Construction errors during concreting at site may occur due to failure to follow specified procedures and good practice or outright carelessness. Most of these errors may not lead to failure or deterioration of concrete, but they may have adverse impact on the structure with time.
The construction errors which are likely to occur at site with preventive measures of them is discussed in detail below. These errors not only occur during new construction, but may also happen during repair or rehabilitation works.
(1) Adding water to concrete: Water is usually added to concrete in one or both of the following circumstances:
First, water is added to the concrete in a delivery truck to increase slump and decrease pouring or placement effort. This will lead to concrete with lowered strength and reduced durability. As the water/cement ratio of the concrete increases, the strength and durability will decrease.
In the second case, water is commonly added during finishing of structural member. This leads to scaling, crazing, and dusting of the concrete.
(2) Improper alignment of formwork: Improper alignment of the formwork will lead to discontinuities on the surface of the concrete. While these discontinuities are unsightly in all circumstances, their occurrence may be more critical in areas that are subjected to high velocity flow of water, where cavitation-erosion may be induced, or in lock chambers where the “rubbing” surfaces must be straight.
(3) Improper consolidation or compaction of concrete: Improper compaction of concrete may result in a variety of defects, the most common being bugholes, honeycombing, and cold joints.
Bugholes are formed when small pockets of air or water are trapped against the forms. A change in the mixture to make it less “sticky” or the use of small vibrators worked near the form has been used to help eliminate bugholes.
Honeycombing can be reduced by inserting the vibrator more frequently, inserting the vibrator as close as possible to the form face without touching the form, and slower withdrawal of the vibrator. Obviously, any or all of these defects make it much easier for any damage-causing mechanism to initiate deterioration of the concrete.
Frequently, a fear of overconsolidation is used to justify a lack of effort in consolidating concrete.
Overconsolidation is usually defined as a situation in which the consolidation effort causes all of the coarse aggregate to settle to the bottom while the paste rises to the surface. If this situation occurs, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a problem of a poorly proportioned concrete rather than too much consolidation.
(4) Improper curing: Curing is probably the most abused aspect of the concrete construction process. Unless concrete is given adequate time to cure at a proper humidity and temperature, it will not develop the characteristics that are expected and that are necessary to provide durability. Symptoms of improperly cured concrete can include various types of cracking and surface disintegration.
In extreme cases where poor curing leads to failure to achieve anticipated concrete strengths, structural cracking may occur.
(5) Improper location of reinforcing steel: This section refers to reinforcing steel that is improperly located or is not adequately secured in the proper location.
Either of these faults may lead to two general types of problems. First, the steel may not function structurally as intended, resulting in structural cracking or failure. A particularly prevalent example is the placement of welded wire mesh in floor slabs. In many cases, the mesh ends up on the bottom of the slab which will subsequently crack because the steel is not in the proper location. The second type of problem stemming from improperly located or tied reinforcing steel is one of durability. The tendency seems to be for the steel to end up near the surface of the concrete. As the concrete cover over the steel is reduced, it is much easier for corrosion to begin.
(6) Movement of formwork: Movement of formwork during the period while the concrete is going from a fluid to a rigid material may induce cracking and separation within the concrete. A crack open to the surface will allow access of water to the interior of the concrete. An internal void may give rise to freezing or corrosion problems if the void becomes saturated.
(7) Premature removal of shores or reshores: If shores or reshores are removed too soon, the concrete affected may become overstressed and cracked. In extreme cases there may be major failures.
(8) Settling of the concrete: During the period between placing and initial setting of the concrete, the heavier components of the concrete will settle under the influence of gravity. This situation may be aggravated by the use of highly fluid concretes. If any restraint tends to prevent this settling, cracking or separations may result. These cracks or separations may also develop problems of corrosion or freezing if saturated.
(9) Settling of the subgrade: If there is any settling of the subgrade during the period after the concrete begins to become rigid but before it gains enough strength to support its own weight, cracking may also occur.
(10) Vibration of freshly placed concrete: Most construction sites are subjected to vibration from various sources, such as blasting, pile driving, and from the operation of construction equipment. Freshly placed concrete is vulnerable to weakening of its properties if subjected to forces which disrupt the concrete matrix during setting.
(11) Improper finishing of flat concrete surface: The most common improper finishing procedures which are detrimental to the durability of flat concrete surface are discussed below:
- Adding water to the surface: Evidence that water is being added to the surface is the presence of a large paint brush, along with other finishing tools. The brush is dipped in water and water is “slung” onto the surface being finished.
- Timing of finishing: Final finishing operations must be done after the concrete has taken its initial set and bleeding has stopped. The waiting period depends on the amounts of water, cement, and admixtures in the mixture but primarily on the temperature of the concrete surface. On a partially shaded slab, the part in the sun will usually be ready to finish before the part in the shade.
- Adding cement to the surface: This practice is often done to dry up bleed water to allow finishing to proceed and will result in a thin cement-rich coating which will craze or flake off easily.
- Use of tamper: A tamper or “jitterbug” is unnecessarily used on many jobs. This tool forces the coarse aggregate away from the surface and can make finishing easier. This practice, however, creates a cement-rich mortar surface layer which can scale or craze. A jitterbug should not be allowed with a well designed mixture. If a harsh mixture must be finished, the judicious use of a jitterbug could be useful.
- Jointing: The most frequent cause of cracking in flatwork is the incorrect spacing and location of joints.