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Effects of formwork on concrete

Many kinds of
interaction between
concrete and formwork
combine to affect the
quality of the product

Pressure on formwork
Freshly placed concrete exerts
h yd rostatic pressure laterally on the
f o rm s. This pressure is not affected
by the length and width of the form-
work but only by the height of the
concrete placed. The pressure at a
given depth is the same in all direc-
tions and acts perpendicularly to
the surfaces that are containing the
fresh concrete.
Pressure increases within the
forms as the height of fresh concrete
increases except that when the con-
crete sets it ceases to transmit fur-
ther pressure from above. Fo rm s
may have deflected or bulged at a
given level because of concrete
pressure. When the concrete at this
level hardens the forms will not
bulge further but neither can they
return to plane.
Offsets, deflection and tie marks produced from poor-forming materials,
leave an unsightly wall or require costly finishings Temperature affects formwork
The rate of hardening of concrete
F o rm w o rk and the way it is used
and handled affects the quality
of the concrete and the concrete
all differences in concrete surface
appearance that are sometimes at-
is of course more rapid at high tem-
peratures and slower at low temper-
tributed to the forms, howe ve r, are a t u re s, so the head of unhardened
finish. Some of the bad effects that
actually caused by them. They may concrete in the form will vary with
forms can potentially have on the
be caused by differences in con- the weather. When concreting at
surface are obvious—bad form
crete workability, the use of admix- low temperatures it is possible for
joints, offsets or poor facing mater-
t u re s, concreting temperature or very high hydrostatic heads to de-
ial—but others are not so common-
concreting practices. velop because great amounts of
ly understood or appreciated. Not
concrete can be placed before the
first concrete begins to set. For this
reason most form manufacturers
publish recommendations on
placement rates for use at va ri o u s
In cold weather the use of proper
heating and insulating equipment
not only serves the primary func-
tions of protecting against damage
from freezing and establishing an
acceptable rate at which strength is
gained but also reduces pre s s u re s
on formwork by causing earlier set-
ting. The forms should be kept in
place as long as required before
In hot weather the problem is dif-
With one side formed full height, the opposing side is
ferent. To overcome rapid slump formed as the concrete is placed This keeps the trades
loss at high temperatures some peo- working, avoids high drops of concrete and eliminates
ple are inclined to soup up the mix pouring pockets.
with additional water, often in viola-
tion of good practice. An increase in
slump has the effect of transmitting
a higher pressure to the formwork.
Reinforcing steel also has an ef-
fect on pressure by increasing the
bridging action within the concrete
and reducing the load on the forms.
Large numbers of small bars have
more effect than fewer large ones.
The maximum pressure on the
f o rm w o rk, in pounds per square
foot, can be roughly approximated
by multiplying the head of fresh
concrete, in feet, by 150. It is impor-
tant to be sure that the concrete Joints can be concealed by using rustication strips at
placed does not create pressure in the form joints. These also conceal tie holes and of ten
excess of what the forms and ties are predetermine crack location in the depression left by the
known to be capable of standing. rustication strips instead of the face of the concrete.
Otherwise a breakout may occur or
forms may deflect to produce a pil- pact pressure likely to be. Forms and operation follows close behind. The
low effect on the surface of the con- ties should be of sufficient strength method not only avoids long drops
crete. to withstand these impact loads and but also makes placing and vibrat-
the rate of placing should not be ing easier and keeps all crews busy.
Placing greater than their safe load capaci-
The effects of impact during plac- ty. Vibration
ing can vary depending upon the The height of drop of fresh con- Consolidation of concrete by in-
height of the forms or the height of crete can be reduced by the use of teral vibration causes temporary lat-
the drop. Placing concrete into elephant trunks or tremies. Another eral re s s u re s. Information on their
forms of small height will have low method is to erect forms and place magnitude is limited. Care should
impact, but on higher walls the in- simultaneously. One side is usually be taken not to damage or break any
coming concrete will apply force to formed to its total height while the of the ties while vibrating because
the plastic concrete already in place second or opposing side is initially this would transfer more load to the
which will transmit this added pres- built only to the height of the first other ties and load the forms un-
sure to the forms. The faster the rate lift. As the placing starts the next lift evenly. External vibration with form
of placement the greater is the im- of forms is erected and the placing vibrators increases loads on forms
even higher and causes fluctuation therefore be located without much
of lateral pressures. t ro u b l e. A form should be made of
The forms, in turn, affect the vi- proper height so that little excess
bration. Wood forms tend to absorb form is used. Suppose that a con-
vibration but steel forms tend to re- struction joint occurred at a height
flect the vibrations and bounce of 17 feet nine inches. Two eight-
them back. foot forms plus a three-foot form
could be used, leaving the joint one
Form joints foot three inches down from the top.
One of the most important mat- Or, two eight-foot forms plus a two-
ters of forming and concrete place- foot-wide form set hori zo n t a l l y
ment is the way joints in both the would bring the height to 18 feet,
forms and the concrete are treated. leaving the joint down only three
Both require care and close inspec- inches. Since most pre f a b ri c a t e d
tion. On exposed or arc h i t e c t u ra l systems are designed for ties on
concrete, their presence is of prime one-foot increments, this would
importance. leave the top tie one foot down on
On job-built forms, which are the form, or nine inches below the
harder to maintain in good condi- concrete construction joint. The last
tion than factory-built, the form row of ties should actually be closer
joints must be straight, clean and to the joint than this and they ordi-
tight. This is rather hard to do since narily can be if properly planned.
as the forms become older, the ply- Prior planning for the finished When the first placement of con-
wood edges take a large share of appearance is evident here, crete is being completed any irregu-
abuse and the corners become do- where the tie holes were left larities should be removed and a
unfilled and rustications used to
geared, making it extremely hard to straight, level line maintained. The
conceal form joints providing a
obtain a flawless finish with clean surface of the first lift must be clean,
pleasing pattern in the concrete.
joint lines. Where big gang sections free of loose particles and made just
are used the problem is reduced rough enough for the next lift to
since the edges are not exposed to provide a suitable pattern. The rus- bond properly.
rough treatment. The surface must tications will also help conceal tie
be kept free of nail holes or protrud- Vertical construction joints
marks and obscure the patching of
ing nails, sawdust or any foreign the tie holes. Another important Vertical construction joints re-
matter. feature of their use is that if cracks quire much of the same care and
The marks left on concrete by develop later they tend to fall with- treatment. Wherever concreting is
form joints vary with the forming in the rustications where they are to stop, a bulkhead is used just in-
material. Plywood ordinarily leaves less noticeable. side the last opposing forms. If pos-
a single line. Forms in which the ply- sible, the last form or two, depend-
wood is encased by steel can leave a Horizontal construction joints ing on the type of form used, can be
doubleline joint. This is no more Concrete construction joints, left in place, the bulkhead removed
troublesome than a single-line joint both vertical and horizontal, require and the forming continued. This
since both require finishing if the planning in the construction of provides a good tight form surface
surface is to be exposed . formwork. With job-built forms us- if forms can be left undisturbed.
Prefabricated forms, either steel ing plywood sheets, it is essential to Metal or rubber waterstops can
or plywood, produce single-line plan tie or anchor locations so that be bent back into the bulkhead and
joints of varying quality. If the forms they fall just below where the con- then straightened out or can be cut
become bent or damaged it is diffi- struction joint will be. In the next lift through the bulkhead itself.
cult to restore them to their original a tie should be located above this It is important to locate a vertical
plane state. joint. The face of the forms must be row of ties as close as possible to
One method of treating form held tightly to the concrete already where concreting stops or just be-
joints is to tape them. Another is to set to prevent any offsets and to pre- fore the bulkhead. This helps hold
use rustication strips and thereby vent leakage, which causes staining the forms in alignment and pre-
create a surface feature that hides or discoloration. vents offsets.
the joints. Prefabricated forms simplify the
The rustications can be V-shaped, Release agents
choice of form sizes so that form
U-shaped, beveled or rectangular joints are located very close to con- The form oils or other release
but they should be so located as to crete construction joints. Ties can agents used with forms have an im-
portant influence on the concrete out by exposure to air and sun be- from any corners, projections or re-
s u rf a c e. Seldom do discoloration fore use. Oiling is also necessary be- cesses as these require working
and blemishes occur in isolated ar- tween uses to help tighten joints, room and extra care. A wooden
eas but when they occur it is usually provide a better finish and make wedge can be placed between the
over a whole wall. The difficulty may stripping of forms easier. form and surface and tapped lightly
persist throughout the job, partly Reuse of forms with high ab- to free the form. Ha m m e ri n g
depending upon reusage of forms. sorbency is a questionable practice against the face of forms will leave
The type of blemish may, howe ve r, since some become too nearly satu- marks in them and cause blemishes
vary as the job progresses because rated and begin to affect the color in the concrete the next time the
form materials begin to react differ- of the concrete. Materials with a forms are used.
ently with reusage, exposure to the plastic surface provide more con- Finishing of concrete can require
weather and the practices for apply- stant and predictable treatment of many different treatments. The
ing form release agents. the concrete surface. Proper care most common treatments are
Every form material reacts differ- and coating with form release mate- grinding of fins, patching tie holes
ently with form oils or other form rials can increase their life potential. or honeycomb and correcting other
release agents and its behavior may Steel-faced forms produce uni- surface defects. Tooling or painting
change between the first use and form color, but sometimes cause a surface can be done to produce
subsequent reuses. Careful selec- blowholes to form in the concrete uniformity.
tion of form release agents should during vibrating. Rust-inhibiting
be made for the surface finish de- oils should be used on steel-faced
sired. Where the surface is critical, forms to avoid discoloration from
complete testing should be con- iron oxides.
ducted under the conditions ex-
pected. It is much more economical Form removal and finishing
to correct problems found by When forms are being selected
pretesting than to correct them after thought should be given to the ease
the job has been started and a large with which they can be stripped.
investment has been made in mate- Although the forms must remain
rials that can’t be used. in place until the concrete has at-
tained sufficient strength, prompt
Form Materials removal of forms is best where the
Forms made of absorptive mater- surface will require treatment.
ial must be saturated with water pri- Crowbars or other objects with
or to use so that the fresh concrete sharp edges or points should not be
does not cause the form to swell up- used against the concrete to loosen
on contact. Saturating the wood or the forms. A flat object or wedge is PUBLICATION #C730429
other absorptive material may have best, so as not to mar the finish. Copyright © 1973, The Aberdeen Group
to be repeated if it becomes dried Stripping should be started away All rights reserved