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CEMENT and CONCRETE RESEARCH, Vol. 21, pp.1103-1110, 1991. Printed in the USA.

0008-8846/91. $3.00+00. Copyright (c) 1991 Pergamon Press plc.

E S T I M A T I O N O F INSITU S T R E N G T H O F C O N C R E T E

M.N. Haque and M.K. Gopalan


Civil & Maritime Engineering Department
Australian Defence Force Academy
Campbell, ACT 2600, Australia
and
D.W.S. Ho
CSIRO, Highett, PO Box 56, Vic 3190, Australia

(Communicated by F.H. Witmaann)


(Received May 7; in final form May 26, 1991)

ABSTRACT

Twelve concretes of low, medium and high strength, with and without a fly ash and with and
without a proprietary superplasticizer were designed. From each concrete 375 x 375 x 150
mm slabs and 100 x 200 mm cylinders were cast. The slabs were stored in out-door exposure
conditions and 75 x 150 mm cores were extracted after 28, 91 days and 6 months duration.
The moulded cylinders were cured in a fog room, control room maintained at 45% R.H. and
placed alongside the slabs.

The concrete strength is known to be highly variable and depends on a great many factors.
Nonetheless, the results suggest that the insitu strength can be estimated by dividing the
strength of the fog cured cylinders by a factor of 1.25. Similarly, for most concretes it can
also be assumed that the core strength is equal to the strength of the field-cured cylinders. In
spring/summer-like ambient conditions, the core strength is 80% of the strength of the
standard cured cylinders instead of 85% required by some codes of practice.

Introduction
It is the inplace strength of concrete which matters. However, it is a very elusive target as it is
interdependent on a whole range of factors such as: mix proportions, mineral and chemical
admixtures, ambient conditions at the time of casting, size and location of the structural element,
degree and the extent of after-care (curing) and the exposure conditions.(1-7) Of course the list goes
on.

Various nondestructive tests (NDT) have been proposed to assess the insitu strength of the
concrete. Most of these NDT measure a property of the concrete which can be related to strength.(8)
There are genuine limitations of these methods but within some constraints they do provide an
estimate of insitu strength of the concrete.(9)

The best estimate of the inplace strength can be achieved by coring the structure. Nonetheless,
the core can be damaged during its extraction. In addition, core strength is affected by the direction

1103
1104 M.N. Haque et al. Vol. 21, No. 6

of coring, size of the core, water gain during drilling and many other factors.(3,5-7.1) So how to
get the insitu strength of the concrete. The answer is, as of today, no technique is available to
obtain the insitu strength of the structural concrete.

One can ask, why do we need to know the strength of the insitu concretes? Basically, it is
needed to know the ultimate load carrying capacity of a concrete structure. To achieve this, strength
reduction factors are used to estimate the insitu strength. It would, however, be ideal both for the
overall cost of structure and the engineer's confidence if a better estimate of the strength of the insitu
concrete could be made.

The grade of a concrete is determined by evaluating the compressive strength of the moulded
specimens cured in a fog room. This is a quality control test and assures all the concerned parties
that the specified and the target strength is achieved.

If a relationship between the core strength and the strength of the standard fog cured specimens
can be established then the insitu strength can be estimated with some degree of confidence. Most
concrete structures codes and specifications expect that, on the average, the core strength should be
0.85 of the strength of the standard cylinde r s. (I112)
, In fact , a v e ry corn p rehenslve
" testm
" g by
Bloem suggested this.(t,2) However, if all other conditions are similar, the type and massiveness of
the structure, the presence or absence of the additional cementitious materials (ie. fly ash, ground
granulated blast furnace slag (GGBFS) and silica fume) and the ambient climatic conditions to
which the structure is exposed to for the first few months are the three major variants which are
going to affect the relationship between the insitu strength and the cylinder strength.

In previous papers, Haque et al.(13) and Day et al. (14) have presented data which can be used to
estimate the insitu strength of the concrete exposed to the cold North American winter type climatic

TABLE 1
Physical and chemical properties of fly ash and cement

Bulk density t/m3 2.10


Unit mass t/m~ 1.02
Residue o n 150 m m sieve % 0.4
Residue o n 45 m m sieve % 9.5
Specific surface m 2 / k g 270

Flyash Cement

Compound Compound %

Silica 57.3 20.6


Alumina 23.4 4.6
Calcium O x i d e 4.0 64.7
Iron O x i d e 3.8 5.0
Magnesium Oxide 0.6 1.1
S o d i u m a n d Potassium Oxide 3.8 0.53
Sulphur Trioxide 0.1 2.4
Loss of ignition 2.2 2.0
Vol. 21, No. 6 INSITU STRENGTH, ESTIMATION 1105

conditions. The objective of the present paper is to provide an estimation of the insitu strength of
the concrete cast in spring/summer.

Experimental Details
Materials
The materials used were 20 and 10 mm maximum size crushed gravel, river sand, Type A
normal Portland cement, similar to ASTM Type 1, bituminous fly ash (ASTM Class F) and a
proprietary superplasticizer. Chemical composition and physical properties of the cement and fly
ash are given in Table 1.

Test Details
Three control mixes with normal portland cement were designed for nominal 28 days strength
of 30, 50 and 70 MPa; these concretes are referred to as LP, MP and HP (low, medium and high
strength plain concretes) respectively. These concretes were recast using cement and fly ash. The
mixes containing fly ash were designed to achieve equal 28-day strength concretes. These are LF,
MF and HF concretes respectively. All the above six mixes were then recast with an appropriate
dosage of a superplasticizer. All the 12 concretes were designed for a slump between 80 - 100.

TABLE 2
Mix C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s

Mix Quantities/m3 (kg) +....._~s


w Slump
Cem FA Water Sand Agg. Super c (ram)
(c) (f) (w) (s)

LP 288 183 670 1246 0.64 80

MP 400 195 626 1164 0.49 80

HP 512 2064 583 1081 0.405 85

LF 229 98 176 652 1212 - 0.76 85

MF 328 140 199 582 1082 0.61 95

HF 435 171 223 515 957 0.51 125

LFS 233 99 157 664 1233 4.2 0.69 75

MFS 347 148 165 599 1114 6.3 0.49 120

HFS 458 180 162 544 1029 7.9 0.37 100

LPS 288 153 652 1292 3.5 0.54 55

MPS 405 161 653 1213 4.9 0.41 160

HPS 512 176 607 1127 6.1 0.35 70


TABLE 3
D e v e l o p m e n t of Strength concretes (MPa)

Mix Fog curing 6 day fog + controlled Cores from slabs Site curing

28D 91D 6mths 28D 91D 6mths 28D 91D 6mths 28D 91D 6mths

LP 32.7 37.8 39.1 32.2 35.2 35.1 28.2 33.3 336.8 29.0 ,-v
MP 52.4 57.l 62.8 57.4 45.1 46.3 40.0 46.7 52.11 35.3 41.7 50.0 2~
HP 55.6 63.5 68.8 62.7 54.0 51.95 39.8 50.7 54.9 43.7 53.6 53.7
LF 32.6 41.6 49.6 36.7 31.7 39.4 26.2 33.7 42.7 25.4 30.0 37.7
MF 44,3 54.6 55.5 51.3 49.0 44.1 30.6 41.7 33.6 36.7 45.9 44.6
HF 50.9 68.0 68.4 54.1 54.2 53.5 40.4 53.6 45 41.9 48.1 55.6
LFS 45.5 54.2 62.0 52.5 55.0 50 43.1 49.7 51.2 32.9 48.5 47.0
MFS 66.9 74.0 86.7 63.7 72.6 67.8 61.9 63.5 68.0 50.2 66.9 60.4
HFS 70.4 87.8 99.9 77.2 82.2 87.7 55.0 77.2 83.5 72.6 78.6 82.3
LPS 45.8 48.4 54.4 45.3 50.2 53.6 31.9 38.7 43.1 29.5 37.9 35.2
MPS 47.6 72.5 74.7 46.3 68.4 65.6 44.9 54.8 49.2 38.0 47.2 50.3
1 t Ix3 70.0 72.0 76.7 67.2 58.8 71.9 59.1 54.4 56.5 53.8 44.3 52.2

tO

z
Ox
Vol. 21, No. 6 INSITU STRENGTH, ESTIMATION 1107

The water content of the various mixes were adjusted accordingly. Mixture information and slump
measurements are provided in Table 2.

From each mix, the following specimens were cast:

(i) 1 - 375 x 375 x 150 mm slab

(ii) 30 - 100 x 200 mm cylinders

The clinders were cast in steel moulds and the slabs were cast in plywood frames. A coating of
a proprietary curing compound was applied on the exposed surface of the slabs after the sheen had
disappeared; 24 hours after casting the slabs were exposed to uncontrolled ambient conditions.
Cylindrical cores of 75 x 150 mm size were extracted from the slabs after 28, 91 days and six
months duration. The extracted cores were stored in the fog room for 24 hours before testing.

Specimen Conditioning
All the moulded specimens were stored in the ordinary laboratory environment and demoulded
24 hours after casting. The specimens were then stored in the following regimes for up to six
months:

(i) Fog room kept at 23 + 2C and 95 + 3% R.H., hereafter referred to as 'F' curing

(ii) as in (i) above for the first six days and then in the control room kept at 23C at 45%
R.H., referred to as 'FD' curing

(iii) stored beside the slabs, referred to as 'site' curing

Results and Discussion


Characteristics of Fresh Concretes
The target slump of 80-100 mm was easily achieved in most of the concretes cast. The only
exceptions were the low and the medium strength plain superplasticized concretes (see Table 2).

When the superplasticizer was used in the concrete containing fly ash, a net water saving of
13.3, 17.7, 52.7 kg/m 3 was achieved in the three corresponding concretes, respectively. For the
concretes without fly ash, net water saving of 26.7, 29.5 and 24.8 kg/m 3 was achieved in the three
corresponding concretes, respectively. These water reductions are typical of the most commercially
available superplasticizers.

Strength Development of Concretes


Strength development of all the concrete is included in Table 3.

Fog curing - The concretes continued to develop strength up to the age of 6 months. As
expected, the superplasticized fly ash concretes (LFS, MFS and HFS) attained the highest strength.
On the average, the strength of these concretes was approximately 40% higher than the strength of
fly ash concretes without the superplasticizer. Likewise, the strength of the plain superplasticized
concretes was about 20% higher than the corresponding plain concretes. These strength gains are,
of course, a direct consequence of the water reductions of the resultant low water/cementitious ratio
of the superplasticized concretes.

The use of superplasticizer (or a water reducing admixture) seems to be more beneficial to the
strength development of fly ash concretes. The thorough dispersion of fly ash particles has led to
the improved pozzolanic reaction and the higher longer term strength. Mukherjee et al.05) have also
1108 M.N. Haque et al. Vol. 21, No. 6

observed that the properties of superplasticized fly ash concrete were superior to the reference fly
ash mix (without superplasticizer).

Dry curing - The 6 days of prior fog curing followed by exposure in the controlled dry
environment of 45% R.H. resulted in an overall average strength for all the 12 concretes (for all the
three ages) of 93% of the continuously fog cured strength. This value for the superplasticized
concretes was 95% and those without the superplasticizer 91%. However, if 6 month strength is
indicative of the long-term strength, the above value is 84%. This amounts to a 16% underestimate
of the fog cured strength. The exact underestimation will fluctuate with the mix ingredients, with
the presence or absence of both mineral additives and water-reducers. The results included suggest
that this underestimation will range between 10-20%. The beneficial effects of initial curing of 7
days on the strength development of both plain and fly ash concretes have already been reported
where somewhat similar strength loss on exposure to continuous drying ambient conditions of up to
91 days was observed.(16)

Core strength - A significant increase in the strength of the cored cylinders from 28 days to 6
months can be observed (see Table 3). Likewise, there was a similar increase in the strength of the
cylinders stored alongside the slabs.

As expected, the strength of the cylinders cored from the slabs was less than the strength of the
continuously fog cured cylinders. Overall, the core strength was 80% of the strength of the
continuously fog cured specimens. However, this value, on the average, was 78% at six months.
It is worth noting here that the relationship of the two strengths is variable and, among other things,
dependent on the presence or absence of fly ash and superplasticizer. Munday et al.(6) has also
concluded that it was not possible to relate with any certainty, the core strength and the strength of
the standard fog cured specimens. Nonetheless, the results of this study suggest that the long-term
core (or insitu) strength can be estimated by dividing the strength of the cured cylinders by a factor
of between 1.25- 1.30.

In the present investigation, the slabs were only 150 mm thick; many main load carrying
members in structures (like columns and beams) are thicker and will self-cure better than the cores
extracted from the slabs reported here. Of course, the strength development of some concretes will
differ tremendously in slabs, beams, wails and columns simply because of shape and massiveness
of sections.O) Nonetheless, the present investigation presents a worse case, and estimate of the
insitu strength suggested here is somewhat conservative. Most codes of practice require insitu
strength to be 85% of the continuously cured specimens.O 1,12) The results included in the study
indicate that this value should be reduced to 80% for the concretes made with fly ash and
superplasticizers.

Figure 1 includes the percent overestimation (or underestimation) of the core strength of the
concrete compared to those cured in the three regimes - fog, FD and site curing. The figure shows
these estimations for the three grades of concrete (low, medium and high strength) and the average
value of all the concretes at the age of six months. As can be seen, fog curing overestimated the
overall strength of all the concretes by 22%.

According to Bloem,(1) field-cured cylinders may provide useful information but do not
quantitatively reflect core strength. It is interesting to note that the 6 month strength of the cylinders
stored alongside the slabs is somewhat similar to the core strength. On the average, at six months,
the core strength was 102% of the strength of the exposed cylinders. Again, this value is variable
and depends on the presence or absence of fly ash and superplasticizers and the grade of concrete.
Nonetheless, the strength of the cylinders stored alongside the slabs seems to be a reasonable
indicator of the insitu strength. Perhaps, the strength of a 150 x 300 mm cylinder would present a
better estimate of the insitu strength of the more massive structural elements. In summary, it is
concluded that the compressive strength of the cylinders stored alongside the actual structural
elements can provide a good estimate of the insitu strength.
Vol. 21, No. 6 INS/TUSTRENGTH,ESTIMATION 1109

All
Low
Medium
High Under
-2O -10 0 10 20 30 40
Fog Cure

All
Low
Medium
High
-20 -10 0 10 20 30 40
FD Cure

HiLow
ghAll I -15
Medium
r//////I/////~/
-2.5
~ 3
Under !~ 2 Over
-20 -i0 0- - I0 ?'(3 3'0 40
~o over (+) or under ( - ) estimation
Site Cure

FIG. 1
Prediction of insitu strength of concrete - Fog, FD and Site Cured.

The extent of overestimation of the core strength over the strength of the FD cured cylinders is
also included in Fig. 1. As shown in the figure, the FD curing gave a good estimate of the core
strength; it overestimated the six month core strength by about 6%. This curing regime establishes
the beneficial effects of the initial fog curing on the long-term strength of the concrete.

Conclusions

1. Though the relationship between the core strength and the strength of the standard cured
cylinder is dependent, among other things, on the type, shape and massiveness of the structural
element, exposure conditions, the grade of the concrete and the presence or absence of mineral and
chemical admixtures, it seems reasonable to estimate the insitu strength by dividing the strength of
the fog cured cylinders by a factor of 1.25. The requirements of the codes of practice that the core
strength should be 85% of the standard cured cylinder seems optimistic for the spring/summer-like
exposure conditions, a 80% value seems more reasonable.

2. Again, the relationship between the field-cured cylinders and the core strength is variable and
depends on many factors. Nonetheless, the strength of these cylinders, on the average, stored
alongside the slabs was approximately equal to the core strength. Accordingly, for most concretes,
one can assume that the two strengths are equal.
1110 M.N, Haque et al. Vol. 21, No. 6

References

1. Bloem, D.L., ACI Journal 65(3), 176 (1968).


2. Bloem, D.L., Proceedings ASTM 65, 668 (1965).
3. Murphy, W.E., ACI, SP-82, 377 (1984).
4. Newman, K., ACI, SP-82, 479 (1984).
5. Keiller, A.P., ACI, SP-82, 441 (1984).
6. Munday, J.G.L. and R.K. Dhir, ACI, SP-82, 393 (1984).
7. Malhotra, V.M., ACI Journal 74(4) 163 (1977).
8. Mindess, S. and J.F. Young, Concrete, Prentice-Hall Inc., New York, 471, 1981.
9. Jenkins, R.S., Concrete International 7(2), 22 (1985).
10. Yip, W.K. and C.T. Tam, Magazine of Concrete Research 40(143), 99 (1988).
11. "Concrete Materials and Methods of Construction," (CAN3-A231-M77), Canadian Standards
Association, Rexdale, 254, 1977.
12. "Building Code Requirements for Reinforced Concrete" (ACI 318M-83), ACI Standard, 1983.
13. Haque, M.N., R.L. Day and B.W. Langan, ACI Materials Journal 85, 241 (1988).
14. Day, R.L., B.W. Langan and M.N. Haque, Proc. Annual Conf. Canadian Society for Civil
Engineering, Ontario, 301, 1990.
15. Mukherjee, P.K., N.T. Loughborough, and V.M. Malhotra, Cement Concrete and Aggregate
4(2), 81 (1982).
16. Haque, M.N., ACI, Concrete International: Design and Construction 12(2), 42 (1990).