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Building better

post-tensioned slabs
New manual covers the proper installation and stressing
of post-tensioning systems for light commercial and
residential slabs on grade

BY M.K. HURD

ow to build and maintain include: n Jobsite troubleshooting of tendon

H light commercial and resi-


dential slabs using single-
strand unbonded post-ten-
sioning systems—this is the
essential message of Construction and
Maintenance Procedures Manual for
Post-Tensioned Slabs-on-Ground. Re-
n Building pad preparation
n Tendon delivery, handling, and
storage
n Tendon installation and stressing,
including safety considerations
n Tendon finishing
installation and tensioning equip-
ment problems
The manual’s step-by-step proce-
dures for tendon installation and
stressing are useful for builders and
inspectors unfamiliar with post-ten-

leased in 1998 by the Post-Tension-


ing Institute, the new manual was
developed by PTI’s Committee for
Slab-on-Ground Construction.
Russell L. Price, executive vice
president of Suncoast Post-Tension,
Houston, and a major contributor to
the committee effort, says that post-
tensioned slabs on ground provide a
superior foundation system for light All photos courtesy of Suncoast Post-Tension

commercial and residential struc-


tures. “But,” he adds, “it is essential
that the post-tensioning system be
properly installed and stressed.
That’s why the committee felt it was
necessary that we get an instruc-
tional manual into the hands of
builders, subcontractors, and the
field personnel that are doing the
work.”
The new Post-Tensioning Institute manual includes plans and cross sections for
The new manual not only offers both ribbed and uniform-thickness slabs. This ribbed slab is ready for concrete
guidance for builders, it also serves placement, with a moisture barrier placed over the subgrade after interior beam
as a reference for engineers, design- forms have been cut into the earth. Plastic support chairs hold the tendons in the
ers, and inspectors. Topics covered center third of the slab depth.
sioned slabs. In addition, it explains manual’s contents and recommenda- slab. The manual includes detailed
to property owners their role in tions. drawings showing tendon anchorage
maintaining the proper foundation installation at both the fixed and
environment essential to satisfactory Building pad preparation stressing ends, tendon layout and
performance of post-tensioned slabs Adequate site drainage is impor- support, how to deflect a tendon
on ground. tant for any foundation built and around a blockout, what to do at ele-
Following is an overview of the supported directly on the ground. vation changes in the slab, and how
Moisture variations in the support- to handle tendons at intersecting
ing soil can influence the bearing ca- beams. There also is a checklist for
pacity of compressible soils and the inspection of the post-tensioning
activity, both shrinking and system before concrete placement to
swelling, of expansive soils. ensure that the system is completed
The manual recommends clearing in accordance with approved con-
the site of debris and organic mater- tract drawings.
ial before adding and compacting The manual recommends the
any fill needed to replace unsuitable following slab tendon placing
local soil or to bring the building tolerances:
pad to the required elevation. Fill
n Vertical deviations: 51⁄2 inch for
generally should extend beyond the
slabs 5 inches or thinner, and
perimeter of the building pad and
510% of slab thickness (not to
slope away from it to provide the
exceed 1 inch) for slabs thicker
necessary drainage. Site-specific rec-
ommendations provided in the geo- than 5 inches
technical report and requirements of n Horizontal deviations: up to 12
the engineer’s drawings must be inches, provided a smooth transi-
consulted. Some will require installa- tion and proper cover are main-
tion of tained
a vapor barrier or vapor retarder over The minimum recommended con-
Tendon sheathing must be cut back so the prepared subgrade crete cover for slab post-tensioning
it does not protrude into the anchor. material. tendons is 1 inch at the top and 11⁄2
Proper installation at the stressing end
inches at the bottom. For beams,
(above) leaves no more than 1 inch of Tendon installation
the steel exposed. At the fixed-end (or this minimum cover increases to 2
Proper installation of unbonded inches (top) and 3 inches (bottom).
dead-end) anchorage shown below,
tendons is crucial to the long-term Location tolerances for anchorages
the steel can be exposed up to a 12-
inch maximum. performance of a post-tensioned also are given.

Concrete mix design,


placing, and finishing
Though mix designs will vary con-
siderably from site to site, the man-
ual recommends a minimum 28-day
compressive strength of 2500 psi for
single-family and 3000 psi for multi-
family residential slabs. Calcium
chloride or chloride-containing ad-
mixtures should never be used. Since
the typical post-tensioned slab on
grade has no temperature reinforce-
ment, concrete shrinkage must be
considered, and a controlled water-
cement ratio and low-shrinkage ag-
gregate are recommended. The time
required for concrete to reach the
strength required for initial tendon
Many post-tensioned slab designs today use some conventional reinforcing steel stressing also is a factor to consider
in locations such as reentrant corners, where it can counteract shrinkage stresses in selecting a mix. The quicker the
during initial curing of the concrete. concrete reaches the required
specified by the design engineer or recommendations explain how to
recommended by the post-tension- deal with:
ing materials supplier. The manual n Strand slippage due to cement
explains, step by step, how to pre- paste in the anchor wedge cavity
pare for tendon stressing and how to
n Honeycombing in the concrete
perform the stressing operation it-
n Blowouts (of both tendons and
self. It also explains the causes of im-
concrete)
proper elongation and problems that
n Tendons too short to be stressed
can occur with the stressing jacks. A
14-item list of what to inspect be- using normal procedures
fore, during, and after stressing of n Tendon splicing
the tendons is included. This section also explains how to
To ensure safety during post-ten- do a “lift-off” test to verify the force
sioning, installers should follow the in a tendon after it has been
stressing procedures provided by the stressed, and how to resolve com-
company furnishing the post-ten- mon problems with the jacking
sioning material and stressing equip- equipment.
ment. The manual addresses com-
mon safety issues and includes a Maintenance
“Don’ts of Stressing” list to point out Maintenance of the site around
This installation of the tendon at the unsafe practices. foundation slabs built directly on
fixed-end anchorage is incorrect. A ground is something that building
3
⁄4-inch space between the form and Measuring elongation owners may overlook. To prevent
the end of the tendon is required to and finishing tendons problems that can be caused by im-
provide protective concrete cover. The A significant part of determining proper drainage or landscaping alter-
tendon should not be against the the accuracy of the stressing opera- ations, builders should inform own-
edge form. tion is the initial marking of the ten- ers of their basic site-maintenance
dons and recording of tendon elon- responsibilities.
strength, the sooner the tendons can gation after tensioning. A Establishing landscaping and a
be stressed. step-by-step procedure shows how to watering program that will produce
In general, contractors should correctly record stressing and elon- a consistent moisture content of the
place concrete following the guide- gation results. supporting soil is the key to proper
lines of ACI 302.1R-96, “Guide for Because protection of the entire foundation performance. To pro-
Concrete Floor and Slab Construc- post-tensioning system is key to the mote rapid water run-off and avoid
tion,” taking extra precautions to long-term performance and durabil- ponding of water near the founda-
prevent dislocation of the post-ten- ity of the post-tensioned slab, a sec- tion, the manual recommends grad-
sioning tendons. Consolidation is tion of the manual explains how to ing away from the foundation, using
critical near the tendon anchorage protect the stress anchorages and a 3% to 5% slope for at least 10 feet
zones to eliminate voids and honey- tendon tails. It discusses flame cut- from the foundation edge. It also
combing behind the anchors. ting and sawcutting of tendon tails recommends an annual drainage
The manual also discusses finish- and how to grout pockets at tendon survey, with remedial action when
ing and curing operations and ways ends. needed to prevent ponding.
to reduce plastic shrinkage cracking,
including partial stressing of the ten- Troubleshooting
dons as early as 24 hours after con- M.K. Hurd is an engineer and writer
Though the manual offers sugges-
crete placement. specializing in concrete building
tions for preventing and correcting
methods. She is a former editor of
Stressing the tendons some of the most frequent post-ten- Concrete Construction magazine
sioning installation problems, it and author of Formwork for Con-
Tensioning of tendons should not
warns that jobsite troubleshooting crete, published by the American
begin until the concrete has attained
should be done only by qualified Concrete Institute.
the minimum compressive strength
and experienced personnel. Specific

Publication #C99G035
Copyright© 1999, The Aberdeen Group
a division of Hanley-Wood, Inc.
All rights reserved