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Designing concrete for

exposure to seawater
Low permeability is critical

BY BRUCE A. SUPRENANT

ome bridge piles and piers ability will improve durability. concrete susceptible to more deteri-

S have lasted only 10 years in


seawater. And re p a i ri n g
marine structures is expen-
sive. Understanding how seawater
deteriorates concrete and carefully
Marine concrete can be grouped
into three exposure zones: sub-
merged, splash, and atmospheric.
The submerged zone is continuous-
ly covered by seawater, the splash
oration. Cracks, spalls, mortar ero-
sion, and corrosion stains are visible
signs of deterioration that causes in-
creased porosity and decreased
strength.
selecting a mix design can help en- zone is subject to continuous wet-
sure the maximum service life of ting and drying, and the atmospher- Mix design: Choose wisely
the concrete structure. ic zone is above the splash zone and Water-cement ratio. ACI 318-89
subject to occasional seawater spray. Building Code Requirements for
Marine environment Concrete in the submerged zone Reinforced Co n c re t e presents re-
Most seawaters are similar in isnt as vulnerable as concrete in the quired water-cement ratios for sul-
composition, containing about other two zones. But concrete in all fate resistance and corrosion protec-
3.5% soluble salts (chlorides and three zones is exposed to some of tion (Ref. 2). ACI 318 lists exposure to
sulfates) by weight. The pH of sea- the processes that cause damage. seawater as a moderate sulfate expo-
water varies from 7.5 to 8.4, ave ra g- And deterioration in any of these sure requiring a maximum water-ce-
ing about 8.2 (Ref. 1). Concrete ex- zones tends to increase the con- ment ratio of 0.45 by weight.
posed to seawater may deteri o ra t e c re t es permeability, making the For corrosion protection ACI re-
from the combined effects of chem-
ical and physical processes:
Sulfate attack
Leaching of lime (calcium hy-
droxide)
Alkali-aggregate expansion
Salt crystallization from alter-
nate wetting and drying
Freezing and thawing
Corrosion of embedded rein-
forcing or prestressing steel
Erosion and abrasion from
waves
Attack by most of these processes
is slowed by reducing concrete per-
meability. Low permeability helps
keep aggressive chemicals out of the
concrete, slows leaching of soluble
materials such as lime, and limits
the depth of carbonation, better
protecting reinforcing steel from Seawater causes both chemical and physical deterioration processes to
corrosion. Any design and construc- concrete. Choosing a high-strength, low-permeability concrete mix increases the
tion measures that reduce perme- service life of the concrete in a marine environment.
quires the maximum water-cement concrete exposed to seawater. High- for Co n c re t e. Wa t e r- reducing and
ratio to be 0.40 for concrete exposed quality pozzolan can provide many high-range water-reducing admix-
to seawater. Howe ve r, if the con- benefits: tures are commonly used to en-
crete cover is increased by 1/2 inch, Increased strength hance uniform cement distribution
ACI allows a slight increase in water- Reduced permeability and to provide workable mixes at
cement ratio to 0.45.ACI 357R-84, Reduced leaching low water-cement ratios.
Guide for the Design and Con- Fly ash, blast furnace slag, and sil- ACI warns that when two or more
struction of Fixed Offshore Concrete ica fume are the most common poz- admixtures are used, their compati-
St ru c t u re s (Ref. 3), recommends zolans used in concrete mixtures for bility with the cement and aggregate
maximum water-cement ratios that marine environments. A poz zo l a n should be tested. Also, to protect re-
are similar to those in ACI 318. ACI combines with the calcium hydrox- inforcing and prestressing steel
357 provides a maximum water-ce- ide and water in the mix to form from corrosion, no calcium chloride
ment ratio for the different exposure hardened cementitious products. or admixtures containing added
zones (Table 1). When severe degra- These hydrated products increase chloride should be used.
dation of the concrete is expected, a the strength and reduce the perme- Aggregates. Aggregates conform-
28-day compressive strength of ability of the concrete. Pozzolans al- ing to ASTM C 33 are acceptable for
6000 psi is recommended. so chemically combine with the use, as are marine aggregates that
Cement content. ACI 318 doesnt lime to form less soluble products, have been washed with fresh water
provide any cement content re- thus reducing the effects of lime to reduce the chloride ion content.
quirement that specifically relates to leaching. The total water soluble chloride ion
a seawater environment. ACI 357, The amount of pozzolan needed content of the concrete should not
howe ve r, recommends a minimum to improve the hardened concrete exceed 0.10% by weight of the ce-
cement content of 600 pounds per p ro p e rties va ri e s. The typical pro- ment for normal reinforced con-
cubic yard (pcy). If more than 700 portions used (by weight of cement) crete and 0.06% for prestressed con-
c re t e. The chloride ion content
contributed from the aggregate
must be less than that permitted for
the concrete.
Some engineers prefer limestone
aggregates to sandstones and quartz
aggregates (Ref. 4). The limestone
aggregate forms a stronger chemical
bond with the cement paste and has
a thermal coefficient of expansion
closer to that of the cement paste.
Because of these factors, they be-
lieve limestone aggregates provide a
more durable concrete product in a
marine environment.
pcy of portland cement are used, are: 15% to 20% of fly ash, 50% to
measures should be taken to mini- 70% of granulated blast-furnace It takes more than a good mix
mize cracking in thin members due slag, or 5% to 10% of condensed sil- A good mix design with the right
to thermal stresses. Partial replace- ica fume (Ref. 5). selection and proportions of ingre-
ment of the cement by a pozzolan or A i r- e n t raining agents. When dients is a good start to ensuring the
the control of concrete temperature f re eze-thaw durability is re q u i re d , concretes maximum service life. But
can reduce thermal cracking. both ACI 318 and ACI 357 recom- dont forget that other design and
Cement type. ACI 318 requires a mend air entrainment. The air con- construction practices can affect
Type II cement or a Type I plus a tent selected for the maximum strength, permeability, and durabili-
p oz zolan to resist the moderate sul- nominal aggregate size should cor- ty. Consolidation is one of the most
fate attack from seawater. ACI 357 respond to a severe exposure. High- important construction practices to
permits Type I, II, and III cement er air contents are required for con- control. A 10% reduction in consoli-
but recommends that the tricalcium crete containing aggregates with dation can reduce compressive
aluminate (C3A) content is between smaller nominal maximum size. strength by 50%, reduce bond by
4% and 10%. Chemical admixtures. ACI 318 75%, and increase chloride perme-
Poz zo l a n s. ACI 318 and ACI 357 and ACI 357 both allow the use of ability by 100% (Ref. 5).
allow the use of a pozzolan but it is chemical admixtures meeting the To control corrosion, maintaining
not required. Europeans commonly requirements of ASTM C 494, Speci- the required concrete cover over re-
include a high-quality pozzolan in fication for Chemical Ad m i x t u re s inforcing steel is also important. ACI
Properties, and Materials, 1986, Pren-
tice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632.
2. ACI 318-89 Building Code Re-
quirements for Reinforced Concrete,
Committee 318, American Concrete
Institute, P.O. Box 19150, Detroit, MI
48219.
3. ACI 357R-84 Guide for the Design
and Construction of Fixed Offshore
Concrete Structures, Committee 357,
ACI.
4. P. K. Mehta, Durability of Concrete
Exposed to Marine Environmenta
Fresh Look, Proceedings Concrete in
Marine Environment, SP-109, Second
International Conference, St. Andrews
by-the-Sea, Canada, 1988, V. M. Mal-
hotra, Ed., ACI.
357 provides recommendations for ticated so does in-place testing. Re- 5. D. Whiting, G. W. Seegebrecht, and
concrete cover in each exposure quirements for the in-place perme- S. Tayabji, Effect of Degree of Con-
solidation on Some Important Proper-
zone (Table 2). Design documents ability of offshore concrete struc- ties of Concrete, Consolidation of
also should show support systems tures built in the North Sea also Concrete, SP-96, Steven H. Gebler,
(chairs and spacers) needed for re- have appeared in other specifica- Ed., ACI.
inforcing steel so required cover is tions.
maintained during construction. If Although ACI currently doesnt
bars arent properly supported, they have a requirement for in-place per- Bruce A. Suprenant is a consulting
may move or deflect during con- meability, be prepared for future engineer, an associate professor at
crete placement, reducing the cover. specifications that require a mini- the University of Colorado in Boul-
Designers also may set maximum mum in-place permeability and der, and a contributing writer to this
limits on concrete cover during the testing to confirm it. Developing a magazine.
design phase. Thicker concrete cov- high-strength, low - p e rm e a b i l i t y
er promotes wider cracks that allow concrete mix is a good start to en-
more seawater penetration (Ref. 3). sure the maximum service life of the
concrete structure.
Be prepared to measure Publication # C910873
As concrete mixes and construc- References Copyright 1991, The Aberdeen
tion practices become more sophis- 1. P. K. Mehta, Concrete: Structures, Group. All rights reserved