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ACI STRUCTURAL JOURNAL TECHNICAL PAPER

A New Formula to Calculate Crack Spacing

for Concrete Plates
by E. Rizk and H. Marzouk

Different codes have different formulas to calculate crack spacing slabs. An accurate estimate of the crack spacing and crack
and crack width developed in flexural members. Most of these width of thick concrete plates used for offshore and nuclear
formulas are based on the analysis of results of tested beams or power plant structures can result in the reduction of
one-way slabs. Crack control equations for beams underestimate steel reinforcement. The saving of steel reinforcement to
the crack width developed in plates and two-way slabs. It seems
satisfy the crack width limitations can be estimated in
that little attention has been paid in determining the crack spacing
and width in reinforced concrete plates. The behavior of reinforced millions of dollars for a single project (for example, Hibernia
concrete plates and two-way slabs is different from beams or one- oil platform). The proposed equation combines the known
way slabs; therefore, the methods developed for beams cannot be bond stress effect with the contribution of splitting bond
directly applied to plates and two-way slabs. In this paper, a new stress in the transverse direction due to the action of two-way
analytical equation is proposed for calculating the crack spacing slabs. The proposed equation gives a good estimate for crack
for plates and two-way slabs. A special focus will be given to thick spacing in plates and two-way slabs with concrete covers (Cc
concrete plates used for offshore and nuclear containment structures. < 2.5db). The proposed method can also be modified and
The proposed equation takes into account the effect of steel rein- used for plates with thick concrete covers (C = 2.5 – 5.0db).
forcement in the transverse direction through the splitting bond
stress. The new equation provides good estimates for crack spacing
in plates and two-way slabs with different concrete covers. Eight PREVIOUS RESEARCH
full-scale two-way slabs were designed and tested to examine the Crack width models clearly illustrate that the crack
effects of concrete cover and bar spacing of normal- and high- spacing and width are functions of the distance between the
strength concrete on crack spacing. The different code expressions reinforcing steel. Therefore, crack control can be achieved
are evaluated with respect to the experimental results. by limiting the spacing of the reinforcing steel. Maximum
bar spacing can be determined by limiting the crack width to
Keywords: bond stress; crack spacing; plate; transverse reinforcement. acceptable limits.

INTRODUCTION Crack spacing

Crack-control equations for beams underestimate the The Canadian offshore code CSA-S474-042 provides the
crack width developed in plates and two-way slabs.1 The following expression for calculating the average crack
behavior of reinforced concrete plates and two-way slabs is spacing. This is the same equation used by the Norwegian
different from that of one-way slabs and beams; hence, the code NS 3473E3
methods developed for beams cannot be directly applied to
plates and two-way slabs. The expression for crack spacing ′ hef b/As
Sm = 2.0(Cc + 0.1S) + k1k2dbe (1)
is based on the beam theory in several codes, such as the
Canadian offshore code CSA-S474,2 Norwegian Code NS where Sm is the average crack spacing, mm; Cc is concrete
3473E,3 and the European CEB-FIP4 model code. With the cover, mm; S is bar spacing of outer layer, mm; k1 is the
extensive use of thick concrete plates and slabs with thick coefficient that characterizes bond properties of bars; k1 = 0.4 for
concrete covers for offshore and nuclear containment deformed bars; and k1 = 0.8 for plain bars—this is related to
structures, the development of new formulas is needed to the deformed rips on reinforcing bars; k2 is the coefficient to
predict crack spacing and width for plates and two-way account for strain gradient; k2 = 0.25(ε1 + ε1)/2ε1, where ε1
concrete slabs. This paper examines the different approaches and ε2 are the largest and the smallest tensile strains in the
and codes for estimating the crack spacing. Little attention effective embedment zones; dbe ′ is the bar diameter of outer
has been paid in determining the crack spacing and width in layer, mm; hef is the effective embedment thickness as the
reinforced concrete thick plates. A lack of available research greater of a1 + 7.5dbe′ and a2 + 7.5dbe′ but not greater than the
data on the prediction of crack properties results in unnecessary tension zone or half slab thickness, mm; a1 and a1 are the
overdesign of steel reinforcement to satisfy conservative distances from the centers of the bars to the surface of the
crack requirements in codes for offshore structures. This concrete, mm (refer to Fig. 1); b is the width of the section,
investigation presents a unique experimental work. Crack mm; and As is the area of reinforcement within the effective
spacing of eight reinforced concrete specimens relevant to embedment thickness (mm2).
the offshore structures had been examined. Furthermore, the
results were evaluated with regard to the available codes.
ACI Structural Journal, V. 107, No. 1, January-February 2010.
MS No. S-2008-254.R3 received February 13, 2009, and reviewed under Institute
This paper provides a rational method for designers to including the making of copies unless permission is obtained from the copyright proprietors.
Pertinent discussion including author’s closure, if any, will be published in the November-
calculate crack spacing for plates and two-way concrete December 2010 ACI Structural Journal if the discussion is received by July 1, 2010.

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010 43

bond stress, MPa; ρs,ef is the effective reinforcement ratio
E. Rizk is a PhD Candidate and Research Assistant at Memorial University of
Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada, and is an Assistant Lecturer at Menoufiya (As/Ac, ef); Ac, ef is the effective area of concrete in tension
University, Shibin el Kom, Egypt. He received his BSc and MSc from Menoufiya limited by slab width and height equal to the lesser of 2.5
University in 1999 and 2005, respectively. His research interests include cracking
and minimum reinforcement of offshore structures and shear strength of two-way
(c + φ/2) or (h – c)/3 (mm2); and Srm is the average crack
concrete slabs. spacing, mm.
A reevaluation of cracking data5 provides a new equation
ACI member H. Marzouk is Chair of the Civil Engineering Department at Ryerson
University, Toronto, ON, Canada. He received his MSc and PhD from the University based on the physical phenomenon for the determination of
of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada. He is a member of ACI Committees 209, the flexural crack width of reinforced concrete members.
Creep and Shrinkage in Concrete, and 213, Lightweight Aggregate and Concrete. His This study shows that previous crack width equations are
research interests include structural and material properties of high-strength and
lightweight high-strength concrete, offshore design, creep, and finite element analysis. valid for a relatively narrow range of covers up to 63 mm
(2.5 in.). Frosch (1999) introduced this phenomenon into a
new expression that was adopted by ACI 318-99.6 For crack
The crack spacing provided in Eq. (1) can be divided into control in beams and one-way slabs, ACI 318-996 requires
two terms. Term A is a function of concrete cover and bar the spacing of reinforcement closest to a surface in tension
spacing (A = 2.0[Cc + 0.1S]). Term B relates to the type of not exceed
bar, the diameter, and type of stress (B = k1k2d be ′ hef b/As).
The CEB-FIP4 model code crack spacing expression is 95,000
recommending a different approach compared to other codes S = ------------------ – 2.5C c (5)
fs
(CSA2 and NS3). Meanwhile, the bond effect of CEB-FIP4
is treated in a different manner. For a cracked reinforced
concrete section, an increase in loading will result in an where fs is the calculated stress in reinforcement at service
increase in steel strain. This will cause an elongation of the load = unfactored moment divided by the product of steel
reinforcing bar in which the bar ribs will tend to move area and internal moment arm. Alternatively, fs can be taken
toward the nearest crack relative to the surrounding concrete. as 0.60 f y; C c is the clear cover from the nearest surface
The stress in the steel caused by steel strain will be reduced in tension to the flexural tension reinforcement; and S is
due to the bond stress τbk between the steel and surrounding the center-to-center spacing of the flexural tension reinforce-
tensile concrete. Therefore, instead of using the factor k1 to ment nearest to the surface of the extreme tension face.
account for the bond effect, the CEB-FIP4 model code uses the
bond stress τbk directly in the expression as shown in Eq. (2) Crack control in plates and two-way slabs
The cracking width in plates and two-way slabs is
σ s2 – σ sE controlled primarily by the steel stress level and spacing of
- ϕs
l s, max = 2 --------------------- (2) the reinforcement in two perpendicular directions. In addi-
4τ bk
tion, the clear concrete cover in plates and two-way slabs is
nearly constant (20 mm [0.8 in.]) for most interior structural
For stabilized cracking slabs, whereas it is a major variable in the crack control
equations for beams. Analysis of data on cracking in plates
ϕs and two-way slabs1 has provided the following equation for
l s, max = -----------------
- (3) predicting the maximum crack width
3.6ρ s, ef

The CEB-FIP4 model code provides the following expression w = kβf s I (6)
for calculating the average crack spacing for stabilized cracking
where the terms under the square root are collectively termed
2 the grid index, and k is a fracture coefficient (k = 2.8 × 10–5)
S rm = --- l s, max (4) for uniformly loaded restrained two-way action square slabs
3
and plates. For concentrated loads or reactions or when the
ratio of short to long span is less than 0.75 but larger than 0.5,
where ls,max is the length over which slip between the steel
a value of k = 2.1 × 10–5 is applicable. For span aspect ratios
reinforcement and concrete occurs (approximating crack
less than 0.5, k =1.6 × 10–5; β = 1.25 (chosen to simplify
spacing in stabilized cracking), mm. Steel and concrete
calculations, although it varies between 1.20 and 1.35); and
strains, which occur within this length, contribute to the
fs is the actual average service-load stress level or 40% of the
width of the crack; σs2 is the steel stress at crack, MPa; σsE
specified yield strength fy, ksi.
is the steel stress at point of zero slip, MPa; ϕs is the bar
diameter, mm; τbk is the lower fractile value of the average Desayi and Kulkarni7 developed an approximate
method to predict the maximum crack width in two-way
reinforced concrete slabs. The researchers calculated the
maximum crack width based on an estimation of the crack
spacing at any given stage of loading, which is between
that stage and the ultimate load. As a result of the two-way
action of the slabs, when the stretching of bars in Direc-
tion X and the concrete surrounding them is considered,
the bars in the perpendicular direction can be assumed to
bear against the concrete surrounding them. The spacing
of cracks formed in Direction X can be calculated using
Fig. 1—Effective embedment thickness (effective tension area). the following formula

44 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010

k t ft A ct1 2
α 1 = ------------------------------------------------------------
- (7) --- πd bx fbo smx n x + (8)
( πφ 1 k b f b/s 1 ) + ( φ 2 f bb /s 2 ) 3
contribution of transverse steel reinforcement = k t f ctm A ctx
where fb is the bond strength; kb is the constant to account for
the surface characteristics of the bar and the distribution of The constant kt accounts for the distribution of tensile
bond stress; fbb is the bearing stress; kt is the constant to stress in Section 1-1 on the effective area of concrete Actx and
account for the distribution of tensile stress; and ft is the fctm is the mean tensile strength value of the concrete that is
tensile strength of the concrete. calculated according to the CEB-FIP4 model code.
The diameter of the bars in Direction X is ϕ1 and the The number of bars per unit width in X direction is nx, and
spacing between bars is S1. In Direction Y, the diameter is ϕ2 the peak bond strength is fbo, calculated using the CEB-FIP4
and the spacing between bars is S2. Model Code equation. The CEB-FIP 4 model code
The researchers7 presented an equation to predict crack width (Table 3.1.1) provides the following expression for
in two-way slabs, which considered the bond force on the bars calculating peak bond stress for confined and unconfined
and anchorage forces due to cross wires. The proposed method concrete for different bond conditions
gives a large coefficient of variation, compared to the more
practical equation used by Nawy and Blair.1
Marzouk and Hossin8 tested eight square full-scale f bo = μ f c′ ( MPa ) (9)
specimens to investigate the crack width and spacing of
high-strength concrete slabs, five high-strength concrete For cases where failure is initiated by splitting of the
slabs, and three normal-strength concrete slabs. The structural concrete (unconfined concrete), the coefficient μ is taken
behavior, with regard to the deformation and strength equal to unity and, hence, fbo is calculated as follows
characteristic of high-strength concrete slabs of various
thicknesses and different reinforcement ratios (0.40 to
2.68%), were studied. f bo = 1.0 f c′ ( MPa ) (10)

ANALYTICAL MODEL
The presented theoretical model for calculating crack
spacing for two-way slabs combines the known effect of
bond stress with the splitting bond stress in the transverse
direction, which is due to the action of two-way slabs.

Bond stress distribution

For a concrete section between two successive cracks in a
tensile test specimen, zero bond stresses at the two cracked
sections and at the midpoint can be assumed. Variation of the
bond stress between these two zero-points (between the
midpoint and the nearest cracked section) were established
by many researchers9,10 based on experimental results. In
the present research, it is further assumed that the peak bond
stress occurs at the midsection between the two zero points,
with a parabolic variation. These two assumptions greatly
simplify the mathematical formulation in calculating the
bond stress. The resulting bond stress distribution closely
agrees with the experimental observations.9,10 The resulting
parabolic bond stress distribution between two successive
flexural cracks is shown in Fig. 2(b).
Figure 2 shows a cross section of a slab and the layout of
reinforcement in the Directions X and Y. Stretching the bars
in Direction X with the concrete surrounding the bars will
result in another crack at a Distance x = smx. At the same
time, as a result of the two-way action of the slabs, stretching
the bars in a perpendicular direction results in splitting
circumferential forces in Direction X. A sufficient bond
force is developed at this location (x = smx), which, together
with the splitting stresses along the transverse bars, is just large
enough to induce a maximum tensile stress equal to the
tensile strength of concrete.

The equilibrium forces acting on a concrete Section 1-1 in Fig. 2—Distribution of bond stress, splitting stress and
Direction X are shown in Fig. 2(a) for a unit width of the slab tensile stress over a section: (a) plan of two-way plate;
in Direction Y and (b) cross section of two-way plate.

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010 45

It should be noted that Eq. (10) is only valid for concrete arbitrarily taking cs = (3.0 – 3.5) db; and db is the bar diameter. For
covers equal to or less than 2.5db (Cc ≤ 2.5db), Cc is the clear a triangular stress distribution, K equals 0.5.11
concrete cover, for plates and two-way slabs with thick The contribution of the transverse splitting bond can be
concrete covers greater than the radius of the effective estimated by considering the equilibrium of forces acting on
embedment zone (Cc > 2.5db), it was found that a value of concrete to the left and right of Section 1-1 (Fig. 2(a)), and
0.75 for the coefficient μ will be more consistent, so Eq. (10) the unit width of the slab in transverse Direction Y
can be written as follows
Contribution of transverse steel reinforcement = K(cs – dby)fsp,tly (14)
f bo = 0.75 f c′ ( MPa ) (11)
The different components of the right hand side of Eq. (14)
can be estimated in the following:
This is due to the fact that such plates act as cross sections The splitting bond stress fsp,t can be assumed to be equal
that contain two separate materials: a reinforced concrete to fctm. The diameter of the effective embedment zone cs =
part and a plain concrete part. 3.0dby. The length of the effective embedment zone ly is
taken equal to the slab unit width. Therefore, Eq. (14) can be
Transverse steel reinforcement and written as follows for a unit width in the Y direction
splitting bond stress
Contribution of transverse steel reinforcement = 0.33(3dby – dby)fctm (15)
The contribution of the transverse steel reinforcement is
considered through splitting bond stress. Consider a concrete
cylindrical prism with a diameter of cs (diameter of effective The contribution of the splitting bond stress determined
embedment zone) containing a bar with a diameter of db, as from Eq. (15) can be substituted into Eq. (8), representing the
shown in Fig. 3(c). The radial components of the forces on equilibrium forces in Direction X to determine the crack
the concrete, shown in Fig. 3(a) and (b), cause a pressure p spacing as follows
on a portion of the cross section of the prism. This is equilibrated
by tensile stresses in the concrete on either side of the bar. In 2
--- πd bx f bos mx n x + 0.33 ( 2d by )f ctm = k t fctm A ctx (16)
Fig. 3(a), the distribution of these stresses has been previously 3
assumed to be parabolic; this assumption has been found to
provide more consistent values compared to the experimental The crack spacing formed in Direction X can be estimated
results. Splitting is assumed to occur when the maximum as follows
stress is equal to the tensile strength of the concrete fctm. For
equilibrium in the transverse direction in a prism with a k t fctm A ctx – 0.67 d by fctm
length equal to ly s mx = -------------------------------------------------------
- (17a)
2
--- πd bx f bo n x
3
Pd b l y c d
- = K ⎛ ----s – ----b-⎞ f ctm l y
------------ (12)
2 ⎝2 2⎠ Similarly, the spacing of cracks formed in Direction Y can
be estimated as follows
where K is the ratio of the average tensile stress to the
maximum tensile stress and equals 0.33 for the parabolic k t fctm Acty – 0.67 d bx fctm
stress distribution. A rearrangement gives s my = -------------------------------------------------------
- (17b)
2
--- πd by f bo n y
3
c
P = 0.33 ⎛ ----s- – 1⎞ f ctm (13)
⎝ db ⎠ Equations (17a) and (17b) give the crack spacing in
Directions X and Y, respectively, at a given stage of loading.
The proposed model suggests that increasing bar diameter db
where cs is the diameter of the effective embedment zone will result in decreased crack spacing and, hence, decreased
where the reinforcing bar can influence the concrete bond, crack width. Also, increasing the number of bars (decreasing
which is also known as the diameter of the splitting cylinder, bar spacing) will result in decreasing crack spacing and,
hence, achieving required crack control. To use the previous
expression, values of kt, Actx, Acty, fctm, and fbo must be
estimated. The constant kt is a tensile stress factor that
depends on the distribution of tensile stress on concrete areas
Actx and Acty. The value kt is the ratio of the average tensile
stress area to the actual tensile stress area within the effective
embedment thickness hef. For thick slabs, the tensile stress
distribution within the effective embedment thickness is
trapezoidal and, hence, kt could be assumed equal to 0.67 to
1.0. In the proposed expression, for plates and two-way slabs
having concrete covers of (Cc < 2.5db), tensile stress on the
Fig. 3—Stresses in circular concrete prism subjected to concrete is assumed to be uniformly distributed and, hence,
bond stresses: (a) parabolic stress distribution; (b) triangular kt can be taken as equal to unity.7 For thick plates and two-
stress distribution; and (c) diameter of effective embedment way slabs with thick concrete covers that are greater than
zone. 2.5db and less than 5.0db, tensile stress distribution on the

46 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010

concrete is assumed to be trapezoidal and, hence, kt can be had different slab thicknesses (250 and 300 mm [10 and 12 in.]),
taken equal to 0.67; this assumption was found to be more different concrete cover thicknesses (60 and 70 mm [2.4 and
convenient. The values of Actx and Acty, which are the effective 2.75 in.]), and different bar sizes (15M and 25 M [No. 5 and
stretched area of concrete in the X and Y direction, are No. 8]) but with the same big bar spacing of 368 mm (14.5 in.).
assumed to be All the specimens of Series I and Series II were designed
to fail in flexure, as recommended by Marzouk and
Actx = hefxb (18a) Hussein.12 The third group (Series III), however, was
designed to investigate the effect of other modes of failure on
Acty = hefyb (18b) crack spacing. The specimens in this series were designed to
fail under pure punching failure mode, as discussed by
Osman et al.13 The third group includes two thick, heavy,
where hef is effective embedment thickness (shown in Fig. 1)
reinforced specimens HS3 (h = 350 mm [14 in.]) and NS5
as the greater of a1 + 7.5d ′be and a2 + 7.5d′be but not greater
(h = 400 mm [16 in.]) with the same 70 mm (2.75 in.) thick
than the tension zone or half slab thickness, mm; and b is the
concrete cover and heavy reinforcement ratio, which is a
width of the section, mm.
typical practice for offshore structures.
Crack spacing for beams and one-way slabs
The proposed equation can be used to calculate the crack Test procedure
spacing for beams and one-way slabs by modifying the peak A typical cross section of the tested specimen is shown in
bond strength fbo, according to the CEB-FIP4 model code Fig. 4. The tested slab was placed in the frame in a vertical
provisions (Table 3.1.1). For cases where failure is initiated position. The test slabs were simply supported along all four
by shearing of the concrete between the ribs (all other bond edges with the corners free to lift. The specimen was initially
conditions), fbo is calculated as loaded up to 10% of the ultimate load. Then, crack gauges
were installed using epoxy glue on the tension surface of the
slab and left for 1 hour to enable the epoxy to dry. The load
f bo = 1.25 f c′ ( MPa ) (19) was released and then reapplied at a selected load increment
of 44.0 kN (10 kips). The tested slabs were carefully
The crack spacing can be estimated as inspected at each load step. The cracks were marked manually
after mapping all the cracks on the specimen. Crack mapping of
k t f ct A ct
s m = ---------------------
- (20)
2 Table 1—Details of test specimens
--- π d b f bon
3 Com-
pressive Bar Bar Concrete Slab Steel
Series Slab strength size, spacing s, cover Cc, thickness, Depth, ratio
where n is the number of bars per unit width. The constant kt No. no. c* f ′ , MPa
mm mm mm mm mm ρ,%
is a tensile stress factor, which depends on the distribution of NS1 44.7 10 210 45 150 105.0 0.48
tensile stress on concrete areas Act. In the present research, a I
NS2 50.2 15 240 40 200 152.5 0.54
value of 0.67 for the coefficient kt was found to be more
NS3 35.0 15 368 60 250 182.5 0.35
consistent for beams and one-way slabs.
HS1 70.0 15 368 60 250 182.5 0.35
II
NS4 40.0 25 368 70 300 217.5 0.73
EXPERIMENTAL INVESTIGATION
The variables considered in the current investigation are HS2 64.7 25 368 70 300 217.5 0.73
the concrete cover, slab thickness, and bar spacing for HS3 65.4 35 289 70 350 262.5 1.44
III
normal- and high-strength concrete. The selected values for NS5 40.0 35 217 70 400 312.5 1.58
the proposed experimental testing are typical for the possible *NS is normal-strength slabs; and HS is high-strength slabs.
use in Canadian offshore applications. A total of eight Note: 1 MPa = 145 psi; 1 mm = 0.0394 in.
concrete slabs were tested. Five normal-strength concrete
slabs (NS) and three high-strength concrete slabs (HS) were
selected for the experimental investigation of the cracking
behavior study as detailed in Table 1. The slabs’ thicknesses
ranged from 150 to 400 mm (6 to 16 in.) and were designed
to examine the effect of slab thickness on the cracking
behavior. The details of a typical test specimen are shown in
Fig. 4. The test slabs were classified into three series.
The first group (Series I) was designed to investigate the
effect of concrete cover and bar spacing on the crack width.
The group was made of two slabs designated as NS1 (h =
150 mm [6 in.]) and NS2 (h = 200 mm [8 in.]). The slabs had
the same concrete cover (Cc = 40 mm [1.6 in.]), with
different bar spacing. The effect of concrete strength on
crack spacing was not considered because it has a small
influence on the crack spacing in Series I. The second group
(Series II) was designed to investigate the effect of concrete
cover, concrete strength, and corresponding change in steel Fig. 4—Details of typical test specimen HSC2 (thickness
ratio on the average crack spacing. The slabs of this group 300 mm [12 in.]).

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010 47

the specimen was depicted by means of photographs at each followed by radial cracking extending from the column edge
stage of loading throughout the experiment. These photographs toward the edge of the slab.
were inserted in a computer aided AutoCAD software drafting For the slabs failing in flexure (NS1, NS2, NS3, and HS1),
package on a two-dimensional grid with a scale of one to one. the crack pattern observed prior to punching consisted of one
Cracks were retraced on the computer using AutoCAD, tools, tangential crack, roughly at the column outline, followed by
and the spacing was measured and averaged using the software. radial cracking extending from the column. In all slabs,
It was found that for all the specimens, the first crack forms along flexure yield lines were well developed. This failure can be
the reinforcing bar and passes through the slab center or close to classified as flexure failure. For the slabs failing by flexure-
the slab center. The second crack forms along the punching, the crack pattern observed prior to punching
perpendicular reinforcing bar in the other direction. consisted of almost no tangential crack; radial cracking extending
from the column was the most dominant crack pattern.
Test results Failure patterns of the tested slabs are shown in Fig. 5 to 7.
The first crack of each specimen was visually inspected It was noticed that increasing the concrete cover resulted
and the corresponding load was recorded as the first crack in increased crack spacing. Test results of Series II indicated
load. The yield steel strain was recorded at a value of that increasing the concrete cover from 60 to 70 mm (2.4 to
2000 με, which produced a stress in the steel reinforcing bar 2.75 in.) increased the crack spacing from 245 to 261 mm
equal to 400 MPa (58 ksi). The yield strain was measured at (9.7 to 10.3 in.). The test results of Series I (Specimens NS1 and
a location 150 mm (6 in.) from the center of the slab. The NS2) and Series II indicated that as the bar spacing is increased
value of 2000 με was suggested based on experimental from 210 to 240 mm (8.3 to 9.5 in.), the crack spacing increased
observations of the stress-strain curve of a single reinforcing bar. from 201 to 221 mm (8 to 8.7 in.), respectively.
In all tested slabs, the initial observed cracks were first Series II included two specimens (NS3 and HS1) reinforced
formed tangentially under the edge of the column stub, with low steel reinforcement ratio 0.35%, and two specimens
(NS4 and HS2) reinforced with medium steel reinforcement
ratio 0.7% to fail under flexure mode. All specimens had the
same bar spacing 368 mm (14.5 in.). It is interesting to point
out that the average crack spacing almost equal to 253 mm
(10 in.) was much smaller than the bar spacing.
Series III included two specimens (HS3 and NS5) reinforced
with heavy steel reinforcement ratios 1.44 and 1.58% with
the same 70 mm (2.75 in.) thick concrete cover. Test results
revealed that crack control (crack width) can still be achieved
by limiting the spacing of the reinforcing steel despite using
thick concrete cover. The crack width can be calculated by
multiplying the crack spacing by the steel strain. The steel
strain can be determined at any loading by determining the
neutral axis and assuming linear stress distribution.

DISCUSSION
Verification of proposed model
A total of 12 simply-supported beams and one-way slabs
were subjected to constant sustained service loads for a
period of 400 days by Gilbert and Nejadi.14 The parameters
varied in the tests were the shape of the section b/h, the
number of reinforcing bars, the spacing between bars s, the
concrete cover Cc, and the sustained load level. A comparison
between beam Series 1 and 2 (Table 2) demonstrates that
increasing the clear concrete cover increases the average
crack spacing. This is because the crack spacing srm is
inversely proportional to the effective reinforcement ratio
ρeff. Increasing the bottom cover increases the effective
tension area of the concrete and decreases the effective rein-
forcement ratio, which results in a larger crack spacing. Also,
increasing the tensile reinforcement area decreases crack
spacing and reduces crack width (because crack spacing is
inversely proportional to the effective reinforcement ratio).
Frosch et al.15 tested 10 one-way slabs to determine the
effects of bar spacing and epoxy coating thickness on crack
width and spacing. The primary variables evaluated in the
study were the spacing of the reinforcement and the epoxy
coating thickness. The parameters varied in the tests were the
reinforcing bars type, the spacing between bars s, and the
sustained load level. The measured crack width and spacing
Fig. 5—Crack patterns of Series I: (a) NS1 (thickness were also compared to calculated crack width and spacing.
150 mm [6 in.]); and (b) NS2 (thickness 200 mm [8 in.]). Major conclusions derived from this investigation include:

48 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010

spacing of reinforcement significantly affected the width and Nejadi;14 10 test results of Frosch et al.,15 with different
spacing of cracks; and as the reinforcement spacing concrete covers and different bar spacing; and 8 test results of
decreased, the spacing of primary cracks decreased and the Marzouk and Hossin,8 with different concrete strengths,
number of primary cracks increased. different concrete covers, and different bar spacing.
To verify the validity of the new proposed model, the For the proposed model, the overall average theory/test
model was applied to predict the average crack spacing of ratio was 1.028 with a standard deviation of 0.149, giving
normalweight concrete test slabs reported in the literature strong support to the ability of the proposed model to evaluate
(that is, tests other than those of the authors). The results
the average crack spacing in tested slabs. It is also worth
indicate that a very good correlation exists between theoretical
and measured average crack spacing values and between emphasizing that the slabs analyzed and presented in Tables
theoretical and calculated average spacing values using 2 to 4 cover many variables that influence crack spacing,
CSA-S474-04 and NS-92 codes were very close to the such as concrete strength, bar spacing, and concrete cover.
experiments with approximately 5% error. In this paper, the Bearing this in mind, as well as the fact that the tests themselves
model has been applied to 30 tests to predict the average crack are one-to-one scale models of the prototype and the inevitable
spacing of beams and one- and two-way concrete slabs. The scatter of test results in concrete behavior, the theoretical
geometry of test slabs, the analysis, and the results are shown model developed herein is an excellent representation of the
in Tables 2 to 4 and include 12 test results of Gilbert and physical behavior of tested specimens.

Fig. 6—Crack patterns of Series II: (a) NS3 (thickness 250 mm [10 in.]); (b) HS1 (thickness 250 mm [10 in.]); (c) NS4
(thickness 300 mm [12 in.]); and (d) HS2 (thickness 300 mm [12 in.]).

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010 49

Table 2—Comparison between calculated crack spacing values using code formulas with measured
experimental values for test specimens by Gilbert and Nejadi14
Concrete cover Bar spacing s, New proposed Experimental
Slab no. Cc , mm Height h, mm mm fc′ , MPa NS/CSA, mm CEB, mm model, mm results, mm
Beam 1-a 40 348 150 36 179 190 173 192
Beam 1-b 40 348 150 36 179 190 173 186
Beam 2-a 25 333 180 36 151 190 157 149
Beam 2-b 25 333 180 36 151 190 157 163
Beam 3-a 25 333 90 36 105 127 105 109
Beam 3-b 25 333 90 36 105 127 105 104
Slab 1-a 25 161 308 36 184 178 177 131
Slab 1-b 25 161 308 36 184 178 177 128
Slab 2-a 25 161 154 36 124 119 118 92
Slab 2-b 25 161 154 36 124 119 118 131
Slab 3-a 25 161 103 36 100 89 88 89
Slab 3-b 25 161 103 36 100 89 88 117
*
NS is normal-strength slabs; and HS is high-strength slabs.
Note: 1 MPa = 145 psi; 1 mm = 0.0394 in.

Fig. 8—Comparison of crack spacing equations at 150 mm

(6 in.) bar spacing.
Tables 2 to 4 show a comparison between the calculated
values of crack spacing with the measured experimental
values reported by different researchers.8,14,15 Analysis of
the results given in Tables 2 to 4 indicates that the new
proposed model provides good estimates for crack spacing in
slabs having small and thick concrete covers.
Figures 8 and 9 show a comparison in the calculations for
crack spacing between the new proposed model and different
codes with the measured experimental values by Marzouk
and Hossin.8 Figures 8 and 9 indicate that the crack spacing
values estimated using the presented model, CSA-04, NS-92,
and EC2-04 codes were very close to the experiments
with approximately 5 to 9% error. The codes’ expressions
for crack spacing are based on the beam theory, whereas
the presented model is rational because it is based on two-
way action.

Comparison of experimental versus theoretical

estimates of crack spacing
Table 5 shows a comparison between the calculated values
of crack spacing with the measured experimental values. For
bar spacing greater than 300 mm (12 in.), the Norwegian
code NS 3474 E3 and the Canadian offshore code CSA-S474-042
Fig. 7—Crack patterns of Series III: (a) HS3 (thickness overestimates the average crack spacing by approximately
350 mm [14 in.]); and (b) NS5 (thickness 400 mm [16 in.]). 33%. In general, the calculated average crack spacing was

50 ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010

Table 3—Comparison between calculated crack spacing values using code formulas with measured
experimental values for test specimens by Marzouk and Hossin8
Concrete cover Slab thickness, Bar spacing s, New proposed Experimental
Slab no. Cc , mm mm mm fc′ , MPa NS/CSA, mm CEB, mm model, mm results, mm
NSC1 30 200 150 35.0 125 77 126 134
HSC1 50 200 150 68.5 165 68 187 171
HSC2 60 200 150 70.0 186 63 188 185
HSC3 30 200 200 66.7 146 100 182 163
HSC4 30 200 250 61.2 167 125 184 172
HSC5 30 150 100 70.0 107 56 111 120
NSC2 30 200 240 33.0 204 204 225 223
NSC3 40 150 240 34.0 228 182 230 239
Note: 1 MPa = 145 psi; 1 mm = 0.0394 in.

Table 4—Comparison between calculated crack spacing values using code formulas with measured
experimental values for test specimens by Frosch et al.15
Concrete cover Bar spacing s, New proposed Experimental
Slab no. Cc , mm Height h, mm mm fc′ , MPa NS/CSA, mm CEB, mm model, mm results, mm
B-6 46 203 152 46.6 167 118 136 175
B-9 46 203 229 44.4 213 177 211 229
B-12 46 203 305 44.5 260 236 282 249
B-18 46 203 457 47.4 352 355 411 310
E12-6 46 203 152 46.7 167 118 136 170
E12-9 46 203 229 46.4 213 177 206 226
E12-12 46 203 305 45.7 260 236 278 257
E12-18 46 203 457 46.8 352 355 414 338
E6-9 46 203 229 46.1 213 177 207 203
E18-9 46 203 229 45.9 213 177 207 188
Note: 1 MPa = 145 psi; 1 mm = 0.0394 in.

Table 5—Comparison between calculated crack spacing values using code formulas with measured
experimental values
Concrete Slab thickness, Bar spacing s, New proposed Experimental
Slab no. cover Cc , mm mm mm fc′ , MPa NS/CSA, mm CEB, mm model, mm results, mm
NS1 45 150 210 44.7 211 137 248 201
NS2 40 200 240 50.2 216 176 234 221
NS3 60 250 368 35.0 341 279 320 245
HS1 60 250 368 35.0 341 279 361 263
NS4 70 300 368 70.0 331 225 273 261
HS2 70 300 368 64.7 331 225 304 246
HS3 70 350 289 65.4 276 160 273 264
NS5 70 400 217 40.0 252 145 226 250
Note: 1 MPa = 145 psi; 1 mm = 0.0394 in.

higher than test results, and as both the concrete cover and
bar spacing increased, the crack spacing increased theoretically
and experimentally. For bar spacing less than 250 mm (10 in.),
the CEB-FIB4 model code underestimates the average
crack spacing by approximately 31%, compared to the one
measured during testing.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

Most of the available expressions for estimating the crack
spacing and width are based on beams and test results for
one-way slabs. The behavior of reinforced concrete plates
and two-way slabs is different from the behavior of the one-way
beams. A new analytical expression is recommended for plates
and two-way slabs with longitudinal and transverse
reinforcements. The proposed method takes into consideration Fig. 9—Comparison of crack spacing equations at 250 mm
the effects of steel bond in the loading direction and the (10 in.) bar spacing.

ACI Structural Journal/January-February 2010 51

contribution of the splitting bond stresses for the transverse steel. k2 = coefficient to account for strain gradient
The main conclusions can be summarized as follows: kt = tensile stress factor
ls,max = length over which slip between steel and concrete occurs; steel
• The proposed method gives a good estimate for crack and concrete strains, which occur within this length, contribute to
spacing in plates and two-way slabs with concrete covers width of crack
equal to (Cc < 2.5db). S = center-to-center spacing of flexural tension reinforcement
• The proposed method can be used for thick concrete nearest to surface of extreme tension face
Smx = crack spacing for cracks normal to x reinforcement
covers (Cc = 2.5 – 5.0db), plates, and two-way slabs Smy = crack spacing for cracks normal to y reinforcement
after reducing one third of the tensile stress constant kt. Srm = average stabilized crack spacing
For two-way slabs with concrete covers larger than ρs,ef = effective reinforcement ratio; and equals area of steel considered
5.0db , however, it can be speculated that the crack spacing divided by area of effective zone where concrete can influence
behaves randomly. This is due to the fact that such slabs crack widths
ρs2 = reinforcement stress at crack location
act as cross sections that contain two separate materials. ρsE = steel stress at point of zero slip
• For bar spacing greater than 300 mm (12 in.), the τbk = lower fractile value of average bond stress
Norwegian code NS 3474 E3 and the Canadian offshore
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