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Shrinkage of concrete from Drying
The common cause of cracking in concrete is shrinkage due to drying. This type of
shrinkage is caused by the loss of moisture from the cement paste constituent, which
can shrink by as much as 1% per unit length. Unfortunately, aggregate provides internal
restraint that reduces the magnitude of this volume change to about 0.05%. Upon
wetting, concrete tends to expand.
These moisture-induced volume changes are a characteristic of concrete. If the
shrinkage of concrete could take place without any restraint, the concrete would not
crack. It is the combination of shrinkage and restraint, which is usually provided by
another part of the structure or by the subgrade that causes tensile stresses to develop.
When the tensile stresses of concrete are exceeded, it will crack. Cracks may propagate
at much lower stresses than are required to cause crack initiation.
In massive concrete structure elements, tensile stresses are caused by differential
shrinkage between the surface and the interior concrete. The larger shrinkage at the
surface causes cracks to develop that may, with time, penetrate more deeply into the
concrete. Magnitude of the tensile stresses is influenced by a combination of factors:
Amount of shrinkage
Degree of restraint
Modulus of elasticity
Amount of creep
The amount of drying shrinkage is influenced mainly by the amount and type of
aggregate and the water content of the mix. The greater the amount of aggregate is, the
smaller is the amount of shrinkage. The higher the stiffness of the aggregate is, the
more effective it is in reducing the shrinkage of the concrete. This means that concrete
containing sandstone aggregate has a higher shrinkage rateabout twice that of
concrete containing granite, basalt, or limestone. The higher the water content is, the
greater is the amount of shrinkage from drying.

Surface crazing on walls and slabs is an excellent example of shrinkage from drying on a
small scale. Crazing usually occurs when the surface layer of the concrete has
higher water content than that of the interior concrete. The result is a series of
shallow, closely spaced, fine cracks.
Drying shrinkage can be reduced by using the maximum practical amount of aggregate
in the mix. The lowest water-to-cement ratio is important to avoid this type of
shrinkage. A procedure that will help reduce settlement cracking, as well as drying
shrinkage in walls, is to reduce the water content in concrete as the wall is placed from
the bottom to the top. Using this procedure, bleed water from the lower portions of the
wall will tend to equalize the water content within the wall. To be successful, this
procedure needs careful control and proper consolidation.
Cracking due to shrinkage can be controlled by using properly spaced contraction
joints and proper steel detailing. It may also be controlled by using shrinkage
compensating cement.