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3/1/2018 What are the strength tests?

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What are the strength tests that can be performed on concrete specimens, and how do they relate to
one another? My Locator (Organization, Product, Resource)

Flexural Tests | Compressive Tests | Splitting Tensile Tests | Correlation | Importance of Using Average
Strength | ACPA's Position on Strength

Flexural Tests

The concrete strength used in the design of concrete pavements is based on AASHTO Test Method T-97 or ASTM
C78, Flexural Strength of Concrete using a Simple Beam with Third-Point Loading (see Figure 1 below). These
flexural tests (also called Modulus of Rupture tests or Third-Point Loading tests) are performed using concrete
beams that have been cast and cured in the field, to mimic field conditions. For AASHTO thickness design, it is
important that the third point loading 28-day flexural strength be used use in the AASHTO equation. If the
strength values are measured using some other test method, it must be converted to the 28-day third-point

Figure 1. Third-Point Loading Flexural Strength Test

Some agencies use the center-point flexural strength test (AASHTO T-177 or ASTM C293) to determine their
concrete strength (see Figure 2). Center-point loading forces the beam to fail directly under the center of the
loading. This may or may not be the weakest point in the beam. In third point loading, the entire middle one-third
of the beam is stressed uniformly and thus the beam fails at its weakest point in the middle one-third of the beam.
By forcing the beam to fail at the center, the center-point flexural test results are somewhat higher than the third-
point test results. Typically, the center point results are about 15% greater. Though this relationship is not exact, it
does provide a reasonable estimate of the concrete's average strength.

Figure 2. Center-Point Loading Flexural Strength Test

Compressive Tests Be seen!

Many agencies use compressive strength of concrete cylinders or cores (AASHTO T-22 or ASTM C39) as an
alternative to flexural strength testing (see Figure 3). Click here or alternatively, contact

Jon Smith
National Sales Manager
Office: 972.402.7023 | Fax: 972-402-7035
Email: 1/4
3/1/2018 What are the strength tests?

Figure 3. Photo of Compression Test

Splitting Tensile Tests

Splitting tensile tests involve compressing a cylinder or core on its side until a crack forms down the middle,
causing failure of the specimen.

Figure 4. Diagram of Splitting Tensile Test


There are many papers, articles, and opinions on the correlation between the different strength test types, and
ACPA does not recommend any one test in particular. As for the correlation between the three test types, most of
the following equations can be used, noting that the variance in the coefficients and equations can be attributed to
regional, climatic, and material properties, among others.

Splitting Tensile Strength = Fst
Compressive Strength = Fc
Flexural Strength = MR (Modulus of Rupture), third-point loading (unless otherwise noted)

Source/Author Equation in psi (pounds per square inch)

ACI Journal / Raphael, J.M. MR = 2.3 * [Fc ^(2/3)]

Fst = 1.7 * [Fc ^(2/3)]

ACI Code MR = 7.5 * [Fc ^(0.5)]

Fst = 6.7 * [Fc ^(0.5)]

Center for Transportation Research / Fowler, D.W. Fst = 0.72 x MR

Center for Transportation Research / Carrasquillo, R. MR (3rd Point) = 0.86 x MR (Center Point)

Greer MR = 21 + 1.254 Fst

MR = 1.296 Fst

MR = Fst + 150

Hammit MR = 1.02 Fst + 210.5

Narrow & Ulbrig MR = Fst + 250

Grieb & Werner Fst = 5/8 MR (river gravel)

Fst = 2/3 MR (crushed limestone) 2/4
3/1/2018 What are the strength tests?
NOTE: When High-Performance Concrete is used, the above relationhips will not necessarily hold true. The HPC
mixes with very low w/c ratios tend to be more brittle and show different behaviors.

Additional Sources:

Raphael, J.M., "TENSILE STRENGTH OF CONCRETE," ACI Journal, Vol. 81, Number 2, Mar-Apr 1984 pp.
Popovics, S., "Strength and related properties of concrete: a quantitative approach", New York, 1998.
Grieb. W.E. and G. Werner, "Comparison of Splitting Tensile Strength of Concrete with Flexural and
Compressive Strength," American Society for Testing and Materials, Proceedings, Vol 62, pp 972-995, 1962.
Grieb, W.E., and Werner, G., “Comparison of the Splitting Tensile Strength of Concrete with Flexural and
Compressive Strengths”, Public Roads, V. 32, No. 5, Dec. 1962, pp. 97-106.

The Importance of Using Average Strength

The expected actual average 28-day flexural strength (S'c) of the concrete should be used in thickness design
procedures. Using the specified minimum construction strength will cause the design to be too conservative.
Therefore, it is necessary to correct the specified minimum strength to the design strength using the following

S'c = Sc + z(s)


S'c = Estimated average flexural strength

Sc= Specified minimum flexural strength
s = Estimated standard deviation of the strength
z = Standard normal deviate corresponding to the percent of results which can be below the specified

To use this equation, the designer must know or have estimate values of:

1. The percent of strength tests permitted below the specified level

2. The standard deviation of the strength tests.

The values for z are derived from basic statistics and are shown in the following table:

Values of the standard normal deviate (z) corresponding

to the precent of tests below the specified strength (Sc)
z Percent of specimens below the specified value
.841 20
1.037 15
1.282 10
1.645 5
2.327 1

The standard deviation (s) of the strength test results depends upon the variability of the concrete and accuracy of
the testing. Contractors generally use either central-mix or ready-mix plants to produce concrete. These plants are
capable of providing very uniform concrete. Historically, the standard deviation (s) for ready-mix concrete is about
7 to 13 percent of the average strength. The standard deviation (s) for central-mix concrete is from 5 to 12 percent
of the average strength. Generally, records of the standard deviation from past plant operations are available. The
following example demonstrates the above procedure to account for the average, in-field 28-day flexural strength.

Example: Suppose that you want to design a small street project. You know that several local operators supply
most of the concrete in your area using ready-mix concrete. You also know that you will specify concrete with a
minimum 28-day flexural strength of 550 psi (3.79 MPa) and your specification will permit 10 percent of the tests
to fall below that level. What strength do you use in the AASHTO design equation?

Step 1: Estimate the "s" using s = 9 percent of the flexural strength; or, call several ready mix operators to
determine the value. Since you do not know the actual average strength, use the specified value for S'c (it will be
fairly close). The value for s then becomes:
s = 0.09 (550)
s = 49.5 psi

Step 2: Estimate the design strength to use in the equation. Apply the correction for a 10 percent failure rate
(z: = 1.282)
S'c = 550+ 1.282(49.5)
S'c = 614 psi (4.22 MPa)

Note: The same principle applies if compressive strengths are used. The corrected compressive strength would be
converted to third-point flexural strength using any one of the relationships previously shown. In the example, 614
psi (4.22 MPa) would be the value to use in the design equations. For comparison, the average 28-day flexural
strength at the AASHO road test was 690 psi (4.76 MPa) third-point loading.

ACPA's Position on Strength Testing for Acceptance

In 1997, the members of the American Concrete Pavement Association gave their opinion on the preferred
methods of strength evaluation to use for acceptance of concrete pavement. To view this position paper, click here.

To learn more, follow...

Fundamentals of Strength
FATQ - How do I obtain high-early strength concrete?
FATQ - What are the tests that can be performed on fresh concrete specimens? 3/4
3/1/2018 What are the strength tests?

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