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Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30

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Performance of coconut coir reinforced hydraulic cement mortar for

surface plastering application
Navaratnarajah Sathiparan a,⇑, Miuru Nishanthana Rupasinghe b, Bhasura H.M. Pavithra b
Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Jaffna, Ariviyal Nagar, Killinochchi, Sri Lanka
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Ruhuna, Hapugala, Galle, Sri Lanka

h i g h l i g h t s

 Possibility of coconut coir for surface mortar reinforcement was investigated.

 Coconut coir in the mortar tends to slightly reduce bulk and dry density.
 Water absorption, porosity, sorptivity were increased with coconut coir fraction.
 The strength of mortar improved with additions of coconut coir up to 0.5% fraction.
 Presence of coconut coir improve post-crack behavior of mortar.

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This study was to investigate the effect of coconut coir on the strength and durability properties of
Received 25 November 2016 cement-lime surface plaster mortar. The purpose of adding coconut coir into the mortar was due to
Received in revised form 18 February 2017 coconut coir had a capacity in controlling cracking in the mortar. In this study, total 115 samples were
Accepted 9 March 2017
prepared which were 100 cubes (150 mm  150 mm  150 mm) and 15 beam prisms
Available online 17 March 2017
(100 mm  100 mm  500 mm). Testing was included; water absorption, porosity, sorption rate for
physical properties; acid attack resistance, alkaline attack resistance for durability properties; compres-
sion and flexural bending for strength properties. The samples were tested with mortar containing
Surface plaster
0.125%, 0.25%, 0.50% and 0.75% of coconut coir. The percentage of coconut coir fraction was calculated
Coconut coir based on the cement, lime, sand mix by mass. Test results show that, although compressive and flexural
Reinforcement bending strength are not improving, but post crack properties such as ductility, residual strength, and
Flexural strength toughness are increased with higher coconut coir fraction in the matrix.
Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction  Restoration: Surface treatment using shotcrete, Ferro cement,

Stitching and grout/epoxy injection, re-pointing with ordinary
Masonry is brittle materials that are stronger in terms of com- Portland cement, install/upgrade of wall/diaphragm connection
pression, while weaker in terms of shear and flexural bending. [5–8].
Because of masonry is a quasi-brittle material and it has not any  External reinforcement: Bamboo with the horizontal wire band,
significant post crack strength, once a crack initiates, the masonry Seismic Wallpaper, polymer plate bonding, jacketing, near sur-
experiences a sudden failure [1]. face mounted reinforcement [9–11].
Based on post-earthquake damage surveys [2–4], the major  Post-tensioning: Rubber tires [12], Steel bars [13].
types of masonry failure modes have been identified as in-plane  Mesh type reinforcement: Steel mesh [14], Polymer mesh [15],
diagonal cracking, out-of-plane wall collapse, separation of adja- Polypropylene band [16], Bamboo mesh [17], Plastic carrier bag
cent walls, differential settlement, torsional stress, and cracking mesh [18].
due to stress concentrations around openings.
Research done on this retrofitting method for masonry struc-
There are various reinforcement/retrofitting technologies had
tures shows that these methods have improved the seismic behav-
been developed. They can mainly categories as follows;
ior of the masonry structures. However, suitability of any
retrofitting technique should guarantee not only its efficiency in
⇑ Corresponding author.
terms of improvement of the seismic behavior of the masonry
E-mail address: (N. Sathiparan).
0950-0618/Ó 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
24 N. Sathiparan et al. / Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30

structure but also the procedure for retrofitting techniques for  Lime: Commercial grade hydrated builder’s lime.
masonry buildings should be as simple as possible to be applicable  Coconut coir: Locally available untreated coir, which average length is around
24 mm and diameter is around 20 lm. The geometrical properties of the coco-
in developing countries [19]. nut coir are shown in Fig. 1.
Therefore, In the last few years, more research focused toward
the application of Fibre Reinforced Polymer materials added sur- Sieve analysis and chemical composition analysis were carried out for each
face mortar as strengthening technic for masonry retrofitting. material, which is used for mortar. Particle size distribution curves of the materials
Due to their easy application and their favorable structural perfor- used for the preparation of mortar are shown in Fig. 2. Physical properties and
chemical composition are summarized in Table 1.
mances, it is a possible solution for retrofitting of masonry struc-
tures and especially low seismic region like SriLanka. Generally,
unreinforced cementitious matrices as a surface plaster for 2.2. Mix design
masonry only improve the appears, but not in structural behavior.
However, an inclusion of fibres in cementitious matrices is an The selected mortar, cement: lime: sand ratio was 1:2:8 by volume, which is
classified as a mortar designation (iv) in British standards. Volume proportions
improvement in the post-crack behavior. A wide variety of fibres were converted into weight for avoiding inaccurate measurement. Mortar mix
has been proposed by the researchers such as steel, glass, was incorporated with coconut coir fractions of 0.125%, 0.25%, 0.5% and 0.75%.
polypropylene, etc. [20,21]. The percentage of coconut coir fraction was calculated based on the cement, lime,
The other side, SriLanka as an agricultural country has many sand mix by mass.
For mortar mix preparation, the slump was previously set to 160 mm. Table 2
source natural fibres, such as coconut coir, banana fibre, sugarcane
summarized the material mix and amount of water required for achieving that
pulp, pineapple leaf. Most parts of the SriLanka, natural fibres such slump value. When a higher percentage of coconut coir was used in the mortar
as coconut coir is available as waste. So, here an attempt has been mix, the amount of water required increased dramatically. Past research results
made to investigate the possibility of reusing coconut coir waste revealed that an increase in fibre fractions significantly decreased the workability
for surface mortar reinforcement. Past studies have reported sev- of cement mortar [26,27]. In this experimental program, the slump was previously
set; the addition of coconut coir involved an increase in the required amount of
eral benefits of the incorporation of coconut fibres into concrete, water.
cement paste, cement: sand mix [22–24]. Coconut fibre in these
materials can enhance the ductility, flexural toughness, and energy
absorption capacity. A review of past studies indicates that in spite 2.3. Specimens preparation
of numerous researches done on coconut coir reinforced concrete,
Cubes with dimension 150  150  150 mm3 and beam prisms
little attention has been paid to evaluate the durability and 100  100  500 mm3 were prepared for control mortar and coconut coir added
mechanical behavior of coconut coir reinforced cement-lime- mortar. The three cubes were used to determine the density, water absorption rate,
sand mortar, which is commonly used for the surface plastering
work of masonry. There is little previous research about the effect
of coconut coir, incorporated into surface plaster mortars [23]. But,
study on durability and strength behavior coconut coir added sur-
face plastering mortar, still scarce. Therefore, this study was aimed
at understanding of the coconut coir effect on durability and
strength of surface plastering mortar by experimental programs.

2. Material and methods

2.1. Materials used

The aim of the experimental program was to investigate the mechanical and
durability properties of coconut coir added mortar, which can be used as surface
plaster. In this study, following materials used for mortar preparation;

 Cement: Ordinary Portland cement (OPC) as described in SriLanka standard

SS855 [25].
 Sand: Sand is the major constituent of the plaster mortar mix. River sand was
sieved to obtain the size range of 0.6 mm to 4.75 mm. The sand is free from
Fig. 2. Sieve analysis data for materials used.
organic matter, such as dirt, leaves, roots and humus.

Fig. 1. Geometrical properties of the coconut coir (a) length distribution; (b) diameter distribution.
N. Sathiparan et al. / Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30 25

Table 1 P
rC ¼ ð4Þ
Physical properties and chemical composition of material used. A

Cement Lime Sand where P is the maximum applied load; A is the area of bed face.

(a) Physical properties

2.4.4. Flexural bending test
Bulk density (kg/m3) 1362 750 1476
The flexural tensile strength of the cement mortar block was investigated by
Specific gravity 3.15 2.25 2.67
means of three-point bending tests. Three-point bending tests were carried out
Fineness 0.41 0.21 2.19
on three prismatic specimens for each normal and coconut coir reinforced mortar
(b) Chemical composition beam, according to the ASTM C1609 [32]. The specimens were
SiO2 19.21 5.62 100  100  500 mm3 in size. The cement block prism was placed over simply sup-
CaO 66.55 60.04 ports in a way to obtain a clear span of 400 mm, and a concentrated line load was
MgO 1.17 2.32 applied at the mid-span as shown in Fig. 3(b). Tests were performed through the
Al2O3 3.91 1.98 universal axial compression machine through displacement-controlled method at
Fe2O3 3.62 1.16 a displacement rate of 0.01 mm/s. The applied load and mid-span deflection was
SO3 3.23 2.13 measured by the testing machine load cell and stroke readings, respectively.
Na2O 0.40 0.34 Flexural tensile strength (rT) can be calculated by means of Euler–Bernoulli
K2O 0.39 1.35 beam theory of uniaxial bending as Eq. (5):

rT ¼ 1:5 2
sorptivity, porosity, acid attack resistance, and alkaline attack resistance, while five
cubes for compression strength and three beams for flexural tensile strength was where P is the applied load; l the span length; b and d are the width and depth of the
used. Specimens were cured for 28 days before testing. mid-span section respectively.

2.4. Testing 2.4.5. Acid and alkaline test

For acid attack test cement mortar cubes of size 150  150  150 mm3 were
2.4.1. Water absorption test prepared for control cement mortar and various percentages of coconut coir addi-
The water absorption tests were carried out for control cement mortar and tion. The cubes are cast and kept in curing for 28 days. After that, all cubes kept
those containing the different fraction of coconut coir. The mortar cubes were dried in the atmosphere for 2 days and cubes were immersed in 3% of H2SO4 acid solution
in a ventilated oven at 100 °C for 24 h. The weight of the mortar cube was then for 30 and 60 days as per ASTM C1152M-04 [33]. After 30 and 60 days of immersing
recorded as Wd. Then, the mortar cubes were submerged in water for 24 h. After in an H2SO4 acid solution, the cubes are taken out. The cubes were washed in water
mortar cubes were removed from the water, the surface water was wiped off and and kept in an atmosphere for a day for constant weight. The weight of the cubes
the weights of the mortar cubes were recorded as WS. The water absorption was taken, from which weight loss was determined.
(SWA) of the mortar cube was computed by Eq. (1): For alkaline attack test cement mortar cubes of size 150  150  150 mm3 were
prepared for control Cement mortar various percentages of coconut coir addition.
Ws  Wd Th test procedure was similar to the acid test except cubes immersed in 3% of NaOH
SWA ð%Þ ¼  100 ð1Þ
Wd solution as per ASTM C289-07 [34].

The porosity is calculated according to the ASTM C642-13 [28] by using the Eq.
(2); 3. Results and discussion
ðWs  WdÞ
Porisity ð%Þ ¼  100% ð2Þ 3.1. Properties of fresh mortar
ðWs  WwÞ

where Ww is the weight of the saturated specimen.

Water to binder ratio, slump flow, and setting are indicators of
the workability of fresh mortar. For mortar mix preparation, the
2.4.2. Sorptivity test
The sorptivity can be determined by the measurement of the capillary rises the slump was previously set to 160 mm and water to binder ratios
absorption rate, according to the ASTM CE1585-13 [29]. After dry the specimen by was measured for the particular slump. From Fig. 4(a), it can be
placing in an oven, the samples were placed in contact with the level of water cap- seen that the water to binder ratio for control mortar is 0.62 and
able of submerge them less than 5 mm height. The quantity of water absorbed in mortar with coconut coir contents of 0.125%, 0.25%, 0.5% and
the different time period was measured by weighting the specimen before and after
capillary. The sorption coefficient is defined by Eq. (3) [30];
0.75% are 0.76, 0.80, 0.89 and 0.95, respectively. As result shows
that higher levels of coconut coir content required a higher amount
Dw pffiffi
¼ s t þ I0 ð3Þ of water in order to achieve equivalent workability. In order to dis-
tribute coconut coir in the mortar uniformly and to improve work-
where Dw is mass gain due to capillary (kg), A is area exposed to the water (m2), q is ability, a greater amount of water is required.
the density of water (kg/m3), t is elapsed time (min), s is sorption coefficient (mm/ Flow table test is another method to measure the workability of
min1/2), and I0 is initial sorption (mm).
fresh mortar. Flow values of the mortar were tested according to
the BS EN 1015-3 [35]. As shown in Fig. 4(b), the flow value is
2.4.3. Compression test
The compressive strength of the cement mortar cube was evaluated through reduced with higher levels of coconut coir. It shows that the cohe-
universal axial compression testing machine under displacement controlled siveness of the mortar increases in addition of coconut coir
method, according to European standards EN 1926 [31]. Cement mortar cube was content.
150  150  150 mm3 in size placed between rigid plates of the universal axial test- The setting times of the mortar were tested according to BS EN
ing machine as shown in Fig. 3(a). The loading procedure was displacement-
controlled monotonic loading at a displacement rate of 0.01 mm/s.
480-2 [36]. The test results of the setting times of the mortar are
Compressive strength (rC) of the cement mortar cube was calculated by the Eq. shown in Fig. 4(c). Mortar with coconut coir content contents of
(4): 0.125%, 0.25%, 0.5% and 0.75% have the setting time of 231 min,

Table 2
Material mix and water requirement for mortar.

Coconut coir (%) Cement (kg) Lime (kg) Sand (kg) Coconut coir (g) Water /Cement & lime binder ratio
0.000 1.0 1.1 8.67 0.0 0.62
0.125 1.0 1.1 8.67 13.5 0.76
0.250 1.0 1.1 8.67 26.9 0.80
0.500 1.0 1.1 8.67 53.8 0.89
0.750 1.0 1.1 8.67 80.8 0.95
26 N. Sathiparan et al. / Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30

Fig. 3. Specimen dimension for material test (a) Compression test and (b) Flexural bending test.

Fig. 4. Properties of fresh mortar (a) water/binder ratio, (b) flow value, and (c) setting time.

228 min, 220 min and 215 min, which are shortened by 3 min,
6 min, 14 min and 19 min, in comparison to the setting time of
control mortar. It shows that there is not a significant effect of
the coconut coir on the setting times of mortar.

3.2. Density

The weight and volume of the control cement mortar cube and
those containing different percentages of coconut coir were mea-
sured. Fig. 5 shows the density of cement mortar with a variation
of coconut coir fraction. The level of variation is shown in the figure
by the error bars. The result has shown the density of coconut coir
reinforced (CCR) mortar is less than the control cement mortar. It is
also observed that both bulk and dry density of cement block has
decreased with an increase in the coconut coir fraction.

Fig. 5. Density variation of mortar with various coconut coir fractions.

3.3. Water absorption and porosity

Water absorption rate and porosity are shown in Fig. 6. These

results indicate that the mortar reinforced with 0.75% coconut coir 3.4. Sorptivity
has the highest water absorption rate and porosity whereas the
lowest values are given by the control mortar. Also, mortar with To determine the sorptivity coefficient, sorption rate per unit
coconut coir fraction observed more water than the control mortar area were plotted against the square root of time. The gradient of
because of the higher porosity. the line of best fit was defined as the sorptivity coefficient of
N. Sathiparan et al. / Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30 27

Olorunsogo and Padayachee [37] have suggested ranges for

sorptivity for recycled aggregate concrete, as 6 mm/h0.5
(0.77 mm/min½), 9 mm/h0.5 (1.16 mm/min½), 12 mm/h0.5
½ 0.5 ½
(1.55 mm/min ), and 15 mm/h (1.94 mm/min ) for excellent,
good, poor and very poor durability class. Based on this, mortar
with up to 0.5% coconut coir content shows the good durability
class range for sorptivity. Also, present experimental results are
consistent with another study on cement mortar with palm fibre
(Ozarkan et al. [38]) and suggest the that natural fibres to the mor-
tar, increases the water sorption capacity.

3.5. Compression behavior

Cement mortar specimen after the axial compression test is pre-

Fig. 6. Water absorption rate and porosity of mortar with various coconut coir
sented in Fig. 8. In the case of control mortar, when loading cracks
fractions. occur, due shear failure, the specimen breaks into small pieces as a
powder as shown in Fig. 8(a). But for coconut coir added mortar
brittleness was decreased. Therefore, during loading, the specimen
does not break into small pieces. Even for higher deformation, as
shown in Fig. 8(b), it does not break into pieces.
When coconut coir added to the cement mortar, following fac-
tors affect the compressive strength of the CCR mortar cubes;

 Cement content: when coconut coir added to cementitious

composites, it reduces the cement content percentage of the
overall mix. The purpose of the cement is to hold the other
materials together. Therefore, it leads to the reduction in com-
pressive strength of CCR mortar.
 Porous structure: A higher porous in mix leads to lower
strength cement mortar [39]. Increased in porosity with higher
coconut coir content lead to the reduction in compressive
strength of cementitious composites.
 Tensile resistance of coconut coir: Tensile stress developed in
material results in cementitious composites breaking [40].
Fig. 7. Sorption rate variation of mortar with various coconut coir fractions.
Coconut coir as fibres is better in strengthening the tensile
resistance and controlling cracking of cementitious composites
increase the compressive strength of CCR mortar [41].
cement blocks. Sorption rate of the cement blocks is shown in
Fig. 7. The initial sorptivity coefficient of the cement blocks ranges
As seen in Fig. 9, the compressive strength of CCR has little
between 0.708–1.493 mm/min½ and subsequent sorptivity coeffi-
increased in value with coconut coir fractions as compared with
cient range between 0.561–1.206 mm/min½. Similar to water
the control mortar. Higher compressive strength observed in 0.5%
absorption, sorptivity also increased with an increase in the coco-
of coconut coir fraction as 2.95 MPa, which is 5.7% higher than con-
nut coir fraction. The main factors that influence the water sorp-
trol mortar. When coconut coir fraction is increased to 0.75%, it
tion of the cement blocks are porous structure and an interfacial
shows the decreased in compressive strength. This due to difficult
zone around the particles. Results indicate that mortar with coco-
to mix homogeneously for cement mortar has a higher percentage
nut coir observed water faster and much quantity compare with
of coconut coir fraction. Therefore, compaction of cement mortar
control mortar.
becomes difficult and introduced voids in the mortar mix. How-

Fig. 8. Compression failure pattern of (a) control mortar cube and (b) CCR mortar with 0.50% coconut coir.
28 N. Sathiparan et al. / Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30

Fig. 9. The effect of coconut coir fraction on the compressive strength of mortar
cube. Fig. 11. Compressive fracture energy versus coconut coir content.

ever, for all the ranges of coconut coir fraction, the compressive
strength of CCR mortars varies within ±6% of control mortar.
Uniaxial compression tests were carried out on cement blocks
deriving the stress–strain curves in Fig. 10. Even though pre-peak
behavior looks like similar for all the cement mortar cases, post
peak behavior reveals significant variation in compression. The
addition of coconut coir tends to reduce the modulus of elasticity
by slightly. However, in the post-peak behavior, some of the stress
developed transfer through the coconut coir intersecting with the
cracks. Due to coconut coir provide enough force to withstand
the crack opening and instead crack widening it is distributing
the stress. Therefore, the presence of coconut coir reduces the
unstable crack propagation in cement composite matrix and intro-
duce a better distributed cracking. As a result, cement composite
with coconut coir behaves more ductile than that of the control
In Fig. 11, the effect of coconut coir content on the compressive Fig. 12. The effect of coconut coir fraction on the Initial and residual flexural tensile
fracture energy of the cement composite is presented. Compressive strength for CCR and control mortar.
fracture energy was directly computed as the integral of the post-
peak curve of the stress–displacement graph. For calculation, defor-
mation corresponds to 50% drop in peak strength is considered as with the control mortar. Higher flexural tensile strength observed
test end. The result shows the addition of coconut coir results in in 0.5% of coconut coir fraction as 1.07 MPa, which is 6% higher
greater energy absorption and improves post peak behavior. than control mortar. When coconut coir fraction is increased to
0.75%, it shows the 16.5% decreased in the flexural tensile strength
of CCR mortar.
3.6. Flexural bending behavior Flexural toughness is an important property for cement mortar.
Flexural toughness index is an effective benchmark for comparing
As seen in Fig. 12, the modulus of rupture of CCR mortar has the energy absorption of a specimen during its post-crack period
slightly increased in value with coconut coir fractions as compared with that before its pre-crack period. The flexural toughness index
was determined according to ASTM 1609 [32]. The toughness is
calculated from the total area under the load-deflection curve up
to a net deflection of 1⁄150 of the span length. Fig. 13 shows the
normalized toughness, which is the ratio of coconut coir reinforced
mortar toughness with respect to control mortar toughness.
Since the specimen surface was not perfectly flat, there was ini-
tial displacement before the load was actually applied to the spec-
imen. The initial displacement, which was defined as an interval
from the beginning of the test to the point at which linear load
increase was observed, was not used in the calculation of mechan-
ical properties. For all CCR mortar, the flexural ductility increased
with the coconut coir percentage, as shown in Fig. 14.

3.7. Resistance against acid attack

Fig. 15 shows the weight loss of control and CCR mortar of dif-
ferent percentage of coconut coir due to acid attack. As seen from
Fig. 10. Experimental stress–strain curves for cement block in compression. the figure, it could be observed that weight loss at the age of 30 and
N. Sathiparan et al. / Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30 29

Fig. 16. Weight loss in alkaline test.

Fig. 13. Normalized flexural toughness variation with the coconut coir fraction in
cement mortar.

However, for mortar with 0.50% coconut coir, the increase in

weight loss was less than 1%, a value that can be considered

3.8. Resistance against alkaline attack

Weight loss for control and CCR mortar due to alkaline tests
were presented in Fig. 16. From the results, it was observed that
weight loss at the age of 30 and 60 days gradually increased as
the percentage of coconut coir fraction increased. Maximum
weight loss of 0.72% at 60 days occurred for 0.75% coconut coir
fraction mortar, and whereas other CCR mortar and control mortar,
the weight loss is less than 0.5%, which can be considered as an
acceptable level.

4. Conclusion

Fig. 14. Flexural ductility variation with coconut coir fraction percentage in cement Plain surface plastering mortar (cement-lime-sand) is a brittle
material. To overcome the brittle response of the mortar, fibres
in mortar serve as crack arrestor which can create a stage of slow
crack propagation and gradual failure. Furthermore, natural fibres
offer exceptional mechanical properties, including high toughness
and flexibility, which enhance the ductility of relatively brittle
cement matrixes. This study has presented the experimental
results investigating the physical, mechanical and durability prop-
erties of coconut coir reinforced mortar. Experimental test results
can be summarized as follows:
The water/binder ratio of the mortar increased with the
increase in the coconut coir content. Flow value and setting time
decreased with increasing content of coconut coir in the mortar
The addition of coconut coir in the mortar tends to slightly
reduce bulk and dry density.
Water absorption, porosity, initial sorptivity and subsequent
sorptivity were increased with the addition of the coconut coir.
All these properties have increased due to problems in the mixing
Fig. 15. Weight loss in acid test. and the creation of fibres clusters and that leave voids and inter-
connected porosity inside the cement composite matrix.
The compressive strength of cement blocks improved with
60 days gradually increased as the coconut coir fraction in mortar additions of coconut coir up to 0.5% fraction, but a decrease in
increased. Also, it could be observed that there is not much weight 0.75% fraction compared to control blocks.
loss variation for control mortar and mortar mix with 0.5% coconut The flexural property results suggest that the presence of coir
coir fraction at the age of 30 days. However, it shows that the rate fibres in the cement, lime mortar promoted a significant increase
of increase in weight loss between 30 to 60 days was steep for in residual strength, toughness, and ductility, and also up to 0.5%
higher coconut coir fraction mortar. Especially, for mortar with fraction of coir fraction, little improvement in the flexural strength.
0.75% coconut coir fraction, it shows the higher weight loss of Durability against alkaline attack and the acid attack was
1.75%, which is almost three times higher than control mortar. reduced by increases in the fraction of coconut coir in the mortar.
30 N. Sathiparan et al. / Construction and Building Materials 142 (2017) 23–30

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