Plastic Shrinkage Cracks in Concrete and Its Prevention
Cracking caused by plastic shrinkage in concrete occurs most commonly on the exposed surfaces of freshly placed floors and slabs or other elements with large surface areas when they are subjected to a very rapid loss of moisture caused by low humidity and wind or high temperature or both.
Plastic shrinkage usually occurs prior to final finishing, before curing starts. When moisture evaporates from the surface of freshly placed concrete faster than it is placed by curing water, the surface concrete shrinks.
Due to the restraint provided by the concrete on the drying surface layer, tensile stresses develop in the weak, stiffening plastic concrete, resulting in shallow cracks that are usually not short and run in all directions.
In most cases, these cracks are wide at the surface. They range from a few millimeters to many meters in length and are spaced from a few centimeters to as much as 3 m apart.
Preventing Plastic Shrinkage Cracks in Concrete
Plastic shrinkage cracks may extend the full depth of elevated structural slabs. Since cracking because of plastic shrinkage is due to a differential volume change in the plastic concrete, successful control measures require a reduction in the relative volume change between the surface and other portions of the concrete.
There are many methods and techniques to prevent this type of crack in case of rapid loss of moisture due to hot weather and dry winds.
These methods include the use of fog nozzles to saturate the air above the surface and using plastic sheeting to cover the surface between the final finishing operations.
In many cases, during construction it is preferable to use wind breakers to reduce the wind velocity; sunshades to reduce the surface temperature are also helpful.
Additionally, it is good practice to schedule flat work after the walls have been erected.