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Title: Plain Concrete for Farm Use
Author: Miller, T. A. H. (Thomas Arrington Huntington)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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fractional parts denoted as: 33-3/4.

                           U. S. DEPARTMENT OF

                        FARMERS' BULLETIN No. 1279




                                FARM USE

The successful and economical use of concrete involves the selection
of suitable materials, the correct proportioning of mixtures in the
development of qualities to meet specific requirements, the proper
placing and the care of the green concrete.

A concrete of great strength is uneconomical if a weaker mixture will
serve and a cheap or weak concrete is costly if it does not fulfill all
requirements. The cost of concrete depends not only upon the price of the
materials and labor but also upon the judicious use of the two. Lack of
foresight in locating the mixing plant, in the design of forms, and in
planning the successive operations may cause unnecessary expense, while
neglect of any one of the precautions which should be observed is likely
to result in unsatisfactory work.

The bulletin discusses the requirements of good concrete and describes
the making and placing of plain concrete according to the best practice.

Washington, D. C.

Issued October, 1922


T. A. H. Miller, _Agricultural Engineer, Division of Agricultural
Engineering, Bureau of Public Roads_.



  Introduction                                   1
  Materials                                      1
  Proportioning the materials                    6
  Quantities of materials required               7
  Consistency                                    8
  Estimating                                     9
  Forms                                         10
  Mixing                                        13
  Placing                                       18
  Care of concrete                              21
  Protection from freezing weather              21
  Contraction and expansion joints              23
  Lintels                                       23
  Surface finish                                24
  Concrete exposed to fire                      25
  Water-tight concrete                          26


Portland cement concrete is the mass formed by mixing Portland cement,
sand, gravel (or particles of other suitable materials), and water.

The quality of concrete may be made to conform to certain requirements
which vary with the purpose of the structure in which the material is
to be used; economy, strength, water-tightness, fire resistance, or
resistance to wear and shock may be the chief requisite. The character
of the constituent materials, the proportions in which they are used,
the consistency, the method of mixing, and the placing and curing of the
concrete are important factors in securing the desired qualities of the
finished product.

Total failure or a product which does not give the service expected
is often the result of the nonobservance of practices recognized as
necessary in the preparation and use of concrete. This bulletin is
intended to assist the inexperienced in making and using concrete
suitable for general farm construction and is confined to a discussion of
the rudiments of plain (not reinforced) concrete work.



Portland cement is used because it is the only kind adapted to general
construction. Other cements are manufactured but they possess individual
characteristics that restrict their use. The word Portland is not a trade
name, but signifies the kind and distinguishes it from the slag, natural,
and other cements.

A number of brands of Portland cement are manufactured, most of which
are made to meet the requirements of a fixed standard adopted by the
United States Government and the American Society for Testing Materials.
Cement always should be tested for use in important work, but this is
impractical for the user of small amounts and it is generally safe
practice to omit the test if a reliable brand of Portland cement
of American manufacture is selected, especially if the dealer's or
manufacturer's guaranty that it meets the standard is secured.

The following simple test for soundness is easily made and is on the side
of caution. Make a ball, about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, if neat cement
and water; place it under a wet cloth and keep it moist for 24 hours,
then put the ball in a vessel of water; allow the water to come to the
boiling point slowly and to boil for 3 hours. A good cement will not be
affected, but an inferior one will check, crack, or go to pieces entirely.

Portland cement is shipped in paper bags, cloth sacks, and wooden barrels
(sometimes in bulk). For the average user the cloth sack is the best
container, as it is easier to handle; and while the manufacturers charge
more for this kind of package, they allow a rebate for the return of the
sacks in good condition. A sack of Portland cement weighs 94 pounds and a
barrel contains the equivalent of four sacks.


As cement readily absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, it should be
stored in a dry place; if exposed to dampness it soon becomes lumpy, or
even a solid mass, and in this condition it is useless and should be
thrown away. The lumps caused by pressure in piling the sacks are not
injurious. They can be pulverized easily, thus distinguishing them from
those due to dampness.

Cement never should be stored on the ground. Build a raised platform for
it and keep it away from the sides of the shelter. As it is heavy, care
should be taken not to overload the supporting floor.


All grains, small pebbles, or particles of broken stone are considered as
sand if they will pass through a wire screen with one-fourth inch meshes.
The particles or grains should be hard and well graded and should vary in
size, as a stronger concrete is thus obtained than when the size of the
grains is nearly uniform. If a large proportion of the sand is very fine
an extra quantity of cement should be used and if exceptionally fine it
is advisable to use 25 per cent more cement.

The sand should be clean; that is, free from vegetable matter, loam, or
any considerable amount of clay. If the hands are soiled when a small
quantity of sand is rubbed between them the following test should be
made: Put 4 inches of sand into a pint preserving jar, fill with clear
water to within an inch of the top, fasten the lid, and shake the jar
vigorously until the whole is thoroughly mixed. Set the jar aside and
allow the contents to settle. The sand will settle to the bottom with the
clay and loam on top of it. If more than three-eighths of an inch of clay
or loam shows, the sand should be rejected or washed. The difference in
fineness and color shows clearly the line of division between the clay or
loam and the sand.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Sand and gravel washing trough.]

Should sand require washing the simplest way for small quantities is to
build a loose board platform from 10 to 15 feet long, with one end higher
than the other. On the lower end and sides nail 2 by 6 inch boards.
Spread the sand over the platform in a layer 3 or 4 inches thick and
wash with water. The water may be supplied by any means which will cause
agitation of the sand and allow the lighter material to run off with the
water. When pressure or a head is obtainable the water is most easily
applied by means of a garden hose. The washing should be started at the
higher end and the water allowed to run through the sand and over the 2
by 6 inch piece at the bottom. Figure 1 illustrates a convenient trough
for washing larger quantities.

A small amount of clay, provided it is not in lumps, does not injure
sand, but amounts over 10 per cent should be washed out.


The larger particles used in concrete may be gravel, broken stone,
air-cooled blast-furnace slag, or other suitable materials. The coarse
aggregate should be sound and clean, that is, free from disintegrated or
soft particles, loam, clay, or vegetable matter. Air-cooled blast-furnace
slag should weigh at least 70 pounds per cubic foot. The best results
are obtained from a mixture of sizes graded from those retained on
a one-fourth inch screen to those passing a three-fourths to 2 inch
ring, depending upon the work. Ordinarily the greatest dimension of any
particle should not be over one-fourth of the thickness of the concrete


Gravel which is too dirty for use usually can be detected by observation.
It may be washed in the same manner as sand. Lumps of clay should be
eliminated and care should be taken to see that the gravel is not coated
with a film of clay or loam which will prevent the bonding of the cement.


Broken stone should be clean, hard, and of a size suited to the character
of the work, and the same care in grading should be exercised as in the
case of gravel. Trap, granite, hard limestone, and hard sandstone are
commonly used. The composition and physical character of the stones
should be considered, as some possess qualities that limit their use
under certain conditions (see Substitutes for gravel).

Field stones are common in many localities and their use, when crushed,
may be economical. The finer particles, after the dust is removed, can be
used as sand. Small stone crushers, operated by three or four horsepower
gasoline engines, can be purchased at a relatively low price and may
prove profitable if a large quantity of stone is needed.


Bank or creek gravel, which will answer the purpose of sand and gravel
combined, sometimes can be obtained, and frequently it is used in small
jobs of concrete work just as it comes from the pit or creek. Although
such gravel occasionally contains nearly the right proportions of sand
and gravel, in the majority of sand pits and gravel banks there is a
great variation in the sizes of the grains and pebbles or gravel and
in the relative quantity of each. It is advisable to screen the sand
and gravel and to remix them in the correct proportions, as well-graded
aggregates make stronger concrete and, ordinarily, enough cement will be
saved to pay for the cost of screening.

Experience has shown that it is advisable to screen bank gravel twice;
first over a screen with large meshes to eliminate particles too large
for use. The size of the mesh will depend upon the nature of the work
involved (see Coarse aggregate); then the material which has passed
through this screen should be sifted again over a screen with one-fourth
inch meshes. All material which passes the latter screen may be
considered sand and should conform to the characteristics discussed under
"Fine aggregate."


For general work gravel or broken stone always is preferred to other
coarse aggregate. Other materials at times are easier to obtain and, when
used with discretion, will provide a satisfactory concrete.

Broken terra cotta, brick, and old concrete, if hard and strong, may
be used for unimportant work where no great strength is required, but
special care should be taken that the particles do not show on the
finished surface.

The maxim that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link applies
to concrete. If the coarse aggregate is weaker than the cement mortar,
as in the case of some sandstones, it should be used with caution.
The aggregate may have properties that render it unsuitable for use
under certain conditions; for instance, cinders should not be used
if water-tightness or strength is expected, but they are useful for
fireproofing. Material that disintegrates or flakes when heated is
undesirable in places exposed to high temperature; thus marble and some
limestones should not be used in fireplaces. Some aggregates when exposed
at the surface of concrete are apt to cause discolorations, and when this
would be objectionable aggregates of this type should be avoided. Flat
or elongated slab-like fragments should be avoided, as particles of this
shape do not bond well; slate and shale are examples.


Cinders should be composed of hard, clean, vitreous clinkers, free from
sulphides, soot, and unburned coal or ashes. As a precaution against the
presence of small amounts of detrimental substances, cinders should be
soaked thoroughly with water 24 hours before being used. If clean they
will not discolor the hands when a small quantity is rubbed between the

Cinder concrete, on account of its light weight, commonly is used for
filling between sleepers of floors and grading roofs, and frequently for
fireproofing, for which it is very effective. Cinders should never be
used when the concrete is to be subjected to heavy loads or abrasion.


Lava rock varies widely in chemical composition and physical qualities.
In some instances lavas are so light and frothy or contain so large a
proportion of easily oxidizable material that they are wholly unsuited
for concrete work. In general, the lava rock found in the Northwestern
States is a suitable substitute for gravel. Rhyolite, a light colored
volcanic rock, and many of the darker colored basaltic lavas can well be
used for concrete for building purposes.


Water should be clean and free from strong acid and alkali. Sea or
brackish water should not be used if fresh water can be obtained.


In mixing concrete various proportions of cement, sand, gravel, and water
are employed, depending upon the purpose for which the concrete is to be
used. The ideal mixture is one in which all the spaces or voids between
the grains of sand are filled with the cement and all the voids in the
gravel are filled with the cement-sand mortar. This perfection is seldom
attained, because the voids in each lot of gravel and sand vary slightly,
and in order to be absolutely safe a little more sand and cement than
will just fill the voids are used.

The strongest concrete is not required in every structure, and, in
many instances, the cost of it would be unwarranted. For important
work involving large quantities of materials of unknown qualities,
tests should be made to determine the best proportions. Such tests,
being rather complicated, are made usually in a laboratory, and are
not practical for the user of small quantities of concrete. Various
proportions have been tested by experienced engineers to determine which,
under average conditions, will develop the greatest strength, best
resist wear, and assure greatest impermeability or water-tightness. The
mixtures given below have been found to meet the requirements indicated,
and having been adopted as arbitrary standards, are recommended for use
in farm concrete work. The amount of water required is discussed under


=Rich mixture.=--Used for concrete subject to high stresses or where
exceptional water-tightness and resistance to abrasion are desired:
1:1-1/2:3; i. e., 1 part cement, 1-1/2 parts sand, and 3 parts gravel.

=Standard mixture.=--Used generally for reinforced concrete and
water-tight work: 1:2:4; i. e., 1 part cement, 2 parts sand, and 4 parts

=Medium mixture.=--Used for plain concrete of moderate strength: 1:3:5;
i. e., 1 part cement, 3 parts sand, and 5 parts gravel.

Leaner mixtures are sometimes used after a test has proved them to be
suitable for the work at hand.

It will be noticed that always in indicating the proportions the first
number refers to the cement, the second to the sand, and the third to the
gravel. The three materials must be measured by volume, using the same
unit. The cubic foot is a convenient measure, because a sack of cement,
weighing 94 pounds, is considered to contain 1 cubic foot.

When the coarse aggregate (gravel, etc.) is omitted the mixture is
generally spoken of as mortar and the proportions are indicated thus,
1:2, meaning 1 part cement and 2 parts sand. Mortar is used for
plastering, stucco, top coats of floors, and for laying masonry.


More concrete can be made from given volumes of aggregates if the gravel
used is graded from fine to coarse than if the particles are too nearly
of one size, because the small stones help to fill the voids between the
larger ones and less sand-cement mortar is required. The extra mortar
thus adds to the volume of the concrete.

A common mistake to be guarded against is to assume that the volume
of concrete produced is equal to the quantity of sand plus the gravel
as indicated in the proportion. For instance a 1:2:4 mixture will not
produce 6 cubic yards of concrete, if 2 yards of sand and 4 yards of
gravel are used, because the sand will lodge in the voids between the
pebbles. If 6 cubic yards of concrete are desired it will be necessary to
use 2.7 cubic yards of sand and 5.34 cubic yards of gravel.

Table 1 shows the quantity of cement, sand, and gravel required under
average conditions for the indicated proportions.

Table 1.--_Materials for 1 cubic yard of rammed concrete._

        Proportions.      |          |          |
                          |          |          |
  Cement.| Sand. | Gravel.|  Cement. |   Sand.  |  Gravel.
         |       |        | _Sacks._ |_Cu. yds._| _Cu. yds._
     1   |  1    |   ---  |  19.20   |   0.74   |    ---
     1   |  2    |   ---  |  13.48   |   1.00   |    ---
     1   |  2-1/2|   ---  |  11.00   |   1.01   |    ---
     1   |  3    |   ---  |  10.40   |   1.16   |    ---
     1   |  1    |     2  |  10.52   |    .39   |    0.78
     1   |  1-1/2|     3  |   7.64   |    .42   |     .85
     1   |  2    |     4  |   6.04   |    .45   |     .89
     1   |  2-1/2|     5  |   4.96   |    .46   |     .92
     1   |  3    |     5  |   4.64   |    .52   |     .86
     1   |  3    |     6  |   4.24   |    .47   |     .94


The quantity of water used in mixing has a very great influence on the
strength of the concrete. An excess of water weakens the concrete, while
an insufficient amount prevents thorough mixing.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--The result of using too dry a mixture, lack
of spading and careless placing; note irregularity of layers and poor

Therefore, only sufficient water should be used to produce a workable or
plastic mixture.

Recent tests have proved that to secure the greatest strength the
concrete should be mixed considerably drier than has heretofore
been customary. Of course, for thin walls containing closely placed
reinforcement, or for water-tightness, a fairly wet mix is necessary. A
little experience will show the proper amount of water to use.

A very rough estimate of the quantity of water required in mixing for
general work is 4 to 5 gallons to each sack of cement.

Three degrees of consistency (corresponding to different proportions
of water) are used in general practice, namely, wet, medium, and dry.
In the light of recent investigations it is thought the wet mixture of
present-day practice contains too much water. The following definitions
are therefore recommended:

=Wet mixture.= One that does not flow readily and yet can not be piled
up. It is recommended for thin sections when reinforcement is closely

=Medium mixture.= One that is between the wet and dry mixture. This
consistency is recommended for general work.

=Dry mixture.= One about like damp earth. If a handful is squeezed it
will retain its shape. This consistency requires thorough ramming to
eliminate voids and is used when forms are to be removed immediately,
but should not be used where a water-tight job is expected. The porous
structure of the concrete in Figure 2 is due to the fact that it was
placed as a dry mixture.



In estimating the amount of concrete in a given piece of work and the
quantities of materials required, the unit of measurement is usually the
cubic yard (27 cubic feet). The following examples will explain best the
method of determining the quantities required:

  =Example 1.=--A wall 9 inches thick, 12 feet high, and 30 feet long
      has a door opening 3 feet wide and 6 feet high, also a footing 18
      inches wide and 9 inches deep. The concrete is to be mixed in the
      proportions of 1:2:4.

      The volume of the footing is found by multiplying together the
      dimensions expressed in feet, thus, 1-1/2 × 3/4 × 30 = 33-3/4 cubic
      feet. Similarly, the volume in the wall is 3/4 × 12 × 30, less the
      door opening 3/4 × 3 × 6 = 256-1/2 cubic feet.

      The total volume in footing and wall is 290-1/4 cubic feet = 10-3/4
      cubic yards.

      To find the quantity of cement, sand, and gravel, multiply the
      amounts for 1 cubic yard, indicated in line 7 of Table 1, by
      10-3/4, and it will be found that 65 sacks of cement, 4.83 cubic
      yards of sand, and 9.56 cubic yards of gravel are necessary to
      build the wall.

  =Example 2.=--A pavement 27 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 6 inches
      thick has a 5-inch base mixed in the proportions of 1:3:5 and a
      1-inch surface mixed in the proportions of 1:2.

      The volume in the base is 27 × 4 × 5/12 = 45 cubic feet = 1-2/3
      cubic yards.

      The volume in the top is 27 × 4 × 1/12 = 9 cubic feet = 1/3 cubic

      Multiplying the quantities in line 9 of Table 1 by 1-2/3 and those
      in line 2 by it is found that the base requires 7.74 sacks cement;
      0.86 cubic yard sand; 1.43 cubic yards gravel; and the top requires
      4.49 sacks cement; 0.33 cubic yard sand.

  =Example 3.=[1]--A tank 9 feet inside diameter has walls 6 inches
      thick and 4 feet high (above the floor). The floor is 6 inches
      thick, the concrete is to be 1:2:4.

      The volume in the floor is 10/2 × 10/2 × 22/7 × 1/2 = 39-2/7 Cubic

      The area of the larger circle is 5 × 5 × 22/7 = 78-4/7 cubic feet.

      The area of the smaller circle is 4-1/2 × 4-1/2 × 22/7 = 63-4/7
      cubic feet.

      The area of the wall, therefore, is 15 cubic feet and the volume is
      15 × 4 = 60 cubic feet.

      The total volume in the structure is 99-2/7 cubic feet or 3-2/3
      cubic yards. Multiplying the quantities in line 7 of Table 1 by
      3-2/3, it is found that the following material is needed: 22.14
      sacks of cement; 1.65 cubic yards of sand; 3.27 cubic yards of

[1] A practical rule in finding the area of a circle is to multiply
one-half the diameter (radius) by itself and the product by 22/7. In
finding the volume in the wall of a circular structure, such as a silo
or tank, the area of the circle formed by the inside circumference
is deducted from the area of the circle formed by the outside
circumference and the remainder is multiplied by the height.


Forms are required to hold the concrete in place until it has attained
sufficient strength to sustain itself and the initial loads to which it
may be subjected. Concrete is plastic and will assume the shape of the
form, thus any imperfection or impression on the face of the forms will
be reproduced.

Wood is commonly used for forms, as it can be easily worked into
different shapes, though various other materials sometimes are better
adapted to special conditions. Cast iron, for instance, is suitable for
casting small objects that are to be reproduced in quantities, such
as concrete block or tile; plaster of Paris, glue, or moist sand are
employed for casting ornaments or to produce a fine, smooth surface;
sheet metal is suitable when the forms can be used repeatedly or for such
circular structures as silos. When the sides of an excavation are not
likely to cave in the earth may serve as a form.


Wood for forms must be of a kind that is easily worked and that will
retain its shape when exposed to the weather. White pine is the best
wood, but is seldom used because of its cost. Spruce, yellow pine, and
fir are satisfactory woods for forms and are best, used partially green
or unseasoned.

The edges of boards should be surfaced, tongued and, grooved, or beveled
in order to obtain a tight form, so that the soft mortar will not ooze
out. A better surface* is secured if the boards are dressed on one side
and are free of loose knots or other imperfections.

As forms must be removed, they should be so planned that they can be
taken down without destroying the lumber, especially if the boards are
used for sheathing or again for forms. Therefore the nailing of the
boards to the support should be only sufficient to keep them in place
until the concrete has hardened. Greasing the surface next to the
concrete with crude oil, soap solution, or linseed oil will prevent the
concrete from adhering and facilitate removal.


Metal forms can be used to advantage when the work involved is to be
repeated many times. If it is known or if it is probable that the forms
may have to be altered, the relative costs of wood and metal forms should
be carefully determined.

Metal forms of various types and designs may be purchased. Although the
first cost may be high, yet their use may lower the total cost when the
work is such as to warrant it.

Circular forms may be built as shown in Figure 3. The sheathing is
generally of wood 4 to 6 inches wide, or sheet metal, and, if of wood,
is laid perpendicular to the battens. In forms of small diameter, sheet
metal sheathing is necessary if a smooth surface is desired, as the
4-inch boards can not be made to conform to a true circle. The radius
used for cutting the battens of the inner circle should be the thickness
of the sheathing less than the inside radius of the structure and the
same amount greater than the outer radius for the outside battens.


The period of time after which forms may be removed varies according to
conditions. Rich and dry mixtures set quickly, and warm weather tends to
hasten the setting of concrete. The character of the structural member
and the loadings also must be considered.

Thus, an unloaded wall 12 inches or more thick may be stripped of forms
in from 1 to 3 days, while the forms of thinner walls should remain in
place from 2 to 5 days. Slab forms and the sides of beam and girder forms
may be removed in from 6 to 14 days if the span is not over 7 feet. The
bottoms of beam and girder forms, even though of a span less than 7 feet,
should remain in place and braced form 10 to 14 days and even longer.
Experience is the best guide to the time of removal, but if there is any
doubt ample time should be allowed, especially in cold weather.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--Suggestion for circular form.]


Concrete, while plastic, exerts a great pressure on the confining
walls, necessitating rigid tying and bracing of the forms to keep them
from bulging out of alignment. The effect of the bulging of a form is
corrected only at a considerable expense; hence it is advisable to pour
the concrete to a depth of not more than 2-1/2 or 3 feet, allowing it to set
or harden before pouring more.

The form most used in concrete construction is that for a straight wall.
The methods of building such a form apply in general to the forms for
most structural work, though modifications may be necessary to meet
particular conditions.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--Form for basement or cellar wall. The earth may
be used as an outside form if it is sufficiently firm.]

The straight wall form may be built continuous (Figs. 4 and 5), or in
panels of a size convenient to handle, and from stock lengths of lumber
(Fig. 6). Generally the face boards are placed horizontally and secured
to studs or posts. The face boards may be 1 or 2 inches thick and from 6
to 10 inches wide, preference being given to the narrower widths, which
are less liable to cup or warp. The thickness depends upon the spacing
of the studs, the number of times the forms are to be used, and the
depth of pouring. Ordinary sheathing, if the joints are made tight, is
satisfactory for foundations of dwellings, etc., and the studs, if 2 by
4 inches, should be spaced 18 inches on centers. The studs for a long,
high form had best be 4 by 4 inches or 2 by 6 inches, spaced from 2 to 3
feet center to center. The studs of the inside and outside forms must be
tied together to prevent spreading; this is conveniently done with No. 10
wire, as shown in Figure 4, or with one-half or three-quarter inch bolts,
which is the more expensive method. Bolts should be greased to facilitate
removal. Temporary spacers of wood, 1 by 2 inches, of a length equal to
the thickness of the wall, should be used to prevent drawing the forms
together when the wire or bolt is tightened. They should be spaced at the
ties, but need not be at every wire, and are knocked out and removed as
the concreting progresses.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--Straight wall form for level ground.]

The ties should be spaced on each stud about 2-1/2 feet vertically. If
more than 3 feet of concrete is poured at one time the ties should be
closer together, vertically, at the bottom of each pouring. The thickness
of the wall does not affect the number of ties. On removing the forms the
wires should be clipped close to the face of the concrete and punched
back, unless the surface is to be stuccoed. If a pit hole is caused by
punching back the wire it should be pointed up with mortar, which then
should be rubbed to make it blend with the general surface.



Before starting to mix, annoyance and money may be saved by planning the
location of the mixing plant with regard to convenience in depositing
the concrete in the forms and ease of access to the materials. Often the
board can be located so that by moving it once or twice the bulk of the
concrete may be shoveled directly into the forms. It is more economical
to wheel material a distance of from 10 to 25 feet than to carry it in
shovels. Eight feet is about as far as it is profitable to shovel.

When material is to be wheeled, runways of planks should be provided,
because more material can be handled in a given time, and the wear and
tear on men and equipment is not so great. The planks used in the runways
should be thick enough to sustain the weight passing over them and should
be 10 to 12 inches wide to permit foot room. They should be anchored
securely and made rigid, as springy or loose boards retard progress
of the work. Smooth joints in the planking will prevent bumping and

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--Sectional forms.]


The number of men required is determined by the amount of concrete to be
placed in a given time, the method of mixing, and the size of the batch;
that is, the number of bags of cement mixed at one time. The amount of
concrete one man can mix by hand in a day depends upon the experience of
the man, the layout of the work, and other duties required of him. One
man should average 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cubic yards of concrete in eight hours,
including mixing and wheeling not more than 50 feet.

The gang for a one-bag batch may consist of 3 men, but a larger number
make a more efficient force, for when the concrete is mixed by hand the
men can take turns at the various tasks and will not tire so easily. The
assigning of tasks so that each man's time fits into that of the others
requires considerable study and is one of the chief factors making for
loss or profit.


Good concrete can be mixed by hand or machine. The quantity of concrete
work in prospect is the factor that determines the more economical
method. A small amount (say 100 to 200 cubic yards) does not warrant the
purchase of a machine, but it is often feasible and economical to hire a
machine from a neighbor or contractor if the quantity of concrete to be
placed is more than 15 cubic yards.

A mixer should be purchased only after careful consideration of the
amount and character of the work to be done and the conditions affecting
its use.

The two types of mixers most used are the batch mixer, which mixes
and dumps a definite quantity, and the continuous, which discharges a
constant stream of concrete. The continuous type is not adapted to farm
work unless the concrete can be handled as fast as it is mixed, thus
permitting the machine to work continuously.

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--Home made concrete mixer.]

There are numerous types and various sizes of batch mixers. A one-bag
batch machine is most suitable for general work, though there are smaller
mixers that may prove handy. Some of the smallest sizes are operated by
hand, but the medium and large sizes are power operated. Mixers can be
had with or without the power plant attached and may be stationary or
on wheels, which facilitate moving to different sites. Engines used for
sawing wood, the larger ones used for pumping water, and tractors furnish
sufficient power to operate an average mixer. Figure 7 shows a homemade
mixer built of discarded farm implement parts and operated by the farm

Directions for operating a mixer are generally furnished with the
machine. The tendency is to use too much water in mixing concrete in a
machine. The consistency of the mixture should be as described under the
heading "Consistency" on page 8. The mixing should be continued for at
least a minute after the drum has been charged, but a better mixture is
secured if two minutes are allowed. At the end of each day's work the
machine should be thoroughly washed, and when not in use it should be
well greased and covered.


Hand mixing is the more economical on the farm unless a large amount
of work is to be done at one time. Few tools need be purchased, and,
as a rule, only farm help need be employed. The following tools will
be needed in mixing and placing plain concrete: Two or more square-end
short-handled shovels, 1 heavy garden rake, 1 sprinkling can or bucket
(if a hose is not available), 1 52-gallon barrel, 2 wheelbarrows with
metal trays, 1 sand screen (Fig. 8), 1 tamper (Fig. 9), 1 wood float or
trowel (Fig. 10), measuring boxes (Fig. 11), mixing board (Fig. 12), 1
spader (Fig. 13). The number of shovels and wheelbarrows needed will
depend upon the size of the batch, number of men mixing, and the layout
of the work. Long-handled pointed shovels will be found more convenient
at the sand and gravel piles.

A bottomless box is necessary for convenient and accurate measurement
of the sand and gravel. Where wheelbarrow measurement of materials is
practiced, as in charging a mixer, the capacity of the wheelbarrow
should be determined by use of a measuring box. The box may be made as
illustrated in Figure 11, from boards 12 inches wide. The dimensions in
Table 2 are of boxes for use in measuring quantities for mixtures of
various proportions, assuming that one bag of cement is used in a batch.
If two bags are used in a batch the boxes should be filled twice.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--Sand screen.]

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--Tampers.]

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--Wooden float.]

[Illustration: Fig. 11.--Measuring box.]

[Illustration: Fig. 12.--Mixing Board.]

[Illustration: Fig. 13.--Spading tool.]

Table 2.--_Inside dimensions of measuring boxes for various proportions._

     [1-bag batch, box 12 inches deep.]

  Proportion.  Box for sand.   Box for gravel.
  ----------- --------------- ----------------
                  _Feet._         _Feet._
  1:1:2        1     by 1         1 by 2
  1:1-1/2:3    1     by 1-1/2     1 by 3
  1:2:4        1     by 2         2 by 2
  1:2-1/2:5    1-1/4 by 2         2 by 2-1/2
  1:3:5        1-1/2 by 2         2 by 2-1/2
  1:3:6        1-1/2 by 2         2 by 3

A tight platform should be provided similar to that illustrated in Figure
12 upon which to mix the concrete. For mixing 1 or 2 bag batches a
platform 9 by 10 feet will serve.


The mixing board should be located in convenient relation to the supply
of materials and the work and should be level. The sand box is placed
on the board, about 2 feet from one of the longer sides, and filled
level with sand; the box is then lifted away and the sand spread in a 3
or 4 inch layer. The cement is spread as evenly as possible on' top of
the sand. Two men with shovels, standing on opposite sides of the pile,
turn the sand and cement in such a way that the materials axe thoroughly
mixed. In turning the material it should not be simply dumped off the
shovel, but should be shaken off the ends and sides, so that the two
constituents will be mixed as they fall. The mass should be turned two
or three times, or until it is of uniform color and there are no streaks
of either sand or cement. A man with a hoe or rake may assist by raking
the top over as the two men turn. When the sand-cement mixture is of a
uniform color it should be spread out carefully in a layer and the gravel
box placed on top. The box is filled with gravel and then removed, the
gravel being spread over the sand-cement mixture. The mass is soaked with
about one-half the quantity of water to be used, care being taken not to
wash away any of the cement. The materials then should be turned over
in much the same manner as was the sand-cement, except that instead of
shaking them off the end of the shovel the whole load should be dumped
and dragged back toward the mixer with the square end of the shovel.
The wet gravel picks up the sand and cement as it rolls over when
dragged back. The mixing should be continued until the mass is uniform,
water being added to the dry spots during the mixing until the desired
consistency is obtained.

Experience counts considerably in mixing concrete with the least amount
of labor; ordinarily three or four turnings are required to mix the
materials thoroughly. After the final turning the concrete should be
shoveled into a compact pile and then is ready for placing in the forms.



The mixed concrete should be deposited in the forms within from 20 to 30
minutes from the time the water is added to the cement, as it begins to
set or harden after this time. To disturb the concrete after the set has
begun is risky, as it will lose some of its strength, the extent of the
injury depending upon the seriousness of the disturbance.

Concrete which has set before it can be placed in the forms should not be
tempered or softened with water, but should be discarded.

To prevent delay in placing, all forms should be examined before the
mixing is begun to see that they are properly braced, that all chips or
loose particles are removed, that the surface of concrete which has set
has been properly roughened and wetted to assure a bond, as described on
page 20, and that all reinforcement, bolts, inserts, etc., are properly
located and secured.

At the lunch' period, or at the end of a day's work, the mixing board
and equipment should be thoroughly washed, for if this is not done many
pounds of heavy concrete are needlessly carried around by the men and the
addition of a pound in the weight of tools will lower the efficiency of
the workers. Moreover, it will save time and wear and tear of equipment
incident to cutting the surplus concrete away with a cold chisel.

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--1592 Showing result of leaky forms and poor
placing. The soft cement mortar ran out, leaving areas of honeycombed
surface not necessarily harmful but unsightly.]

In depositing concrete in the forms care should be taken that the
materials do not separate.

If the mixing is done close to the place of depositing, the concrete
may be shoveled into the forms directly or through a chute. If it is
necessary to lift or transport the concrete, buckets and wheelbarrows are
convenient containers. The concrete should be deposited in horizontal
layers, preferably not over 6 inches thick, and a spade or paddle should
be worked up and down against the forms to push the coarse material
away from the surface, as illustrated in Figure 13. The object of the
spading is to eliminate impounded air that may form pockets in the mass
and to insure a smoother and more impervious surface. In addition to
being spaded, stiff concrete should be rammed until water flushes to
the surface. Tapping the forms with a hammer is a very effective way of
securing a smooth surface. Figure 14 shows the result of improper spading.

Fresh concrete will riot bond readily to concrete that has hardened and
a seam may be formed that will permit water to trickle through. When
bonding fresh concrete to that which has been in place for a short time
it is usually sufficient to roughen the hardened surface with a pick or
by other means so as to expose the gravel or stone, and to clean off
all loose particles. The hardened concrete should be soaked with water,
the excess water removed, and the surface then given a coat of grout (a
mixture of cement and water) of the consistency of cream just before the
new concrete is deposited.

When pouring of a wall is to be discontinued for some time, provision for
the bonding of future work should be made. This may be done by placing
short steel dowels in the concrete when it is poured, or a rebated joint
or groove may be made, as shown in Figure 15. In bonding a new wall to
old concrete, holes should be drilled for the dowels, which should be
grouted in, and the old surface should be roughened, cleaned, and wetted;
or a groove may be cut in the old wall to receive the new concrete.

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--Method of forming horizontal rebate.]


Concrete can be placed under still water if proper precautions are taken.
It should never be placed, while soft, in running water unless a form or
cofferdam is used, as the cement will be washed out. When concrete is to
be placed under water a form of tube or chute, known as a tremie (Fig.
16), may be used advantageously. The tube should be of sheet metal, about
8 inches in diameter, with a hopper on top, and means should be provided
for quickly raising and lowering it without jolts, so that the concrete
will feed out at the bottom without breaking the seal. The lower end of
the tube should rest on the bottom or on the concrete as it is built up
and a continuous flow of concrete, mixed somewhat soft so that it will
flow easily, should be maintained.

Scum or laitance is likely to form on concrete when placed under water,
and unless all of the concrete is! poured in one operation and brought to
a little above the water surface, seams or planes of weakness will occur.


After the concrete has been poured, care should be taken that it does not
dry out too quickly, and in hot weather it must be protected from the
sun. Exposed surfaces and objects made of dry concrete should be sprayed
thoroughly with water twice or oftener each day for a week or 10 days.
Sometimes surfaces are shielded with canvas, paper, boards, or layers of
moist sand.

[Illustration: Fig. 16.--Tremie for use in placing concrete under water.]



If suitable methods are used, good concrete work can be done in cold
weather, but with more difficulty and at somewhat greater cost than when
the weather is warm. Ordinarily it is best not to attempt to do concrete
work during freezing weather. However, the extra cost at times may be
warranted by urgent need of the structure or the fact that other farm
work is not so pressing during the winter and the concrete work may be
carried on without seriously interfering with regular farm operations.

Concrete must be protected from alternate freezing and thawing until it
has set. Cold retards the setting and hardening of concrete; therefore,
even though the temperature is not at the freezing point, the concrete
should be protected and special care taken not to subject it to loads.
The forms should be kept in place until there is no doubt that the
concrete has properly hardened. Hot water should be poured on the
concrete to make sure that apparent hardness is real and not due to a
frozen condition. Just before the concrete is placed all ice and frost
should be removed from the forms and reinforcement, if used, by warming
the surfaces with steam or by other means.

Concrete that has been frozen once may, with proper care, attain its
ultimate strength, but should it freeze a second time the chances of
saving the work are very slight. Exposed surfaces are apt to scale or pit
if the concrete is allowed to freeze before it is thoroughly hardened.

Pleating the materials, protecting the green concrete, and the use of
salt are precautions generally taken to prevent freezing.


The use of salt is objectionable, as it forms a white efflorescence
on exterior surfaces and is liable to corrode the steel in reinforced
concrete work. The quantity of salt required varies with the temperature,
but it should not exceed 10 per cent of the weight of the water used
in mixing. A 10 per cent solution is eight-tenths (approximately 13
ounces) of a pound of salt per gallon of water and will prevent freezing
at a temperature of 22° F. Lower temperatures would require a greater
proportion of salt, which would impair the strength of the concrete, and
hence is not practicable.

A rule, frequently advocated, for varying the percentage of salt is
to use 1-1/3 ounces per gallon of water for each degree Fahrenheit
below freezing. Since it is impossible to foretell the exact drop in
temperature, the exact quantity of salt can not be predetermined, so that
provision should be made for several degrees lower than anticipated.
The salt should be dissolved in the mixing water, and in order that the
proportion be correct the amount of water required for each batch should
be determined by trial and this quantity used throughout the work.


Perhaps the most satisfactory method of preventing freezing of concrete
is to heat the materials and to inclose or cover the completed work for
a few days or until most of the water has disappeared and sufficient
strength has developed. In extreme weather protection may be needed for
five or six days. When the weather is cold but not freezing, heating the
materials will be sufficient. If a freeze is expected the concrete work
should be protected by wood inclosures, paper, or canvas, over which, if
the surface is horizontal, may be spread a 6 or 8 inch layer of straw.
Manure should not be used to protect fresh concrete, since the acids in
it are destructive and cause unsightly stains. Splits or other openings
in coverings may admit cold, which may freeze parts of the work. As the
temperature drops (to about 20° F.) it will be necessary to arrange the
covering so that live steam can be turned in between it and the concrete
or that heat may be supplied from stoves or salamanders.

Mass work, except in very cold weather, will not require as careful
protection as thin sections and, as a rule, the forms are sufficient if
the exposed parts are covered.


The water can be heated sufficiently for use in concrete (approximately
150° F.) in kettles on stoves or by steam from a boiler.

A metal smokestack placed horizontally with a fire in one end makes an
efficient heater for the sand and gravel. The materials are piled over
the stack, but not so high that their weight will crush the pipe. Small
quantities of sand and gravel may be heated on top of metal plate with
a fire under it. If a small boiler is available it may be economical to
use steam for heating the sand and gravel. Steam is effective when forced
from nozzles into the piles or circulated through perforated pipes placed
under the material. Covering the piles with canvas or other material will
retain much of the heat.


Concrete expands and contracts with changes in temperature, causing
cracks to appear. Contraction cracks occur in thin sections exposed to
wide variations in temperature and are common in sidewalks; therefore,
large stretches of concrete should not be laid without breaks or spaces
to allow for the changes in size. The spaces should be filled with tar or
some similar material that will yield or give when the concrete expands.
A joint like that shown in Figure 17 is frequently used for thick walls.
A section of the wall is poured and before the next is poured the
abutting end is covered with tar and paper, the thickness of the covering
depending upon the length of the section and the exposure. Sidewalks and
similar work, when not cast in alternate blocks, should have a one-fourth
inch space left at intervals of 40 feet. The joint may be filled with tar
paper or tar. Steel is used to take care of contraction in long or high
walls and water-tight work. Important structures in which temperature
reinforcement is necessary should be designed by one experienced in
concrete design.

[Illustration: Fig. 17.--Expansion joint showing rebate form removed and
filler in place.]


The subject of reinforced concrete is not within the province of this
bulletin, but as openings of various widths are required in the walls of
most farm structures, a general explanation is given of the reinforcement
of lintels or that portion of concrete immediately above an opening, such
as a floor or window.

A lintel is a beam, and when a beam bends the lower part is stretched or
pulled while the upper portion is compressed. Good concrete will stand
great pressure but is not capable of resisting any great pulling or
tensile stress. For this reason steel is used in the lower portion to
take care of the tensile or pulling force.

It will be found generally satisfactory, where no heavy or concentrated
load occurs over an opening and the span is not more than 4 feet, to
place two rods three-eighths of an inch in diameter in the bottom of the
lintel, so that there will be 1 inch of concrete below them. Two diagonal
rods should be placed at each top corner of a window or door, as shown
in Figure 18. When the opening is between 4 and 8 feet the rods should
be bent up as shown in Figure 19 and when between 8 and 12 feet, three
one-half inch rods should be used, two of them being bent.

Barbed wire, old fencing, and scrap or rusty iron is not suitable for
reinforcement. Loose rust should be cleaned off the rods and they should
be free of grease and oil.

[Illustration: Fig. 18.--Reinforcement of openings less than 4 feet wide.]

[Illustration: Fig. 19.--Reinforcement of openings more than 4 feet wide.]


Joints and imperfections in the forms are reproduced on the concrete
surfaces. Patches of honeycomb and rough places are left where the mortar
has run out of the forms or where the concrete has not been properly
placed. Such imperfections do not necessarily affect the strength of the
concrete, but they do detract from the appearance (see Fig. 14). Too of
ten the finishing of the concrete work in even the more important farm
buildings is neglected. With little extra trouble exposed surfaces can
be given a finish which will add to the attractiveness and hence the
value of the completed work. Rubbing off the form marks and pointing up
depressions or holes greatly improves the appearance of the work. The
rubbing may be done with a wooden float or hard-burned brick, using a
little sand and water as an abrasive and a 1:2 mortar for pointing up.
The surface can be worked best if the forms are removed within 24 hours
or before the concrete has set too hard. After the concrete has hardened
it may be necessary to use a carborundum block for rubbing.

A pleasing finish can be secured by scrubbing the surface with a stiff
fiber or wire brush, using plenty of water to wash off the loosened
particles. The work must be done while the surface is workable for if the
concrete is too green or soft the aggregate will break out and if too
hard the work can not be done effectively.

Artistic effects can be secured by picking or tooling the surface with
a bush hammer, toothed chisel, or pick. For such treatment the concrete
should be two or three weeks old to prevent breaking out the aggregate.
Other finishes may be obtained by etching with acid to expose selected
colored aggregates and by the application of stucco. The limitations
of the bulletin do not permit of a discussion of these more elaborate


Concrete is practically fireproof in that it can not be consumed by fire,
but unless properly made and of the right materials it will disintegrate,
at least on the surface.

To resist fire concrete should be mixed fairly rich, say, 1:1-1/2:3, or
1:2:4 and special care should be taken to grade the sand and gravel to
secure a dense mixture.

The aggregates should be selected with a view to their fire-resisting
properties. The sand should be siliceous and the larger aggregate
should not disintegrate when heated; hence, marble, granite, limestone,
materials containing quartz, and some gravels are unsuitable. Cinders are
specially valuable, due to their non-conductivity, but can not be used
where strength is required. Trap rock will resist destruction by heat
and produce a strong concrete. Blast furnace slag is very good for this

Fireplaces and chimneys of dwellings[2] may be constructed of ordinary
concrete but the back, jambs, and inner hearth, which are directly
exposed to the heat of the fire, should be made of specially prepared
concrete as described above or should be lined with firebrick, although
concrete made with broken hard-burned brick or terra cotta has been
used successfully. If suitable large-sized aggregate is not available a
mixture of one part cement and three parts sand may be used.

[2] See Farmers' Bulletin No. 1230, Chimneys and Fireplaces, U. S.
Department of Agriculture.


Practical water-tightness in concrete may be secured by using a fairly
rich mixture properly proportioned. Foreign ingredients, membrane and
surface coatings, or other means need not be used, except where poor
workmanship is likely or where considerable damage and inconvenience
may result in case of leakage. Under such circumstances the membrane
treatment used in addition to a properly proportioned concrete, while
the most expensive method of waterproofing, probably will give the most
reliable results. This treatment consists of layers of burlap or tar
paper cemented to the surface and together with tar or asphalt. Where the
membrane is subject to injury it is sometimes protected by a coating of
cement mortar or brick backing.

First-class workmanship and special attention to details are required
to secure water-tightness. The essential requisite is that the voids be
filled. A lean mixture may be made more impervious by using hydrated
lime which tends to fill the voids and makes the concrete flow easily. A
little more cement in the mixture would serve the same purpose. The lime
should not be in excess of 10 per cent of the weight of the cement and
under no circumstances should unslaked lime be used.

The materials for water-tight concrete must be well graded, so as to
obtain a maximum density; that is, enough sand must be used to fill the
spaces between the gravel or stone and enough cement to fill the spaces
between the grains of sand. A 1:2:4 concrete will prove practically
impermeable in ordinary construction, but if a head or pressure of
water is to be resisted a 1:2:3 or richer mixture may be necessary. The
consistency is very important. A sluggishly flowing consistency is best,
for if the concrete is too wet the mortar may flow away from the stone,
leaving leaky places and, if too dry, the mass may prove porous. The
proportions and consistency must be accurately maintained for each batch
and the concrete must be exceptionally well mixed.

It is necessary to exercise great care in the placing of the concrete.
Where practicable, the structure or object should be poured in one
operation to avoid leaky joints, but when this is not possible
precautions should be taken to secure a tight joint between concrete of
different ages. The surface of concrete which has set must be cleaned of
dirt and scum down to the true concrete. This surface then should be well
whetted and painted immediately with a creamy mixture of cement and water
before placing the new concrete. A good plan, when discontinuing work on
structures intended to hold liquids, is to embed a 6 or 8 inch strip of
tin or thin sheet metal to half its width in the concrete so that the
other half will project into the new concrete.

A wall thick enough to resist the stresses put upon it will generally
resist percolation of water, but 6 inches may be considered as a minimum.

Contraction and expansion must be controlled to avoid the occurrence of
leaks. To guard against cracks due to unequal settlement or other causes,
most concrete designed for water-tightness should be reinforced. In some
mass work, special contraction joints, as described on page 23 may be
necessary. Rules for the use of reinforcement and contraction joints can
not be given, as the requirements in each case vary with the conditions
to be met.

                    *       *       *       *       *

                           ORGANIZATION OF THE

                            October 21, 1929

  _Secretary of Agriculture_              Arthur M. Hyde.
  _Assistant Secretary_                   R. W. Dunlap.
  _Director of Scientific Work_           A. F. Woods.
  _Director of Regulatory Work_           Walter G. Campbell.
  _Director of Extension Work_            C. W. Warburton.
  _Director of Personnel and Business     W. W. Stockberger.
  _Director of Information_               M. S. Eisenhower.
  _Solicitor_                             R. W. Williams.
  _Weather Bureau_                        Charles F. Marvin, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Animal Industry_             John R. Mohler, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Dairy Industry_              O. E. Reed, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Plant Industry_              William A. Taylor, _Chief_.
  _Forest Service_                        R. Y. Stuart, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Chemistry and Soils_         H. G. Knight, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Entomology_                  C. L. Marlatt, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Biological Survey_           Paul G. Redington, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Public Roads_                Thomas H. MacDonald, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Agricultural Economics_      Nils A. Olsen, _Chief_.
  _Bureau of Home Economics_              Louise Stanley, _Chief_.
  _Plant Quarantine and Control           C. L. Marlatt, _Chief_.
  _Grain Futures Administration_          J. W. T. Duvel, _Chief_.
  _Food, Drug, and Insecticide            Walter G. Campbell, _Director of
    Administration_                         Regulatory Work, in Charge_.
  _Office of Experiment Stations_         E. W. Allen, _Chief_.
  _Office of Cooperative Extension Work_  C. B. Smith, _Chief_.
  _Library_                               Claribel R. Barnett, _Librarian_.

This bulletin is a contribution from

  _Bureau of Public Roads_                 Thomas H. MacDonald, _Chief_.
  _Division of Agricultural Engineering_   S. H. McCrory, _in Charge_.

                U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1929

                    *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Notes

All illustrations were moved so as to not split paragraphs.

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