used in the tests

Mix Mix Water/ 14-day 14-day Fig. 1 - Shrinkage-time curves for different types of mortar.
no. proportions cement cube modulus
Cement : ratio strength (GPa)
lime : sand (by (MPa)
(by vol.) mass)
A 1 : 0.25 : 2 0.49 40.0 17.8
B 1 : 0.5 : 4 0.79 22.0 15.9
C 1 : 0.25 : 3 0.53 32.0 16.9
D 1 : 1.5 : 6 1.19 6.7 (4.9) 9.7
E 1:2:8 1.63 2.9 (2.3) 1.5
F 1:0:4 0.61 18.5 (17.3) 14.6
NB: Figures in parentheses are 14-day creep cylinder strength.

For each type of mortar, creep and shrinkage were

determined as the average of two 76 u 255 mm cylinders
fitted with 200 mm mechanical gauge points at four
equally-spaced circumferential positions. For creep, the
applied constant load was 0.3 u the 14-day creep cylinder
strength (see Table 1). Strain measurements were carried
out from the age of 14 days for a duration of 70 days in a
laboratory controlled to 65 r 5 % Relative humidity and 20 Fig. 2 - Creep-time curves for different types of mortar loaded
r 1oC. After recording the initial (assumed elastic) strain on to a constant stress/strength ratio at 14 days.

Materials and Structures / Matériaux et Constructions, Vol. 37, April 2004

4. ANALYSIS where St (10-6) = shrinkage after time t (days) and a = a

Table 2 shows the experimental data used in the In many tests, shrinkage was measured using mortar
following analysis include the present reported results and prisms partly sealed to simulate the drying of mortar joints in
those for previous investigations. a single leaf wall having a volume/surface ratio = 44 mm. In
those cases, the analysis revealed the term: Sfa, was
Table 2 - Data used in the analysis of shrinkage and reasonably constant with an average value of 39.1, but Sf
creep of mortar
varied with strength of mortar. Now, according to the CEB
Data Curing conditions/ Variable Data
source Age at loading sets model [14], ultimate shrinkage of concrete decreases as the
Brooks [5] Polythene for 28 None 1 28-day strength increases. Using 28-day strength (f28) for
days-shrinkage mortar, Fig. 3 indicates that the relationship depends on
Forth [11] Polythene for 14 Mortar 8 curing conditions before exposure to drying. For water-stored
days-shrinkage type mortar, the general trend can be expressed as:
Loading age = 14 Mortar 9
days-creep type S f 2600  f 28 (2)
Brooks Polythene for 2 days- Strength 3
[10] shrinkage Age at 5 and, for mortar cured under polythene:
Polythene until age at loading
loading-creep at 78- S f 2600  49 f 28 (3)
80 % RH and 28oC
Abu Polythene for 14 None 1 A similar correlation was found when ultimate shrinkage
Bakar [12] days-shrinkage Strength 3
Loading age = 14
Present Water for 14 days- Strength 6
tests shrinkage Strength 6
Loading age = 14
Abdullah Polythene for 10 days Vol./surface 4
[15] then dry for 18 days- ratio
shrinkage Vol./surface 12
Loading age = 28 ratio
Tapsir Polythene for 19 days Strength 6
[16] then dry for 2 days- and
shrinkage Vol/surface
ratio 2
Loading age = 21 Vol/surface
days-creep ratio

Forth [11] Polythene for 14 days Vol./surface 4

then dry for 14 days- ratio
shrinkage Vol./surface 5
Loading age = 28 ratio Fig. 3 - Ultimate shrinkage of mortar as a function of 28-day strength.
Brooks Polythene for 3 days Age at
[10] then dry until loading- loading 9

4.1 Shrinkage
For the present investigation and for the earlier results of
Brooks [6, 10], Forth [11] and Abu Bakar [12], the
shrinkage-time characteristics correlated extremely well
with the Ross [13] hyperbolic equation, from which the
ultimate shrinkage (Sf) was obtained by linear regression of
the rectified form, viz:
S ft (1)
S a t
1 1
St Sf
Fig. 4 - Ultimate shrinkage of mortar as a function of strength at
the age of exposure to drying.

Brooks, Abu Bakar

of mortar was expressed as a function of strength at the start

of shrinkage, (fo) as shown in Fig. 4. The corresponding R RH 1.379 ª¬1  (0.01RH ) 3 º¼ (9)
general relationships shown are:
where RRH = relative factor for relative humidity, RH. (= 1
Sf 2600  15 f o (4)
for RH = 65%).
and, for mortar cured under polythene:
Substitution of Equations (6), (7) and (8) in (1) gives:
Sf 2600  60 f o (5)
1.379 S f t ª §V · º
For shrinkage of concrete, both Sf and Sfa are dependent St 0.61 «1.2  0.02 ¨ ¸ »u
§V · «¬ © S ¹ »¼ (10)
on the size of the specimen or member, and are usually 3.91¨ ¸ 1
expressed in terms of volume /surface ratio (V/S). Abdullah S
© ¹
[15] and Forth [11] have shown a similar dependence for ª1  0.01RH 3 º
¬ ¼
shrinkage of mortar specimens. In those experiments, the
V/S ratio of the mortar joints of a single leaf wall, cavity
wall, hollow pier and solid pier ranged from 44 to 145 mm
and, as stated earlier, the rate of loss of moisture from those
joints was simulated by partly sealing 75 u 75 mm mortar
prisms to the same V/S ratios. Fig. 5 shows the relative
values of Sf and Sfa plotted against V/S ratio, together with
the general relationships:
§V · (6)
R S f 1.2  0.02 ¨ ¸
§V · (7)
R S fa 0.1¨ ¸

Fig. 6 - Comparison of predicted and measured shrinkage of

mortar cured under different conditions based on 28-day
strength; error coefficient = 19.0 % for an average shrinkage =
1575 microstrain.

Fig. 5 - Relative values of coefficients of Equation (1) as a

function of volume / surface ratio; equal to 1 for a V/S = 44 mm.

In the analysis, the average value of Sfa was 39.1 for a V/S
= 44mm, so that the general expression for the influence of V/S
is obtained by multiplying Equation (7) by 39.1:
§V · (8)
S f a 3.91¨ ¸
All the foregoing equations are applicable for constant
drying conditions of 21oC and 65 % relative humidity. For
other conditions of different relative humidity and similar
Fig. 7 - Comparison of predicted and measured shrinkage of
temperature, the following equation may be used, which is mortar cured under different conditions based on strength at the
based on the CEB 1990 Model Code expression [14] for the age of exposure to drying; error coefficient = 16.3 % for an
influence of relative humidity on shrinkage of concrete: average shrinkage = 1575 microstrain.

Materials and Structures / Matériaux et Constructions, Vol. 37, April 2004

Equation (10) can be used to estimate the shrinkage of 1.65

ª 470 º
any type of mortar provided the strength is known by C Sf 300  « » (13)
substituting Equations (1), (2), (3) or (4) for Sf. When ¬ f to ¼
based on the 28-day strength, the accuracy of prediction is
19.0 % (Fig. 6) compared with an accuracy of 16.3 % when In contrast to the shrinkage-strength relationship, which
the strength at the start of shrinkage is used (Fig. 7). The depends on the curing conditions before exposure to drying,
results used in the comparison of accuracy includes those Fig. 8 shows that Equation (13) is reasonably independent
used in the derivation of the Equation (9), namely, moist of curing conditions prior to application of the load.
cured (in water or under polythene) before shrinkage On the other hand, the ultimate specific creep (Csf) and
measurements started, plus other results in which drying product (Csf a’) are dependent on the volume/surface ratio
occurred before shrinkage started, i.e. dry cured (see Table in a similar manner to the corresponding values for
2). The error coefficient (M, %) was calculated from: shrinkage. The equations for relative ultimate specific
creep: Rcsf, and Rcsf,a, (Fig. 9), are respectively:

100 ¦ S te  S ta
(11) §V ·
S tav n 1 100  0.45¨ ¸
R CSf ©S¹ (14)
where Stav = average shrinkage for n data sets, Ste = estimate §V ·
shrinkage and Sta = measured shrinkage. 68 1.24 ¨ ¸
An example of estimating the shrinkage for dry-cured ©S¹
mortar is given in the Appendix, a situation that could be
applicable to actual site practice. Here, newly-built masonry
is assumed be covered for the first 24 hours so that
shrinkage starts afterwards. However, it may not be
subjected to load and creep until some later so that it will be
dry-cured until that time. In this case, the 1-day strength is
required for Equations (4) and (5) and, provided the
strength at some other age is known, Table 3 may be used,
which is based on the average values obtained for the
shrinkage results used in the derivation of the shrinkage
prediction model.

Table 3 - Strength of mortar relative to 28-day strength

Age, t 1 3 7 14 28
ft/f28 0.4 0.59 0.72 0.83 1

Fig. 8 - Ultimate specific creep of mortar as a function of

4.2 Creep strength at the age at loading.
A similar approach has been used to develop a prediction
model for creep of mortar using the results of the present
investigation (Fig. 2) and of other previous investigations
carried out at Leeds, which determined the influences of
mortar type [11], volume/surface ratio [15], [16] and [11],
and age at loading [10]. Initially, the specific creep (Cst)
versus time (t) curves for mortar having a volume /surface
ratio of 44 mm (equivalent to the mortar joints in a single
leaf wall) were extrapolated by linear regression of
Equation (12) to obtain ultimate specific creep (Csf) and the
coefficient a’:
CSf t
CSt (12)
CSf a ' t
In the methods predicting creep of concrete, e.g. CEB
[14], the ultimate value is expressed as independent
functions of 28-day strength and age at loading. For mortar,
the effect of age has been shown to be similar [17], but the
present analysis has found it more convenient to combine
the two influences so that the ultimate specific creep is
expressed a function of strength at the age of loading (fto),
as shown in Fig. 8. The general expression is: Fig. 9 - Relative values of coefficients of Equation (12) as a
function of volume/surface ratio; equal to 1 when V/S = 44 mm.

Brooks, Abu Bakar

§V ·
0.5 of elasticity, which can be estimated from the strength as
R CSfa ' 0.15¨ ¸ (15) follows [18]:
f to (19)
The analysis revealed that the average value of CSf a’ Em
0.975  0.0125 f to
was 41.6 for a V/S = 44 mm. Consequently, substitution in
Equation (15) yields: where Em = modulus of elasticity (GPa) and fto = cube
0.5 strength at the age of loading.
§V · (16) Thus, the load strain per unit of stress or compliance can
C Sfa ' 6.24¨ ¸
©S¹ now be obtained from 1/Em+ Cs. An example of the use of
the prediction models is given in the Appendix.
The foregoing equations are applicable to drying
conditions of 21oC and 65 % relative humidity. For other
humidity conditions, the following equation may be used, 5. CONCLUSIONS
which is based on that given in the CEB Model Code [14]
for creep of concrete: The experimental programme, involving testing six
different types of masonry mortar, having 14-day strengths
R' RH 1.33  0.005RH (17)
ranging from 3 to 40 MPa, produced a range 70-day
where R’RH = factor for relative humidity, RH (= 1 for RH = shrinkage from 1750 to 2250 u 10-6 and, for a constant stress-
65 %). strength ratio, a range of creep from 1300 to 3500 u 10-6. The
Substitution of Equations (13), (14), (16) and (17) in results therefore imply that type of mortar is important in
Equation (12) gives: determining the movements of masonry and should be taken
into account in design procedures to improve the accuracy of
ª 1.65
§ 470 · º predicting masonry movements.
«300  ¨ ¸ » 1.33  0.005RH The analysis of results, together with previously
«¬ © f to ¹ »¼ (18) unpublished results from the same laboratory, has produced
C St 0.5
§V · empirical models for estimating mortar shrinkage and
6.24 ¨ ¸  t creep, which only require a prior knowledge of strength and
operating conditions. The predictive models estimate
Equation (18) can be used to estimate the specific creep of shrinkage and creep with average errors of 16 % and 24 %,
mortar from knowing the strength at the age when the mortar respectively. Verification of the models is required using
is subject to load. If only the strength at another age is known, test data from independent sources.
then the strength may be estimated from using the values of
Table 2. Fig. 10 indicates that he average error coefficient for
the test data used to derive Equation (18) is 24 %. APPENDIX

It is required to estimate the shrinkage and total load strain
per unit of stress of a cement - lime mortar used to build a
solid masonry pier of 440 u 440 mm in cross section at the age
of 1 year. The control mortar has a 7-day cube strength of
7.2 MPa and the wall will be cured under polythene for 1 day
and then exposed to drying at average conditions of 80 %
relative humidity (RH) and 20oC. In addition, the wall will be
subjected to vertical stress of 1.5 MPa at the age of 28 days.
Assume the mortar joints are 10 mm thick and the
contribution of the vertical or header joints is negligible
compared with the bed joints. The volume/surface ratio,
V/S, of the mortar bed joints exposed to drying on all four
sides of the pier is:
440 u 440 u 10
110 mm
4 u 440 u 10
The ultimate drying shrinkage can be estimated from
Equation (5) after the 1-day strength is obtained from Table 2,
Fig. 10 - Comparison of predicted and measured specific creep viz. 0.4/0.72 u10 = 4 MPa. Therefore, Sf = 2360 u 10-6, which
of mortar cured under different conditions; error coefficient = applies when V/S = 44 mm and RH = 65 %. Allowing for
24 % for an average creep = 840 microstrain per MPa. the required V/S = 110 mm and RH = 80 %, Equation (10)
gives the shrinkage after 1 year:
To estimate the total strain due to of mortar, the elastic
strain on application of load is obtained from the modulus

Materials and Structures / Matériaux et Constructions, Vol. 37, April 2004

1.739 u 2360 u 10 6 u 365 Concrete Practice, Part 5, Masonry, Precast Concrete, Special
S 365
3.91 u 110 0.61  365
1.2  0.02 u 110 0.61 @ Processes, 1990).
[5] Forth, J.P. and Brooks, J.J., ‘Influence of mortar type on the
u 1  0.01 u 80
@ long-term deformation of single leaf clay brick masonry’,
-6 Proceedings of the Fourth International Masonry Conference,
= 1134 u 10 London, 1995 (British Masonry Society, Stoke-on-Trent, 1995)
It may be noted that shrinkage occurring from the start of [6] Brooks, J.J., ‘Composite models for predicting elastic and long-
creep at the age of 28 days is S365 - S28 = (1134-380) u 10-6 = term movements in brickwork walls’, Proceedings of an
754 u 10-6. International Conference, 1983, Editor: H. W. H. West (British
To estimate specific creep, the strength at the age of 28 Masonry Society, Stoke-on-Trent, 1986) 20-23.
[7] Brooks, J.J., ‘Composite modelling of creep and moisture
days is required, which is obtained from Table 3 as 1/0.72 u movement of masonry’, Mater. Struct., RILEM 23 (1990)
7.2 = 10.0 MPa. From Equation (13), the ultimate specific 15-22.
creep, Csf, is 1081 u10-6 per MPa. After a time under load [8] Forth, J.P., Brooks, J.J. and Tapsir, S.H., ‘The effect of unit
of (365 – 28) = 337 days, the specific creep is given by water absorption on long-term movements of masonry’, Cement
Equation (18): & Concrete Composites 22 (2000) 273-280.
[9] British Standard 4551, ‘Method of Testing Mortars, Screeds and
1081u10 6 1.33  0.005 u 80 u 337 6 Plaster’ (British Standards Institution, 1980).
CS 365 842 u10 [10] Brooks, J.J., ‘Time-dependent Behaviour of Masonry and Its
6.24 u 1100.5  337
Component Phases’ (Final Report, EC Science and Technology
The modulus of elasticity at the age of 28 days is Programme, Contract No. C11-0925, Brussels, 1996. Available
estimated from Equation (19) as 9.09 GPa. Consequently, from the University of Leeds).
the load strain per unit of stress is: [11] Forth, J.P., ‘Influence of mortar and brick on long-term
movements of clay brick masonry’, PhD Thesis, School of Civil
1 6
Engineering, University of Leeds, 1995.
 842 u 10  6 952 u 10 per MPa [12] Abu Bakar, B.H., ‘Influence of anisotropy and curing on
9.09 u 10 deformation of masonry’, PhD Thesis, School of Civil
The 1-year total strain due to shrinkage and load from the Engineering, University of Leeds, 1998.
[13] Ross, A.D., ‘Concrete creep data’, The Structural Engineer 15
age of 28 days = (1134 + 1.5 u 952) u 10-6 = 2562 u 10-6.
(8) (1937) 314-326.
[14] CEB-FIP Model Code for Concrete Structures 1990, ‘Evaluation
of the time-dependent behaviour of concrete’, (Bulletin
REFERENCES d’Information No. 199, Comité Européen du Béton/Fédération
Internationale de la Précontrainte, Lausanne, 1991).
[1] Brooks, J.J. and Forth, J.P., ‘Influence of unit type on creep [15] Abdullah, C.S., ‘Influence of geometry on creep and moisture
and shrinkage of single leaf clay brickwork’, Proceedings of movement of clay, calcium silicate and concrete masonry’, PhD
the Third International Masonry Conference, London, 1992 Thesis, School of Civil Engineering, University of Leeds, 1989.
(British Masonry Society, Stoke-on-Trent, 1994) 31-33. [16] Tapsir, S., ‘Time-dependent loss of post-tensioned diaphragm
[2] Comité Européen de Normalisation, Eurocode 6, ENV and fin masonry walls’, PhD Thesis, School of Civil
[1995], ‘Common Unified Rules for Masonry Structures’, Engineering, University of Leeds, 1994.
Draft 1996-1-1. [17] Brooks, J.J., Abdullah, C.S., Forth, J.P. and Bingel, P.R.,
[3] British Standard BS 5628, ‘Code of Practice for Use of ‘The effect of age on deformation of masonry’, Masonry
Masonry: Part 2: Structural Use of Reinforced and Prestressed International, British Masonry Society 11 (2) (1997) 51-55.
Masonry’, (British Standards Institution, 1995). [18] Brooks, J.J. and Abu Bakar, B.H., ‘The modulus of elasticity
[4] American Concrete Institute, ‘Specifications for Masonry of masonry’, Masonry International, British Masonry
Structures: ACI 530.1-88/ASCE 6-88’, (ACI Manual of Society 12 (2) (1998) 59-63.

Paper received: June 14, 2002; Paper accepted: October 14, 2002