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Development of fiber reinforced concrete repair

N. Banthia, R. Gupta, and S. Mindess

Abstract: Early age shrinkage cracking remains a critical concern for cement-based repairs and overlays. Fibers miti-
gate such cracking, but no standardized technique of assessing the performance of a given fiber exists. Recently, a
novel technique of making such an assessment was developed at The University of British Columbia (UBC). In this
test method, currently being balloted through the ASTM, an overlay of fiber reinforced concrete (FRC) material to be
tested is cast directly on a fully matured sub-base with protuberances, and the entire assembly is subjected to con-
trolled drying. Cracking in the overlay is then monitored and characterized. The technique was recently employed to
develop “crack-free” overlay materials for two repair sites. One was a parking garage in Downtown Vancouver, British
Columbia, and the other was the plaza deck at The UBC Aquatic Center. For the parking garage, a carbon fiber rein-
forced concrete and for the plaza deck, a cellulose fiber reinforced concrete were developed. Both overlays were instru-
mented with strain sensors and data were monitored over the Internet.
Key words: fiber reinforced concrete, shrinkage cracking, strain monitoring, carbon fibers, cellulose fibers.

Résumé : La fissuration causée par le retrait précoce du béton demeure une préoccupation importante lors des répara-
tions et des revêtements à base de béton. Les fibres atténuent une telle fissuration, mais il n’existe aucune technique
normalisée d’évaluation du rendement pour une fibre donnée. Récemment, une technique novatrice pour réaliser une
telle évaluation a été développée à l’Université de Colombie-Britannique (UBC). Dans cette méthode d’essai, présente-
ment soumises à l’ASTM, un revêtement de matériau de béton renforcé de fibres à être testé est coulé directement sur
une sous-base entièrement mûrie possédant des protubérances et l’ensemble complet est soumis à un séchage contrôlé.
La fissuration du revêtement est ensuite surveillée et caractérisée. La technique a été récemment employée pour déve-
lopper des matériaux de revêtement exempts de fissures pour deux sites de réparations. L’un était un garage de station-
nement dans le centre-ville de Vancouver et l’autre, la plate-forme de la place publique du centre aquatique de UBC.
En ce qui concerne le garage de stationnement, le béton était renforcé de fibres de carbone et celui de la plate-forme
était renforcé de fibres de cellulose. Les deux revêtements ont été instrumentés de capteurs de contraintes et les don-
nées étaient observées par Internet.
Mots clés : béton renforcé de fibres, fissuration de retrait, surveillance des contraintes, fibres de carbone, fibres de cel-

Banthia et al. 133

1. Introduction Among the various mechanisms cited for lack of durabil-

ity in repairs, early age shrinkage cracking in the overlay
In most industrialized countries, significant future activity materials is the most important. Cracking not only creates
in the construction sector will be related to repair and reha- easy access routes for deleterious agents to enter the overlay–
bilitation of the aging infrastructure. Experience has shown substrate interface but also allows for an early saturation of
that thin repairs or patching debond more easily than thick the overlay material, resulting in freeze–thaw damage, scal-
structural repairs and there is a need to develop high perfor- ing, discoloration, and eventual debonding.
mance repair materials that produce durable, aesthetically
Among the different solutions proposed for controlling
pleasing, and cost-effective repairs.
shrinkage cracking in repair applications, the most promis-
ing one is the use of randomly distributed fibers of steel,
polypropylene, carbon, etc., which provide bridging forces
Received 6 September 2004. Revision accepted 15 September across cracks and thus prevent them from growing. The
2005. Published on the NRC Research Press Web site at presence of fiber is expected to influence both the lengths
http://cjce.nrc.ca on 11 February 2006. and widths of shrinkage induced cracks (Banthia et al. 1993;
N. Banthia,1 R. Gupta, and S. Mindess. Department of Bloom and Bentur 1995; Grzybowski and Shah 1990;
Civil Engineering, The University of British Columbia, 6250 Khajuria and Balaguru 1992) and reduce damage at the in-
Applied Science Lane, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. terface, thereby enhancing the strength of the interfacial
bond (Banthia and Dubeau 1994). In addition, fiber rein-
Written discussion of this article is welcomed and will be forcement is expected to improve the mechanical perfor-
received by the Editor until 30 June 2006.
mance, deformability, toughness, impact resistance, and
Corresponding author (e-mail: banthia@civil.ubc.ca). fatigue endurance of the overlay, properties that are highly

Can. J. Civ. Eng. 33: 126–133 (2006) doi:10.1139/L05-093 © 2006 NRC Canada
Banthia et al. 127

Fig. 1. Substrate base (a) detailed dimensions and (b) after 28 d curing.

desirable from a repair point of view (Emmons et al. 1993; 2. Development of test method
Pigeon and Bisonette 1999; Rossi 1994).
Several studies have been carried out to study the effects There exist several techniques of studying shrinkage in-
of fiber reinforcement on development of strain in polymeric duced cracking in cement-based materials. These include,
matrices using embedded fiber-optic sensors and bragg- for example, a ring type specimen (Grzybowski and Shah
grating sensors (Bao et al. 2002; Botsis et al. 2004; Jinno et 1990), a linear specimen with anchored ends (Banthia et al.
al. 2003a, 2003b; Kalamkarov et al. 1999). In the case of 1993), a linear specimen held between a movable and a fixed
cement-based matrices, on the other hand, only limited num- grip such that a complete restraint and one-dimensional fix-
ber of studies is available where embedded sensors were ity are achieved by returning the movable grip to the original
used to measure early age strains (Al-Obaid 1989; Gao et al. position after shrinkage (Bloom and Bentur 1995), and a
2004; Habel et al. 1997; Slowik et al. 2004). plate type specimen where the restraint is provided in two
In this paper, two field studies are reported where the use orthogonal directions (Khajuria and Balaguru 1992). While
of a recently developed laboratory technique was made to effective for comparative measurements, most of these tech-
quantify the effectiveness of fibers at controlling cracking in niques produce stress fields in the specimen that are differ-
overlays and to develop high performance overlay materials. ent from those occurring in reality.
In both field studies, sensors were embedded in the overlays A technique producing realistic shrinkage conditions was
to monitor in situ strains as a function of time. recently developed (Banthia and Campbell 1998; Banthia et

© 2006 NRC Canada

128 Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 33, 2006

Fig. 2. Environmental chamber. Fig. 5. Plots for different fiber types (a) average crack area ver-
sus fiber volume fraction and (b) average crack width versus fi-
ber volume fraction.
350 F1 F2

F3 F4

Average crack area (mm )

F5 F6




0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4
Volume fraction (%)

Fig. 3. A demolded specimen. (b)

2.5 F1 F2
F3 F4
F5 F6

Average crack width (mm)





0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4
Volume fraction (%)

Fig. 6. Laboratory results (a) crack area versus fiber volume

fraction and (b) crack width versus fiber volume fraction.

500 Carbon
Fig. 4. Strains in the overlay.
400 Cellulose-Average
Crack area (mm )




0.0 0.1 0.2
Volume fraction (%)

2.0 Carbon

al. 1996; Banthia and Yan 2000). In this method, a layer of 1.5
Crack width (mm)

fresh concrete (or shotcrete) is placed directly on a fully
hardened substrate. This “old substrate” has surface protru- Carbon-Average
sions, which enhance its roughness and, in turn, impose a 1.0
uniform restraint on the shrinking overlay. The whole as-
sembly is then subjected to a drying environment to induce
cracking in the overlay. The objective of the test is to study
the effectiveness of various types of fibers and admixtures
on the early age restrained shrinkage cracking. The test 0.0
method characterizes the cracking performance of a cement- 0.0 0.1 0.2
based material when used as a bonded overlay. The tech- Volume fraction (%)

© 2006 NRC Canada

Banthia et al. 129

Fig. 7. Crack pattern in control and FRC.

nique is therefore useful in developing crack free repair ma- midity of 5%, which produces an evaporation rate of
terial for infrastructure applications. approximately 1.0 kg·m-2·h-1.

2.1. Substrate bases 2.3. Placement of overlay

Substrate bases (dimensions: 40 mm × 100 mm × 325 mm) A 60 mm deep layer of the overlay mixture to be investi-
are made from high strength concrete ( fc ′ ~ 100 MPa). The gated is placed on the substrate. The entire operation of
bases and their surface protuberances are shown in Figs. 1a placement of the overlay layer, external vibration, and fin-
and 1b. These bases are deliberately left somewhat smaller ishing is completed in less than 10 min. The entire assembly
than the actual size of the overlay to be placed afterwards to is then transferred to the environmental chamber. After 2 h,
avoid curling-up at the ends. This way, the overlay is able to the chamber is opened and the sides of the mold are re-
“wrap” over the base and is thus restrained from upward curl- moved (Fig. 3) to expose the specimen to a uniform state of
ing. To reduce the chances of breakage during handling and to drying. The chamber is then closed, and temperature and hu-
enhance the linear stiffness, steel rebars (2 no. 10 mm ø) are midity conditions are maintained for the next 24 h. After
provided along the length of the substrate. 24 h, the cracks developed in the overlay are characterized
using a 100X microscope.
2.2. Environmental chamber
An environmental chamber measuring 1740 mm × 2.4. Strain development in the overlay
350 mm × 380 mm (Fig. 2) is used. The chamber is made in Some data from embedded strain sensors in the overlay
clear plastic so that the sides and top surface of all three test are plotted in Fig. 4. Notice that there is initially an increase
specimens can be observed. The chamber contains a fan at in the strain followed by a decrease. Increase in tensile strain
one end capable of circulating air to the other end of the during the first few hours can be attributed to the thermal ex-
chamber at a rate of about 0.160 m3/s. pansion of the material (material is initially at room temper-
The chamber is equipped with digitally adjustable humid- ature) due to heating in the chamber as well as the heat of
ity and temperature sensors and (or) controllers capable of hydration. This is comparable to the findings of Yang et al.
recording and maintaining humidity to ±1% and the temper- (2004). When the specimens were demoulded 2 h after cast-
ature to ±1 °C. These controllers regulate the power supply ing, a rapid drop in the measured strains occurred as the en-
to the heater (with a fan) as necessary, to maintain a constant vironmental chamber is opened during demoulding and cold
temperature and humidity in the chamber. In a test, typically, air from outside enters the chamber. At this stage, there is
a temperature of 50 °C is chosen that results in a relative hu- also an increase in the exposed surface area of the specimen,
© 2006 NRC Canada
130 Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 33, 2006

Fig. 8. Effectiveness of a fiber in controlling shrinkage.

Horizontal shift (carbon)
Horizontal shift
Crack area (mm2)

200 Cellulose-0.1%

Vertical shift Centroid-
50 (cellulose) Cellulose-0.1%

Vertical shift (carbon)

0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5
Crack width (mm)

Table 1. Mix proportions of repair concrete used at the parking Fig. 9. Parking garage (a) a strain gauge and (b) placement of
garage and the Aquatic Center. concrete.
Parking Aquatic (a)
Ingredient garage Center
Cement, CSA, Type 10 (kg/m3) 320 310
Fly ash (kg/m3) 70 77.5 Strain gauge
Silica fume (kg/m3) 23 — on rebar
14 mm aggregates (kg/m3) 1035 950
Sand (kg/m3) 730 950
Water (kg/m3) 150 174
Water reducing admixture 330 580
(mL/100 kg of cementitious)
Air entraining admixture 130 —
(mL/100 kg of cementitious)
Strength (MPa) 40 32

which results in a rapid increase in the drying rate, and a

further drop in the strains. After these initial fluctuations, (b)
there is gradual build-up of compressive strains in the over-
lay indicating continued shrinkage. This build-up in com-
pressive strain is continued for 20 h after casting.

2.5. Typical results

Some results based on numerous tests with different types
of fibers are given in Figs. 5a and 5b. Note that the test
method is capable of distinguishing between different types
of fiber and volume fractions.

3. Field applications
3.1. Laboratory testing
The test method described above was used to design over-
lay mixes for two projects in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The first was a parking garage in Downtown Vancouver and
the other was a plaza deck at The University of Bristish Co- Four replicates were tested for a given fiber volume fraction
lumbia (UBC) Aquatic Center. For the parking garage, a and crack areas and crack widths were measured. The results
mesophase pitch based carbon fiber and for the Aquatic of the laboratory tests are shown in Figs. 6a and 6b, and the
Center project, a cellulose fiber were specified. observed crack patterns are shown in Fig. 7.
The shrinkage tests were carried out in the laboratory to The data are further analyzed in Fig. 8, where crack area
determine the volume fraction of fibers needed to achieve a versus crack width values are plotted and the centroid of the
“crack-free” concrete under specified conditions of drying. enclosed area is located. The horizontal and the vertical dis-

© 2006 NRC Canada

Banthia et al. 131

Fig. 10. Aquatic Center plaza deck (a) strain gauges and (b) placement of concrete.


FRC Overlay

Embedded Strain


tances between the centroid of the area formed for fiber rein- an industrial sand blaster, operating at a pressure of
forced concrete (FRC) and that formed for plain concrete 220 MPa, and an industrial shot blaster, operating at a pres-
indicate the effectiveness of a given fiber in controlling the sure of about 70 MPa. All loose concrete particles were re-
crack width and the crack area, respectively. Note the moved, and steel reinforcement was cleaned of any attached
greater effectiveness of carbon fiber as compared with the rust. At the Aquatic Center project, a 32 MPa concrete (see
cellulose fiber. As seen from Figs. 6a, 6b, and 7, for the car- mixture proportions in Table 1) was used. The substrate at
bon fiber, a volume fraction of 0.1% was sufficient to obtain the Aquatic Center was cleaned manually before placing the
a “crack-free” concrete, but for the cellulose fiber, a slightly 200 mm overlay. Typical properties of carbon fibers used at
higher volume fraction of 0.2% was needed. the parking garage were as follows: tensile strength of
2111 MPa, tensile modulus of 232 GPa, elongation to break
3.2. Site preparation and overlay placement of 1.0%, fiber diameter of 9–11 microns, and fiber density
At the parking garage site, the 40 MPa repair concrete of 1900 kg/m3. Cellulose fibers used at the Aquatic Center
(see mixture proportions in Table 1) was placed as an over- project had tensile strength of 620–895 MPa, tensile modu-
lay with an average thickness of 75 mm. Prior to placement lus of 10–40 GPa, and fiber density of 1500 kg/m3. Fig-
of the overlay, the surface was thoroughly roughened with ures 9 and 10 show the placement of strain gauges in the

© 2006 NRC Canada

132 Can. J. Civ. Eng. Vol. 33, 2006

Fig. 11. Strain measurement from the Aquatic Center overlay. Fig. 12. Measured strain from the Aquatic Center and the park-
10 000 ing garage.
FRC 3.0

Compressive strain (x10-6)


Micro strain (log values)

6000 0.0
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80

4000 -1.5

Aquatic-FRC Aquatic-Plain
2000 Garage-Plain-1 Garage-Plain-2
Garage-FRC-1 Garage-FRC-2
Depth of gauge from surface
0 5 10 15
Time (d)

(Fig. 11), thus indicate a reduced possibility of cracking in

parking garage and Aquatic Center, respectively. Gauges such an overlay. Some distance away from the top surface,
were located 75 and 25 mm below the surface of the over- the compressive strains would revert to tensile strains thus
lay, respectively, in the parking garage and the Aquatic Cen- creating a neutral axis and preserving the equilibrium of the
ter. At the parking garage, gauges were embedded at two overlay. In the case of the Aquatic Center, where the sensors
different locations (1 and 2) in plain and fiber concrete. Spe- were placed closer to the surface, sensors in both the plain
cially prepared chairs were used for mounting the gauges. and the FRC overlay remained above the neutral axis and re-
Detailed description of strain gauge layout, calibration, and corded compressive strains. In the case of the FRC overlay,
placement of concrete may be found elsewhere (Banthia and assuming that severe drying occurs only above the neutral
Nandakumar 2001; Banthia et al. 2004). For both sites, two axis and the material below the neutral axis develops strains
placements were made side-by-side: one with fiber rein- similar to the plain placement, a reduced level of strain at
forcement and the other without fiber reinforcement (hereaf- the level of the sensors implied that the neutral axis had
ter termed “plain”). moved upwards. This hypothesis is further supported by the
common observation that cracks in FRC placements remain
shallower and narrower than plain placements.
3.3. Strain measurements
Strain readings from the Aquatic Center are plotted in In the case of the Parking Garage, on the other hand, sen-
Fig. 11. Sensors in both the plain overlay and the FRC over- sors were placed at a greater depth from the surface and an
lay recorded compressive strain and the strain in FRC over- upward movement of the neutral axis in the case of FRC re-
lay at any given time was lower than the strain of the plain sulted in the sensor in its case falling below the neutral axis.
overlay, this is in agreement with the findings of Al-Obaid Sensors in the FRC overlay, therefore recorded tensile
(1989) who also found that shrinkage strains decrease when strains. Reduced compressive strains at the surface would,
fibers are used. Due to the inability to accurately calibrate once again, reduce the possibility of cracking in the FRC
and “zero” the strain sensors in situ, only a comparative as- overlay and indeed, much reduced cracking was recorded in
sessment between sensors at a given site is possible. Since the FRC overlay in the Parking Garage (Banthia and
the strain sensors in situ did not start measurements at Nandakumar 2001).
“zero”, the recorded strain values at the Aquatic Center were
higher than expected. For plotting purposes, they were plot- 4. Conclusions
ted on a log scale and compressive strains were given a neg- The use of a newly developed shrinkage test technique
ative sign to identify them as such. was made to develop “crack-free” fiber reinforced overlay
The average maximum strains recorded during the first materials for two repair sites in Vancouver, British Colum-
2 weeks after casting at the Parking Garage are compared bia. Strain measurements from the field overlays indicate
with those at the Aquatic Center in Fig. 12. Notice that un- that in the case of fiber reinforced overlays, there is a de-
like the Aquatic Center, the FRC overlay in the Parking Ga- crease in the shrinkage-induced strains and a net upward
rage recorded a tensile strain. These observations, even movement of the neutral axis. This is expected to reduce the
though appear contradictory, actually are not, and indicate a risk of cracking in FRC overlays and enhance their durabil-
common mechanism in both overlays. When the overlay ity in service.
shrinks (Fig. 13), it develops a compressive strain near the
surface, and this compressive strain results in tensile stresses
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© 2006 NRC Canada

Banthia et al. 133

Fig. 13. Schematic strain variation in FRC and influence of strain gauge location.
- (Compressive strain)

Gauge location - Aquatic

Gauge location - Garage

Neutral Axis

(Tension strain)

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© 2006 NRC Canada