Workability of Concrete

The quality of concrete satisfying the above requirements is termed as workable concrete. The word “workability” or workable concrete signifies much wider and deeper meaning than the other terminology “consistency” often used loosely for workability. Consistency is a general term to indicate the degree of fluidity or the degree of mobility. A concrete which has high consistency and which is more mobile, need not be of right workability for a particular job. Every job requires a particular workability. A concrete which is considered workable for mass concrete foundation is not workable for concrete to be used in roof construction, or even in roof construction, concrete considered workable when vibrator is used, is not workable when concrete is to be compacted by hand. Similarly a concrete considered workable when used in thick section is not workable when required to be used in thin sections.

A theoretical water/cement ratio calculated from the considerations discussed above is not going to give an ideal situation for maximum strength. Hundred per cent compaction of concrete is an important parameter for contributing to the maximum strength. Lack of compaction will result in air voids whose demaging effect on strength and durability is equally or more predominant than the presence of capillary cavities.

Factors Affecting Workability

Workable concrete is the one which exhibits very little internal friction between particle and particle or which overcomes the frictional resistance offered by the formwork surface or reinforcement contained in the concrete with just the amount of compacting efforts forthcoming. The factors helping concrete to have more lubricating effect to reduce internal friction for helping easy compaction are given below –

Measurement of Workability

It is discussed earlier that workability of concrete is a complex property. Just as it eludes all precise definition, it also eludes precise measurements. Numerous attempts have been made by many research workers to quantitatively measure this important and vital property of concrete. But none of these methods are satisfactory for precisely measuring or expressing this property to bring out its full meaning. Some of the tests, measure the parameters very close to workability and provide useful information.

The following tests are commonly employed to measure workability –

(a) Slump Test
(b) Compacting factor Test
(c) Flow Test
(d) Kelly Ball Test
(e) Vee Bee Consistometer Test

(a) Slump Test

Slump test is the most commonly used method of measuring consistency of concrete which can be employed either in laboratory or at site of work. It is not a suitable method for very wet or very dry concrete. It does not measure all factors contributing to workability, nor is it always representative of the placability of the concrete. However, it is used conveniently as a control test and gives an indication of the uniformity of concrete from batch to batch.

Repeated batches of the same mix, brought to the same slump, will have the same water content and water cement ratio, provided the weights of aggregate, cement and admixtures are uniform and aggregate grading is within acceptable limits. Additional information on workability and quality of concrete can be obtained by observing the manner in which concrete slumps. Quality of concrete can also be further assessed by giving a few tappings or blows by tamping rod to the base plate. The deformation shows the characteristics of concrete with respect to tendency for segregation.

Slump Test
Slump Test

The appartus for conducting the slump test essentially consists of a metallic mould in the form of a frustum of a cone having the internal dimensions as under –

Bottom diameter : 20 cm
Top diameter : 10 cm
Height : 30 cm

The thickness of the metallic sheet for the mould should not be thinner than 1.6 mm. Sometimes the mould is provided with suitable guides for lifting vertically up. For tamping the concrete, a steel tamping rod 16 mm dia, 0.6 meter along with bullet end is used.

Details of the slump cone apparatus

The internal surface of the mould is thoroughly cleaned and freed from superfluous moisture and adherence of any old set concrete before commencing the test. The mould is placed on a smooth, horizontal, rigid and non-absorbant surface The mould is then filled in four layers, each approximately 1/4 of the height of the mould. Each layer is tamped 25 times by the tamping rod taking care to distribute the strokes evenly over the cross section. After the top layer has been rodded, the concrete is struck off level with a trowel and tamping rod.

Slump : True , Shear, Collapse
Slump : True , Shear, Collapse

The mould is removed from the concrete immediately by raising it slowly and carefully in a vertical direction. This allows the concrete to subside. This subsidence is referred as SLUMP of concrete. The difference in level between the height of the mould and that of the highest point of the subsided concrete is measured. This difference in height in mm. is taken as Slump of Concrete. ASTM measure the centre of the slumped concrete as the difference in height. ASTM also specifies 3 layers.

The pattern of slump indicates the characteristic of concrete in addition to the slump value, If the concrete slumps evenly it is called(true slamp lf one half of the cone slides down, it is called shear slump In case of a shear slump, the slump value is measured as the difference in height between the height of the mould and the average value of the subsidence. Shear slump also indicates that the concrete is non-cohesive and shows the characteristic of segregation.

K-Slump Tester
K-Slump Tester
K-Slump Tester
K-Slump Tester

(b) Compacting Factor Test

The compacting factor test is designed primarily for use in the laboratory but it can also be used in the field. It is more precise and sensitive than the slump test and is particularly useful for concrete mixes of very low workability as are normally used when concrete is to be compacted by vibration. Such dry concrete are insensitive to slump test. The diagram of the apparatus is shown. The essential dimensions of the hoppers and mould and the distance between them are shown.

Dimensions of compacting factor apparatus
Dimensions of compacting factor apparatus

The compacting factor test has been developed at the Road Research Laboratory U.K. and it is claimed that it is one of the most efficient tests for measuring the workability of concrete. This test works on the principle of determining the degree of compaction achieved by a standard amount of work done by allowing the concrete to fall through a standard height. The degree of compaction, called the compacting factor is measured by the density ratio.

The ratio of the density actually achieved in the test to density of same concrete fully compacted.

The sample of concrete to be tested is placed in the upper hopper up to the brim. The trap-door is opened so that the concrete falls into the lower hopper. Then the trap-door of the lower hopper is opened and the concrete is allowed to fall into the cylinder. In the case a dry-mix, it is likely that the concrete may not fall on opening the trap-door. In such a case slight poking by a rod may be required to set the concrete in motion. The excess concrete remaining above the top level of the cylinder is then cut off with the help of plane blades supplied with the apparatus. The outside of the cylinder is wiped clean. The concrete is filled up exactly upto the top level of the cylinder.

Compacting factor apparatus
Compacting factor apparatus
Compacting factor apparatus
Compacting factor apparatus

It is weighed to the nearest 10 grams. This weight is known as “Weight of partially compacted concrete”. The cylinder is emptied and then refilled with the concrete from the same sample in layers approximately 5 cm deep. The layers are heavily rammed or preferably vibrated so as to obtain full compaction. The top surface of the fully compacted concrete is then carefully struck off level with the top of the cylinder and weighed to the nearest 10 gm. This weight is known as “Weight of fully compacted concrete”.

The Compacting Factor = Weight of partially compacted concrete / Weight of fully compacted concrete

The weight of fully compacted concrete can also be calculated by knowing the proportion of materials, their respective specific gravities, and the volume of the cylinder. It is seen from experience, that it makes very little difference in compacting factor value, whether the weight of fully compacted concrete is calculated theoretically or found out actually after
100 per cent compaction. It can be realised that the compacting factor test measures the inherent characteristics of the concrete which relates very close to the workability requirements of concrete and as such it is one of the good tests to depict the workability of concrete.

(c) Flow Test

This is a laboratory test, which gives an indication of the quality of concrete with respect to consistency, cohesiveness and the proneness to segregation. In this test, a standard mass of concrete is subjected to jolting. The spread or the flow of the concrete is measured and this flow is related to workability.

It can be seen that the apparatus consists of flow table, about 76 cm. in diameter over which concentric circles are marked. A mould made from smooth metal casting in the form of a frustum of a cone is used with the following internal dimensions. The base is 25 cm. in diameter, upper surface 17 cm. in diameter, and height of the cone is 12 cm.

Flow table Apparatus
Flow table Apparatus

The table top is cleaned of all gritty material and is wetted. The mould is kept on the centre of the table, firmly held and is filled in two layers. Each layer is rodded 25 times with a tamping rod 1.6 cm in diameter and 61 cm long rounded at the lower tamping end. After the top layer is rodded evenly, thus the excess of concrete which has overflowed the mould is removed. The mould is lifted vertically upward and the concrete also stands on its own without support. The table is then raised and dropped 12:5 mm 15 times in about 15 seconds. The diameter of the spread concrete is measured in about 6 directions to the nearest 5 mm and the average spread is noted. The flow of concrete is the percentage increase in the average diameter of the spread concrete over the base diameter of the mould.

Flow percent = (Spread diameter in cm – 25) x 100 / 25

The value could range anything from 0 to 150 percent.

A close look at the pattern of spread of concrete can also give a good indication of the characteristics of concrete such as tendency for segregation.

Apparatus

Flow table Apparatus
Flow table Apparatus Dimensions
Flow table Apparatus Dimensions
1. Flow table

Flow table top is constructed from flat metal of minimum thickness 1.5 mm. However the top is in plan 700 mm x 700 mm. There is circle marked at center having 200 mm diameter. The front of top is thus provided with lifting handle. Total mass of flow table is about 16+-1 kg. It contains also hinges, two rigid stops, base frame etc.

2. Mould

The mould is made of metal readily not attacked by cement paste or liable to rust and of minimum thickness 1.5 mm. The interior of the mould is smooth and free from projections, such as protruding rivets, and is free from dents. The mould shall be in the form of a hollow frustum of a cone having the internal dimensions. The base and the top is open and parallel to each other and at right angles to the axis of the cone. The mould is provided with two metal foot pieces at the bottom and two handles above them.

3. Tamping Bar

The tamping bar is made of a suitable hardwood and having dimensions as shown in diagram.

Sampling

The sample of freshly mixed concrete is obtained.

Procedure

The table is made level and properly supported. Before commencing the test, the table-top and inner surface of the mould is wiped with a damp cloth. However the slump cone is placed centrally on the table. The slump cone is filled with concrete in two equal layers, however each layer tamped lightly 10 times with the wooden tamping bar. After filling the mould, the concrete is struck off flush with the upper edge of the slump cone and thus the free area of the table-top cleaned off.

Half a minute after striking off the concrete, the cone is therefore slowly raised vertically by the handles. After that, the table-top raised by the handle and allowed to fall 15 times in 15 seconds. However the concrete spreads itself out. The diameter of the concrete spread shall then be measured in two directions, parallel to the table edges. The arithmetic mean of the two diameters thus shall be the measurement of flow in mm.

(d) Kelly Ball Test

This is a simple field test consisting of the measurement of the indentation made by 15 cm diameter metal hemisphere weighing 13.6 kg. when freely placed on fresh concrete. The test has been devised by Kelly and hence known as Kelly Ball Test. This has not been covered by Indian Standards Specification. The advantages of this test is that it can be performed on the concrete placed in site and it is claimed that this test can be performed faster with a greater precision than slump test. The disadvantages are that it requires a large sample of concrete and it cannot be used when the concrete is placed in thin section. The minimum depth of concrete must be at least 20 cm and the minimum distance from the centre of the ball to nearest edge of the concrete 23 cm.

Kelly ball apparatus
Kelly ball
Concrete mould for kelly ball test
Concrete mould
Tamping bar for kelly ball test
Tamping bar

The surface of the concrete is struck off level, avoiding excess working, the ball is lowered gradually on the surface of the concrete. The depth of penetration is read immediately on the stem to the nearest 6 mm. The test can be performed in about 15 seconds and it gives much more consistent results than Slump Test. Diagram shows the Kelly Ball apparatus.

(e) Vee Bee Consistometer Test

This is a good laboratory test to measure indirectly the workability of concrete. This test consists of a vibrating table, a metal pot, a sheet metal cone, also a standard iron rod. Therefore apparatus is shown in the following Figure. Slump test as described earlier is performed, placing the slump cone inside the sheet metal cylindrical pot of the consistometer. The glass disc attached to the swivel arm is turned and however placed on the top of the concrete in the pot. The electrical vibrator is then switched on and simultaneously a stop watch started. The vibration is continued till such a time as the conical shape of the concrete disappears and the concrete assumes a cylindrical shape. This can be thus judged by observing the glass disc from the top for disappearance of transparency.

Vee Bee Consistometer type VBR
Vee Bee Consistometer type VBR
Vee Bee Consistometer
Vee Bee Consistometer type VBR

Immediately when the concrete fully assumes a cylindrical shape, the stop watch is switched off. Therefore, the time required for the shape of concrete to change from slump cone shape to cylindrical shape in seconds is known as Vee Bee Degree. This method is very suitable for very dry concrete whose slump value cannot be measured by Slump Test, but the vibration is too vigorous for concrete with a slump greater than about 50 mm.

1 thought on “Workability of Concrete

Comments are closed.