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HomeUncategorizedImportance of Aggregate Gradation of concrete slab

Importance of Aggregate Gradation of concrete slab

Aggregate is commonly considered inert filler, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the volume and 70 to 85 percent of the weight of concrete. Although aggregate is considered inert filler, it is a necessary component that defines the concrete’s thermal and elastic properties and dimensional stability.

Value of aggregate gradation for concrete slab

Aggregates are inert granular materials such as sand, gravel, or crushed stone that, along with water and portland cement, are an essential ingredient in concrete.

Aggregate is classified as two different types, coarse and fine. Coarse aggregate is usually greater than 4.75 mm (retained on a No. 4 sieve), while fine aggregate is less than 4.75 mm (passing the No. 4 sieve). The compressive aggregate strength is an important factor in the selection of aggregate. When determining the strength of normal concrete, most concrete aggregates are several times stronger than the other components in concrete and therefore not a factor in the strength of normal strength concrete. Lightweight aggregate concrete may be more influenced by the compressive strength of the aggregates. However, there is also a third type of aggregate known Combined Aggregate, which is analysed in this article.

Other physical and mineralogical properties of aggregate must be known before mixing concrete to obtain a desirable mixture. These properties include shape and texture, size gradation, moisture content, specific gravity, reactivity, soundness and bulk unit weight. These properties along with the water/cementitious material ratio determine the strength, workability, and durability of concrete.

Properties of aggregate gradation for concrete slab

The shape and texture of aggregate affects the properties of fresh concrete more than hardened concrete. Concrete is more workable when smooth and rounded aggregate is used instead of rough angular or elongated aggregate. Most natural sands and gravel from river beds or seashores are smooth and rounded and are excellent aggregates. Crushed stone produces much more angular and elongated aggregates, which have a higher surface-to-volume ratio, better bond characteristics but require more cement paste to produce a workable mixture.

The surface texture of aggregate can be either smooth or rough. A smooth surface can improve workability, yet a rougher surface generates a stronger bond between the paste and the aggregate creating a higher strength.

The moisture content of an aggregate is an important factor when developing the proper water/cementitious material ratio. All aggregates contain some moisture based on the porosity of the particles and the moisture condition of the storage area. The moisture content can range from less than one percent in gravel to up to 40 percent in very porous sandstone and expanded shale. Aggregate can be found in four different moisture states that include oven-dry (OD), air-dry (AD), saturated-surface dry (SSD) and wet. Of these four states, only OD and SSD correspond to a specific moisture state and can be used as reference states for calculating moisture content. In order to calculate the quantity of water that aggregate will either add or subtract to the paste, the following three quantities must be calculated: absorption capacity, effective absorption, and surface moisture.

Most stockpiled coarse aggregate is in the AD state with an absorption of less than one percent, but most fine aggregate is often in the wet state with surface moisture up to five percent. This surface moisture on the fine aggregate creates a thick film over the surface of the particles pushing them apart and increasing the apparent volume. This is commonly known as bulking and can cause significant errors in proportioning volume.

Density of the aggregate gradation for concrete slab

The density of the aggregates is required in mixture proportioning to establish weight-volume relationships. Specific gravity is easily calculated by determining the densities by the displacement of water. All aggregates contain some porosity, and the specific gravity value depends on whether these pores are included in the measurement. There are two terms that are used to distinguish this measurement; absolute specific gravity and bulk specific gravity. Absolute specific gravity (ASG) refers to the solid material excluding the pores, and bulk specific gravity (BSG), sometimes called apparent specific gravity, includes the volume of the pores. For the purpose of mixture proportioning, it is important to know the space occupied by the aggregate particles, including the pores within the particles. The BSG of an aggregate is not directly related to its performance in concrete, although, the specification of BSG is often done to meet minimum density requirements.

For mixture proportioning, the bulk unit weight (a.k.a. bulk density) is required. The bulk density measures the volume that the graded aggregate will occupy in concrete, including the solid aggregate particles and the voids between them. Since the weight of the aggregate is dependent on the moisture content of the aggregate, a constant moisture content is required. This is achieved by using OD aggregate. Additionally, the bulk density is required for the volume method of mixture proportioning.

Classification of aggregate gradation for concrete slab

The most common classification of aggregates on the basis of bulk specific gravity is lightweight, normal-weight, and heavyweight aggregates. In normal concrete the aggregate weighs 1,520 – 1,680 kg/m3, but occasionally designs require either lightweight or heavyweight concrete. Lightweight concrete contains aggregate that is natural or synthetic which weighs less than 1,100 kg/m3and heavyweight concrete contains aggregates that are natural or synthetic which weigh more than 2080 kg/m3.

Although aggregates are most commonly known to be inert filler in concrete, the different properties of aggregate have a large impact on the strength, durability, workability, and economy of concrete. These different properties of aggregate allow designers and contractors the most flexibility to meet their design and construction requirements.

An aggregate for cement concrete flooring mix must conform to the requirements of IS: 383-19635. The aggregate crushing value, when determined in accordance with IS: 2386 ( Part IV)-196311 shall not exceed 30 percent. Coarse aggregate – The grading of graded coarse aggregate for cement concrete flooring mix shall be within the limits.

The coarse aggregate shall generally be of the following sizes: a) Base concrete ( lean cement Graded from 40 mm and below concrete! or lime concrete ) b) Cement concrete topping of Graded from 16 mm and below thickness 40 mm and above c) Cement concrete topping of thickness 25 mm

Importance of aggregate gradation for concrete slab

For a good concrete mix, aggregates need to be clean, hard, strong particles free of absorbed chemicals or coatings of clay and other fine materials that could cause deterioration of concrete. Aggregates, which account for 60 to 75 percent of the total volume of concrete, are divided into two distinct categories–fine and coarse. Fine aggregates generally consist of natural sand or crushed stone with most particles passing through a 3/8-inch sieve. Coarse aggregates are any particles greater than 0.19 inch, but generally range between 3/8 and 1.5 inches in diameter. Gravels constitute the majority of coarse aggregate used in concrete with crushed stone making up most of the remainder.

Aggregates strongly influence concrete’s freshly mixed and hardened properties, mixture proportions, and economy. Consequently, selection of aggregates is an important process.

Grading refers to the determination of the particle-size distribution for aggregate. Grading limits and maximum aggregate size are specified because these properties affect the amount of aggregate used as well as cement and water requirements, workability, pumpability, and durability of concrete. In general, if the water-cement ratio is chosen correctly, a wide range in grading can be used without a major effect on strength. When gap-graded aggregate are specified, certain particle sizes of aggregate are omitted from the size continuum. Gap-graded aggregate are used to obtain uniform textures in exposed aggregate concrete. Close control of mix proportions is necessary to avoid segregation.

Different types of aggregate gradation specification for concrete slab

The grading or size distribution of aggregate is an important characteristic because it determines the paste requirement for workable concrete. This paste requirement is the factor controlling the cost, since cement is the most expensive component. It is therefore desirable to minimize the amount of paste consistent with the production of concrete that can be handled, compacted, and finished while providing the necessary strength and durability. The required amount of cement paste is dependent upon the amount of void space that must be filled and the total surface area that must be covered. When the particles are of uniform size the spacing is the greatest, but when a range of sizes is used the void spaces are filled and the paste requirement is lowered. The more these voids are filled, the less workable the concrete becomes, therefore, a compromise between workability and economy is necessary.

Fine-Aggregate Grading

Grading Requirements of ASTM C 33 or AASHTO M 6/M 43 permit a relatively wide range in fine-aggregate gradation, but specifications by other organizations are sometimes more restrictive. The most desirable fine-aggregate grading depends on the type of work, the richness of the mixture, and the maximum size of coarse aggregate. In leaner mixtures, or when small-size coarse aggregates are used, a grading that approaches the maximum recommended percentage passing each sieve is desirable for workability. In general, if the water-cement ratio is kept constant and the ratio of fine-to-coarse aggregate is chosen correctly, a wide range in grading can be used without measurable effect on strength. However, the best economy will sometimes be achieved by adjusting the concrete mixture to suit the gradation of the local aggregates. Fine-aggregate grading within the limits of ASTM C 33 (AASHTO M 6) is generally satisfactory for most concretes. The ASTM C 33 (AASHTO M 6) limits with respect to sieve size.

The AASHTO specifications permit the minimum percentages (by mass) of material passing the 300 µm (No. 50) and 150 µm (No. 100) sieves to be reduced to 5% and 0% respectively, provided: 1. The aggregate is used in air-entrained concrete containing more than 237 kilograms of cement per cubic meter (400 lb. of cement per cubic yard) and having an air content of more than 3%. 2. The aggregate is used in concrete containing more than 297 kilograms of cement per cubic meter (500 lb of cement per cubic yard) when the concrete is not air entrained. 3. An approved supplementary cementitious material is used to supply the deficiency in material passing these two sieves. Other requirements of ASTM C 33 (AASHTO M 6) are: 1. The fine aggregate must not have more than 45% retained between any two consecutive standard sieves. 2. The fineness modulus must be not less than 2.3 nor more than 3.1, nor vary more than 0.2 from the typical value of the aggregate source. If this value is exceeded, the fine aggregate should be rejected unless suitable adjustments are made in proportions of fine and coarse aggregate. The amounts of fine aggregate passing the 300 µm (No. 50) and 150, µm (No. 100) sieves affect workability, surface texture, air content, and bleeding of concrete. Most specifications allow 5% to 30% to pass the 300 µm (No. 50) sieve. The lower limit may be sufficient for easy placing conditions or where concrete is mechanically finished, such as in pavements. However, for hand-finished concrete floors, or where a smooth surface texture is desired, fine aggregate with at least 15% passing the 300 µm (No. 50) sieve and 3% or more passing the 150 µm (No. 100) sieve should be used.

Expanded clay
Image Caption- Expanded clay

Coarse-Aggregate Grading

The coarse aggregate grading requirements of ASTM C 33 (AASHTO M 80) permit a wide range in grading and a variety of grading sizes. The grading for a given maximum-size coarse aggregate can be varied over a moderate range without appreciable effect on cement and water requirement of a mixture if the proportion of fine aggregate to total aggregate produces concrete of good workability. Mixture proportions should be changed to produce workable concrete if wide variations occur in the coarse-aggregate grading. Since variations are difficult to anticipate, it is often more economical to maintain uniformity in manufacturing and handling coarse aggregate than to reduce variations in gradation. The maximum size of coarse aggregate used in concrete has a bearing on the economy of concrete. Usually more water and cement is required for small-size aggregates than for large sizes, due to an increase in total aggregate surface area. The water and cement required for a slump of approximately 75 mm (3 in.) for a wide range of coarse-aggregate sizes. For a given water-cement ratio, the amount of cement required decreases as the maximum size of coarse aggregate increases. The increased cost of obtaining and handling aggregates is much larger than 50 mm may offset the savings in using less cement. Furthermore, aggregates of different maximum sizes may give slightly different concrete strengths for the same water-cement ratio. In some instances, at the same water-cement ratio, concrete with a smaller maximum-size aggregate could have higher compressive strength. This is especially true for high-strength concrete. The optimum maximum size of coarse aggregate for higher strength depends on factors such as relative strength of the cement paste, cement aggregate bond, and strength of the aggregate particles. The terminology used to specify size of coarse aggregate must be chosen carefully. Particle size is determined by size of sieve and applies to the aggregate passing that sieve and not passing the next smaller sieve. When speaking of an assortment of particle sizes, the size number (or grading size) of the gradation is used. The size number applies to the collective amount of aggregate that passes through an assortment of sieves.

Sieve Analysis
Image caption- Sieve Analysis

Combined Aggregate Grading

Aggregate is sometimes analyzed using the combined grading of fine and coarse aggregate together, as they exist in a concrete mixture. This provides a more thorough analysis of how the aggregates will perform in concrete. Sometimes mid-sized aggregate, around the 9.5 mm (3⁄8 in.) size, is lacking in an aggregate supply, resulting in a concrete with high shrinkage properties, high water demand, poor workability, poor pump ability, and poor place ability. Strength and durability may also be affected. However, a perfect gradation does not exist in the field-but we can try to approach it. If problems develop due to a poor gradation, alternative aggregates, blending, or special screening of existing aggregates, should be considered.

The combined gradation can be used to better control workability, pumpability, shrinkage, and other properties of concrete.

example of combined aggregate grading
Image caption- example of combined aggregate grading
  • With constant cement content and constant consistency, there is an optimum for every combination of aggregates that will produce the most effective water to cement ratio and highest strength.
  • The optimum mixture has the least particle interference and responds best to a high frequency, high amplitude vibrator.


When we design mix the concrete, its target strength is much less than the compressive strength of the aggregates used in the formation. It can also be clearly seen in the mix design procedure that greater the maximum size of coarse aggregate used, less is the cement required to achieve the target strength. So, undoubtedly, greater the maximum size of aggregate, the greater the compressive strength of concrete made.

Info and Image: iitk.ac.in, engr.psu.edu, IS 2571: 1970, Ce.memphis.edu, Aimil ltd, slide player, mike wye


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