The Constructor

Types of Distresses in Concrete Pavements and their Causes

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There are various types of distresses in concrete pavements which may cause its failure. These distress in pavements and their details are discussed.

Types of Distresses in Concrete Pavements and their Causes

Following are the different types of distresses in concrete pavements and their causes:

a) Cracking of Concrete Pavements

Cracks in concrete pavements often result from stresses caused by expansion and contraction or warping of the pavement. Overloading, loss of subgrade support, and insufficient and/or improperly cut joints acting singly or in combination are also possible causes. Several different types of cracking can occur:

(i) Longitudinal, Transverse, and Diagonal Cracks

A combination of repeated loads and shrinkage stresses usually causes this type of distress. It is characterized by cracks that divide the slab into two or three pieces. These types of cracks can indicate poor construction techniques or weak underlying pavement layers.

(ii) Corner Breaks

Load repetition, combined with loss of support and curling stresses, usually causes cracks at the slab corner. The lack of support may be caused by pumping or loss of load transfer at the joint. This type of break is characterized by a crack that intersects the joints at a distance less than or equal to one-half of the slab length on both sides, measured from the corner of the slab. A corner crack differs from a corner spall in that the crack extends vertically through the entire slab thickness; a corner spall intersects the joint at an angle.

(iii) Durability "D" Cracking

"D" cracking usually appears as a pattern of cracks running in the vicinity of and parallel to a joint or linear crack. It is caused by the concrete's inability to withstand environmental factors such as freeze-thaw cycles because of variable expansive aggregates. This type of cracking may eventually lead to disintegration of the concrete within 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) of the joint or crack.

(iv) Joint Seal Damage

Joint seal damage is any condition that enables soil or rocks to accumulate in the joints or that allows infiltration of water. Accumulation of materials prevents the slabs from expanding and may result in buckling, shattering, or spalling. Water infiltration through joint seal damage can cause pumping or deterioration of the subbase. Typical types of joint seal damage include stripping of joint sealant, extrusion of joint sealant, hardening of the filler (oxidation), loss of bond to the slab edges, and absence of sealant in the joint. Joint seal damage is caused by improper joint width, use of the wrong type of sealant, incorrect application, and/or not properly cleaning the joint before sealing.

(v) Shattered Slab

A shattered slab is defined as a slab where intersecting cracks break up the slab into four or more pieces. This is caused by overloading and/or inadequate foundation support.

b) Disintegration of Concrete Pavements

Disintegration is the breaking up of a pavement into small, loose particles and includes the dislodging of aggregate particles. Improper curing and finishing of the concrete, unsuitable aggregates, and improper mixing of the concrete can cause this distress. Disintegration falls into four categories:

(i) Scaling, Map Cracking, and Crazing

Scaling is the disintegration and loss of the wearing surface. A surface weakened by improper curing or finishing and freeze-thaw cycles can lead to scaling. Map cracking or crazing refers to a network of shallow hairline cracks that extend only through the upper surface of the concrete. Crazing usually results from improper curing and/or finishing of the concrete and may lead to scaling of the surface. Alkali-Silica Reactivity (ASR) is another source of distress associated with map cracking. ASR is caused by an expansive reaction between aggregates containing silica and alkaline pore solutions of the cement paste.

(ii) Joint Spalling

Joint spalling is the breakdown of the slab edges within 2 feet (60 cm) of the side of the joint. A joint spall usually does not extend vertically through the slab but intersects the joint at an angle. Joint spalling often results from excessive stresses at the joint or crack caused by infiltration of incompressible materials or weak concrete at the joint (caused by overworking) combined with traffic loads. Joint spalling also results when dowels, which can prevent slab movement, become misaligned either through improper placement or improper slippage preparation.

(iii) Corner Spalling

Corner spalling is the raveling or breakdown of the slab within approximately 2 feet (60 cm) of the corner. It differs from a corner break in that the spall usually angles downward to intersect the joint, while a break extends vertically through the slab. The same mechanisms that causes joint spalling often causes corner spalling, but this type of distress may appear sooner because of increased exposure.

(iv) Blowups

Blowups usually occur at a transverse crack or joint that is not wide enough to permit expansion of the concrete slabs. . Insufficient width may result from infiltration of incompressible materials into the joint space or by gradual closure of the joint caused by expansion of the concrete due to ASR. When expansive pressure cannot be relieved, a localized upward movement of the slab edges (buckling) or shattering will occur in the vicinity of the joint. Blowups normally occur only in thin pavement sections, although blowups can also appear at drainage structures (manholes, inlets, etc.). The frequency and severity of blowups may increase with an asphalt overlay due to the additional heat absorbed by the dark asphalt surface. They generally occur during hot weather because of the additional thermal expansion of the concrete.

c) Distortion in Concrete Pavements

Distortion refers to a change in the pavement surface’s original position, and it results from foundation settlement, expansive soils, frost-susceptible soils, or loss of fines through improperly designed subdrains or drainage systems. Two types of distortion generally occur:

(i) Pumping

The deflection of the slab when loaded may cause pumping, which is characterized by the ejection of water and subgrade (or subbase) material through the joints or cracks in a pavement. As the water is ejected, it carries particles of gravel, sand, clay, or silt with it, resulting in a progressive loss of pavement support that can lead to cracking. Evidence of pumping includes surface staining and base or subgrade material on the pavement close to joints or cracks. Pumping near joints indicates poor joint-load transfer, a poor joint seal, and/or the presence of ground water.

(ii) Settlement or Faulting

Settlement or faulting is a difference in elevation at a joint or crack caused by upheaval or non-uniform consolidation of the subgrade or subbase material. This condition may result from loss of fines, frost heave, loss of load transfer device (key, dowel, etc.), or swelling soils.

d. Skid Resistance of Concrete Pavements

Skid resistance refers to the ability of a pavement to provide a surface with the desired friction characteristics under all weather conditions. It is a function of the surface texture or the buildup of contaminants.

(i) Polished Aggregates

Some aggregates become polished quickly under traffic. Naturally polished aggregates create skid hazards if used in the pavement without crushing. Crushing the naturally polished aggregates creates rough angular faces which provide good skid resistance.

(ii) Contaminants

Rubber deposits building up over a period of time will reduce the surface friction characteristics of a pavement. Oil spills and other contaminants will also reduce the surface friction characteristics. Read More: Types of Distress in Bituminous Pavements and their Causes Types of Failures in Rigid Pavements -Causes and Repair Techniques Types of Failures in Flexible Pavements -Causes and Repair Techniques
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