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Concrete mix design is defined as the appropriate selection and proportioning of constituents to produce a concrete with pre-defined characteristics in the fresh and hardened states. In general, concrete mixes are designed in order to achieve a defined workability, strength and durability .

The selection and proportioning of materials depends on:

  • The structural requirements of the concrete
  • The environment to which the structure will be exposed
  • The job site conditions, especially the methods of concrete production, transport, placement, compaction and finishing
  • The characteristics of the available raw materials

The various factors affecting the choice of concrete mix design are:

1. Compressive strength of concrete:

It is one of the most important properties of concrete and influences many other describable properties of the hardened concrete. The mean compressive strength required at a specific age, usually 28 days, determines the nominal water-cement ratio of the mix. The other factor affecting the strength of concrete at a given age and cured at a prescribed temperature is the degree of compaction. According to Abraham’s law the strength of fully compacted concrete is inversely proportional to the water-cement ratio.

2. Workability of concrete:

The degree of workability required depends on three factors. These are the size  of the section to be concreted, the amount of reinforcement, and the method of compaction to be used. For the narrow and complicated section with numerous corners or inaccessible parts, the concrete must have a high workability so that full compaction can be achieved with a reasonable amount of effort. This also applies to the embedded steel sections. The desired workability depends on the compacting equipment available at the site.

3. Durability of concrete:

The durability of concrete is its resistance to the  aggressive environmental conditions. High strength concrete is generally more durable than low strength concrete. In the situations
when the high strength is not necessary but the conditions of exposure are such that high durability is vital, the durability requirement will determine the water-cement ratio to be used.

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4. Maximum nominal size of aggregate

In general, larger the maximum size of aggregate, smaller is the cement requirement for a particular water-cement ratio, because the workability of concrete increases with increase in maximum size of the aggregate. However, the compressive strength tends to increase with the decrease in size of aggregate. IS 456:2000 and IS 1343:1980 recommend that the nominal size of the aggregate should be as large as possible.

5. Grading and type of aggregate

The grading of aggregate influences the mix proportions for a specified workability and water-cement ratio. Coarser the grading leaner will be mix which can be used. Very lean mix is not desirable since it does not contain enough finer material to make the concrete cohesive.The type of aggregate influences strongly the aggregate-cement ratio for the desired workability and stipulated water cement ratio. An important feature of a satisfactory aggregate is the uniformity of the grading which can be achieved by mixing different size fractions.

6. Quality Control at site:

The degree of control can be estimated statistically by the variations in test results. The variation in strength results from the variations in the properties  of the mix ingredients and lack of control of accuracy in batching, mixing, placing, curing and testing. The lower the difference between the mean and minimum strengths of the mix lower will be the cement-content required. The factor controlling this difference is termed as quality control.