The chief fault of concrete building blocks, as ordinarily made, is their tendency to absorb water. In this respect they are generally no worse than sandstone or common brick; it is well known that stone or brick walls are too permeable to allow plastering directly on the inside surface, and must be furred and lathed before plastering, to avoid dampness. This practice is generally followed with concrete blocks, but their use and popularity would be greatly increased if they were made sufficiently waterproof to allow plastering directly on the inside surface.

For this purpose it is not necessary that blocks should be perfectly waterproof, but only that the absorption of water shall be slow, so that it may penetrate only part way through the wall during a long-continued rain. Walls made entirely water-tight are, in fact, objectionable, owing to their tendency to "sweat" from condensation of moisture on the inside surface. For health and comfort, walls must be slightly porous, so that any moisture formed on the inside may be gradually absorbed and carried away.

Excessive water absorption may be avoided in the following ways:

1. Use of Properly Graded Materials

It has been shown by Feret and others that porosity and permeability are two different things; porosity is the total proportion of voids or open spaces in the mass, while permeability is the rate at which water, under a given pressure, will pass through it. Permeability depends on the size of the openings as well as on their total amount. In two masses of the same porosity or percentage of voids, one consisting of coarse and the other of fine particles, the permeability will be greater in the case of the coarse material. The least permeability, and also the least porosity, are, however, obtained by use of a suitable mixture of coarse and fine particles. Properly graded gravel or screenings, containing plenty of coarse fragments and also enough fine material to fill up the pores, will be found to give a much less permeable concrete than fine or coarse sand used alone.

2. Use of Rich Mixtures

All concretes are somewhat permeable by water under sufficient pressure. Mixtures rich in cement are of course much less permeable than poorer mixtures. If the amount of cement used is more than sufficient to fill the voids in the sand and gravel, a very dense concrete is obtained, into which the penetration of water is extremely slow. The permeability also decreases considerably with age, owing to the gradual crystallization of the cement in the pores, so that concrete

which is at first quite absorbent may become practically impermeable after exposure to weather for a few weeks or months. There appears to be a very decided increase in permeability when the cement is reduced below the amount necessary to fill the voids. For example, a well-mixed sand and gravel weighing 123 pounds per cubic foot, and therefore containing 25 per cent voids, will give a fairly impermeable concrete in mixtures up to 1 to 4, but with less cement will be found quite absorbent. A gravel with only 20 per cent voids would give about equally good results with a 1 to 5 mixture; such gravel is, however, rarely met with in practice. On the other hand, the best sand, mixed fine and coarse, seldom contains less than 33 per cent voids, and concrete made from such material will prove permeable if poorer than 1 to 3.

3. Use of a Facing

Penetration of water may be effectively prevented by giving the blocks a facing of richer mixture than the body. For the sake of smooth appearance, facings are generally made of cement and fine sand, and it is often noticed that these do not harden well. It should be remembered that a 1 to 3 sand mixture is no stronger and little if any better in water absorption than a 1 to 5 mixture of well-graded sand and gravel. To secure good hardness and resistance to moisture a facing as rich as 1 to 2 should be used.

4. Use of an Impervious Partition

When blocks are made on a horizontal-face machine, it is a simple matter, after the face is tamped and cores pushed into place, to throw into each opening a small amount of rich and rather wet mortar, spread this fairly evenly, and then go on tamping in the ordinary mixture until the mold is filled. A dense layer across each of the cross walls is thus obtained, which effectually prevents moisture from passing beyond it. A method of accomplishing the same result with vertical-face machines, by inserting tapered wooden blocks in the middle of the cross walls, withdrawing these blocks after tamping, and filling the spaces with rich mortar, has been patented. In the two-piece system the penetration of moisture through the wall is prevented by leaving an empty space between the web of the block and the inside face, or by filling this space with rich mortar.

5. Use of Waterproof Compounds

There are compounds on the market, of a fatty or waxy nature, which, when

| mixed with cement to the amount of

only 1 or 2 per cent of its weight, increase its water-resisting qualities in a remarkable degree. By thoroughly mixing 1 to 2 pounds of suitable compound with each sack of, cement used, blocks which are practically waterproof may be made, at very small additional cost, from 1 to 4 or 1 to 5 mixtures. In purchasing waterproof compound, however, care should be taken to select such as has been proved to be permanent in its effect, and some of the materials used for this purpose lose their effect after a few days' exposure to weather, and are entirely worthless.

6. Application to Surface after Erecting

Various washes, to make concrete and stone impervious to water, have been used with some success. Among these the best known is the Sylvester wash of alum and soap solution. It is stated that this requires frequent renewal, and it is hardly likely to prove of any value in the concrete industry. The writer's experience has been that the most effective remedy, in case a concrete building proves damp, is to give the outside walls a very thin wash of cement suspended in water. One or two coats will be found sufficient. If too thick a coating is formed it will show hair cracks. The effect of the cement wash is to make the walls appear lighter in color, and if the coating is thin the appearance is in no way injured.