The strength of concrete depends greatly upon its density, and this is secured by using coarse material which contains the smallest amount of voids or empty spaces. Different kinds of sand gravel, and stone vary greatly in the amount of voids they contain, and by judiciously mixing coarse and fine material the voids may be much reduced and the density increased. The density and percentage of voids in concrete material may be determined by filling a box of 1 cubic foot capacity and weighing it. One cubic foot of solid quartz or limestone, entirely free from voids, would weigh 165 pounds, and the amount by which a cubic foot of any loose material falls short of this weight represents the proportion of voids contained in it. For example, if a cubic foot of sand weighs 115.5 pounds, the voids would be 49.5-165ths of the total volume, or 30 per cent.

The following table gives the per cent of voids and weight per cubic foot of some common concrete materials:

Per Cent Wt. per Voids Cu. Ft.

Sandusky Bay sand.32.3. 111.7 pounds

Same through 20-mesh screen......38.5 101.5 pounds

Gravel, 1/8 to 1/4 inch....42.4 95.0 pounds

Broken limestone, egg-size..........47.0 87.4 pounds

Limestone screenings, dust to 1/2 inch..............26.0 122.2 pounds

It will be noted that screening the sand through a 20-mesh sieve, and thus taking out the coarse grains, considerably increased the voids and reduced the weight; thus decidedly injuring the sand for making concrete.

The following figures show how weight can be increased and voids reduced by mixing fine and coarse material:

Per Cent Wt. per Voids Cu. Ft.s

Pebbles, about 1 inch.............38.7 ' 101.2 pounds

Sand, 30 to 40 mesh. 35.9 105.8 poundss

Pebbles plus 38.7 per cent sand, by vol.. 19.2 133.5 pounds

Experiments have shown that the strength of concrete increases greatly with its density; in fact, a slight increase in weight per cubic foot adds very decidedly to the strength.

The gain in strength obtained by adding coarse material to mixtures of cement and sand is shown in the following table of results of experiments made in Germany by R. Dykerhoff. The blocks tested were 2.5-inch cubes, 1 day in air and 27 days in water.

 

Per

Com-

Proportions by Measure.

Cent.

pression

 

Cement.

Strength.

Cement.

Sand.

Gravel.

By

Volume.

Lbs. per Sq. In.

1

2

...

33 0

2,125

1

2

5

12.5

2,387

1

3

...

25.0

1,383

1

3

6.5

9.5

1,515

1

4

...

20.0

1,053

1

4

8.5

7.4

1,204

These figures show how greatly the strength is improved by adding coarse material, even though the proportion of cement is thereby reduced. A mixture of 1 to 12.5 of properly proportioned sand and gravel is, in fact, stronger than 1 to 4, and nearly as strong as 1 to 3, of cement and sand only.

In selecting materials for concrete, those should be chosen which give the greatest density. If it is practicable to mix two materials, as sand and gravel, the proportion which gives the greatest density should be determined by experiment, and rigidly adhered to in making concrete, whatever proportion of cement it is decided to use. Well-proportioned dry sand and gravel or sand and broken stone, well shaken down, should weigh at least 125 pounds per cubic foot. Limestone screenings, owing to minute pores in the stone itself, are somewhat lighter, though giving equally strong concrete. They should weigh at least 120 pounds per cubic foot. If the weight is less, there is probably too much fine dust in the mixture.

The density and strength of concrete are also greatly improved by use of a liberal amount of water. Enough water must be used to make the concrete thoroughly soft and plastic, so as to quake strongly when rammed. If mixed too dry it will never harden properly, and will be light, porous, and crumbling.

Thorough mixing of concrete materials is essential, to increase the density and give the cement used a chance to produce its full strength. The cement, sand, and gravel should be intimately mixed dry, then the water added and the mixing continued. If stone or coarse gravel is added, this should be well wetted and thoroughly mixed with the mortar.