Shrinkage Cracking

Description

Hairline cracks formed during PCC setting and curing that are not located at joints. Usually, they do not extend through the entire depth of the slab. Shrinkage cracks are considered a distress if they occur in an uncontrolled manner (e.g., at locations outside of contraction joints in JPCP or too close together in CRCP).

Figure 1: Shrinkage cracking on new slabs.

Figure 2: Severe shrinkage cracking.

Problem

Aesthetics, indication of uncontrolled slab shrinkage. In JPCP they will eventually widen and allow moisture infiltration. In CRCP, if they are allowed to get much wider than about 0.5 mm (0.02 inches) they can allow moisture infiltration (CRSI, 1996[1]).

Possible Causes

All PCC will shrink as it sets and cures, therefore shrinkage cracks are expected in rigid pavement and provisions for their control are made. However, uncontrolled shrinkage cracking can indicate:

  • Contraction joints sawed too late. In JPCP, if contraction joints are sawed too late the PCC may already have cracked in an undesirable location.
  • Poor reinforcing steel design. In CRCP, proper reinforcing steel design should result in shrinkage cracks every 1.2 – 3 m (4 – 10 ft.).
  • Improper curing technique. If the slab surface is allowed to dry too quickly, it will shrink too quickly and crack.
  • High early strength PCC. In an effort to quickly open a newly constructed or rehabilitated section to traffic, high early-strength PCC may be used. This type of PCC can have a high heat of hydration and shrinks more quickly and to a greater extent than typical PCC made from unmodified Type 1 portland cement.

Repair

In mild to moderate severity situations, the shrinkage cracks can be sealed and the slab should perform adequately. In severe situations, the entire slab may need replacement.



Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Continuously Reinforced Concrete.  PowerPoint slide presentation on the CRSI web site.  Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute.  Schaumburg, IL. http://www.crsi.org.  Accessed 21 January 2002.