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Title no. 96-S13

Effect of Corner Angle on Efficiency of Reinforced

Concrete Joints under Opening Bending Moment
by Hashim M. S. Abdul-Wahab and Shamil A. R. Salman

Results of an experimental investigation of the effect of the corner Table 1—Recommended reinforcement
angle on the strength and behavior of reinforced concrete corners percentages for different corner angles1
under opening bending moments are presented. Twelve specimens
divided into two groups with two reinforcement details and the Steel yield strength fy
Corner angle, Inclined
included angle varying from 60 to 180 deg were tested. From the deg 390 MPa 590 MPa reinforcement Remarks
results obtained, and from those reported by others, it was found Corner should be
60 ρ ≤ 0.75 ρ ≤ 0.05 0.5ρ
that the efficiency of the joint is significantly affected by the angle haunched
and is at its minimum when at 120 deg. Theoretical analysis using 90 ρ ≤ 1.2 ρ ≤ 0.8 0.5ρ
finite element method (FEM) confirms the same variation of the 135 ρ ≤ 1.0 ρ ≤ 0.65 0.5ρ
diagonal tensile stress concentration with the angle.
fcu = 29.4 MPa; 1 ksi = 6.895 MPa.

Keywords: corner joints; diagonal tension; efficiency; experimental study;

opening bending moment; reinforced concrete; ultimate strength. the stress distribution in the joint which indicates the need
for inclined bars (or splays) to resist the tensile force that
INTRODUCTION causes the initial crack at the inner angle of the corner. Also,
Reinforced concrete corners resisting positive bending some form of confinement reinforcement is needed to resist
moment which tend to open the corner are known to have low the secondary diagonal tension cracks that form in the upper
efficiency and special care is needed in their design. The effi- triangular portion. The occurrence of these diagonal cracks
ciency of corners is usually defined as the ratio of failure often causes failure of the corner. Various reinforcement
moment of the corner to the moment capacity of the adjoining details, with or without stirrups (ties) or inclined bars
members.1,2 Most of the experimental studies reported in the (splays) have been tested, and there is sufficient evidence to
literature, notably by Nilsson1,2 and others,3-9 were suggest that the most suitable detail for lightly reinforced
concerned with the effect of reinforcement layout, steel corners that results in the highest efficiency is the one that
content, and bar diameter on the behavior and efficiency, and combines the use of U-shaped bars with inclined bars.1,3-8
of knee joints (or right-angled corners). Limited tests on However, due to the scarcity of experimental results or
corner angles, other than 90 deg, were also reported by other guidance for the design of acute and obtuse angled
Nilsson1 on 60 and 135-deg corners and Wahab and Ali8 on corners that occur in structures such as in folded plates, bridge
145-deg corners. However, little attention has been given to abutments, water channels, and staircases, their design
the study of the effect of the corner angle, as an independent remains arbitrary. It has been suggested10,11 that the same
factor, on the efficiency of the joints. fundamental reinforcement detail may be used for such angles
From the available experimental data, there is a clear indi- in accordance with the same principles as applied to knee-
cation that corner efficiency is significantly reduced with an joints. The need for experimental data to clarify the effect of
increase in the steel ratio.1-9 From his test results, Nilsson1 corner angle on the behavior and efficiency of joints has
concluded that, to avoid failure of the corners, upper limits prompted the present study. In the test program conducted for
on the main reinforcement ratio p, as shown in Table 1, this purpose, a wide range of corner angles from 60 to 180 deg
should be observed for the 60, 90, and 135-deg angles. was considered using two common types of reinforcement
Inclined reinforcement, or splays, should also be provided to details consisting of U-bars with or without inclined bars or
control the initial flexural cracking and should be half the splays. Some additional data were also used from results of
main reinforcement. For the 60-deg corners, the inclined tests on joints with similar reinforcement details and compa-
reinforcement should be laid in a haunch, the size of the rable steel ratios reported by others.1,6-9 A theoretical analysis
haunch being at least one-half of the adjoining member of the stress distribution in the joints with various angles using
thickness. The given limits of maximum reinforcement the finite element method (FEM) is also included.
percentages may be interpolated for intermediate corner
angles and interpolated or extrapolated with regard to the RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE
yield strength for other steel qualities. This implies that a There is little information on the effect of the corner angle,
linear relationship is assumed between the corner angle and as an independent factor, on the behavior and efficiency of
efficiency for the range of angles tested, and the given limits reinforced concrete joints under opening bending moment. In
suggest that the 90-deg corners are the weakest. Similar
limits to those suggested by Nilsson were also recommended ACI Structural Journal, V. 96, No. 1, January-February 1999.
by Prakash10 and Holmes and Martin.11 Received April 2, 1997, and reviewed under Institute publication policies. Copyright ©
1999, American Concrete Institute. All rights reserved, including the making of copies unless
The choice of the most appropriate layout of reinforce- permission is obtained from the copyright proprietors. Pertinent discussion including
author’s closure, if any, will be published in the November-December 1999 ACI Structural
ment is derived from consideration of the flow of forces and Journal if the discussion is received by July 1, 1999.

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 1999 115

Table 2—Summary of specimens, details, and
ACI member Hashim M. S. Abdul-Wahab is Honorary Research Fellow in the Civil
Engineering Department, University of Brighton, UK. He received his BSc in civil and concrete properties
structural engineering from Birmingham University in 1962 and his MEng and PhD
degrees in concrete structures from Sheffield University in 1964 and 1967, respec-
Concrete com- Concrete ten-
tively. His research interests include joints and connections in concrete structures and Corner Reinforcement pressive strength, sile strength,
steel fiber reinforced concrete. Specimen angle, deg detail (Fig. 1b) fc′ , MPa ft , MPa

1 A1 60 U shaped, 33.40 4.00

Shamil A. R. Salman is senior structural engineer at Al-Idrisi Center for Engineer- detail (A)
ing, Baghdad, Iraq. He obtained his BSc in civil engineering from the University of
Baghdad in 1976 and his MEng in reinforced concrete structures from the University 2 A2 75 = 30.83 3.96
of Technology, Baghdad, in 1988. 3 A3 90 = 30.83 4.10
4 A4 120 = 29.0 3.96
5 A5 150 = 32.75 3.54
6 A6 180 = 30.00 3.96
U shaped +
7 B1 60 splay, detail 30.00 4.03
8 B2 75 = 29.70 3.20
9 B3 90 = 30.85 4.10
10 B4 120 = 26.10 3.00
11 B5 150 = 30.60 3.40
12 B6 180 = 32.83 3.46
Average 30.83 3.72
1 ksi = 6.895 MPa.

mens had the same reinforcement as the rest of the speci-

mens and were included to complete the range and to be used
as a reference for comparisons. All specimens were 300 mm
wide and 150 mm in total depth, with three-10 mm diameter
bars as the main reinforcement, the steel ratio being p =
0.68%. Nominal transverse reinforcement of 10 mm diam-
eter bars at 300 mm centers was provided to hold the main
reinforcement. For Group B, three 10-mm diameter inclined
bars were also provided near the inner angle of the corner.
All steel used was of the deformed surface type with a yield
strength fy = 467 MPa (67.7 ksi) and ultimate tensile strength
fu = 700 MPa (101.5 ksi).
The concrete was made with ordinary portland cement
(Type I), washed sand with a maximum size of 10 mm, and
coarse aggregate with a maximum size of 19 mm (0.75 in.)
The mix proportions by weight were 1:1(1/2):3 of
Fig. 1—Details of specimen and loading arrangement (1 in. = cement:sand:coarse aggregate. The water/cement ratio was
25.4 mm). 0.5. A horizontal pan mixer was used, and the specimens
were cast with their sides laid horizontally, using a steel form.
addition to the much-studied right angled or knee joint, a Control specimens of 150 x 150 x 150 mm (5.91 x 5.91 x 5.91
wide range of obtuse and acute angled corner joints in.) cubes, 150 mm (5.91 in.) diameter x 300 mm (11.82 in.)
frequently occurs in reinforced concrete structures such as cylinders, and 100 x 100 x 400 mm (3.94 x 3.94 x 15.76 in.)
folded plates, bridge abutments, water tanks, staircases, and prisms were also cast with each test specimen to determine
pitched roof portal. In this experimental study, corner angles the compressive and tensile splitting strength, modulus of
were varied from 60 to 180 deg using two commonly used rupture, and modulus of elasticity.
reinforcement details. Theoretical analysis using FEM and All specimens were tested at 28 days under pure positive
test results indicate that the efficiency of corners is signifi- (opening) bending moments using the basic loading arrange-
cantly affected by the corner angle, with corners of about 120 ment shown in Fig. 1. The load was applied gradually by the
deg showing the least efficiency. hydraulic ram system. Special concrete pedestals were incorpo-
rated in the specimens to facilitate the application of the loads
EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM and care was taken to insure free horizontal movement at the
Test specimen dimensions and reinforcement details are supports. Concrete surface strains at selected locations at the
given in Fig. 1 and Table 2. A total of 12 full-scale corner corner were measured using mechanical strain gages 200 and
specimens were tested to failure under symmetrically 150 mm in length (7.9 and 5.9 in.), and dial gages were used to
applied loads. They were divided into two groups, A and B, measure the vertical and horizontal displacements of the spec-
each consisting of six specimens with the corner angle imen, as shown in Fig. 1. The increase in corner angle under
varying from 60 to 180 deg. In Group A, only U-shaped rein- bending was also measured in all specimens. For this purpose,
forcement was used at the joint, [Fig. 1(b)]. In Group B, an inclinometer was used which was made up of a rigid steel
inclined reinforcing bars (splays) were added to the bent angle with two dial gages mounted 100 mm apart on one leg, the
reinforcement, as shown in Fig. 1(b). The 180-deg speci- second leg being fixed to the inside of one leg of the specimen

116 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 1999

Table 3—Test results
Corner angle, Cracking Failure moment Calculated ultimate Corner efficiency
Specimen deg moment, kNm Mut, kNm moment Muc, kNm Mut /Muc Type of failure
Diagonal cracking and flexural yielding of bars
1 A1 60 2.00 9.24 11.94 77.4 at joint
2 A2 75 2.00 7.53 11.88 63.4 Same as above
3 A3 90 2.24 7.47 11.88 62.8 Same as above
4 A4 120 3.00 5.80 11.83 49.0 Same as above
5 A5 150 3.30 7.60 11.92 63.7 Same as above
6 A6 180 0.54 10.04 11.86 84.6 Flexural yielding of bars at joint
7 B1 60 2.87 18.16 11.86 153.1 Diagonal cracking at joint
8 B2 75 2.13 12.93 11.85 109.1 Same as above
9 B3 90 2.30 11.58 11.88 97.5 Same as above
10 B4 120 3.15 9.00 11.74 76.6 Same as above

11 B5 150 3.30 15.90 11.87 134.0 Diagonal cracking at joint and flexural yielding
of bars outside joint
12 B6 180 3.78 19.79 11.93 165.9 Flexural yielding of bars outside joint
1 kip-in. = 0.113 kNm.

Fig. 2—Variation of strain with bending moment for

Specimen B4 (1 kip-in. = 0.113 kNm).
Fig. 3—Typical variation of strain profile along corner
as close as possible to the corner. The dial gages used had a diagonal (6-6) for Specimen B4 (1 kip-in. = 0.113 kNm).
minimum graduation of 0.002 mm.
As the test progressed, readings of the vertical and hori- members. One exception was Specimen B6, in which the
zontal displacements and strains were taken at each stage of first crack appeared on one of the adjoining members and
loading and the development and propagation of the cracks spread upwards.
were noted as well as the load at first crack and the mode of The strain variation in the joint parallel and perpendicular
failure. The control specimens were tested on the same day to the corner diagonal followed the expected pattern
as the corner specimens; only the results for the compressive obtained from theoretical analysis and those reported by
and tensile splitting strength are given in Table 2. earlier studies.1,8 Figure 2 shows typical strain variation with
applied moment for Specimen B4, and Fig. 3 shows the
EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS variation of the strain profile with moment along the corner
Behavior under load diagonal for the same specimen.
Table 3 gives the observed initial cracking moment, failure The influence of corner angle on corner deformation is
moment, and modes of failure as well as the calculated ultimate illustrated by its effect on the vertical and horizontal
moment capacity and efficiency of the specimen tested. The displacements as well as the angular alteration of the corner.
ultimate moment of resistance of the adjoining members, and Figure 4 shows the variation of the vertical displacement at
hence the corner efficiency Mut /Muc were calculated using the the joint with the applied moment for all specimens tested
ACI 318-89 code12 method for reinforced concrete sections. while Fig. 5 shows the variation in the average horizontal
In general, at the early loading stages, the specimens displacement. The vertical displacement measurements give
behaved in an elastic manner until the appearance of the first the total deflection of the specimen at the joint contributed
crack. The crack usually started at the inner angle of the by the bending of the two members, the increase in angle,
corner and extended upwards, branching off around the bent and the effect of the horizontal movement at the supports. It
bars, then running in the diagonal direction parallel to the is evident that the general stiffness of the corner specimens
inclined reinforcement towards the compression zones at the after the appearance of the first crack is significantly reduced
upper surfaces of the members. Diagonal tension cracks as the corner angle is increased from 60 to 120 deg (A4, B4),
within the bent reinforcement zone also appeared in some but the stiffness then increases as the angle increases up to
cases as well as some flexural cracks that appeared along the 180 deg. On the other hand, horizontal displacements within

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 1999 117

Fig. 4—Variation of central deflection with applied bending
moment for Groups A and B (1 in. = 25.4 mm; 1 kip-in. =
0.113 kNm).
Fig. 7—Increase in angle with applied bending moment for
Groups A and B (1 kip-in. = 0.113 kNm).

Fig. 5—Variation of average horizontal displacement with

applied bending moment for Groups A and B (1 in. = 25.4 mm;
1 kip-in. = 0.113 kNm).
Fig. 8—Effect of corner angle on increase in angle under
5 kNm bending moment (1 kip-in. = 0.113 kNm).

the elastic range were generally similar for all specimens, but
at the postcracking stage, the displacements were consis-
tently reduced with the increase in angle from its highest
value for 60 deg (A1, B1) to its lowest value for 150 deg (A5,
B5), the value for 180 deg being assumed to be zero. The
effect of the corner angle on vertical and horizontal displace-
ment is further illustrated in Fig. 6 for an applied bending
moment of 5 kNm (44.2 kip-in.).
Figure 7 shows the measured increase in corner angle in
radians with the applied bending moment. The increase in
angle was also significantly affected by the corner angle at the
post-cracking stage, the 120-deg corner specimens exhibiting
the highest increase. Figure 8 shows the variation in the
increase in the corner angle for an applied bending moment
of 5 kNm (44.2 kip-in.) for the full range of angles tested. The
results further confirm that the corner stiffness is least when
Fig. 6—Effect of corner angle on vertical and average hori- the angle is about 120 deg.
zontal displacement under 5 kNm bending moment (1 in. = With the exception of Specimen A6 and B6 (180 deg), all
25.4 mm; 1 kip-in. = 0.113 kNm). specimens failed after the formation of diagonal tension

118 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 1999

Fig. 10—Efficiency versus corner angle.

of specimens with inclined bars, Group B, was much higher

than that without the inclined bars, Group A, the ratio
varying from 1.55 for B3/A3 to 1.97 for B1/A1. However,
despite the significant improvement in efficiency due to the
added inclined bars in Group B, the variation in efficiency
followed the same pattern as for Group A and was below
100% when the angle was between 90 and 130 deg, the
lowest efficiency recorded being for the 120-deg corners. It
Fig. 9—Failure patterns for Group B. should be noted that the lower efficiency exhibited by the
120-deg corners may be due, in part, to the lower concrete
cracks that caused the upper portion to be pushed out, tensile splitting strength, as shown in Table 2, which precip-
coupled with the flexural yielding of the bars at the joint. In itates the diagonal tension failure. The adjusted efficiency
the 180-deg specimens, A6 and B6, as would be expected, values relative to the average concrete strength for each
failure was caused by flexural yielding of the bars either at group are also shown in Fig. 10.
the joint or just outside the joint region, as indicated in While further tests may be necessary for corner angles in
Table 3. It should also be noted that the inclusion of the the range of 90 to 140 deg to determine precisely the most
inclined bars in Group B helped to control and delay the critical angle, it is evident that the design of such corners
initial cracks on the inside of the corner and resist the sepa- should be made with special care, with attention being given
ration of the two members. Figure 9 shows typical crack and to the expected reduction in efficiency. The results also indi-
failure patterns for the specimens of Group B. cate that interpolation for the reinforcement quantity
between 60, 90, and 135-deg corners as suggested by
Efficiency and ultimate strength Nilsson would lead to overestimating the strength of the
Table 3 gives the ultimate strength and efficiency of the joints. There is no evidence of a linear relationship between
tested specimens. The results obtained for the efficiency of strength and corner angle to justify linear interpolation or
corners with different angles are shown in Fig. 10. Also extrapolation.
shown on the same figure are some experimental results
obtained from tests reported by other investigators1,6-9 on THEORETICAL CONSIDERATION
joints of 60, 90, 135, and 145 deg with similar reinforcement To study the effect of varying the corner angle on the stress
details and the nearest comparable steel ratios, which are distribution in the joint, a plane stress analysis by FEM was
summarized in Table 4. However, allowance should be made used.13 The six cases considered in this study were analyzed
for the variation in concrete strength, steel yield strength, and assuming the material to be linearly elastic with Poisson’s ratio
geometry of the specimens tested by others researchers, = 0.2 and the concrete strength values taken as measured. It
which have an important effect on the ultimate strength. For should be noted that the state of stress in corners calculated by
example, the higher efficiency values for the 90-deg corners the theory of elasticity is valid only before cracking occurs.
reported by Nilsson are due to the fact that the adjacent Nevertheless, the results obtained help to indicate the likely
members had different dimensions, the thickness being 250 locations for the tensile stress and clarify the variation of the
and 300 mm (9.8 and 11.8 in.). Tests have shown that the effi- stress concentration with the change in angle. Figure 11 shows
ciency is greatly improved when the thicknesses of the a typical example of the loading method and FEM mesh used
adjoining members were not the same.8 Also, diagonal for 60-deg corners.
tension failure, which was the common cause reported,
depends mainly on the quality and strength of the concrete. Variation of stress with corner angle
As shown in Fig. 10, experimental results show that the From experimental evidence, the most common cause of
efficiency of the corner joint decreased with the increase of failure in joints is due to diagonal tension cracks caused by the
the angle starting from 60 up to 120 deg, after which the effi- tensile stress parallel to the corner diagonal. For this reason the
ciency increased with the angle up to 180 deg. The efficiency stress distribution obtained from the FEM analysis along

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 1999 119

Table 4—Results of tests reported by other investigators
Specimen Corner angle, Steel ratio r, Efficiency,
Source reference deg percent fcu , MPa fy , MPa percent Inclined bars provided
V53 60 0.5 32.4 662.2 102 Yes with haunch
V54 60 0.48 30.7 684.2 103 Yes with haunch
UV5 90 0.75 32.9 422.3 114 Yes
UV6 90 0.75 28.6 412.5 115 Yes
UV7 90 0.75 33.25 415 123 Yes
Nilsson1 U24 90 0.75 39 432.1 87 —
U51 90 0.76 34.5 656.8 104 Yes
U59 90 0.76 26.4 696.5 72 —
V2 135 1.0 32.7 402.2 88 —
V11 135 0.66 30.8 662.2 99 Yes
V13 135 0.7 39.2 665.1 110 Yes
BD1 90 0.52 38 498 94 Yes
B1 90 0.59 53 433 91 —
7702 90 0.66 17.4 573 77 Yes
7704 90 0.58 22.1 564 100 Yes
A3 145 0.65 36.6 470 102 —
Wahab & Ali8
A4 145 0.65 37.9 470 139 Yes
A10-6 90 0.62 32 487 92 —
A12-4 90 0.61 46 543 65 —
1 ksi = 6.895 MPa.

Fig. 11—Finite element mesh for 60-deg corner. Fig. 12—Distribution of calculated diagonal stresses along
Axes (a-a) and (b-b) for 150-deg corner under bending
various axes perpendicular to the corner diagonal and parallel moment of 2 kNm (1 in. = 25.4 mm; 1 ksi = 6.895 MPa).
to the inclined reinforcement were considered. Fig. 12 shows
typical stress distribution for a 150-deg corner along two prin- some of those reported by others, is shown. The reduction in
cipal axes. The top axis, a-a, is at the apex of the bent reinforce- efficiency appears to follow the same pattern as the increase
ment where the secondary diagonal tension cracks usually in the diagonal tensile stress with the corner angle.
appear and tend to cause the upper portion of the corner to be It is recognized1,2 that the confining effect of the bent rein-
pushed off. Axis b-b is taken at middepth of the corner diagonal forcement tends to close the diagonal crack that may appear
where most of the specimens exhibited primary diagonal inside the loop, thus contributing to the effective resistance of
tension cracks leading to failure, as was shown in Fig. 9. the diagonal tensile stress. However, at a point just outside the
Figure 13 shows the variation in the maximum diagonal bent reinforcement along axis b-b, Fig. 12, the splitting
tensile stresses along the two selected axes, a-a and b-b, with tensile stress is not affected by the confining action of the
the corner angle. The diagonal tensile stress increased with bent bars and may be the point of a possible early formation
the corner angle between 60 and 120 deg, after which the of diagonal cracks that may extend and hasten the final failure
stress gradually decreased down to zero at 180 deg. On the of the joint. There may be no simple way to reinforce against
same figure, the reduction in efficiency for the specimens all tensile stresses that occur, and the ultimate strength of the
tested, taken relative to Specimens A6 and B6, as well as corner would, therefore, depend on the tensile strength of the

120 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 1999

Fig. 13—Variation of calculated maximum diagonal tensile stress with corner angle under
bending moment of 2 kNm in comparison with observed reduction in efficiency (1 ksi =
6.895 MPa).

concrete. One possible solution that needs investigating is the ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

use of steel fiber reinforcement in the joint to enhance the The experimental work reported in this paper was conducted at the
Building and Construction Engineering Department, University of Tech-
tensile resistance of concrete. The variation of the tensile nology, Baghdad. The authors gratefully acknowledge the facilities made
stress at this location with the corner angle and the reduction available and the valuable help and assistance of the technical staff of the
in efficiency followed the same pattern as the maximum department.
stress shown in Fig. 13.
It is worth noting that in a recent study, Jackson9 suggested REFERENCES
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ACI Structural Journal/January-February 1999 121