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Materials and Structures/Mat6riaux et Constructions,Vol.

32, October1999, pp 571o578

British Standard and RILEM water absorption tests: A

critical evaluation
M. A. Wilson, M. A. Carter and W. D. Hoff
Department of Building Engineering, UMIST, P 0 Box 88, Manchester,M60 1QD, UK

Paper received:February 15, 1999; Paperaccepted:May 10, 1999

A B S T R A C T R I~ S U M I':-

British Standard and RILEM capillary suction rate Les essais de succion par capillaritd et d'absorption d'eau
and water absorption tests used for clay bricks, stones bas& sur la norme anglaise et sur la recommandation
and pre-cast concrete products are critically examined. R I L E M , utilis& pour les briques d'argiles, les pierres et les
Experimental data are reported comparing the initial rate produits pr~fabriqu& en b~ton sont examin&. Des donn&s
of suction with the sorptivity, an analytically based exp&imentales sont pr&ent&s, en comparant le taux de suc-
m e t h o d of measuring capillary suction rate. cion initial et la sorptivitd, une mdthode analytique de mesure
Experimental work is also reported comparing water de la sucabn par capillaritY. On rapporte dgalement, quelques
contents attained as a result of vacuum saturation donn&s exp&imentales comparant les teneurs d'eau atteintes
absorption and the British Standard 5 h boiling test. par absorption sous vide selon la norme anglaise apr~s
Results of 24 h and 30 min immersion tests are also 5 heures d'~bullition. Les rOsultats des essais d'immersion de
reported. 24 heures et 30 minutes sont aussi prOsent&.
It is concluded that the initial rate of suction test is On conclut que l'essai de taux de succion initial est
fundamentally flawed and may produce misleading fondamentalement d~fectueux et peut produire des r&ultats
results because of its use of only a single point measure- trompeurs dus h l'utilisation d'un seul point de mesure. II
ment. It is further concluded that vacuum saturation est aussi conclu que la plus pr&ise des m~thodes de mesure
provides the most accurate measurement of water d'absorption d'eau, et par consequent de la porositd, est
absorption, and therefore porosity. The 5 h boiling test celle de saturation sous vide. Le test de 5 heures d'~bulli-
generally produces results significantly below those tion donne des r&ultats proches de ceux obtenus par satu-
obtained by vacuum saturation with samples attaining ration sous vide pour des &hantillons atteignant environ
approximately 90% of vacuum saturation. Immersion 90% de saturation de vide. Les essais d'immersion, utili-
tests, used to provide comparative data on the rates of s& pour obtenir des donn&s comparatives sur les taux
absorption of different materials, can only be valid if the d'absorption de diff&ent mat&iaux, ne sont valides que si
specimens have identical dimensions. les sp&imens sont de dimensions identiques.

1. I N T R O D U C T I O N surement of the total water absorption porosity is also used

in this standard in the definition of those types of clay brick
Two aspects of the water absorption characteristics of which are suitable for use as damp proof courses.
porous construction materials are of particular interest In the use and specification of clay bricks water
and practical significance. These are the total (water absorption porosity is often taken as a guide for the pre-
absorption) porosities and the capillary suction proper- diction of frost resistance, in that bricks of high strength
ties of the materials. and low porosity have generally proved to be frost resistant
The total porosity of any masonry material has a deter- in practice. However, it has been shown [2] that frost
mining influence on the compressive strength and also on damage is a result of complex patterns of freezing of pore
the permeability of the material to water or liquid flow. water, and porosity alone is not the determining parame-
Thus in BS 3921 [1] clay bricks of low porosity and high ter of frost resistance. Thus several types of relatively
strength are classified as engineering bricks, whilst mea- porous clay bricks (notably some hand-made bricks)

1359-5997/99 9 ILILEM 5 71
Materials and Structures/Mat6riaux et Constructions,Vol,32, October1999

prove, in testing and in practice, to be as resistant to dam- 0 0 and 0 s are the volume fraction water contents of the
age on freeze-thaw cycling as many engineering bricks. solid in the dry and saturated states respectively.
The capillary suction properties of masonry materials Equation (2) has a solution of the form [13]:
are relevant in respect of both construction practice and
x(O,t) : r 2 (3)
weathering performance. During construction wet
trade practices rely upon the suction of masonry materi- so that the advancing water content versus distance pro-
als to encourage bonding between mortar or plaster and file maintains constant shape ~(0).
brickwork or blockwork. In brick or block laying exces- The cumulative absorbed volume of water per unit
sive suction causes rapid removal of water from the soft area of supply surface, i, is given by:
mortar and can, in principle, result in incomplete hydra-
tion and a weak or porous hardened mortar. Similar i=t
1/2 0s
Ioo ~adO = S t 1/2
considerations apply in the application of renders or plas-
ters to brick or block substrates. The use of additives or where S is the sorptivity [14, 15], a parameter defining
admixtures in mortars and plasters to improve the water the ability of a material to absorb and transmit water by
retaining properties of the soft solid can help to balance capillarity. Clearly, from equation (4), the sorptivity
the effects of excessive suction. Pre-wetting of the depends on the initial water content of the material [16]
masonry material with the aim of reducing its suction is and is highest when the material is dry and zero when it
widely adopted although the effectiveness of this tech- is saturated. Sorptivity to water scales with surface ten-
nique has been questioned [3]. sion, o, and viscosity, ~, as (o/q)1/z [14]. Thus the sorp-
The capillary suction properties of masonry materials tivity to water increases with temperature.
also define their behaviour in driving rain. Walls of A useful application of the sorptivity in respect of
masonry units having high suction tend to absorb inci- masonry structures is in the calculation of the time to
dent rainwater readily and the time to surface saturation surface saturation, ts, of a wall exposed to driving rain [4,
is relatively long [4, 5]. In low suction walls - typically 5] using:
built of engineering bricks of low porosity- surface sat-
uration occurs quickly and incident rain will then flow t s = 3'$2. (5)
across the wall surface and tend to penetrate at shrinkage
microcracks in perpend joints and at other defects. where 7 is a constant (0.64 for most building materials)
That it is necessary to be able to measure, in routine and v0 is the velocity of the driving rain. At times less
testing, the water absorption porosities and the capillary than t Sall incident rainwater is absorbed. At times greater
suction properties of masonry materials is recognised in than ts, some water continues to be absorbed and the
a number of British Standard [1, 6] and 1LILEM [7-12] remainder runs off.
tests. In this paper we report the results of laboratory A precise procedure for the measurement of sorptiv-
measurements of these properties and critically review ity has been described by Hall and Tse [17]. The sample,
the appropriateness of the present British Standard and typically rectangular in section, is dried to constant mass
RILEM procedures. Recommendations are made for in an air oven at 105~ and its dry mass noted. After
possible changes to current testing practice. cooling to room temperature the sample is immersed to
a depth of 3-5ram in a tray of water. The sample is
removed at intervals (times of 1, 4, 9, 16 and 25 min are
2. WATER A B S O R P T I O N TEST PROCEDURES convenient) and weighed. The sorptivity is determined
from the gradient of the straight line (equation (4))
2.1 Capillary suction tests obtained by plotting the cumulative volume of water
absorbed per unit area, i, against tl/2. It is convenient to
Sorptivi~ express the sorptivity in units m m min-lS2. Typical i(# z)
The capillary absorption of water into a porous solid graphs are shown in Fig. 1. Neither of these lines passes
is described by the non- linear diffusion equation [13]: through the origin, one line having a very significant
positive intercept. One dimensional water absorption
0~-= V. DV0 (1) data usually produce an intercept at t = 0 [18]. Thus the
general equation defining o n e - d i m e n s i o n a l water
where 0 is the volume fraction water content of the absorption is more correctly written
material and D(0) its unsaturated hydraulic diffusivity.
Solution of the one-dimensional form of equation (1) i = St1~2 + B (6)
gives a partial differential equation describing absorption Most bricks produce a positive intercept (B > 0).
through one end of a semi-infinite bar: One cause of this is the depth to which the sample is
immersed in the water allowing some water to be
00 _ ~ D 00 (2) absorbed through the sides of the sample as well as the
0t Ox ax
base. Some bricks however produce a negative intercept
such that: (B < 0). This has been attributed to a dense surface layer
0 = 0 satx = 0, t_> 0 and formed during firing [18]. A minor factor in either a
0 = 0 0 f o r x > 0, t=0. positive or negative intercept is the accuracy of the tim-

Wilson, Carter, Hoff

are different from the units ofS (mm rain-I/2), but if/is to
be a practically useful measure of suction the numerical
values o f / a n d S must be equal or in simple proportion to
each other. Unfortunately this is rarely the case because B
in equation (6) is usually not zero. An example of the con-
60 sequence of a non-zero value of B is shown by the experi-
mental data in Fig. 1 [3]. The values of I for brick and
autoclaved aerated concrete (aac) block from these data are
9 40 numerically equal to the gradient of a line from t = 1 to the
origin for each material. The values of I suggest that the
30 aac material has the higher suction which is clearly not the
case when the data are examined as a whole. The value of
I for brick also overestimates the true suction of the brick.
10 A further shortcoming of the IRS test is the lack of
any means of correction for variations in temperature.
As discussed, the sorptivity scales with temperature as
(o/11)1/2 [14]. Sorptivity data may therefore be normalised
t V2/minl~ to a standard temperature of, say, 20~ However, the
Fig. 1 - i(t1/2)
graphs for a clay brick, D, and an aerated auto-
temperature effect is not large: the sorptivity increases by
claved concrete (aac) block, O, [3]. The slopes of the dotted about 1% for every 1~ rise in temperature.
lines in the insert define the initial rate o f suction values for these Variations on the IRS test are found in PAN 1:
materials. Testing methods for natural stones [7] and C P C l l . 2 :
Absorption of water by concreteby capillarity [12]. In PAN 1 a
ing procedure. Since the absorption rate is very high at dry stone specimen is immersed to a depth of 2 mm and
short times (absorption rate = di/dt = 1/2 St -1/2) a small allowed to absorb water t h r o u g h one face.
delay in starting the clock will contribute to a negative Measurements of change in mass are taken at intervals
intercept. If timing is started slightly early the intercept until the water reaches the upper surface of the speci-
will be increased in the positive direction. men. However it is only the last of these measurements
The sorptivity is not included in either the British which is used in the determination of the capillarity
Standard or the RILEM water absorption test proce- coefficient, Cap, which is defined by:
dures although it is being increasingly adopted in con- rn c
crete technology [19]. Cap = A~/t (9)

The Initial Rate of Suction (IRS) where mc is the total mass of water absorbed since the
The initial rate of suction tests described in BS 3921 start of the test, A the absorbing area and t the elapsed
[1] and LUM A5: Initial rate of suction (IRS) of masonry time. This test is a more accurate measure of suction
units [8] are identical. than the IRS test because it is taken over a longer time
The IRS is measured by immersing a dry brick of and recognises that absorption is linear with tl/2.
known mass in water to a depth of 3 + 1ram. After one However it is a single point measurement and does not
minute the brick is removed from the water and, after the correct for intercepts at t = 0 or for possible departures
removal of any excess water from its surface, is weighed. from linearity of the i(tl/2) graph as the water reaches the
The initial rate of suction, I, is calculated from [1]: top of the specimen.
In CPC 11.2 the dry concrete specimen is immersed
I (m2 - ml ) (7) to a depth of 5 + l m m and changes in mass at 3, 6, 24
1000A and 72 h are measured. Again only the change in mass
where m1 is the mass of the dry sample (in g), me the measured since the start of the test is used to calculate
mass of the wet sample (in g) and A the area of the the "absorption o f water by capillarity" which is
absorbing surface (in mm2). From this definition the expressed in g/mm 2. This test does not take into
units of I are given kg mm -2 min -1 as recommended in account the tl/2 relationship defining the volume of
BS 3921. water absorbed; nor does it take account of the complex
In order to be consistent with our definition of S, it issues associated with long-term water absorption into
is convenient to express 1in units o f m m min <. Thus: concretes which are affected by long-term reactivity and
swelling of the gel [20, 21].
I=(m2-ml) (8)
where p is the density of water in g cm -3. 2.2 Water absorption tests
Because "41 = 1 the initial rate of suction I as defined by
equation (8) will be numerically equal to the sorptivity, S, if vacuum saturation porosity
the straight line graph of/versus tl/2 passes through the ori- Vacuum saturation is a method of assessing the total
gin (i.e. B = 0 in equation (6)). The units of/ (nun rain <) water absorption porosity of a material. To measure the

Materialsand Structures/Mat4riauxet Constructions,Vol. 32, October 1999

vacuum saturation porosity the sample is dried to constant known mass are placed in a tank of water at room tem-
mass at 105~ before being allowed to cool. In a typical perature. The temperature of the water is increased to
procedure the sample is then placed in a vacuum chamber boiling point over a period of approximately 1 h, main-
which is connected by a hose to a rotary vacuum pump tained at 100~ for 5 h and then allowed to cool to room
capable of producing a vacuum of~ 0.1 mm of mercury. temperature for between 16 and 19 h. The wet bricks
The chamber (and therefore the sample) is evacuated and are then removed and weighed and the water absorption
pumping is continued for some time. The hose is then porosity, A, calculated from:
clamped, disconnected from the vacuum pump and 100 (wet mass-dry mass)
immersed in a second tank containing water. When the Z = (11)
clamp is released water is drawn into the vacuum cham- dry mass
ber. When the sample has become fully immersed, the with the results expressed as a percentage of the dry
hose is removed from the water tank and air allowed to mass. The tests referred to in LUM A4 include an option
enter the vacuum tank so that atmospheric pressure forces to calculate the water absorption by volume which is
water into the evacuated pores of the material. After an referred to as the "water porosity".
appropriate period of soaking the sample is removed from In a second water absorption test described in PAN 1:
the water and weighed. The water absorption porosity is Testing methodsfor natural stones [7], air-dried specimens of
often quoted as a percentage of dry mass. The volume stone are boiled for 3 h followed by a 24 h soak. After
fraction porosity, f is calculated from: being weighed the specimens are then oven dried to
enable their water contents to be calculated. The water
f = volume of water absorbed (10) content is expressed as a percentage of the dry mass.
volume of sample The water absorption tests discussed here have two
There are no vacuum absorption tests in the British essential components: the soaking time during which
Standards, although an earlier version of BS 3921 did the water is being heated or cooled and the boiling time.
contain such a test. There are a number of variations on By the time the brick reaches 100~ it will have a high
vacuum absorption in the IKILEM tests in which various water content. During the boiling period the water
reduced pressures and soaking times are recommended. within the pores will generally turn to vapour and
In LUM A4: Water absorption and waterporosity of masonry expand. This will create considerable pressure within
units [9] an unspecified pumping time is followed by a the pores and both water vapour and air will be expelled
1 h soak. PAN 1: Testing methodsfor natural stones [7] from the brick. During the 5 h boiling period the air
specifies 3 h pumping followed by 3 h immersion under within the pore space will be replaced by steam which
vacuum which is then followed by a 21 h soak at atmos- on cooling will undergo the phase change back to water
pheric pressure. CP 11.3: Absorption of water by concreteby with an associated large volume contraction. The conse-
immersion under vacuum [10] specifies a 24 h period of quent lowering of pressure in the pore space of the brick
evacuation followed by a 2 h immersion under vacuum will result in water being forced into these pores by
followed by 24 h immersion under atmospheric pressure atmospheric pressure acting on the bulk water.
before the first weighing. The material remains These boiling tests are empirical test procedures
immersed and weighings are continued until the mater- which are believed to give the true total water absorption
ial reaches constant mass. porosities of the materials. Washburn and Footitt [23]
Variation in the amount of water absorbed with both express concern about the use of boiling at atmospheric
pumping and immersion times has been investigated by pressure as a method of measuring porosity and conclude
Prout [22] for clay bricks using a 20 litre vacuum tank and that it is not sufficiently reliable as a reference method.
an appropriate rotary pump. Taking the water content They also discuss the damage to the brick ceramic mate-
after 5 h pumping followed by a 5 day immersion period rial which may result from boiling.
as a nominal value of complete saturation, it was found Although the porosity (by whatever means obtained)
that 5 h pumping followed by 10 min soaking or 6 min may be a useful measurement, it must be borne in mind
pumping followed by 15 min soaking gave essentially that there are only small differences in porosity across a
complete saturation. Prout also noted that very long range of materials. For example, over a range of brick
soaking times (~ 2 months) gave a small increase in mass materials the volume fraction porosity may vary from 0.t
for some bricks. These increases were less than 0.25% for to 0.5 (a factor of 5) whereas the sorptivity over the same
a high porosity brick and less than 1% for a low porosity range of materials may vary from 0.02 to 3 mm min -1/2, a
brick. In an early paper Washburn and Footitt [23] discuss factor of 150 [25]. The porosity, even when measured by
the relationship between pore size and soaking time when vacuum saturation, is an inherently insensitive parameter.
vacuum saturation is used. Peake and Ford [24] found
that following evacuation dense bricks may require Water absorption by soaking
immersion times as long as 23 days to reach constant mass. There are a number of tests which determine water
absorption by soaking. One use of such tests is in the
Water absorption by boiling determination of the saturation coefficient which is
BS 3921 [1] and LUM A4: Water absorption and water defined as the percentage of pore volume filled in a 24 h
porosity of masonry units [9] both contain an identical soak. The saturation coefficient is used as an empirical
water absorption (boiling) test. For this test dry bricks of guide to the durability of building stones [26, 27].

Wilson, Carter,Hoff

It is well established [3] that a simple immersion test before the test commences, the absorption rate will be
does not result in saturation due to air becoming greatly reduced (equation (4)) leading to a large increase
entrapped within the porous solid. This air is held under in the time taken to reach saturation.
the curved menisci of the water and is therefore under An absorption test of much shorter duration is
pressure. The entrapped air will eventually escape from described in BS 7263 [6]. Although not applicable to
the brick by dissolving in the water and hence diffusing bricks or stones we include a brief discussion of this test
out through the pore system. However this will take together with experimental results for brick and stone
some time. It has been shown that a brick placed on end materials to illustrate the results of absorption tests car-
in a tray of water under conditions of free evaporation ried out over short times.
from the exposed surfaces will reach full (vacuum) satu- The test described in BS 7263 is applied to pre-cast
ration after 2 years [3]. concrete products such as flags, kerbs, channels and edg-
The water absorption which occurs during soaking ings for which maximum water absorption values are spec-
will essentially be suction-driven. In this paper we focus ified. Dry samples of specified dimensions and known dry
on the 24 h immersion test as described in LUM A4 and mass are immersed in a tank of water at 20 + 1~ to a cov-
the 30 min immersion test described in BS 7263. ered depth of 25 + 5 mm. After 30 + 0.5 min the samples
LUM A4: Waterabsorptionand waterporosity of masonry are removed from the water and weighed and the water
units [9] measures the percentage water content either by absorption, W, determined from:
mass or by volume of initially dry specimens which have
been soaked in water at room temperature for 24 h. It w=(Wet mass-dry mass.) (12)
does however state that soaking times longer than 24 h dry mass
may be required for some materials but makes no men- with the results expressed as a percentage of the dry mass.
tion of achieving constant mass. The dimensions of the
specimens are not specified
PAN1: Testing methodsfor natural stones [7] measures 3. EXPERIMENTAL W O R K
the percentage water content by volume of initially dry
specimens which have been soaked for several days. The Brick and limestone materials of widely varying
specimen size is not defined, but must be of greater vol- hydraulic properties were selected for the experimental
ume than 20 dm 3. Measurements of change in mass are work. M1 the samples were approximately the same size.
taken every 24 h until constant mass has been attained. The materials used are summarised in Table 1.
However it is clearly unlikely that saturation will occur The sorptivity of each material was measured as
in a matter of a few days and the results reported in [3] described with an immersion depth of approximately
suggest that the timescale for true constant mass may be 4 mm. In the case of the bricks the sorptivities were
of the order of a year or more. Variations on this test measured through the bed faces. Values of initial rate of
include progressive immersion and absorption under suction were not measured in a separate set of experi-
reduced or increased pressures. ments but were obtained from the same data used to
CP 11.1: Absorptionof waterby concreteby immersion[11] determine the sorptivities. This ensured that both sorp-
measures the increase in mass of hardened concrete tivity and initial rate of suction values for each material
which has been soaked until 2 weighings, taken 24 h were determined from identical immersion depths and
apart, result in a change in mass of less than 1%. The experimental conditions.
specimen size is not defined, but must be of volume not To illustrate the effect of immersion depth on both
less than 0.001 m 3. The water content of the specimen sorptivity and initial rate of suction, three absorption
is calculated after oven drying and is expressed as a per- experiments were carried on the same brick (a clay fac-
centage of the mass of the wet material. The major dis- ing brick of the same type as sample 5) at depths of 1, 3
advantage of this test is that since the material is not dry and 6 mm.

Table 1 - Summary of materials used in the experimental work together with experimental results
obtained from the test methods described
Sample Description Sorptivity Initial rate Vacuum Water Water Water
of suction saturation absorption absorption absorption
(ram mm-1/2) (mm mm"t) porosity (5 h boiling) (24 h soak) (30 rain soak)
% by mass % by mass % by mass % by mass
1 TELFORDBLUE (Wire cut engineering brick) 0.05 0.096 6.72 6.15 4.06 0.6
2 ANSTRUDEDE JAUNE(Limestone) 0.27 0.41 9.87 9.03 4.67 3.4
3 BRICKPAVER 0.19 0.22 7.96 7.2 5.88 2.4
4 St. MAXlMIN FINE (Limestone) 3.98 2.41 22.03 22.07 15.83 13.4
5 LIGHTBUFF (Wire cut facing brick) 1.94 2.3 22.45 20.07 16.18 15.3
6 STAFFORDSHIREBLUE(Engineering brick) 0.20 0.28 6.48 5.2 3.18 2.13
7 ACCRINGTONNORI (Engineering brick) 0.48 0.34 6.85 6.83 5.23 3.80

Materials and Structures/MaMriaux et Constructions, Vol. 32, October1999

The water absorption (boiling) tests were carried

out in accordance with BS 3921 and LUM A4. The
samples were left to soak for 18 h after boiling for 5 h
giving a total immersion time of 24 h (including lh
taken to reach boiling point). After drying again to
constant weight the materials were vacuum saturated.
Pumping was continued for 2 h and, after flooding the
chamber, the samples were left to soak for 24 h giving
equal immersion times for both the boiling and the
vacuum tests.
After drying again to constant weight the 30rain
absorption test (by soaking) was carried out in accor-
dance with BS 7263. After weighing the samples were
returned to the water to complete a 24 h soak in accor-
dance with LUM A4.

4.1 Comparison between sorptivity and initial Fig. 3 - Comparison between sorptivity values (black) and values of
rate of suction the BS 3921 initial rate of suction (grey) for all the samples tested.

Fig. 2 shows experimentally determined i(tl/2) data for arranged in order of increasing sorptivity. Fig. 3 shows
a selection of the materials tested9 Both positive and nega- that although both sets of data follow broadly the same
tive intercepts at t = 0 are apparent9 Clearly these inter- trend, there are some inconsistencies. The initial rate of
cepts will affect the calculation of initial rate of suction. suction test shows samples 4 and 5 to have similar suc-
Sorptivity values obtained from the gradients of the tion properties whereas the sorptivity of sample 4 is over
lines in Fig. 2 are summarised in column 3 of Table 1. twice that of sample 5; this test also shows 2 to have a
Values of the initial rate of suction, expressed in mm higher suction' than 7 when the reverse is the case. The
min-1 rather than kg mm -2 min -1 to aid comparison, initial rate of suction test further shows 6 to have a
are given in column 4 of Table 1. Fig. 3 compares sorp- higher suction than 3 when both these materials have
tivity with initial rate of suction for each material, the same sorptivity. These anomalies are undoubtedly
caused by the factors discussed earlier.
The effect of immersion depth on both the sorptivity
and initial rate of suction are summarised in Table 2 and

- 12 . . . . . . . . . -


0! '2
54 f
i 0- O ~ ~ ~ ::::l~~m
1 2 3 4 5

-5 -

t v2 / min v2 -2 t 1/2 / rainY2

Fig. 2 - Experimentally determined i(t 1/2) data for a selection of
the materials tested: &, sample 3; 9 sample 4; x sample 5; t , Fig. 4 - i(t 1/2) data measured at immersion depths o f l mm, 9
sample 7. The solid lines are least squares fits through the data 3mm, A; and 6mm, , . The solid lines are least squares fits
points. through the data points.

Wilson, Carter, Hoff

Table 2 - The effect of different immersion depths on the " 600

sorptivity and the BS 3921 initial rate of suction for an
ordinary quality clay facing brick of the same type as sample 5
Immersion depth Sorptivity Initial rate of suction
(mm) (mm min-1/2) (mm min"1)
1 2.54 2.19 "~ 400
3 2.51 2.85
6 2.53 3.9 "" 300 4

"6 200
illustrated in Fig. 4. The i(tl/2) data in Fig. 4 clearly show
the intercept increasing with immersion depth in the
positive y direction. Table 2 shows that immersion
depths of 1, 3 and 6 m m produce different initial rate of
suction values which increase significantly with immer-
sion depth. The sorptivity however is not affected by
these small changes in immersion depth. 1 3 7 6 2
4.2 Comparison between vacuum saturation, Fig. 5 - Comparison between the volume of water absorbed dur-
ing each of the 4 water absorption tests described. First column
water absorption (boiling) and water absorp- in each case: 30 min immersion; second column: 24 h immersion;
tion (soaking) tests third column: 5 h boil; fourth column: vacuum saturation.

The results of all the water absorption tests - vacuum

saturation porosity (2 h vacuum followed by 24 h long enough. This is consistent with the results reported
immersion); the BS 3921 and LUM A4 water absorption in [24] where it was found that a dense brick only
test (5 h boiling followed by 18 h soak); the LUM A4 reached approximately 85% of full saturation after a 24 h
24 h soak and the BS 7263 30 min soak are summarised soak following evacuation.
in columns 5 to 8 of Table 1. All the results are Fig. 5 also shows that all the materials tested have
expressed in terms of percentage mass fraction to aid absorbed proportionally different amounts of water in
comparison. Fig. 5 compares the volume of water the 30 rain and 24 h immersion tests compared to vac-
absorbed by the samples during each test. The water u u m saturation. In the case of the 30 min soak the
contents attained by the samples during the boiling test, degree of vacuum saturation attained varies from 8% for
the 24 h soak and the 30 rain soak are shown in Table 3 sample 1 to nearly 70% for sample 5. For the 24 h soak
as a percentage of those attained by vacuum saturation. water contents vary from 47 to 74% of vacuum satura-
Fig. 5 shows that the water absorption (5 h boiling) tion (i.e. saturation coefficients range from 0.47 to 0.74).
test consistently produces lower water contents than the The results of the soaking tests depend on the sizes of
vacuum saturation test with the exception of samples 4 the samples under test. This is not recognised in the
and 7 which have, within the bounds of experimental specifications of the various tests. For example in the 30
error, absorbed the same amount of water in each test. min soak test the concrete materials for which this test is
In the other samples the shortfall in water content for designed are of varying specified size. Consider a cube
the 5 h boiling test varies from 15 cm 3 for sample 1 to
nearly 60 cm 3 in the case of sample 5. However, there is
a correlation between the amount of water absorbed
during this test and that absorbed during vacuum satura- Table 3 - Water contents attained during the 5 h boiling,
tion. Table 3 shows that the boiling test, again with the 30 rain immersion and 24 h immersion water
exception of samples 4 and 7, results in the samples con- absorption tests expressed as percentages
of the vacuum saturation water contents
sistently attaining 80 to 90% of vacuum saturation.
Samples 4 and 7 have very different hydraulic properties: Sample 5 h boil 30 min 24 h
4 has over 8 times the sorptivity of 7; in terms of volume immersion immersion
fraction, 4 has nearly 3 times the water porosity of 7. It 91.5 8.5 60.5
seems reasonable to assume that 4, being a very high suc- 91.0 34.4 47.3
tion and highly porous material, may well attain the 90.5 30.0 73.9
same level of saturation in both the vacuum saturation
100.0 60.8 71.84
and boil tests. However in the case of 7, a relatively
impervious material of low sorptivity and porosity, the 89.0 68.2 72.0
same level of saturation in each test implies that the post- 80.8 32.98 49.0
evacuation soak in the vacuum test may not have been 99.7 55.84 76.45

Materials and Structures/Mat6riaux et Constructions,Vol. 32, October 1999

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