This research is focused on evaluating the crack widths and crack splash zone as well as exposure to seawater and sea spray.
properties of thick two-way slabs and plates used for offshore and The design of offshore and nuclear containment structures is
nuclear containment structures. The crack width depends on the controlled by mandatory design codes to ensure structural
quantities, orientation, and distribution of reinforcing steel across safety and integrity. The main objective of this study is to
the crack and characteristics of the bond between the concrete and
investigate the cracking criteria for concrete two-way plates
reinforcement bars in and near the crack. The maximum crack
width that is considered acceptable depends on the type of structure, and develop a rational numerical model to predict the
location within the structure, environment, and consequences of crack width of concrete plates under flexural sustained
excessive cracking. service loads.
A comprehensive experimental and analytical investigation is
presented in this work. The numerical investigation will focus on PREVIOUS RESEARCH
the available code prediction models for estimating the crack AND EXISTING FORMULAS
width of concrete plates. The investigation will focus on the The width of the crack depends on the quantity, orientation,
suitability of available crack width expressions for thick concrete and distribution of reinforcing steel crossing the crack. It
plates used for offshore concrete structure applications and also depends on the deformation characteristic of the concrete
nuclear containment structures. and the bond between the concrete and reinforcing bars.
The experimental work included the investigation of the cracking An extensive statistical research analysis was reported by
behavior, such as examining the effect of increasing concrete cover Geregely and Lutz (1968) of the maximum crack width data
and bar spacing on crack width properties. The crack widths were from a number of sources. The recommended equations are
measured electronically for three series of specimens. The test
results were tabulated to compare test results with the available
considered to best predict the maximum bottom and side
code expressions for calculating crack widths. The tension chord crack width as follows
method was modified to predict the crack width for two-way plates
under flexural loading. –3
w b = 0.091 3 t b A β ( f s – 5 )10 (in.) (1)
Keywords: crack width; high-strength concrete; normal-strength concrete;
offshore concrete walls; reinforced concrete; two-way slabs.
0.091 3 t b A –3
- ( f s – 5 )10 (in.)
w s = ------------------------- (2)
INTRODUCTION ts
1 + -----
Flexural members, such as beams and slabs, represent the h1
majority of structural elements. In general, concrete can
handle compressive forces very effectively. However, where wb and ws are the most probable crack widths at the
concrete cracks under tension forces. Cracks play an bottom of the beam and level of reinforcement, respectively
important role in concrete’s response to load in both (in.); fs is the reinforcing steel stress (ksi); A is the effective
compression and tension. Moreover, there are extra internal embedment concrete area symmetric with reinforcing steel
forces and stresses that will be developed due to temperatures and divided by the number of bars; tb is the bottom cover to the
shrinkage. If such cracks are too wide, it will destroy the center of the bars (in.); ts is the side cover to the center of the
aesthetics of the structure and cause a significant reduction bars (in.); β is the ratio of the distance between the neutral
in the flexure stiffness of the structural member. axis and the tension face to the distance between the
Cracks may expose bars to the environment, causing neutral axis and the reinforcing steel; and h1 is the distance
corrosion of steel. To protect the structural members from from the neutral axis to the reinforcing steel (in.).
these effects, cracks should be minimized to acceptable
limits under normal service loads. Adequate design and ACI 318 Code
satisfactory reinforcement details are required to limit the A recent study by Frosch (1999) showed that Eq. (1) and
crack width in a concrete offshore structure. Many methods (2) are valid for a relatively narrow range of covers up
have been suggested to control cracking in a marine structure. to 63 mm (2.4 in.). Hence, Frosch’s expression provides a
Most of them, however, are merely empirical rules resulting new equation based on the physical phenomenon for
from observations or testing. Furthermore, there is no determination of the flexural crack widths of reinforcing
agreement on the crack width that should be permitted for concrete members. Section 10.6 in ACI 318-05 (ACI
different types of structures. Hence, the accurate prediction
of crack width is not possible yet.
ACI Structural Journal, V. 107, No. 3, May-June 2010.
RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE MS No. S-2008-182.R3 received May 22, 2009, and reviewed under Institute publication
policies. Copyright © 2010, American Concrete Institute. All rights reserved, including the
Concrete offshore structures are exposed to harsh making of copies unless permission is obtained from the copyright proprietors. Pertinent
discussion including author’s closure, if any, will be published in the March-April 2011
environmental conditions, including their existence in the ACI Structural Journal if the discussion is received by November 1, 2010.
wk = 1.7wm (5)
wm = rε1Srm (6)
Crack width
The crack width was measured at each load stage. It was
important to record the crack width at the serviceability
limit. The crack width measurement at the ultimate load,
however, was not structurally significant. The crack width at
the serviceability limit was reported for all specimens, as
Fig. 9—Crack width versus steel strain for Specimen NSC1. given in Table 2. The opening of the crack width was plotted
(Note: 1 mm = 0.0394 in.) versus the steel strain up to the ultimate load, as shown in
Fig. 9 through 13. All measurements reported in Table 2
were taken at the serviceability level at a steel stress level of
250 MPa (equivalent to 0.625fy). All the results of the crack
width prediction equations by different codes presented in
this paper are also reported in Table 2.
In general, the crack width increases as the load and the
deflection is increased. This increase, however, was not very
smooth due the nonlinear behavior of concrete. It was
evident that the crack width versus steel strain was represented
by one straight line up to an average steel strain of 0.001 to
0.0015 for all the specimens. The relation between steel
strain and crack width curve, however, tended to behave
nonlinearly after the steel strain reached a value of 0.0018.
For Specimen NSC2, the crack width continued to increase
after the steel strain reached the yield point, which was an
expected behavior for a slab that failed in pure flexure.
The widths of the primary cracks were examined in the
first two series to determine the effect of reinforcement
Fig. 10—Crack width versus steel strain for Specimen HSC1. spacing and concrete cover. The data showed that as the
(Note: 1 mm = 0.0394 in.) concrete cover increased in Series I, the crack widths became
Fig. 12—Crack width expansion versus steel strain for Fig. 14—Comparison of maximum crack width for Series I.
Specimen HSC4. (Note: 1 mm = 0.0394 in.) (Note: 1 mm = 0.0394 in.)
σ cm τ b s rm ρ ef
ε cm = --------
- = -------------------
- (12)
Ec E c d be
Fig. 15—Comparison of maximum crack width for Series II.
(Note: 1 mm = 0.0394 in.) where τb is the bond stress at the steel-concrete interface
(MPa); dbe is the nominal diameter of the tensile reinforcing
bar (mm); Srm is the average crack spacing (mm) from
Eq. (7); ρef = Ast /Act is the effective reinforcement ratio (Ast
is the ratio of tensile reinforcement area to concrete area
[mm2] and Act is the ratio area to the area of the effective
concrete in tension to concrete area [mm2]); εcm is the
average concrete strain; σcm is the average concrete stress
(MPa); εsm is the average steel strain; Act = hef b (mm2); Ec
is the modulus elasticity of concrete (MPa); Es is the modulus
elasticity of steel (MPa); M is the applied service moment
(N.mm); kd is the distance from surface to locate the neutral
axis (mm); and h is the effective embedment thickness (mm).
and load history. Several experimental and theoretical The average crack width at the extreme concrete surface was
investigations were conducted on the behavior of bond for
normal- and high-strength concrete. Marti et al. (1998) f h – kd τ b S rm ρ ef
estimated that the bond stress τb is approximately twice the w m = S rm ⎛ ----s- ⋅ ---------------⎞ – -------------------
- (15)
⎝ E s d – kd⎠ E c d be
concrete direct tensile strength fct at the service load.
Gilbert (2005) indicated that bond stress τb is reduced as
the stress in the reinforcement is increased and proposed where h is the total member thickness (mm); dbe is the effective
the following equation depth (mm); fs is the stress in the steel reinforcement at the
end of the serviceability limit (MPa); kd is the distance from
τb = α1α2 fct (MPa) (13) surface to locate the neutral axis (mm); and h is the effective
embedment thickness (mm).
where α1 depends on the steel stress at crack; α2 is for short- The maximum crack width recorded during each experiment is
or long-term calculations; and fct is the direct tensile strength presented in Table 3 along with the numerical predictions of
of concrete (MPa). the modified tension chord assumptions (MTCA). The
The experimental results of a previous investigation on results of the modified tension cord method are plotted
direct tension test and fracture energy (Marzouk and Chen graphically in Fig. 16 and 17.
1995) and bond test results (Alavi-Fard and Marzouk 2004)
indicated that τb = (1.5 – 2.0)fct at the cracking serviceability SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
limit. Gilbert (2005) recommended using τb = (2.0fct) for The experimental and numerical results can be summarized
short-term calculation and τb = (1.0)fct for long-term calculation as follows:
in determination of the final maximum crack width due to 1. The experimental results indicated that the relationship
creep and shrinkage. The Alavi-Fard and Marzouk (2004) between steel strain and crack width on the tension face is
bond study on high-strength concrete, over 60 MPa (8700 psi), approximately linear up to values that range from 1000 με to
revealed that the bond stress is more appropriately 1800 με of the steel strains. All crack widths were measured
proportional to the cubic root and the bond stress at the experimentally at the serviceability steel stress level of
serviceability limited can be approximately estimated to be 0.625fy (250 MPa [36.25 ksi]).
τb = (1.65)fct for instantiations loading including the effect of 2. The test results of reinforced concrete slabs indicated
temperature and shrinkage. The study also recommended that the concrete cover had a major effect on the crack width,
that the square root of the compressive strength approach and the bar spacing had less of an effect on the crack width
adopted by CSA-S474-04 and ACI 318-05 does not provide size at the serviceability limit. In general, the calculated
a good prediction of the bond strength for the high-strength average crack width was lower than the experimental test results.
concrete. The bond strength of high-strength concrete, over 3. The comparison between different code predictions, as
60 MPa (8700 psi), is more appropriately proportional to the shown in Table 2, indicated that ACI 318-05, CSA-S474-04,
cubic root. All of the European codes recommend that the and NS 3473 E estimates can provide a reasonably close
tension and bond strength of concrete be proportional to the prediction for the crack width of concrete structure members
power of 1/3, while both CEB-90 and NS-92 recommend the with different bar spacing. The effect of concrete cover on
use to the power of 2/3 of the compressive strength. thick concrete members, however, can be improved.
4. A modified numerical model based on the tension chord
Estimate of average steel tensile strain εsm method is recommended for calculating the maximum crack
in tension chord width. The proposed theoretical model allows designers to
Due to the low tensile strength of concrete, cracking in specify concrete covers and reinforcement ratios during the
concrete structures starts at an early stage of loading. For crack design process to control the flexural crack width to an
width analysis, the serviceability limit state governed the crack acceptable limit. The proposed model can be suitable for
width calculations and the stress in steel reinforcement fs was thick high-strength concrete structures with large concrete
selected as the serviceability limit. This value was considered as cover, such as offshore and nuclear containment structures.
the end of the serviceability limit after which the concrete
material behaved nonlinearly. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The strain at the concrete surface on the tension concrete The authors are grateful to the Natural Sciences and Engineering
face where the crack width was measured was calculated using Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for providing the funds for the
project. Sincere thanks are due to M. Curtis, S. Organ, D. Pike, and the
technical staff at the Structural Engineering Laboratory at Memorial
f h – kd
ε sm = ⎛ ----s- ⋅ ---------------⎞
University of Newfoundland for their assistance during the preparation and
(14)
⎝ E s d – kd⎠ testing of the specimens. Sincere thanks are extended to Capital Ready Mix
Ltd., Newfoundland, for providing the concrete for this project.