SELF-CONSOLIDATING GROUT FOR CONCRETE MASONRY
Self-consolidating grout (SCG) is a specially-formulated grout for use with reinforced masonry. It is designed to ﬁll the long, narrow and sometimes highly congested cores of reinforced walls without the need for consolidation and reconsolidation by mechanical vibration or by puddling.
Self-consolidating grout has been used in various parts of the United States, under the grout demonstration panel provisions of Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures (refs. 1, 2), which is included by reference in the International Building Code (refs. 3, 4). The 2008 edition of Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures (ref. 5), however, includes explicit provisions for SCG.
Unlike conventional grout and conventional concrete, self consolidating grout (SCG) is a special application of self-consolidating concrete (SCC) that uses aggregates complying with ASTM C404, Standard Speciﬁcation for Aggregates for Masonry Grout (ref. 6), as speciﬁed in ASTM C476, Standard Speciﬁcation for Grout for Masonry (ref. 7).
Similar to conventional grout, there are two types of self-consolidating grout, coarse and ﬁne, with the latter containing only ﬁne aggregate. Coarse self-consolidating grout has been the most common, although ﬁne SCG is predominant in several speciﬁc regions of the U.S.
MATERIALS FOR SELF-CONSOLIDATING GROUT
Self-consolidating grout attains a high ﬂow not from adding more water, but from a careful mix design to create a ﬂowable yet highly cohesive grout that will not segregate and can pass freely through congested reinforcement and narrow openings without “blocking or bridging.” SCG must maintain its ﬂuidity without segregation and maintain consistent properties throughout the grout lift. It is composed of aggregates, cementitious materials, water and special admixtures which provide the ﬂuidity and stability to meet performance requirements.
Aggregate Size and Proportion
To obtain the desired ﬁlling and placing ability, aggregates used in SCG should meet the requirements of ASTM C404, as speciﬁed in ASTM C476. The requirements for coarse aggregate, for use in coarse SCG, are essentially the same as the requirements for No. 8 and No. 89 coarse aggregate in ASTM C33, Standard Speciﬁcation for Concrete Aggregates (ref. 8): they should be either a Size No. 8 or Size No. 89 gravel, stone or air-cooled iron blast furnace slag with 100% passing the ½ in. (13 mm) sieve and at least 85 to 90% passing the ⅜ in. (9.5 mm) sieve. Fine aggregate, for use in either coarse or ﬁne SCG, is typically Size No. 1, which is a concrete sand as deﬁned in ASTM C33, but could also be Size No. 2, which is a sand for masonry mortar as deﬁned in ASTM C144, Speciﬁcation for Aggregate for Masonry Mortar (ref. 9).
ASTM C476 contains a proportion speciﬁcation as well as a performance speciﬁcation for masonry grout. The proportion speciﬁcation speciﬁes that coarse grout should have ﬁne aggregate in the amount of 2¼ to 3 times the sum of the volume of the cementitious materials and coarse aggregate in the amount of 1 to 2 times the sum of the volume of the cementitious materials. These ASTM C476 requirements are equivalent to s/a (sand/total aggregate) ratios of approximately 0.50 to 0.60 on an absolute volume basis. By comparison, most self-consolidating concrete mix designs have similar s/a ratios in the 0.50 to 0.60 range.
Cementitious Materials and Minus 100 (0.150 mm) Sieve Content and Composition
Grout is required to have a minimum compressive strength of 2,000 psi (14 MPa) after 28 days of curing (ref. 7). Building Code Requirements for Masonry Structures (ref. 10) sets an upper limit on the speciﬁed compressive strength of grout at 5,000 psi (34.5 MPa) at 28 days when using strength design of concrete masonry, although experience indicates that many conventional grouts develop strengths greater than this speciﬁcation limit. Note that actual strengths are somewhat higher than the speciﬁed strength to assure compliance.
In the historical context of masonry materials, the term cementitious materials has commonly referred to the cement content (as well as lime in the case of masonry mortars) used in the manufacturing of masonry units, mortar or grout. In the production of SCG, however, the fraction of very ﬁne aggregate particles present in the mix can have a signiﬁcant inﬂuence on the plastic (and by association, the hardened) properties of SCG, and therefore needs to be considered in the batching of SCG. As such, the ‘powder’ content of an SCG mix, which includes both conventional cementitious materials as well as the very ﬁne aggregate dust smaller than the 100 (0.150 mm) sieve, is monitored to ensure a stable SCG.
Adequate paste content is critical for making stable SCG mixes because the paste forms the matrix in which the particles are suspended. This paste is composed of cementitious materials (including the powder), water and entrained air, if any. The entire powder content of some mixes may contain auxiliary materials including pozzolanic and hydraulic materials, as well as ground limestone and inert ﬁllers. These additions can improve and maintain cohesion and segregation resistance of the mix while lowering the overall cost and helping to control the ultimate strength of the mix.
Although not widely used in the U.S., ground limestone and inert ﬁllers can be very effective in SCG mixes as a means of keeping compressive strengths to the lower range. They should be considered if they are regionally available. Fly ash can also be an effective addition because its use can help enhance the ﬁlling ability and slump ﬂow of the mix while providing increased cohesion and reduced sensitivity to changes in water content. Research has shown that slump ﬂow values are increased when the ﬂy ash replacement rates are between 20 and 40% of portland cement (ref. 11). If the goal is to control compressive strengths, Class F ﬂy ash can be effective because it typically does not contribute as much to strength gain as Type C ﬂy ash. GGBFS (Ground Granulated Blast Furnace Slag) has successfully been used in SCG mixes to replace some of the cement, but its high ultimate strength gain usually means that the compressive strengths of these mixes are usually similar (or sometimes higher) than straight cement mix designs.
Research (ref. 12) has demonstrated that coarse SCG mixes could be made with total cementitious materials contents of 750 lb/yd³ (445 kg/m³), and possibly with 700 lb/yd³ (415 kg/m³). By comparison, a typical conventional coarse grout made to the proportion speciﬁcations of ASTM C476 contains about 550 to 700 lb/yd³ (325 to 415 kg/m³) of cementitious materials.
Some limited testing in the NCMA research (ref. 12) demonstrated that ﬁne SCG could be made with total cementitious materials contents in the range of 800 to 850 lb/yd³ (475 to 505 kg/m³). By comparison, a typical conventional ﬁne grout made to the proportion speciﬁcations of ASTM C476 will contain about 700 to 1,000 lb/yd³ (415 to 590 kg/m³) of cementitious materials.
The term ‘natural slump’ describes the slump of the grout mix before the polycarboxylate is added. A common procedure for making self-consolidating concrete is to set the initial water target to the amount needed to bring the mix to a ‘natural slump’ of 2 to 4 in. (51 to 102 mm). The polycarboxylate is then added to make the mix ﬂuid enough to obtain the desired slump ﬂow. This would also be an acceptable initial water target for making SCG, although NCMA research (ref. 12) indicated that some of the most successful batches of coarse and ﬁne SCG made with the local materials used in the research had initial water targets that yielded a ‘natural slump’ of 6 to 9 in. (152 to 229 mm) before the polycarboxylate was added.
Admixtures are integral to the production of SCG. The primary admixture used to impart ﬂuidity and stability to the SCG mix is a class of high-range water-reducing admixtures known as polycarboxylates (PC). These long-chain polymers are synthesized to help keep the cement grains dispersed while adding some cohesiveness and stability to the SCG mix.
Another class of admixtures often used to make SCG in conjunction with the PC is the Viscosity-Modifying Admixtures (VMA). VMAs help adjust viscosity and can improve the cohesiveness and stability of the mix while allowing it to ﬂow without segregation. Not all PC and VMA products have the same properties. Some PCs impart substantial amounts of stability and cohesiveness to the mix and are recommended to be used without VMA, while others beneﬁt from the addition of VMA.
In the past (before polycarboxylates), there have been indications that in some situations superplasticizers in grout for masonry structures have not performed well because they exhibited a short pot life, meaning the mix quickly lost ﬂuidity and rapid stifﬁng would follow. Absorption of mix water into the surrounding masonry also negatively impacted the ﬂow. In high-lift grouting (placing grout into grout columns as high as 24 ft (7.3 m)), enough water could be lost to cause the grout to stiffen and bridge before reaching the bottom of the grout column. With the advent of newer high-range water reducers such as polycarboxylates, however, this problem is no longer evident (ref. 13).
Note that proportioning of SCG is not permitted in the ﬁeld (ref. 5). However, ﬁnal adjustment of the mix, in accordance with the SCG manufacturer’s recommendations, utilizing water or the same admixture used in the mix is permitted.
Self-consolidating grout is pumped or placed into spaces to be grouted using the same procedures as for conventional grout. Research has shown that with SCG there is no need to ﬁrst remove mortar ﬁns and protrusions exceeding ½ in. (13 mm), as is required for conventionally grouted masonry (refs. 3, 4), since SCG is ﬂuid enough to ﬂow around these small obstructions (ref. 13). However, it is important to note that Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures currently requires the removal of mortar ﬁns and protrusions exceeding ½ in. (13 mm) for both conventional grout and SCG (ref. 5). Note that because SCG is so ﬂuid, it will ﬂow through gaps wider than about ⅜ in. (10 mm). To contain the grout, therefore, it is recommended to mortar the masonry unit cross webs of cells containing grout in partially grouted construction.
In bond beams, SCG will be adequately contained using conventional grout-stop materials, such as plastic mesh. When ﬁlling intermediate bond beams using high-lift grouting, place the grout-stop material in the bed joints both above and below the bond beam to prevent the SCG from rising above the bond beam location.
Once the SCG is placed, consolidation and reconsolidation is not necessary with either coarse or ﬁne SCG.
Documented successful lifts of 12 ft 8 in. (3.9 m) have been achieved by ﬁlling the grout columns of 8-in. (203-mm) concrete masonry walls in a single lift in less than a minute using a concrete pump (ref. 13). Other undocumented placements have placed SCG in a single 24-ft (7.3-m) lift. Twenty-four feet (7.3 mm) is the maximum pour height currently permitted by Building Code Requirements for Masonry Structures and Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures (refs. 10, 5). Note also that for SCG, grout lift height can equal the grout pour height.
Blowouts have not been shown to be a problem for conventional masonry units in this research nor in ﬁeld experience. However, specialty units with reduced or removed webs, such as “H-block” or large pilaster or column units, may require reduced lift heights.
No special curing procedures are required when using SCG. When appropriate, standard hot and cold weather construction provisions should be followed, as for other masonry projects. See All-Weather Concrete Masonry Construction, TEK 3-1C (ref. 14), for more detailed information.
SCG QUALITY ASSURANCE AND QUALITY CONTROL
Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures (ref. 5) requires SCG to:
- meet the material requirements of ASTM C476,
- attain the speciﬁed compressive strength or 2,000 psi (13.79 MPa), whichever is greater, at 28 days when tested in accordance with ASTM C1019 (ref. 15),
- have a slump ﬂow of 24 to 30 in. (610 to 762 mm) as determined by ASTM C1611 (ref. 16), and
- have a Visual Stability Index (VSI) less than or equal to 1 as determined in accordance with ASTM C1611, Appendix X.1.
The ASTM C476 material requirements are described in Grout for Concrete Masonry, TEK 9-4A (ref. 17). Other quality assurance and quality control provisions related to SCG are described below.
Some methods commonly used for self-consolidating concrete to evaluate passing ability, like the L-Box or J-Ring, are not normally used with SCG because experience indicates that the ⅜ in. (9.5 mm) maximum aggregate size used in SCG has adequate passing ability in masonry grouting applications.
Compressive Strength Testing of SCG Mixes
The current edition of ASTM C 1019, Standard Test Method for Sampling and Testing Grout (ref. 15), addresses the testing of SCG. The procedure for testing SCG is very similar to that for conventional grout, except that SCG is placed in the mold in one lift instead of two and SCG does not need to be rodded.
The slump ﬂow test method deﬁned in ASTM C1611/C1611M, Standard Test Method for Slump Flow of Self-Consolidating Concrete (ref. 16) is used to monitor the consistency of fresh, unhardened SCG and its unconﬁned ﬂow potential. It is particularly useful to assess the batch-to-batch consistency of SCG supplied over time.
Because of the ﬂuid nature of SCG, traditional measures of consistency, such as the ASTM C143 (ref. 18) slump test, are not applicable to SCG. The slump ﬂow test is an adaptation of the ASTM C143 slump cone test. In the slump ﬂow test, SCG is loaded into an inverted slump cone in a single lift without consolidation. The cone is removed and the diameter of the grout slump ﬂow is measured (see Figure 1).
Visual Stability Index (VSI)
VSI, also deﬁned in ASTM C1611/C1611M, is performed after the slump ﬂow test to provide a qualitative assessment of the SCG’s stability. The SCG patty resulting from the slump ﬂow test is examined for aggregate segregation, bleeding and evidence of a mortar halo (a cement paste or mortar ring that has clearly separated from the coarse aggregate, around the outside circumference of the SCG patty). The SCG mix is then assigned a VSI, from 0 (highly stable) to 3 (highly unstable).
Although not required by Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures, T20 (T50) records the time it takes, during the slump ﬂow test, for the outer edge of the SCG patty to reach a diameter of 20 in. (508 mm) from the time the mold is ﬁrst raised. It is an optional test for self-consolidating concrete, and is similarly applicable to SCG to provide a relative measure of the unconﬁned ﬂow rate and an indication of the relative viscosity of the SCG. While the actual target value for T20 (T50) can vary for different SCG mixes, it has value in verifying the consistency between SCG batches delivered to the job site.
Self-Healing Ability ‘S’ Test
The ‘S’ test can also be used to help determine the stability of an SCG mix. While this is not a standardized test method, it is adapted from a simple test that is done by some practitioners in the ﬁeld. There is a common version and a modiﬁed version, which gives an indication of the relative segregation resistance of the SCG when subjected to local vibration.
The common self-healing (non-disturbed) test is performed after the slump ﬂow, T20 (T50) and VSI have been recorded. A 10- to 12-in. (254- to 305-mm) ‘S’ is drawn in the SCG patty with a ﬁnger, making sure to scrape off the SCG all the way down to the board. The patty is observed to see if the ‘S’ will self-heal. In cases where the self-healing is excellent, the SCG ﬂows back together and there is little or no evidence of the ‘S’ remaining. In cases where the self-healing is poor, the SCG does not ﬂow back together and the ‘S’ remains very visible with severe aggregate, paste or water segregation.
Due to observations during the NCMA research (ref. 12), a self-healing (after agitate) test was created. After completing the common self-healing test, the SCG patty is vibrated and a second test, designated self-healing (after agitate), is performed. To vibrate the mix, the side of the slump ﬂow base-plate is lightly kicked or tapped six times with a foot (three on one side followed by three on an orthogonal [right-angle] side). The ‘S’ test is then repeated and the mix is rated again.
Suitability of Segregation Tests
In the NCMA research (ref. 12); several mixes were used to determine the suitability of self-consolidating concrete segregation tests on the SCG mixes. Testing was performed to evaluate both the Column Technique for Static Segregation (ASTM C1610) (ref. 19) and the European Sieve Segregation Test (ref. 20). It was found that these tests were not able to distinguish unstable SCG mixes from stable mixes. It is not clear if this was a function of the particular raw materials used or a general characteristic of coarse SCG mixes. The self-healing (after agitation) test described above was found to be a much better indicator of stable and unstable mixes for SCG.
- Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures, ACI 530.1-02/ASCE 6-02/TMS 602-02. Reported by the Masonry Standards Joint Committee, 2002.
- Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures, ACI 530.1-05/ASCE 6-05/TMS 602-05. Reported by the Masonry Standards Joint Committee, 2005.
- International Building Code 2003. International Code Council, 2003.
- International Building Code 2006. International Code Council, 2006.
- Speciﬁcation for Masonry Structures, ACI 530.1-08/ASCE 6-08/TMS 602-08. Reported by the Masonry Standards Joint Committee, 2008.
- Standard Speciﬁcation for Aggregates for Masonry Grout, ASTM C404-07. ASTM International, Inc., 2007.
- Standard Speciﬁcation for Grout for Masonry, ASTM C476-07. ASTM International, Inc., 2007.
- Standard Speciﬁcation for Concrete Aggregates, ASTM C33-03. ASTM International, Inc., 2003.
- Standard Speciﬁcation for Aggregate for Masonry Mortar, ASTM C144-04. ASTM International, Inc., 2004.
- Building Code Requirements for Masonry Structures, ACI 530-08/ASCE 5-08/TMS 402-08. Reported by the Masonry Standards Joint Committee, 2008.
- Studies of Self-Compacting High Performance Concrete with High Volume Mineral Additives. Fang, W.;Jianxiong, C.; Changhui, Y., Proceedings of the First International RILEM Symposium on Self-Compacting Concrete, 1999, p. 569-578.
- Self-Consolidating Grout Investigation: Making and Testing Prototype SCG Mix Designs – Report of Phase II Research, MR31. National Concrete Masonry Association, 2006.
- Self-Consolidating Grout Investigation: Compressive Strength, Shear Bond, Consolidation and Flow – Report of Phase I Research, MR29. National Concrete Masonry Association, 2006.
- All-Weather Concrete Masonry Construction, TEK 3-1C. National Concrete Masonry Association, 2002.
- Standard Test Method for Sampling and Testing Grout, ASTM C1019-07. ASTM International, Inc., 2007.
- Standard Test Method for Slump Flow of Self-Consolidating Concrete, ASTM C1611/C1611M-05. ASTM International, Inc., 2005.
- Grout for Concrete Masonry, TEK 9-4A. National Concrete Masonry Association, 2005.
- Standard Test Method for Slump of Hydraulic-Cement Concrete, ASTM C143-05a. ASTM International, Inc., 2005.
- Standard Test Method for Static Segregation of Self-Consolidating Concrete Using Column Technique, ASTM C1610/C1610M-06. ASTM International, Inc., 2006.
- The European Guidelines for Self-Compacting Concrete: Speciﬁcation, Production and Use. Self Compacting Concrete European Project Group, 2005.
NCMA TEK 9-2B, Revsied 2007.
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