Cracking in structural members
Cracking of concrete occurs whenever the tensile stress developed is greater than the tensile strength of concrete. This happens due to large values of the following:
1. Flexural tensile stress because of excessive bending under the applied load
2. Diagonal tension due to shear and torsion
3. Direct tensile stress under applied loads (for example hoop tension in a circular tank)
4. Lateral tensile strains accompanying high axis compressive strains due to Poisson's effect (as in a compression test)
5. Settlement of supports
In addition to the above reasons, cracking also occurs because of
1. Restraint against volume changes due to shrinkage, temperature creep and chemical effects.
2. Bond and anchorage failures
Cracking spoils the aesthetics of the structure and also adversely affect the durability of the structure. Presence of wide cracks exposes the reinforcement to the atmosphere due to which the reinforcements get corroded causing the deterioration of concrete. In some cases, such as liquid retaining structures and pressure vessels cracks affects the basic functional requirement itself (such as water tightness in water tank).
Permissible crack width
The permissible crack width in structural concrete members depends on the type of structure and the exposure conditions. The permissible values are prescribed in clause 35.3.2 IS 456:2000 and are shown in table below
Table: Permissible values of crack width as per IS 456:2000
Control of cracking
The check for cracking in beams are done through the following 2 methods specified in IS 456:2000 clause 43.1
1. By empirical method:
In this method, the cracking is said to be in control if proper detailing (i.e. spacing) of reinforcements as specified in clause 26.3.2 of IS 456:2000 is followed. These specifications regarding the spacing have been already discussed under heading general specifications. In addition, the following specifications shall also be considered
i. In the beams where the depth of the web exceeds 750 mm, side face reinforcement shall be provided along the two faces. The total area of such reinforcement shall not be less than 0.1% of the web area and shall be distributed equally on two faces at a spacing not exceeding 300 mm or web thickness whichever is less. (Refer clause 22.214.171.124 IS456:2000)
ii. The minimum tension reinforcement in beams to prevent failure in the tension
zone by cracking of concrete is given by the following
As = 0.85 fy / 0.87 fy (Refer clause 126.96.36.199 IS 456:2000)
iii. Provide large number of smaller diameter bars rather than large diameter bars of the same area. This will make the bars well distributed in the tension zone and will reduce the width of the cracks.
2. By crack width computations
In the case of special structures and in aggressive environmental conditions, it is preferred to compute the width of cracks and compare them with the permissible crack width to ensure the safety of the structure at the limit state of serviceability. The IS 456-2000 has specified an analytical method for the estimation of surface crack width in Annexure-F which is based on the British Code (BS : 8110) specifications where the surface crack width is less than the permissible width, the crack control is said to be satisfied.