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International Journal of Civil Engineering and Applications.

ISSN 2249-426X Volume 2, Number 1 (2012), pp. 21-32

Research India Publications

Introduction to Testing Techniques of Reinforced
Concrete Structures for Condition Monitoring and
Performance Evaluation

Sanjeev Kumar Verma
, S.S. Bhadauria

Saleem Akhtar

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Civil Engg. UIT (R.G.P.V.), Bhopal, M.P., India
G-3/449, Gulmohar Colony E-8, Shahpura Bhopal, M.P., India
Director, S.G.S.I.T.S., Indore, M.P., India
Professor and Head, Civil Engineering, UIT (R.G.P.V.), Bhopal, M.P., India


In the last few decades premature structural deterioration is becoming a major
problem for engineers and construction industry. Although strength is
important factor for the durability of structures, but other factors like
environmental or exposure conditions are equally important for durability. In
the past emphasis is placed on compressive strength of concrete, now it is
recognized that strength of concrete alone is not important but the harshness of
the environmental conditions to which structure is exposed over is also
important, so one concrete that performs well in one condition may deteriorate
faster in another condition. It is recognized that cracking is the main cause of
deterioration of concrete structures and cracking associated with corrosive
environment leads to faster degradation of concrete structures. The
maintenance, repair and prediction of remaining life of a structure require
effective methods for inspection and monitoring of concrete structures. In the
present paper some important parameters affecting the durability of a structure
like reinforcement cover, cross section of bars, strength, corrosion,
carbonation depth, chloride concentration and permeability along with their
testing techniques are discussed.

Keywords: Concrete, Corrosion, Chlorination, Carbonation, Strength.

22 Sanjeev Kumar Verma et al

In the present age of developed technology in civil engineering, where various
international and national codes as well as modern materials of improved strength are
available, there should be better and durable structures, but unfortunately in the last
few decades the degradation of concrete structures is increased [1]. Several old
structures situated worldwide constructed before the evolution of cement and other
modern building materials are in good condition whereas modern structures are
deteriorating at a faster rate [2].
Degradation and deterioration of structures caused by physical and chemical
damage results in the decrease in performance with time [3], physical damage occurs
due to fire, abrasion or expansion and contraction stresses while chemical damage
occurs due to harsh environment [4]. Lack of durability of concrete structures or
initiation of cracking is mainly due to volume change in concrete which in concrete
structures is mostly caused by corrosion of reinforcement [5].
Corrosion of reinforcement is primarily initiated by chloride ingress or carbon
attack [6], moisture is required for both these mechanisms [7]. Initiation of corrosion
results in the reduction of the effective cross sectional area of the reinforcing bars,
reducing the strength of concrete structures. Corrosive products are deposited in the
concrete around the steel and sets up expansive stresses causing cracking of concrete
[8, 9], and ultimately leading the speedy deterioration of concrete structures.
The following parameters are required to be tested for performance evaluation and
condition monitoring of structures:
Reinforcement cover and cross section area of bars
Corrosion of reinforcement.
Carbonation depth
Chloride concentration
Strength of concrete

In the present paper, the significance of above parameters and methods of their
evaluation has been discussed.

Reinforcement Cover and Cross section Area of Bars
Concrete cover to reinforcement or cover zone plays an important role in the
durability of structures because it acts as the first line of defense against physical and
chemical attacks from the environment [8]. The purpose of providing concrete cover
is to protect reinforcement from external attack [10], should be as large as possible for
durability but therefore, should be kept minimum possible for structural efficiency. In
design codes only the concrete cover thickness is defined, however sufficient concrete
cover alone does not guarantee durable reinforced concrete. Permeability of the
concrete cover also plays significant.
The clear concrete cover to reinforcement and diameters of rusted reinforcement
of concrete structures are measured and recorded with the help of covermeter / rebar
Introduction to Testing Techniques of Reinforced Concrete Structures 23

locator [2] .Cover meters are used for following purpose:
Locate reinforcing bars and metal cable ducts in concrete structures.
Measure the cover depth of reinforcement.
Estimate the size of reinforcing bars.
Locate other metal objects embedded in concrete.

It is an electromagnetic battery operated device based on the principle that the
presence of steel rod within the concrete affects the field of an electromagnet. BS
1881: Part 204 explains principle and methods involved in covermeter. Circuit
diagram of covermeter is shown in fig. 1, and its display is shown in fig. 2 .

Figure 1: Circuit Diagram of Covermeter

Figure 2: Covermeter and its sample Display

Covermeter is composed of two coils in the form of iron cored inductor. When an
alternating current is passed through one of the coil a current is induced in the other,
which is amplified and measured. The influence of steel on the induced current is
non-linear in relation to thickness of the concrete and is also affected by the diameter
24 Sanjeev Kumar Verma et al

of the rod making calibration difficult [11]. Presently covermeters are being designed
to overcome this drawback. Covermeters essentially consists of a unit containing the
power source, amplifier and meter and a search unit containing electromagnet.

Corrosion of Reinforcement
Corrosion of steel bars in reinforced concrete (RC) elements is the major cause of
deterioration of concrete structures. Regardless of the source of corrosion initiation,
whether it is due to carbonation, chloride ions or any other causes the impact of the
corrosion is similar [12]. Corrosion affects the RC elements in many ways, such as
cross section loss of reinforcement, reduction in strength, cracking and spalling of
concrete cover etc. The two main causes of corrosion initiation of the reinforcing bars
are the ingress of chloride ion and carbonation.
During hydration of cement a highly alkaline solution having pH value greater
than 12.5 is formed in the concrete and due to this alkaline environment reinforcing
steel forms a very thin oxide film (passive film) that protects the steel from corrosion
[4]. The protective film is destroyed by the penetration of chloride ions [3] or when
pH value is reduced to values below 9 due to carbonation [6, 7]. Corrosion products
increase the volume of steel causing tensile strains in concrete. If the tensile strains
exceed the tensile strength of concrete, the result is cracking of concrete [6]. Due to
cracks, diffusion of chloride ions and carbon dioxide increase at the places of cracks,
this further causes corrosion.
Once the steel is depassivated, corrosion starts by forming an electrochemical cell
comprising of anode and cathode regions on the steel surface resulting in transfer of
ions in concrete cover and of electrons along the bar and hence a flow of corrosion
current[7] . The rate of corrosion will be controlled by using impermeable concrete to
restrict the flow of ions, and it is associated with high electrical resistivity. A thick
and impermeable cover region will control the oxygen availability to reduce the
corrosion rate.
The presence of corrosion activity can often be detected by measuring the
electrochemical potentials on the concrete surface using a reference half cell and by
measuring electrical resistivity of concrete cover [6, 9]. Half cell potential
measurement is widely used method involves the measuring of potential of embedded
steel relative to a reference half cell placed on concrete cover. ASTM C876 covers
this method [5, 7], criteria is shown in Table 1. The half cell consists of a metal rod
immersed in a solution of its own (Cu/CuSo
or Ag/AgCl). The metal rod is connected
with reinforcement steel by a voltmeter as shown in fig.3. Some surface preparations
including wetting to ensure good electrical connection are necessary. The main
application of this method is in-situ. Instruments are of two types: hand held
equipment and embedded reference electrode [5]. Corrosion can also be detected by
Galvanostatic pulse technique, a rapid electrochemical polarization method, which
allows reliable evaluation of reinforcement corrosion in less time., it is shown in fig.4
and fig 5.

Introduction to Testing Techniques of Reinforced Concrete Structures 25

Figure 3: Principle of Half Cell Method

Figure 4: Galvanostatic Pulse Method

Figure 5: On site Test using Galvapulse
26 Sanjeev Kumar Verma et al

Table 1: Presents Criteria According to ASTM C876 for Cu/CuSo

S. No. Half cell potential (mV) Percentage chance of corrosion
1 > -200 10%
2 -200 to -350 50%
3 < -350 90%

Carbonation Depth
In carbonation process atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) penetrates the concrete and
reacts with hydroxides (CaOH2) to form carbonates (CaCO3). This reduces alkalinity
(pH) of concrete and increases the risk of corrosion [13] that is, the pH decreases
below its normal value of about 13. When the pH drops below 9, the protective oxide
coating is destroyed and, in the presence of moisture and oxygen, the steel will
corrode . Carbonation is increased in concrete with a high water cement ratio, low
Portland cement content, low strength, short curing period and highly permeable paste
[14]. In good quality concrete carbonation depth restricted up to few millimeters but
can be much deeper in poor quality concrete.

Rainbow Indicator and Phenolphthalein Indicator
Tests are used to determine the depth of carbonation in samples of field concrete,
color code for both the tests are shown in fig. 6. Carbonation depth can be used for the
following purposes:
To evaluate the cause of corrosion when conducting corrosion surveys
To estimate service life where penetration of the carbonation front is critical
To monitor the effectiveness of procedures for re-alkalization of the cover
To make a rough estimate of concrete strength from the age of concrete and
the relative humidity

The carbonation depth can be measured with phenolphthalein indicator tests at the
site. It is sprayed on freshly exposed surfaces of concrete. A purple-red coloration
indicates high alkaline concrete unaffected by carbonation but no coloration will
appear in carbonated zones. Accuracy can be improved by taking the average of
several readings; an accuracy of 2mm at 95% confidence level is achieved.
To measure the pH of the cement paste, a freshly broken piece of concrete or a
newly cut core is sprayed with the rainbow indicator, and allowed to dry. The
approximate pH of the paste is indicated by colors as illustrated in fig 6.

Figure 6: Phenolphthalein Indicator and Rainbow Indicator
Introduction to Testing Techniques of Reinforced Concrete Structures 27

Chloride Concentration
Concrete protects steel from corrosion through its highly alkaline nature by providing
a passive film on steel. Small quantity of chloride will normally be present in
concrete, but high ingress of chloride ions from seawater can destroy the protective
film [8, 15]. The Quantab test method and Rapid Chloride Test (RCT) can be used to
determine chloride content from dust samples taken from a depth varying between 25-
30 mm.

The acid soluble amount of chlorides in percentage of concrete mass is measured on
concrete powder drilled out of structure on site or in the laboratory. The sample is
mixed into a distinct amount of extraction liquid and shaken for five minutes. The
extraction liquid removes disturbing ions, such as sulfide ions, and extracts the
chloride ions in the sample. The test results can be used for:
Establishing the chloride ion profile for service life estimation
Establishing the depth of removal of a chloride ion contaminated surface layer
Diagnosing a structure for corrosion activity, in combination with other test
Monitoring the chloride ion content during electrochemical removal of
Measuring the chloride ion content of fresh concrete or its constituents

Quantab Test: this method uses a Quantab test strip to measure the chloride
concentration in concrete dust samples solutions. The plastic strip with a vertical
capillary column is impregnated with silver dichromate. At the top of the column is a
horizontal air vent containing a yellow moisture sensitive indicator which changes to
blue when the capillary is full. The tip of color change is related to the vertical scale
and the reading is converted mg chloride ion/ L by the calibration table.

Strength of Concrete
Normally the qualities of concrete in structures are evaluated by testing compressive,
flexural and tensile strengths simultaneously. To measure the strength of concrete
several Non Destructive Methods are available depending on the fact that certain
physical properties of concrete can be related to strength [16]. Such properties include
hardness, resistance to penetration, rebound capacity and ability to transmit ultrasonic
pulses. The non destructive methods are rebound test (Schmidt hammer test), pull out
tests, Cut and pull out tests (CAPO test), ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) concrete
tester and penetration test (Windsor probe).

Rebound Test
Rebound hammer test is done to find out the compressive strength of concrete by
using rebound hammer as per IS: 13311 (Part 2) 1992, rebound hammer and its
experimental setup is shown in fig.7 and 8. The hammer can be used in the horizontal,
vertically overhead or vertically downward positions as well as at any intermediate
angle, provided the hammer is perpendicular to the surface under test. A high rebound
28 Sanjeev Kumar Verma et al

number represents concrete with a higher compressive strength than concrete with a
low rebound number, as given in Table 2 .

Table 2: Average Rebound Number and quality of Concrete

S. No Average Rebound Number Quality of Concrete
1 >40 Very good hard layer
2 30 to 40 Good layer
3 20 to 30 Fair
4 < 20 Poor concrete
5 0 Delaminated

Figure 7: Experimental Setup Schmidt Rebound Hammer

Figure 8: Rebound Hammer

CAPO-TEST provides a pullout system for accurate on-site estimates of compressive
strength, shown in fig. 9. Procedures for performing post-installed pullout tests, such
as CAPO-TEST, are included in ASTM C900. When selecting the location for a
CAPO-TEST, ensure that reinforcing bars are not within the failure region. A recess
(slot) is routed in the hole to a diameter of 25 mm and at a depth of 25 mm. A split
ring is expanded in the recess and pulled out using a pull machine reacting against a
55 mm diameter counter pressure ring.
Introduction to Testing Techniques of Reinforced Concrete Structures 29

Figure 9: View of valid CAPO-TEST

Penetration Test
The Windsor probe shown in fig. 10 is the best means of testing penetration. The
Windsor probe consists of a powder-actuated gun or driver, hardened alloy steel
probes, loaded cartridges, a depth gauge for measuring the penetration of probes, and
other related equipments. Penetration depth indicates the compressive strength of the
concrete. Calibration charts are also provided by the manufacturer.

Figure 10: Windsor Probe

Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity Method
This test is done to assess the quality of concrete by ultrasonic pulse velocity method
as per IS: 13311 (Part 1) 1992, shown in fig. 11 .It measures the time of travel of an
ultrasonic pulse passing through the concrete. The time taken is measured by
electronic measuring circuits. A general relation between concrete quality and pulse
velocity is given in table 3.

30 Sanjeev Kumar Verma et al

Table 3: Pulse Velocity and Condition of Concrete

S. No. Pulse velocity (ft/sec) General conditions
1 >15000 Excellent
2 12000-15000 good
3 10000-12000 questionable
4 7000-10000 poor
5 < 7000 Very poor

Figure 11: Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity Method

Pull out Test
A steel rod is cast into the concrete and is pulled out from the concrete, the force
required to pull it out is measured and this force can be related to its compressive

It is an important property for durability of concrete structures. The term permeability
normally relates to the ease with which liquids, ions and gases can penetrate into the
concrete [2, 14, 17]. This property is of interest in relation to the water tightness of
liquid retaining structures and to chemical attack. In situ tests are available for
assessing the ease with which water, gas and deleterious matter such as chloride ions
can penetrate into the concrete.

German Water Permeation Test (GWT)
The GWT shown in fig. 12 is used for on-site evaluation of
The water permeation of the skin-concrete in finished structure
The water permeation of masonry panels
The water tightness of construction joints and sealed control joints
Effectiveness of water proofing membranes

Introduction to Testing Techniques of Reinforced Concrete Structures 31

Figure 12: GWT Setup

Factors affecting durability of concrete along with physical and chemical attacks
responsible for deterioration of concrete structures have been reviewed. Cracking
caused by volume change is found to be the main cause of deterioration. Various
parameters affecting durability and service life of concrete structures have been
revised with their testing techniques.
An introduction has been presented of various laboratory and field methods to
measure the concrete cover, corrosion rate, carbonation depth, chloride content, and
residual compressive strength of concrete and permeability of concrete structures.
Maintenance and repair of concrete structures are planned based on the results of
above methods.


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