Quality Control of Concrete

Quality control is a corporate, dynamic program to assure that all the aspects of materials, equipment, and workmanship are well looked after. Quality control should have conformity to the specification, no more, no less.

For the manufacturer of the concrete, the quality control process will involve material, personnel, equipment, and workmanship in all stages of concreting.

Quality control of concrete

The concrete is generally produced in batches at the site with the locally available materials at variable characteristics. It is therefore likely to vary from one batch to the other. The magnitude of this variation is depending upon several factors:

1. The variation in the quality of constituent materials 
2. Variation in the mix proportion 
3. Variation in the quality of batching and mixing 
4. The quality of overall workmanship and supervision at the site. 

Moreover, concrete undergoes a number of operations like transportation, placing, compacting, and curing. During these operations, considerable variations occur partly due to the quality of the plant available and partly due to the differences in the efficiency of the techniques used.

Hence, there are no attributes to define the quality of concrete. Under such situations, the concrete is treated as good, poor, or fair. Hence it is necessary to judge the concrete based on its performance characteristics, economics, safety, aesthetics, durability, and other factors.

The main aim of quality control of concrete is to reduce the above variations and produce uniform material providing the characteristics desirable for the goals.

Factors Affecting Variation in the Quality of Concrete

The following are the three main factors that affect the quality of concrete.

1. Personal Factors 
2. Material, Equipment, and Workmanship 
3. Field Control Factors 

1. Personal Factors

The success of the quality control plan is the availability of experienced, knowledgeable, and trained workers at all levels. The designer and the specification writer should have knowledge of the construction operation as well.

2. Material, Equipment, and Workmanship

  • For the uniform quality of concrete, the ingredient (particularly the cement) should preferably be used from a single source. When ingredients from different sources are used, the strength and other characteristics of the materials are likely to change and therefore these materials should be used only after the proper evaluation and testing.
  • Cement should be tested initially once from each source of supply and subsequently once every month. Adequate storage under cover is necessary for protection from moisture set cement with hard lumps is to be rejected. 
  • Aggregates should be well-graded, free from deleterious substances. Special care should be taken while checking the quality of aggregates. Grading, maximum size, shape, and moisture content of aggregate are the major sources of variability. 
  • Equipment used for batching, mixing, and vibration should be at the right capacity. Weight batchers should be frequently checked for their accuracy weight – batching of materials is always preferred to volume batching. 
  • The vibrators should have the required frequency and amplitude of the vibration. 
  • The fresh concrete should be handled, transported, and placed in such a manner that it does not get segregated. The time interval between mixing and placing of the concrete should be reduced to the minimum as possible. The expected targets of strength, impermeability, and durability of concrete can be achieved only by thorough and adequate compaction. 
  • 1% of air content left in concrete due to incomplete compaction can lower the compressive strength by nearly 5%. Adequate curing is essential for handling and developing the strength of the concrete. 
  • The long-term compressive strength of concrete moist cured for 3 days or 7 days will be about 60% or 80% respectively, given the concrete is cured for 28 days or more. 

3. Field Control

Field control i.e. inspection and testing is an important factor to be considered for quality control. Concrete should be tested at its fresh and hardened stages to assess its strength. Accelerated strength tests by which a reliable idea about the potential 28-day strength can be obtained within a few hours are effective to control tools.

Advantages of Quality Control in Concrete

Quality Control means a rational use of the available resources after testing their characteristics and reduction in the material cost. 
  • In the absence of quality control at the site, the designer is tempted to overdesign, so as to minimize the risks. This adds to the overall cost. 
  • Quality Control reduces the maintenance cost 
  • In the absence of quality control, there is no guarantee that overspending in one area will compensate for the weakness in another 
  • Checks at every stage of the production of concrete and the rectification of the faults at the right time expedite the completion and reduce delay.

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