Placing & Compacting Concrete

Placing concrete Compacting concrete Vibration Taking care of vibrators Compaction queries Conclusion













Placing & Compacting

The placing and compacting of concrete, although they may seem fairly simple jobs, are not tasks to be undertaken in a haphazard manner. They are a vital part of the concreting sequence. Forethought, careful planning and attention to detail are absolutely essential if the project is to be a success. In this article we will tell you how to carry out these operations correctly. We give information and advice on the use and maintenance of poker vibrators, beam vibrators and clamp-on external vibrators. However, Specialised techniques such as placing underwater, handling prepacked concrete and the paving of roads and runways, are not dealt with. Because placing and compaction are carried out at more or less the same time, and are interdependent, they are often thought of as being one and the same job. Here, though, we have treated them separately in order to explain more fully the different techniques that are involved. We end by advising on typical everyday situations that emphasise the need for the operations to be considered together.

Placing & Compacting

The aim of good concrete placing can be stated quite simply. It is to get the concrete into position at a speed, and in a condition, that allow it to be compacted properly. If you proceed too slowly, the mix could stiffen so that it is no longer sufficiently workable. On no account should water ever be added to concrete that is setting. On the other hand, if you go too quickly, you might race ahead of the compacting gang, making it impossible for them to do their job properly.

Dumpers are not so adaptable. Yet, as with other equipment (skips, for instance), there are many situations where they can be used to discharge directly into the placement area. At all costs, you must avoid damage to the formwork and any reinforcement. Concrete that strikes the face of the formwork might suffer segregation, and its finish could be affected. Also, if the mix is placed carelessly it could move the reinforcement, which then might not be able to carry the design load and lack of cover could lead to rapid corrosion. Cover is the amount of concrete between the reinforcing and the surface. If this layer is too thin then water can reach the reinforcing relatively easily, promoting corrosion of the steel. When steel corrodes it expands and this expansion can 'pop' the covering layer of concrete above the reinforcing steel out of the surface which leads to a weakening of the section and loss of quality of appearance.

As for the condition of the mix, the placing should be carried out in such a way that you avoid segregation, ie the separation of the aggregate from the mortar. You must be able to see that the placing is proceeding correctly, so lighting should be available for large, deep sections, and thin walls Make sure you can see what you are doing and columns.

Handling the Mix
The mix must be placed carefully so that it does not segregate and is capable of being compacted properly. Vibration will not improve the quality of segregated concrete.
Concrete should be compacted in layers The layers The concrete should be placed in a series of approximately equal layers. Avoid at all costs forming large heaps of sloping layers, for these encourage segregation, especially with mixes that are not cohesive.

Ordering Correctly
If you will be using ready-mixed concrete, then right at the beginning, during the planning/quotation stage, you should discuss with your supplier the way you propose to handle, place and compact the concrete, The supplier will then ensure that the concrete you get is in accordance with the specification and suits conditions on site.

The Rate of Work
You will ensure a better rate of work if you deposit the concrete at, or as close as possible to, the exact spot where it is to be placed. Dropping the concrete somewhere nearby, then finishing the job by hand-shovelling is a waste of time. Some of the items of equipment used for moving concrete around the site once it has been delivered or mixed are extremely versatile, and can direct the material with precision to just the spot where you want it, The chute of a truck mixer and the flexible pipe at the end of a pump's pipeline are obvious Concrete supply needs to be organised examples.

Particular care is needed when you are using a skip to fill narrow sections such as thin walls, for here heaps and/or sloping layers can all too easily form. You need to control the discharge and the movement of the skip very carefully so that a ribbon of concrete is placed.

Maximum depths The layers of concrete you place should not be too deep, otherwise the weight of the material at the top makes it almost impossible, even with vibration, to compact the bottom of the layer. As a result, air will be trapped in the mix leaving voids and blowholes that will result in surface blemishes, plus loss of strength.

Placing & Compacting Concrete

The maximum depth of layer depends on the method of compaction. Poker vibrators should be used for thick slabs. With short poker heads, the layers should be no more than 300mm deep. If you are using longer heads, on wall and columns, for instance, regard 500mm as the maximum. Vibrating beams are used on thinner slabs made up of layers generally restricted to 150mm. Most of them do not have the power to compact anything thicker. In all cases, a layer must be fully compacted before any more concrete is placed on top of it. Air voids in the lower concrete cannot be removed if a subsequent layer is placed too early. However, the underlying layer still needs to be workable enough to respond to vibration so that the two layers can knit together without any joints - another reason for getting the material into position as quickly as possible. Good planning and reliable delivery are necessary - particularly with large pours.

Air-Entrained Concrete
Even air-entrained concrete needs to be compacted to get rid of entrapped air voids. The difference between air voids and entrained air bubbles should be noted at this stage. The air bubbles that are entrained are relatively small (between 0.25 and 1.0mm in diameter) and spherical in shape, increase the workability of the mix, reduce bleeding, and increase frost resistance. Entrapped air on the other hand tends to be irregular in shape and is detrimental to the strength of the mix. It is to remove this air that the concrete must be properly compacted. There is little danger that compaction will remove the minute air bubbles that have been deliberately entrained, since they are so stable. Compaction of this material has to be very thorough since some of the energy produced by the vibration process is absorbed by the entrained air bubbles.

To compact concrete you apply energy to it so that the mix becomes more fluid. Air trapped in it can then rise to the top and escape. As a result, the concrete becomes consolidated, and you are left with a good dense material that will, after proper curing, develop its full strength and durability. Vibration is the next and quickest method of supplying the energy. Manual techniques such as rodding are only suitable for smaller projects. Various types of vibrator are available for use on site.

Dropping concrete from a height
Using a hopper and length of tube to direct the concrete

Does the height from which the concrete is dropped matter? Not really. It makes sense, however, to use baffle boards or a hopper to direct the fall so that the concrete does not damage the formwork. You could add a length or two of tube if the mix has to go between reinforcement. For very deep drops, you could opt for elephant trunking, not to be confused with the lightweight version used for dropping rubbish.

Poker Vibrators
The poker, or immersion, vibrator is the most popular of the appliances used for compacting concrete. This is because it works directly in the concrete and can be moved around easily.

Once the concrete has been placed, it is ready to be compacted. The purpose of compaction is to get rid of the air voids that are trapped in loose concrete.


Why It Matters It is important to compact the concrete fully because: • Air voids reduce the strength of the concrete. For every 1% of entrapped air, the strength falls by somewhere between 5 and 7%. This means that concrete containing a mere 5% air voids due to incomplete compaction can lose as much as one third of its strength. • Air voids increase concrete's permeability. That in turn reduces its durability. If the concrete is not dense and impermeable, it will not be watertight. It will be less able to withstand aggressive liquids and its exposed surfaces will weather badly. • Moisture and air are more likely to penetrate to the reinforcement causing it to rust. • Air voids impair contact between the mix and reinforcement (and, indeed, any other embedded metals). The required bond will not be achieved and the reinforced member will not be as strong as it should be. • Air voids produce blemishes on struck surfaces. For instance, blowholes and honeycombing might occur.
Summing up, fully compacted concrete is dense, strong and durable; badly compacted concrete will be porous, weak and prone to rapid deterioration. Sooner or later it will have to be repaired or replaced. It pays, therefore, to do the job properly in the first place.

Types There are two basic types of poker vibrator. On one, the most common, the head containing the vibratory mechanism is separate from the motor to which it is connected by a flexible drive shaft. It may have a petrol or diesel engine, or an electric motor. On the second type, motor and vibratory mechanism are in the same head. Power is by electricity or compressed air.
Apart from the fact that the first type of vibrator is easily portable, there is little to choose between the two. Availability, and whether or not a suitable power supply can be laid on, are the important factors. Hydraulically-driven poker vibrators are also available. These are not common, but could be useful if there is a power take-off available.

Sizes Pokers with diameters ranging from 25 to 75mm are readily available, and these are suitable for most reinforced concrete work. Choose the largest one compatible with the formwork and reinforcement being used.
Larger pokers are available - with diameters up to 150mm - but these are for mass concrete in heavy civil engineering.

Stiff Mixes
Stiff mixes contain far more air than workable ones. That is one of the reasons why a low-slump concrete requires more compactive effort than one with a higher slump - the compaction needs to continue for a longer time, or more equipment has to be used.

Radius of action When a poker vibrator is operating, it will be effective over a circle centred on the poker. The distance from the poker to the edge of the circle is known as the radius of action. The radius for pokers of various The poker vibrator's radius of action and spacing diameter is given in the table above.

Diameter of head (mm) 20-30 35-40 50-75 Radius of action (mm) Approximate rate of compaction assuming rapid placing (m3 per hour) up to 2 2-4 3-8 Use in concrete with a slump of...

80-150 130-250 180-350

50mm or more in very thin sections and confined spaces. May be used in conjunction with larger vibrators where there is reinforcement or other obstructions. 50mm or more in thin columns, walls or other confined spaces. 25mm or more in general work free from restrictions and congestion.

Note: When the vibrator is operating, it will compact concrete within a circle centred on the poker. The distance from the poker to the edge of the circle is known as the radius of action. This tells you how far apart the points at which you insert the poker into the concrete should be. For example, when the radius is about 200mm, insertions will be needed at centres of roughly 300mm, and to a predetermined pattern, if all the concrete is to be fully compacted. Spacing of about 450mm (a radius of 250mm) will be required for a 65mm diameter poker on concrete of medium workability.

However, the actual effectiveness of any poker depends on the workability of the concrete and the characteristics of the vibrator itself. As a general rule, the bigger the poker and the higher its amplitude, the greater will be the radius of action. It is better to judge from your own observations, as work proceeds on site, the effective radius of the poker you are operating on the concrete you are compacting.

• The poker should extend below the layer you are compacting and into the one underneath by at least 100mm. This will knit the two layers together, and any laitance on top of the lower layer will be mixed into the upper one. • The whole length of the poker should be in the concrete. This keeps the bearings cool. • Avoid leaving the poker running when it is not in the concrete. Otherwise there is a risk that the bearings will overheat. • A little extra vibration will reduce the number of blowholes, This is important when a good finish is called for. • Make sure that vibration does not dislodge the drive motor off the staging. Never move it by pulling the drive shaft. • Clean the poker when you have finished. This is a rule that applies to all concrete tools and appliances. • Leave the poker inserted for the correct length of time. • Withdraw poker slowly from the concrete. It is important to ensure that no hole is left behind as the poker leaves the concrete. It is often hard to avoid such a hole, especially with a stiff mix. If a hole remains, place the poker as near to it as possible when you reinsert it to compact the next section, and this should close the hole. When taking the poker out at the end of the run, withdraw it even more slowly and wiggle it about to ensure that the hole closes properly. • When you move the poker on to compact the next section, it should not be too far from its previous position. The note to the table above will give you guidance on this. • Make sure the poker does not touch the formwork, otherwise it will cause a 'poker burn', and mark the surface of the finished concrete. Avoid problems by ensuring the vibrator stays 75-100mm from the formwork. • Make sure the poker does not touch the reinforcement. The danger is that the vibration will be transmitted to concrete that has already stiffened, and the bond between mix and reinforcement could then be affected. Also the poker could become entangled If concrete builds up into a heap, it should with the reinforcement. be levelled carefully by vibration • Avoid, if possible, using the poker to make the concrete flow. However, you can sometimes break this rule if you have to pack the mix into inaccessible corners. Place the concrete as near as possible to the corner, and use the vibrator to make it flow gently into place.

Length of head The concrete layer you are compacting should never be any deeper than the length of the poker head, since it is only the head itself that is vibrating. If the layer is deeper than the head length, there is a danger that the top portion will not be fully compacted. You accomplish nothing by inserting more than the head into the mix.
The head length of pokers with diameters within the range of those given in the table is likely to be between 350 and 600mm. Most 65mm diameter polers have a head length of 350-450mm.

The time it takes The length of time it takes for a poker vibrator to compact concrete fully depends on:
1. The workability of the concrete: the less workable the mix, the longer it must be vibrated. 2. The energy put in by the vibrator: bigger vibrators do the job faster. 3. The depth of the concrete: thick sections take longer.

Using a poker vibrator Many contractors do not make the best use of poker vibrators, running them wastefully, or at reduced efficiency, for as much as 75% of their operating time. In other words, the vibrator is doing a proper job for only a quarter of the working day. What a waste of time and money!
To realise the full potential of a poker, it is necessary to plan the compaction, along with the placing method and technique, well in advance so that both operations are carried out as quickly and as economically as possible. Points to watch: • Make sure you can see the concrete surface. Lights may be required in thin, deep sections. • Make sure the poker is inserted into the concrete quickly. As quickly as possible allow it, under its own weight, to reach the bottom of the layer it is compacting. If it sinks in slowly, the top part of the layer will be compacted first, forming a barrier through which entrapped air will find it difficult to escape.

Placing & Compacting Concrete

• Never stick a poker into the top of a heap of concrete. Heaps should never be allowed to form in the first place, of course, but accidents do happen, and you then have to disperse the pile. You can use the poker for this, but insert it around the edge of the heap. Go carefully, though, to avoid segregation. Compaction is not deemed to have started until the pile has been levelled.

Alternatively, it can be better to use a poker vibrator on the thicker slabs. It is advisable to use a poker at the edges of any slab, since the energy of the beam is greatest in the centre. The maximum width of slab that can be successfully compacted by a vibrating beam is about 4.5m.

Beam Vibrators
Beam vibrators are designed for concrete slabs, and, with certain limitations, are the best type to use on them. All concrete, in any type of construction, must be fully compacted. With slabs there is usually the additional requirement that the top surface should be textured for grip, trowelled smooth, or laid to falls so that water can run off. It all depends on the use for which the concrete is designed, but it must be free from bumps and hollows. The necessary compaction and shaping of the surface can be done in one operation, using only a beam vibrator. The eventual finish may involve texturing, vacuum dewatering, floating and/or trowelling. However, these are specialised techniques, not dealt with in this booklet.

Reinforcement If the slab is heavily reinforce, the concrete should be compacted initially with poker vibrators, and the surface levelled with a beam.
Often a slab will have only light mesh reinforcement near its top.
Congested reinforcement needs beam and poker vibrators

The slab
On smaller, thinner slabs, intended for light domestic use, hand tamping will do. Use a timber beam, approximately 200 x 50mm in section and fitted with handles at each end. Working it needs two pairs of hands. With concrete of medium workability (75mm slump) slabs up to 100mm may be compacted in this way.

One method that can be used, although it is not standard practice in New Zealand is a two stage placement. The concrete should first be placed and compacted to mesh level using pokers, or a notched vibrating beam with cut-out ends. The mesh can then be carefully positioned and covered with the top layer of concrete, which is spread and compacted using a full-length double vibrating beam spanning the side forms. The operation needs to be done with speed, otherwise the first concrete may stiffen so much that a cold joint forms between the two layers, and A notched beam for two-stage work provides the correct depth for the top of the slab may then fail. reinforcement The important thing to realise is that the mesh MUST be in the upper zones of the slab not trampled to the bottom. Mesh therefore may need pulling up to the correct level as the work proceeds.


Slabs up to 100mm thick may be compacted by hand tamping

The maximum width of bay for hand tamping is determined by the strength of the operators and the weight of the timber. The beam must be lifted and dropped rhythmically in order to transmit the required energy to the concrete. A 3m beam is normally a comfortable length for manual use. Several passes may be required to achieve adequate compaction. The use of a vibrating beam, known as semi-manual compaction, is always preferable, even on smaller slabs, and is essential for slabs thicker than 100mm. The maximum depth that most vibrating beams can fully compact is 150mm.
Double vibrating beam in use

Preparatory work The preparatory work for slabs must be thorough.
The final accuracy of the surface depends very much on the care with which the side forms are fixed and set to level. They should be of rigid construction and continuously bedded on sub-base material or semi-dry concrete, so that they are not dislodged by the energy transmitted by vibration.

Time, effort and money can be saved by direct discharge

A vibrating beam in the form of a tube is also available in New Zealand. With thicker slabs, there are two possibilities: 1. The required depth can be built up in two or more layers not greater than 150mm, each being fully compacted before any more concrete is placed. 2. Sometimes a flowing, superplasticized mix is used because it assists compaction, but there are snags. For a start, the material is self-levelling so it cannot be laid to falls. Also it needs to be correctly proportioned, and the materials carefully selected, if segregation, bleeding and laitance are to be avoided. Bleeding is the rising of surplus water to the concrete surface due to vibration during compaction. This water brings with it a small amount of cement and fines. It is this deposit that is known as laitance.

The mix The mix used for a slab should be cohesive in order to minimise any risk of segregation and bleeding. This is especially so if it cannot be poured directly from the mixer to the placement spot, but has to be transported across the site.
If you are using ready-mixed A successful slab calls for thorough concrete, direct discharge from preparation the truck mixer chute is a fast and effective way of placing concrete into ground slabs. It then avoids the necessity of moving concrete across the site. This method will also usually allow the use of concrete of low workability (nominally 60mm slump). Even lower workability may be called for if the concrete is being laid to a steep gradient or crossfall. Slumps of 10 or 20mm will reduce the tendency of the mix to level itself during compaction. However, if the concrete is to be transferred from the mixer to a pump, skip, dumper or hoist, a 80-100 slump will normally be required.

The surcharge The surface of the concrete drops during compaction as air trapped within it is driven out. Excess concrete must therefore be placed to ensure that after compaction the surface will not have dropped too much, and the slab will be thick enough.
The depth of this surcharge depends on the workability of the concrete. The stiffer the mix, the more it will settle during compaction. If the slump is 60mm, the surcharge should be about 20% of the slab's thickness (ie 30mm for a slab 150mm thick). The next rule is to ensure that there is always surcharge ahead of the beam. The most accurate way of forming a surcharge is to fix temporary spacers on the underside of a beam which is drawn as a timer template across the concrete.

Golden rules
No matter what type of compaction you use, the golden rules for all forms of concrete construction apply with equal force to slabs. You must: • Have proper preparation • Use a well-designed mix that will not readily segregate, bleed or produce laitance • Use concrete of appropriate workability • Achieve full compaction at a prudent rate of progress • Provide effective curing Curing is, in fact, more important with slabs than with any other form of concrete construction, since slabs are specially vulnerable to abuse. Cracking, dusting, frost attack, and abrasion are less likely to occur if the slab is cured properly.

Clamp-on Vibrators
The surcharge allows for consolidation

Using the beam vibrator
Once the concrete, with its surcharge, has been spread, start the motor and manually pull the beam along the slab. Make sure that there is always a continuous surcharge along the entire length of the leading edge, and that, A poker is required for the edges of slabs throughout, the ends of the beam ride on the side forms. One steady pass with a double vibrating beam should be enough to compact and level the concrete. Extra passes might bring laitance to the surface. Poker vibration at the edge is often needed to supplement the vibrating beam because the edge form may absorb vibration energy thus reducing edge compaction.

Clamp-on vibrators (sometimes known as external vibrators) consist of an electrically or pneumatically operated motor with an out-ofbalance component. They work by vibrating the formwork to which they are fixed - hence their name. These vibrations are transmitted to the concrete. This vibrator is mainly for precast concrete work, but it is sometimes used on site, especially where there is congested reinforcement. However, it can generally compact only sections that are 300mm or less. Because of this, special consideration must be given to the design of the formwork, and the setting up, use, and spacing of the vibrators.

All types of vibrators must be handled with care, and be properly maintained, in order to avoid unnecessary breakdowns. The manufacturer's manual will give precise instruction for the model you are using, but here are some important general points. Check regularly for signs of wear, and rectify any faults immediately. Make sure that there is enough grease in the bearings, or you could have problems. For instance, a poker vibrator tube might start to twist and jump about. Should you get trouble of this kind, stop the machine and examine the bearings. Grease them if necessary.


Long-span beams

Long-span beam vibrator, or razorback

Lightweight, long-span beams, also known as tri-screeds or razorbacks, are now an alternative to the conventional beam vibrator. They consist of a series of triangular-shaped sections that are connected together to give an extremely wide range of lengths from less than 3m to more than 30m. This equipment is not generally available in New Zealand. Long-span beams have several advantages. • They can cope with much wider slabs. • Several mini-vibrators are uniformly spaced along the length, giving a better distribution of energy. • The top bar is adjustable, so that not only is it easy to compensate for any tendency to sag in the middle, but also the slab can be finished to a number of profiles. • The razorback can successfully compact slabs up to 300mm thick. To use it, place it in position, start the motor then steadily move it along the side forms by winching-in cables firmly anchored at the end of the slab. As with conventional beam vibrators, the concrete must have a surcharge, and you should make steady and straight progress, taking care that the equipment does not rise up or slide off the side forms.

If the machine is electrically operated, make certain that the voltage and frequency of the power supply to which you propose to connect it are suitable. Ensure, too, that all electrical vibrators are properly earthed, and that the connections are adequately protected. Check that a petrol or diesel engine is running at the manufacturer's recommended speed. If it is not, the frequency developed in the vibrating component will be incorrect, and the appliance will not work as quickly or as efficiently as it should. The air line of a pneumatically operated appliance should be cleared of moisture before you couple it up. And there must be no leak in the lines or its connections, otherwise the vibrator will not operate at full power. A few points about poker vibrators: • Avoid sharp bends in the drive shaft, particularly when the machine is in use. • Never engage the drive to a motor that is already running. Many nasty accidents have occurred because an operator did not bother first to switch off the motor, or throttle back its centrifugal clutch. • When using the vibrator, do not leave it too long in the same spot in the concrete. • Don't leave it running whilst you wait for fresh supplies of concrete to be placed.

Placing & Compacting Concrete

• If, as sometimes happens, a pendulum-type poker fails to work when switched on, try rattling its head, or giving the nose cap a smart rap (not too hard, though). When this is not effective, switch off and check the motor coupling. With shaft-driven machines, the shaft or a drive pin may have failed. On electric machines, the switch, a fuse or a break in the wiring, even a motor, could be the fault. Inspect to find out. • Never go on using a machine that has developed faults.

Revibration No harm will be done if fully compacted concrete is vibrated again, provided that the material is still workable, as described above. Tests have shown that the strength of concrete is slightly increased if it is vibrated for a second time.

Small Columns
The ideal way to place and compact in small sections, such as slender columns, is to feed it in steadily at a rate at which the poker can compact fully. Slowly and repeatedly withdraw the poker, then reinsert it as more concrete is being placed. The concrete should not rise in the form by more than 300mm per 20 seconds, which is equivalent to a total of about 3 minutes for a column 3m high. With a 300mm square column, this is about as fast as the concrete can be shovelled in. When you cannot use this method, you will have to fill the column in layers, not more than 300mm deep. Such layers, in a column of the dimensions given will, if properly compacted, require no more than 0.03m3 of concrete each. In these instances, concrete should be placed by skip only if the operator can control the flow so that just this small quantity is discharged at a time. Otherwise, it is better to deposit the mix on a banker board and shovel it in carefully. Make sure each layer is compacted before you place the next, The first layer is the most critical since it has to bond with the kicker, or a horizontal construction joint. To ensure a better bond, place the poker at the bottom of the form and in the middle of the section, then start it up. Now deposit the first layer of concrete. One 40mm diameter poker should be enough to ensure good compaction in a 300mm square section. In tighter spaces use external vibration or hand rodding. If the surface finish is important, revibrate the top 600mm about half an hour after the intial compaction.

In this section we take a look at some of the problems and questions that crop up on site.

How Long Should It Take?
How can you tell when concrete is fully compacted? It's largely a matter of experience. You soon get used to a poker vibrator, and can 'feel' when compaction is complete. However, certain indications will help. Watch the air bubbles that emerge as the concrete is vibrated. When they stop, that is a good sign that compaction is complete. The sound a poker vibrator makes can be a help too, this is where a good ear for music comes in! There is a dropping off in frequency when the poker is first inserted. When the pitch or whine becomes constant, the concrete is free of entrapped air. It generally takes place in about 10-15 seconds which you can judge by slowing counting up to that number. Take note, too, of the surface appearance of the concrete. A thin film of glistening mortar is a sign that the mix is compacted, as is cement paste forming at the junction of the concrete and formwork.

Not too little Beware of stopping vibration too soon. For instance, when you first insert the poker consolidation will be rapid, and the level of the concrete will drop. That does not mean that all the air has been released. Some will still be entrapped so carry on compacting.
Under-compaction will cause far more problems than over-compaction. It is virtually impossible to over-vibrate properly designed concrete. Even with a badly designed mix - one prone to segregation, lacking cohesion or containing too much water - the only problem is likely to be an excess of laitance on the surface. On walls and the tops of columns, it is best to be prepared to remove this laitance, an easy enough task in such situations, rather than risk under-vibration. So you should never be in a hurry to stop compacting. Too much is better than too little. Above all, don't be tempted to skimp on vibration just because more concrete has arrived for placing. However, you cannot get rid of laitance from the top of slabs, so here you must make sure in the first place that the mix is a good one, designed to reduce bleeding, and then avoid overworking. This subject is dealt with more fully in the section on beam vibrators.


Banker board for filling a small column

It should be clear from the drawings if there are likely to be any obstacles to placing the concrete, or inserting the pokers. Sometimes you can get approval to rearrange the reinforcement if necessary. If not, ways must be found for placing and compacting the concrete so that each member of the gang knows what is to be done,. In thin sections, lighting will be needed so you can see the concrete being placed. With a good, cohesive mix, and where there is no obstruction, the concrete can be dropped in from the top of the formwork. However, Baffle boards keep the falling concrete it must not come into contact with away from the form face the form face. Baffle boards at the top will prevent this. Place the material as uniformly as possible, avoiding heaps and inclined layers. If skips are being used, control the discharge, moving the skip horizontally along the length of the wall. This is not easy, and needs care. Avoid dropping a full load all at once, for this could cause the mix to segregate or the reinforcement to move.

How Long Is It Workable?
Many specifications still in use stipulate that only a certain, limited time must be allowed to elapse between the mixing of the concrete and the placing and compacting of it. Such specifications are not necessarily correct. Concrete can be placed and compacted at any time after mixing, even if some stiffening has already occurred, PROVIDED THAT it can still be worked by the particular compacting method you propose to use. The time it takes for concrete to go off sufficiently for it to be no longer workable depends on several factors including ambient air temperatures or whether a retarder has been used or not.

For thin walls (300mm or less across) you may find it best to have a continuous bankerboard along the top, on which the concrete can be placed before being shovelled down into the form, a technique similar to that for columns. The first layer of concrete should be less than 300mm deep. As with columns, this the most important layer for it must bond properly to the kicker. So pay particular attention to it. The compaction, as well as the placing, needs to be well planned before hand. For instance, allow for the time it takes to move the poker from one insertion point to the next. Because of obstructions, such as through-bolts, the vibrator head might have to be withdrawn to the top of the form work before being moved sideways and lowered again for the next insertion. For a 6m length of wall with insertion points at 400mm centres you will need at least three pokers. If the height of pour exceeds 3m, make sure the flexible hose or power line is long enough for the poker to reach the bottom of the formwork. At stop ends and vertical construction joints, good compaction is essential. One way of ensuring this is to place the poker ahout 300mm from the end or joint, switch on, then feed the concrete carefully and slowly to it. Or you can move the concrete in a tongue towards the joint. This is one of the few instances where it is acceptable to use a poker vibrator to move concrete. But it must be for as short a distance as possible, and the concrete must still be vibrated afterwards.

Around Openings
When you are concreting around openings, ducts, void formers and the like - both the placing and the compacting should be done from one side, the vibrator being  used to ensure that the concrete flows into position. Continue vibrating until the concrete is fully compacted, and you can see it flowing out on the other side. The former will need to be satisfactorily held down otherwise it may lift and float.

Plastic settlement under ducts
Special care is needed when concrete is placed and compacted in the webs of post-tensioned cellular structure There is a danger that plastic settlement will occur under the ducts, which might result in the formation of large voids. To get rid of these, stop placing, wait for about half an hour, the revibrate along the line of the duct. The work can then continue in the normal way.

There are two important points to note: • There should always be sufficient vibratory equipment to match the concrete placement rate. • There should also be standby equipment in case of breakdown during pouring.

Sloping Top Layer

Although a slope should be avoided in lower layers of the construction, the design may call for the top one to be inclined. If the slope is no more than 10 degrees, concrete can be placed and compacted by the normal method for slabs. However, there could be a tendency Compacting concrete on a slope for the mix to slump down the slope under its own weight and the effects of vibration. To prevent this, use a mix of as low a workability as possible (a slump of less than 25mm). You may also need to use a weighted screed board. For slabs up to 200m thick, place the concrete and spread about a 1m length to a uniform surcharge. Then take a hand tamper or beam vibrator to work it up the slope off screed rails or battens fixed at the edges. Use a poker vibrator to compact the concrete at the edges of the slabs.
Placing concrete from one side around a duct former

Other topics in this series of brochures include: SC 1 Ordering Ready Mixed Concrete SC 2 Moving Concrete SC 4 Curing of Concrete Also Engineered Concrete Solutions series: ECS 1 Marine & Coastal ECS 2 Chemical Resisting ECS 3 Crack Control ECS 4 High Strength Concrete ECS 5 Industrial & Commercial Floors ECS 6 Abrasion Resisting

If there is slight slumping after compaction, here's what you should do. Wait for the concrete to stiffen, then give the surface a second pass with a beam vibrator.

Phone: 0800 ECS DATA 0800 327 328 Fax: 0800 ECS FAX 0800 327 329

“This series of brochures is based on the British Concrete Association publication series ‘Concrete on Site’, and is reproduced with the permission of C&CA of NZ. The information contained is intended for general guidance only and in no way replaces the service of professional consultants on particular projects. No liability can be accepted for its use.” For advice on your particular project call these numbers.

Edition: May 1999

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