The Properties of Concrete
Concrete must be hard, strong, durable, dense, non-porous, fire-resisting and economical.
Concrete has proved to be durable when made of good materials, well mixed, and properly cured. Failures can be found in concrete work, but the trouble is usually caused by poor material, faulty foundations, lack of knowledge of the properties of concrete or poor workmanship. For example, some cements will give better results in sea water than others. This fact had to be established by experience and experiments.
It is more difficult to secure durable reinforced concrete than mass concrete. This is due to the reinforcing steel and the additional water required to make the concrete flow around the steel bars. When moisture reaches the steel, it will rust and the expansion caused by the rust will crack the concrete, resulting in an unsightly structure and necessary repairs. In all structures exposed to the weather the reinforcing steel must be carefully placed and well secured so that it cannot be displaced while concreting. No metal should project to the surfaces. Small wires will soon cause rust spots on the surface of the concrete if they are exposed.
Concrete, to be durable, must be made of good materials, uniform in quality, mixed with a minimum amount of water, and properly placed and protected while curing. Concrete exposed to sea water and the rise and fall of water levels, especially in cold climates where ice forms on the structures, requires specials attention in the selection of the cement, aggregates, mixing, placing and curing.
With the use of dense aggregates the proportions which will produce the densest products are generally those which contain the maximum amount of coarse aggregate and still contain enough fine aggregate to produce a smooth surface. With porous aggregates used in the production of light weight units, the amount of material in the mix passing a 50-mesh sieve is generally limited and in addition more of the coarse aggregate is used to produce a unit of less density and lower weight. This is generally desirable for light weight units except where fire resistance or watertightness are important.