You don't have to be a professional concrete contractor to understand how frustrating it is to find cracks forming in your partially dried concrete. Luckily, these pre-setting cracks can be avoided with the right knowledge. If you have plans to install a concrete surface, read on. This article will introduce two common types of pre-setting cracks--and explain how to avoid them.
The borders of a paved concrete surface are delineated during construction by what are known as forms, which generally consist of reinforced wooden boards. Forms play two important roles: designating the shape of the concrete surface, and preventing unwanted spillage. Both of these goals can be undermined by unsturdy or insufficiently strong forms.
Even if such forms stay in place, they may not be strong enough to handle the pressure as the concrete settles and shifts. The massive weight of all that concrete will gradually cause the boards to curve outward, thus causing cracks as the concrete shifts while it drys.
To prevent cracks from form movement, make sure your boards are a minimum of 1.5 inches thick. They must also be firmly braced on their outer side by driving 2x4 stakes securely into the ground every two feet.
To build a truly secure form, brace each stake with an additional stake driven into the ground at an angle. Often referred to as a kicker, this secondary brace helps to prevent the tops of your stakes from flexing outward. In general, the taller the concrete surface you intend to pour, the more important it is to employ kickers.
Wet concrete is essentially a suspension of solid particles in water. As it begins to dry, those particles naturally settle toward the bottom. When a concrete surface is shallow enough that interior reinforcing elements don't need to be used, this process of settling doesn't cause any problems.
Problems arise when those solid particles are prevented from settling by reinforcing elements. This causes uneven tension within the mass of concrete--a situation that, in turn, often leads to the formation of cracks on the surface. These are known as plastic settlement cracks.
Unfortunately, you will have to plan to deal with settlement cracks as they arise. This entails close supervision of the concrete as it dries. Nascent cracks must be quickly eliminated--either by re-vibration of the concrete or, if the crack is in a position you can reach, by re-troweling the surface by hand.
For more information on paving, contact a company like Morpac Paving Ltd.
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