Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 36

Uniclass CI/SfB Yq2


March 2007


creating white concrete for a lighter world


White cement in concrete Snowcrete


4 6

White cement architectural concrete for a lighter world

White cement opens up a whole new world of possibilities for designers. And Snowcrete white cement from Lafarge Cement UK is the product that can help turn architectural vision into reality. By mixing white cement with pure light coloured sand and light coloured aggregates such as white granite, marble or crushed calcined flint it is possible to create a pure white concrete. This is in marked contrast to ordinary grey concrete, in which ordinary Portland cement is mixed with naturally coloured sands and aggregates. The colour and light-reflecting qualities of white concrete give it a highly distinctive appearance, differentiating it markedly from grey concrete. White concrete can be instrumental in creating architecture of striking visual quality, with lightness, quality of finish, and dramatic interplay of light and shade reflected to maximum effect through built form and imaginative detailing. White concrete also enhances the effect of colour. Coloured pigmented concrete based on Snowcrete is especially pure and vibrant compared with coloured concrete made with grey cement. This exceptional purity of colour is also apparent when white cement is used for mortars and renders. The images throughout are just a taster of the incredible visual qualities of white concrete. This guide describes and illustrates the applications, qualities and characteristic of concrete products made with white cement. You will find detailed information within clearly defined sections. After a general introduction, the guide looks in depth at the wide range of white cement based applications, which include: In situ concrete construction Precast building components Terrazzo Fibre reinforced concrete and the many associated uses in, for example, paving, architectural facing masonry, tiles, renders, paints, mortars, etc. There is a detailed section on concrete production, which covers everything from formwork, vibration and curing to detailing and coloured concretes. Finally, there is a summary of relevant standards and references relevant to the use of white cement in the United Kingdom. We hope you find this specifiers guide inspiring and useful. Welcome to a new world of possibilities using Snowcrete white cement!

Cast in situ concrete Precast Terrazzo Precast elements Fibre reinforced concrete Renders

8 10 12 14 16 17

Production of concrete
Formwork Exposed surface finishes Concrete vibration Curing Avoiding blemishes Detailing Coloured concrete

20 22 24 26 27 29 31

Standards and references


Printed on eco-friendly paper to protect our environment

At Lafarge Cement we are committed to playing our part in conserving the environment and supporting sustainable development. That is why this publication is printed on paper manufactured without adverse environmental impacts. Technical specification: This publication is printed on paper manufactured from: 80% recycled fibre content comprising 60% recovered from post-consumer de-inked pulp sources FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified, and 20% recycled wood and fibre 10% of the virgin fibre FSC accredited and 10% sourced from sustainable forests


Cert no. TT-COC-002326

FSC Trademark 1996 Forest Stewardship Council A.C.

This quality of paper helps us to maintain our high presentational standards, while respecting our environment and promoting sustainability.

Cover photograph Edmund Sumner/VIEW

Elemental chlorine free Woodpulp sourced from sustainable forests 80% recycled fibre NAPM approved recycled product

p e r f e c t i o n

c o n c r e t e


At present, less white cement is used worldwide than ordinary grey Portland cement. However, with fast-increasing awareness of its exceptional qualities, the use of white cement is growing by about 4-5% annually. Snowcrete is a white cement. When used with light coloured aggregates it creates a light coloured concrete. For truly white coloured concrete white aggregates and pure light sand must be used to create the distinctive pure white, light reflecting finish. Although white concrete is often characterised by great visual delicacy, Snowcrete has a higher final strength than ordinary Portland cement.

Visual appeal and functionality

The effect of white concrete can be stunning, with surfaces that resonate with a continuously changing light and shade as the suns path changes. The desire for white concrete began in response to the Bauhaus buildings of the 1930s, which reflected the teachings of the movement on the importance of materials and the characteristics of colour and form. The move towards exposed concrete structures allows architects to express the structural quality of concrete in their designs, while white concrete adds light and drama to structure and form in architecture. Concrete structures are not only visually appealing they are also functionally effective. The thermal mass of an exposed concrete structure helps to even out daily swings in temperature, avoiding the need for air conditioning. The importance of utilising the thermal mass of concrete has become an increasingly common theme in many recent buildings. The dampening effect of the high thermal mass on peak summer temperatures has enabled the use of natural ventilation to replace what would previously have been air conditioned buildings. The use of exposed concrete results in more sustainable buildings. Where concrete is exposed, the use of white cement to create a light coloured concrete helps to reflect a higher proportion of daylight into the building, reducing the energy need for lighting.


Product characteristics
Snowcrete is a Portland cement that is designated CEM I 52,5 to BS EN 197-1. It is a quality assured cement carrying CE Marking with independent third party certification. Concrete made with Snowcrete is rapid hardening and quickly gains high compressive strength. Its ultimate strength is higher than concrete using ordinary Portland cement (CEM I 42,5). The inherently high compressive strength is a direct result of the high proportion of strength developing calcium silicate minerals present in white cement. cement have more complex linings to withstand the greater temperatures and prevent colour contamination of the cement. To help maintain the whiteness of the cement firing takes place in a slightly reduced atmosphere by close control of the combustion air to the main burner. When the clinker from the kiln first cools, any iron in the mix will oxidise, colouring the cement. To prevent this, the clinker is quench cooled as soon as possible after passing through the burning zone. Quenching is by water spray which cools the clinker to about 800C. This is sufficient to maintain the whiteness of the cement. Heat recovered from the subsequent cooling is used to preheat the combustion air to 200C. This reduces fuel consumption and stabilises the flame. Great care is needed to remove the superheated steam from the quenching process without causing health and safety issues.

What makes the cement white?

It is the presence of Iron Oxide (Fe2O3) that gives ordinary Portland cement its grey colour. Every 0.1% of Iron Oxide reduces the reflectivity of the cement powder by about 2.5%. So to produce a cement as white as possible involves minimising the Iron content in any form (oxides or sulphates). Other heavy metal compounds also colour the cement, but are present in much smaller concentrations. The potential whiteness of the cement is determined by: The raw materials The processing in the kiln The grinding of the cement clinker

Quench cooling shatters the clinker making it finer and easier to grind. The clinker is ground with gypsum to produce the final cement powder. Gypsum helps to control the setting time of the cement. White gypsum is used to maximise the whiteness. The finer the grinding the brighter the whiteness. White cement is normally ground finer than grey Portland cement for this reason.

The raw materials

Snowcrete is made from particularly pure white chalk and finely ground silica sand, which is low in iron. The effect of small quantities of coloured substances that occur naturally in the raw materials are eliminated through the use of a special flame-cleaning technique. There is continuous monitoring of the raw materials to ensure the iron content is less than 0.15%.

How is whiteness measured?

The white quality of cement powder can be measured using a photometer. For consistent results, the cement powder is compressed with a force of 50KN for 10 seconds and measured within 10 minutes of pressing, as samples darken with time. The results are usually expressed using the L*a*b* system which is universally used by all photometer manufacturers. L* (luminance) black = 0, white = 100 a* = green-red axis (-=green, +=red) b* = blue-yellow axis (-=blue, +=yellow) The main emphasis for a white cement is on the luminance value (L*). There is usually a low range of variation in the a* and b* measurements, with a tendency towards yellow. The graph opposite compares the luminance of various cements with their iron oxide content.

Kiln processing
The manufacturing process is very similar to the production of grey Portland cement. However, in grey cement the iron content acts as the flux when burning the ingredients to create the clinker that is then cooled and ground to make cement powder. As white cement has a very low iron content, mineralisers are added to the mix to aid burnability. Even with the mineralisers, the kiln must be fired to higher temperatures than for grey Portland cement, typically to 1400C. This ensures full burning of the ingredients. Kilns for producing white

Comparison of White and ordinary Portland cements

100 White Portland cements 90
Luminance (L*)



Cem I, II and III ordinary Portland cements


50 0 1 2 3 Fe2O3 content (%)

Source: Lafarge Cement Division

Product data
Alkali content The soluble alkali content of Snowcrete is only 0.1 to 0.3%, making it a low-alkali cement. Sulfate resistance Snowcrete has a typical C3 A content of approximately 6%, providing a high level of sulfate resistance. Chromate content Snowcrete has a low soluble Chromium (VI) content of 2 ppm. The table outlines the typical characteristics of Snowcrete.

Typical properties
Property 1 day strength 2 day strength 7 days strength 28 day strength Initial setting time Expansion Loss on ignition Insoluble residue Sulfate content SO3 Chloride C3A Alkali content Water soluble chromate Y-Reflection (DIN 5033) Specific density Declared interval 18-24MPa 34-42MPa 55-67MPa 70-79MPa 85-130min 0-2mm 0-1.0% 0-0.3% 1.8-2.3% 0-0.02% 4-5% 0.2-0.3% 0-2mg/kg 85.0-89.5% 3120-3180kg/m3 Requirement EN 197-1 None 30MPa None 52,5MPa 45min 10mm 5,0% 5,0% 4,0% 0,10% None None None None None


Applications Cast in situ concrete

White cement is used as a construction cement throughout the world for reinforced concrete structures of all types. For in situ work, the high reflectivity of white concrete enhances strong architectural forms, with dramatic contrasts of brilliant light and shade. This is particularly so where the white concrete finish is smooth when the contrast of dazzling white is particularly evident. In situ concrete offers the designer wide opportunities for striking architectural treatment through structural form and a wide variety of surface treatments and textures. Snowcrete is ideal for in situ work because of its high early and final strength. It can be used in place of ordinary Portland cement for any structure. To fully exploit the special character of in situ concrete, careful selection and detailing of the formwork is required. The design of the formwork will be reflected in the finished concrete and will be more pronounced the lighter the colour of the concrete. Form clamps, the nature of the shuttering material, and joints between lifts will all be plainly visible in the finished construction. These workings in the concrete add character and can be used to complement the form and shape of the structure.








Applications Precast
White cement can be used to construct precast building elements, both structural and decorative. Precasting produces constructional elements that do not require on-site finishing. With precast concrete frames the building structure is fabricated off-site. Used in this way, white concrete meets both structural and aesthetic design requirements. A wide range of mixes, colours and finishes is possible. Precast cladding panels can be formed into virtually unlimited configurations to create distinctive modelling for buildings. Varied visual effect is also created through many different types of finish including acid etched, smooth or coarse ground, grit or sand blasted, rubbed or polished. Many effects can be achieved with different aggregates and the addition of coloured pigment. White cement can be used in cladding panels to replicate a natural stone effect, including Bath stone, Portland stone and marble. The finish can be natural, weathered or highly polished. Offsite prefabrication means faster programme times with no potential ill-effects from adverse weather or labour shortages. Offsite fabrication of structural components results in fast and efficient erection on site. Through off-site manufacture it is possible to achieve a finish on white concrete frames of an exceptionally high standard that can be left exposed. Precast cladding also improves buildability because the dry envelope is completed quickly, enabling following trades to begin work sooner. Precast concrete panels are cast face-down in purpose-built moulds, usually of timber or glass fibre. Different designs and surface effects can be achieved in various ways. Template mats or rods inserted into the base of the mould can create intricate patterns or replicate joints. The benefits of offsite fabrication are being extended to include other elements, such as insulation and windows, during the manufacture of precast panels. After demoulding the surface of a precast panel can be treated in a variety of ways acid-etched, smooth or coarse ground, grit or sand blasted, rubbed of polished.




Columns and girders



Opposite page, bottom, Jubilee Church by Richard Meier & Partners


Photograph Edmund Sumner/VIEW



Applications Terrazzo
The high reflectivity of white cement can create an exceptionally white terrazzo when combined with light aggregates. Snowcrete white cement is therefore the perfect binder for modern day terrazzo applications, with a high strength that adds to the naturally hardwearing nature of terrazzo surfaces.



Terrazzo comprises up to 70% aggregate, and it is the aggregate therefore that predominantly determines the final finished appearance. If a coloured concrete binder is used, white cement provides an ideal base for achieving clear sharp or translucent colours. A combination of pigment and different coloured aggregates can be used to create exciting finishes and patterns of almost limitless variety. In tandem numerous chemical cleaners and sealers have been developed to enhance and preserve the beauty of terrazzo. The term terrazzo derives from the Italian word for terrace. Terrazzo first appeared several hundred years ago in Europe when Venetian workers discovered a new use for discarded marble remnants. A smooth surface was achieved by hand rubbing with stones. Through experience, craftsmen discovered that goats milk enhanced and preserved the true colour of the marble perhaps the first terrazzo sealer. Terrazzo can be poured as a top coating over a concrete base but it can also be cast. Although it is most often used for floors and stairs, Terrazzo can be used for faade facing, tabletops, vanitory units, washbasins, stair treads, etc. After pouring, the terrazzo surface is kept damp for 2-3 days until it develops sufficient hardness. It is then coarse ground and treated with cement paste. After about 24 hours the terrazzo is finely ground until the surface is smooth and free from cement slurry. Terrazzo is not only beautiful it is also an extremely practical, easy to clean and hardwearing surface. Research conducted in the USA by the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association has shown that the whole life cost of terrazzo is extremely favourable in comparison with carpet, ceramic tile, vinyl and other flooring materials.



Fittings and furniture




Applications Precast elements

Precast elements
White cement has been successfully used in the production of precast ornamental elements for building and decorative reconstructed stone. It is also frequently used for applications such as floor tiles, paving and edging stones, stair treads and balconies, window casings and city furniture. White cement also finds uses in precast applications such as white briquettes, pressed bricks, concrete gratings, pool edgings, etc.

Urban spaces

Artistic use
White cement is widely used to produce concrete statues, monuments, scarfito as well as in modern artistic applications and restorations of archeological and ornate buildings. The light-reflecting properties of Snowcrete improve traffic safety when used to produce kerbs, road-markings, safety barriers, tunnel linings and tunnel ramps.


Traffic regulation








Applications Fibre reinforced concrete

White cement can be mixed with reinforcing glass and steel fibres to produce incredibly slender yet strong concrete structures. The example on the right is constructed using ultra high strength Compact Reinforced Composite (CRC) with steel fibre reinforcement. The edges of the steps are only 30mm thick. CRC was developed in Denmark and has recently resulted in an increasing number of innovative and pioneering structures such as this spiral staircase. Adding steel fibres to high strength concretes adds ductility to what can otherwise be a brittle material. The usual applications for these concretes in precast production are small slender elements such as balcony slabs, staircases, beams and columns. Glass fibre reinforced concrete with Snowcrete can also be used to produce slender and elegant components. The white concrete finish emphasises the lightness and elegance of the finished product.




Cladding panels

Alkali resistant glass fibre adds the tensile strength that concrete lacks. At low dosage rates, the fibres are used to control shrinkage cracking in normal concrete. A higher glass fibre content of 5-6% is used for spraying into moulds. The finished thickness of precast cladding panels is only 10-15mm. GRC is particularly suitable for delicate fine detailed concrete, as shown below.

Fittings and furniture



Applications Renders
Snowcrete can be used in cement:sand renders to provide either a clean white render or a through coloured render. The choice of sand should match the finished colour of the render as far as possible. This is because as the render is exposed over time the colour of the aggregate material itself will become apparent. White cement is recommended as the basis for renders where the maximum light reflectance is required. The use of white cement ensures long term colour fastness.



White cement is also the basis for clean, fresh coloured renders without the dullness associated with ordinary Portland cements. The use of coloured pigments can produce a wide range of tints that help transform the appearance of a building.



Production of concrete
Selecting the right ingredients
Snowcrete is used to produce white concrete by mixing with white aggregates, light coloured sand, water and admixtures. Cement Snowcrete can be supplied both bagged and in bulk. Due to the naturally low content of soluble Chromium (VI) in white cement, there are no chromium related shelf life issues. It can be stored for at least six months if kept in suitable dry conditions. Bagged cement should not be stored in direct contact with the ground, on a concrete ground floor, or up against external walls. We recommend that bags are stored on pallets, to keep them off the ground, and protected from the weather. Water The water used for mixing concrete and for curing cast concrete must be clean, such as mains water. As with any concrete, the water/cement ratio is critical in determining the final strength of the concrete. Aggregates The choice of coarse aggregate and its colour is crucial to the final appearance of white concrete that has an exposed aggregate surface. Aggregates suitable for white concrete include white granite, white marble and crushed calcinated flint. For fair faced finishes, it is the choice of fine aggregate, especially the colour of the filler particles smaller than 0.25mm, that has more influence on the whiteness of the concrete. Filler material of white marble and feldspar make it easier to achieve a consistent white colour to the finished concrete. In determining aggregate composition, it is important when making up facade concrete whether for smooth-cast surfaces or exposed surfaces to keep to the narrow tolerance limits of the combined grading curve. It is recommended that a tolerance of 5% be applied to screen meshes of 0.25mm and 4mm, and to the mesh corresponding to half the value of the selected maximum grain size. If this is 16mm for example, the tolerance for 8mm screen mesh applies. The aggregate grading also influences the development of surface air voids (blowholes) in the concrete. A well-defined grading curve with a suitable content of filler (<0.25mm) gives concrete good compaction characteristics. Furthermore, it leaves little room for free water and free air in the concrete, and so reduces the risk of air void formation. Experience shows that the content of filler for smooth-cast surfaces should occupy between 5 and 10% of the grading curve. Filler material should consist of cubic and rounded grains. The maximum grain size in aggregate and grain shape is also significant. The general rule is that coarse aggregate increases air void formation, compared with smaller grain size. Coarser aggregate materials with irregular shapes also absorb far more air at the surface than natural, rounded, smooth aggregate. All aggregates should be stored and used to avoid contamination so that the aesthetic appearance of the concrete is not compromised. Extra care is also needed to ensure that the mix of aggregates is as constant as possible between batches in order to avoid differences in shading of the finished product.

Aggregate exposed by washing


Combined grading curve for exposed aggregate finish

Filler Fines Coarse aggregate

Admixtures Admixtures are accepted as contributing to the production of durable concrete that is easier to handle, place and compact when fresh and reduces the permeability of hardened concrete. BS EN 934-2: 2001 covers the requirements for admixtures in concrete. All admixtures should be colourless. To ensure the desired white colour, it is always recommended to make trial mixes. Trial mixes can also help to establish the dosage necessary to achieve the desired result. Air entraining agents help to reduce the tendency of efflorescence and are particularly recommended in the colder months.

Percentage passing through mesh (%)

100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 0.125 0.25 0.5 1 2 4 8 Screen mesh in mm 16 32 64

Coarse/fine 75/25% Coarse aggregate content 1400-1450kg/m3

Combined grading curve for acid etched finish

Filler Fines Coarse aggregate

Percentage passing through mesh (%)

100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 0.125 0.25 0.5 1 2 4 8 Screen mesh in mm 16 32 64

The use of water reducing/plasticising agents will allow a reduction in the water/cement ratio and produce concrete which is more workable. Concrete with a relatively low water/cement ratio quite often requires strong compaction to achieve a suitable density. Intense compaction by vibration increases the risk of large air bubbles forming. It is therefore advantageous to use additives that give better flow characteristics which in turn permit a reduction in the use of intense vibration. To avoid mottled discolouration, calcium chloride should not be used in white or coloured concrete.

Coarse/fine 60/40% Coarse aggregate content 1050-1150kg/m3

Concrete composition
Surface Exposed Smooth moulded Profiled Smooth, profiled, acid-etched Grading Gap graded Smooth grading curve or slightly oversanded Smooth grading curve or slightly oversanded Smooth grading curve or slightly oversanded Cement kg/m3 330-350 330-350 330-350 330-350 Fine aggregate kg/m3 400-500 650-800 650-800 650-800 Coarse aggregate 1350-1450 1000-1150 1000-1150 1000-1150 Fine/ coarse 25-75% 40-60% 40-60% 40-60% Admixtures HRWRA, WRA colour (AEA)* WRA, AEA colour, HRWRA WRA, AEA colour, HRWRA WRA, AEA colour, HRWRA w/c ratio 0.55 0.55 0.55 0.55

* It can however be quite difficult to mix air in exposed concrete, because of its composition. WRA = Water reducing agent HRWRA = High range water reducing agent AEA = Air entraining agent



Production of concrete Formwork

Formwork must be able to resist the tremendous pressure exerted during placing and compaction.

Steel formwork
Steel formwork is a good choice for the production of large, smooth surfaces. Its relatively high cost and durability make it suitable where repeat usage is high. The hard surface of steel means that formwork defects are uncommon, however, the dense surface tends to increase the number of blowholes in the concrete surface.

Formwork and shuttering

Where an as struck or fair faced finish is specified, the choice of formwork for both in situ and precast concrete has a significant affect on the appearance of the finished concrete. Where a smooth finish is required, there is a choice of three types of formwork: Film-faced plywood Steel formwork Plastic formwork

Film-faced plywood
Film faced formwork plywood consist of a resin impregnated film which is bonded to the plywood under pressure. The resin finish masks the natural grain of the plywood, producing a smooth uniform concrete surface colour and quality for each and every application. The durable surface finish is resistant to minor damage and minor scratches do not leave visible marks on the finished concrete. These plywoods are used for multiple pour high quality concrete formwork and can offer 40 or more concrete pours. The resin surface offers easy separation from the concrete and easy cleaning. Because the resin finish is hard and abrasion-resistant, film faced plywood is often specified when the smoothest possible concrete finish is desired. Most film faced plywood panels are supplied with edges sealed to inhibit moisture absorption. Panels should be cut with sharp tools and all cut edges sealed. Damaged panels should be discarded rather than repaired, as materials used for repair usually have a different degree of moisture absorption to the ply face and can result in a change in colour to the finished concrete.

Two samples made from the same concrete mix, but cast in different formwork timber boarding (top), filmfaced plywood (bottom)

Plastic formwork
Plastic formwork is particularly suitable for creating complex shapes. Different types of plastic formwork are used, but the omission of formwork oil is not recommended. With repeated use, increased wear can affect the finished appearance of the concrete surface. Plastic formwork presents a similar risk of surface blowholes as steel formwork.


Timber formwork
Where it is desired that the grain of the timber is expressed in the finished concrete, particular care is needed to ensure a white finish is achieved. For a uniform high quality finish, it is vital to obtain consistent surface texture and porosity. The timber grain can be enhanced by using a steel brush or sand blasting the surface of the boards. The joints between boards must be glued or otherwise sealed to prevent grout loss. Grout loss can result in the appearance of dark edges in the finished concrete. To prevent moisture absorption by the timber and eliminate the transfer of wood sugars and resins into the concrete a water-based sealer must be applied to the formwork. Good workmanship in the construction of timber formwork is critical to the quality of the finished concrete.

Chemical release agent These are a blend of fatty acids in an evaporative carrier. They provide a stain-free concrete finish and are usually the preferred option for as struck high quality concrete. Chemical release agents are suitable for use on all impervious formwork surfaces. They are applied as a fine film. After application they take about 12 hours to dry to a rain resistant, matt finish on the formwork surface. The dry surface reduces the pick up of airborne dust which can mar the appearance of fair faced concrete. The agents are mildly acidic. They react with the alkalinity of the concrete to form a soap that allows clean demoulding, without leaving any residue on the concrete surface. Mould oils The big advantage these have over chemical release agents is that there is no waiting time for the release agent to dry. Mould oils are therefore suited to precast plants where large volumes are placed quickly. Spray application is recommended for an even film thickness. Application of excessive amounts of mould oil should be avoided.

Formwork release agents

The choice of formwork release agent has a far greater effect on surface quality than is often appreciated. The release agent plays an essential part in releasing the concrete from the formwork and minimising the risk of surface blow holes. In addition, a good release agent: Reduces the amount of cleaning necessary and increases the number of times a mould can be used Avoids discolouration of the concrete Does not cause formwork to swell or shrink Leaves minimum residue Does not retard the concrete surface Trial castings using different agents should be made to check their effect on the colour of the finished concrete.There are many products on the market, the most suitable for use with white concrete are: Chemical release agents Mould oils



Production of concrete Exposed surface finishes

Exposed finishes involve the removal of laitance, the very thin layer of fine aggregate and cement that forms on the surface of fresh concrete. A very wide range of surface finishes and textures can be achieved, options include: Acid etching Exposed aggregate surfaces Polishing and grinding Reconstituted stone The surface texture has a significant effect on the appearance of the building, especially when viewed at close quarters.
Exposure of aggregate by flushing and brushing the concrete surface.

Exposed aggregate surfaces

Depending on the colour of the coarse aggregate and the method used to remove the outer surface of concrete, a wide range of surface textures can be achieved. The grading of the aggregates can also influence the finished appearance, especially where water is used to expose the aggregate. Water and sand blasting are the two main methods used for exposed aggregate finishes. A retarder is often used to delay the surface hardening of the concrete and make it easier to remove the outer concrete paste with a water spray or jet and brushing. Where aggregate is exposed by water, it retains its angular or rounded shape and natural reflectivity. Sandblasting is more commonly used on hardened in situ concrete. The surface is left rough, but quite uniform. Sand blasting must be carried out before the concrete has hardened too much. So formwork should be removed relatively early. The careful planning and control of hardening conditions are therefore necessary. Sandblasting is normally performed with quartz sand. The treatment is often carried out in two stages. Coarse-grained sand is used first, the day after casting for example, followed some time later by fine-sand blasting to create an even and uniform finished surface. The object is to wear away the cement paste on the surface so that the aggregate and coarse sand grains are left in a relatively uniform texture. With sand blasting, the natural colour of the surface becomes slightly greyish or matt.

Acid etching
Mild acid etching of plane or profiled surfaces the day after casting will remove cement paste and leave a very finely textured, stone-like surface. Acid etching is usually performed using a 1:10 acid solution (30% commercial hydrochloric acid). A retarder is often used in combination with acid etching. Retarding agents delay the surface hardening of the concrete so that, after formwork stripping, the surface layer can be removed more easily. The retarder is applied to the formwork in an even layer and is allowed to dry before casting. It is important to thoroughly wet the concrete surfaces with water before acid etching to prevent the surface from absorbing hydrochloric acid. After acid etching, the surface must be thoroughly flushed with water.

Sand blasting to expose the aggregate

Normally, this form of treatment only exposes the sand grains, so it is the colour of the sand and fines that largely determines the finished colour of the concrete.

Exposed aggregate, polished and acid etched three different finishes from the same concrete mix


If the concrete is sufficiently hard, the sand blasting will tear out sand grains and aggregate. If the concrete is allowed to thoroughly harden, costs will be high because of the time needed to expose the aggregate. Dry sand blasting develops large quantities of dust and workers must use special protective clothing.

appearance similar to that of split granite. It is therefore an advantage to use granite in the aggregate when making up this type of concrete. Account must be taken of the fact that hammering and especially chiselling remove substantial amounts of material (with chiselling up to 2-3 cm). Sharp lines are very difficult to achieve. Thus, beams and column edges will appear a little uneven. This is why such treatment is often reserved for surfaces that are to be framed with smooth-cast concrete, so that all corners and edges can be left untreated. Hammering and especially chiselling require strong concrete and should not be started until a hardening time of about 14 days has elapsed.

Polishing and grinding

Polishing of precast facade units gives a terrazzo like finish. It is best carried out at a factory used to dealing with horizontal grinding. Grinding is coarser than polishing and gives a similar surface finish to acid etching. Grinding should normally be carried out after 3-4 days hardening time, otherwise there is a risk of tearing aggregate out of the concrete. In planning such work, it is imperative to take account of the fact that the grinding process requires the provision of a drain to take away the large amount of water involved. It is also important to use aggregate that is suitable for grinding (marble, granite, etc).

Reconstituted stone
This is a specialised form of exposed aggregate, in which the colour of the aggregate, sand and pigmented cement are all matched to give a through colour to imitate a natural stone, such as Portland or Cotswold. The finished surface is usually washed or sand blasted to expose the natural colour of the aggregate.

Hammering and pick chiselling

This is a relatively expensive finishing method that is normally only used on in situ concrete. A pneumatic bush hammer is normally used for hammering. This achieves a fairly modest depth penetration. Ideally, formwork should contain the fewest possible joints.
Precast panels of reconstituted stone to give the appearance of Portland stone

A stronger effect can be achieved with a pick chisel bit. Surfaces become coarser and in general the appearance is more uniform. Normally the intention is to create an

Calcinated flint with a scraped finish Calcinated flint with a water washed finish

Hoveringham gravel, in grey concrete with point tooled finish in upper photo and in white concrete with washed finish below



Production of concrete Concrete vibration

Good compaction is essential not only for the strength of the concrete, but also for its appearance. Freshly poured concrete contains a large amount of entrapped air from the mixing process and from placing in the formwork. To prevent pores forming at the concrete surface, this air must be removed. Vibration is used to remove air bubbles. The greater the distance the air has to travel to the surface, the more the concrete has to be worked. This is why it is more difficult to limit the number of blowholes in walls and pillars than in floors. The upper parts of walls and pillars are normally where most blowholes appear and therefore these parts of the construction require special care. When casting constructions of limited crosssectional area, pillars for example, rapid insertion of the vibrator is important. If it is allowed to operate for too long in the upper layers the fine-grained constituents pack, so blocking the escape of larger air bubbles. This in turn leads to the formation of more blowholes in the finished concrete surface. Poker vibrators with a long drive shaft or vibrators with a built in motor and long cable are ideal where high, vertical walls and pillars are involved. These vibrators can be inserted through ports in the sides of forms. Uniform vibration throughout the entire height is a precondition for a successful result and a uniform concrete surface. Ideally, concrete should be poured into formwork in horizontal layers of equal thickness. Under no circumstances should any layer be more than half a metre thick. The aim is to cast the same layer thickness for the entire job. Pouring and vibrating must be co-ordinated so that the poured concrete becomes compacted correctly. Where there are strict surface requirements, the height of each pouring layer should not exceed 300mm.The vibrator must always be inserted to the same depth in the underlying, already vibrated, layer. The insertion points should be in a regular pattern of distribution. It might be advantageous to use a poker with a diameter of 40mm. Layer thicknesses greater than 500mm can be expected to result in an increased number of blowholes. There is also a risk that layer division lines will be visible in the finished concrete. A reduced layer thickness can be difficult to maintain, especially when thin walling is being cast.

In situ concrete
The concrete should be poured continuously in layers at an even rate. Pauses between layers can give rise to discolouration and void formation. In general, the drop height for poured concrete must not exceed 1m. If this is exceeded, there is increased risk of segregation. For in situ concrete, the vibration poker should be pushed down into the freshly poured concrete. The poker must be taken down into the concrete rapidly, then, after allowing it to operate for a short time at the deepest point, withdrawn slowly so that no cavities form behind it. The whole process should take 15-30 seconds. This helps the upward movement of entrapped air bubbles. Experienced concrete casters are able to judge when concrete has been sufficiently vibrated by looking at the surface. It should be closed by cement slurry, with just an occasional air blister appearing.

Vibration of in situ concrete with heavy reinforcement 24

When pouring floors, the poker vibrator should be used at an angle. This compacts the concrete better than a vertically inserted poker vibrator. For consistency, the angle and direction of the poker vibrator should be maintained throughout the pour. With reinforced concrete, it is important that the reinforcement be positioned to allow insertion of the vibrator at the correct distances. If very closepitched reinforcement makes pouring in uniformly thick layers impossible, it can become necessary to distribute the concrete with the poker vibrator. To prevent the relatively long vibration time giving rise to separation, each layer must here again be no more than 500mm thick. The concrete must have a composition that gives self-contained or cohesive flow without releasing water. If pumped or liquid concrete is poured into narrow forms with close-pitched reinforcement, the vibrator used must have a maximum diameter of 40mm and the vibration time must be shorter than with stiffer concrete, ie, 10-20 seconds per insertion. The precise sequence should be established by trial casting.

Example of blowhole formation from pouring & vibration

Contact between poker and reinforcement close to shuttering can result in marks being left in the concrete surface. The poker vibrator must not be used to distribute the concrete as this will result in surface defects, and the concrete might segregate. It is recommended that trial castings are made in order to establish the most suitable method of vibration and the correct concrete composition.

Self-compacting concrete Precast concrete

For precast work, beam vibrators or form vibrators are used. These vibrate the whole formwork unit. To ensure a minimum of air pores and to avoid acoustic patterns it is important to aim at mounting a few large vibrators on a correctly braced form. Such vibrators are usually mounted at form ends. The use of self-compacting concrete (or SCC) is becoming increasingly widespread in precast concrete applications. There are advantages for the producer in terms of reduced noise and vibration and the claimed improvements to surface finish. With careful selection of materials and concrete mix design, white cement can also be used in SCC. Self-compacting concrete does not need vibration (either internal or external) to achieve full compaction or to move the concrete within the formwork. Indeed if vibration is applied there is a risk that the concrete may segregate. Specialist advice is available in the Concrete Society publication Self-compacting concrete A review. Technical Report 62, 2005, 80pp.

Potential problems
Incorrect vibration can cause honeycombing, extensive colour variations, and, with loose formwork, cement slurry leakage. With vibration it is important to use formwork that is well secured so that it does not leak. The forces generated by the pressure of poured concrete plus the vibration from vibrators can open joints.



Production of concrete Curing

To ensure a durable concrete, good curing is essential. A controlled loss of moisture from the concrete during hardening will also help to achieve a uniform colour. Newly cast concrete should be prevented from drying out too quickly and protected from frost and large temperature swings. Protection against rapid drying out is particularly vital within the first 24-48 hours of maturity and the first week of curing. Drying out can be controlled by: Allowing formwork to stay in place Plastic sheet, impervious paper or similar covering Keeping the concrete surface wet

Formwork itself will prevent a certain amount of drying out. Formwork of lacquered or oiled plywood and steel are waterproof and non-absorbent and act in the same way as plastic film. With ordinary wooden shuttering, the actual moisture content of the wood affects the rate of curing. Ideally the shuttering should be wetted to prevent it drying out in hot weather.

will often result in shiny, smooth patches. This problem can be eliminated by using, for example, a covering of felt or geotextile before laying the plastic film.

Spray applied curing membranes

Curing membranes are used primarily to protect fresh concrete, but can also give protection when formwork is removed. They should be applied by spraying in thin layers to prevent drips and uneven protection which can result in permanent discolouration. Curing membranes are becoming widely used in the protection of fresh horizontal concrete surfaces. Their most obvious advantage is that they can be sprayed on without leaving marks in the hardening concrete. However, they do have a tendency to produce various shades of discolouration if spraying is not uniform or the concrete surface is uneven. Information on the effectiveness of these materials should be obtained from the supplier before use. In practice, however, where large surfaces are involved, it can be difficult to ensure uniform and complete coverage without suitable spraying equipment.

Plastic film laid or fixed close to the concrete surface is an effective way of preventing evaporation. This however assumes that the form of the construction is regular without inward projections and corners, and that reinforcing bars do not project from the concrete surface. Floors and walls with substantial horizontal areas are ideal for curing with plastic film. It is important to ensure that film is held in position and cannot be blown off or lifted in folds that might create a wind tunnel effect. For the sake of the final surface finish, it might be necessary to delay covering until the concrete surface has gained a certain degree of strength and cannot be marked or deformed in any way by the application of plastic film. This problem can be avoided by using a sealing agent. Preserving the surface appearance might also mean laying the plastic film so that it is in close contact with the concrete to prevent blotches and discolouration arising because of nonuniform protection or condensation on the underside of the film. However, a plastic film lying direct on a wet/soft concrete surface


Production of concrete Avoiding blemishes

As most reinforced concrete is hidden from view once a building is finished, a few blemishes in the surface appearance are not considered important. However, white concrete is invariably used as a face material and any surface blemishes will detract from its appearance. Correctly specified and mixed concrete, when well compacted, will faithfully reproduce the surface finish of the formwork. Where surface treatment, such as acid washing or sand blasting, are specified, many surface blemishes can be obliterated or successfully corrected by remedial measures. However, where large areas of concrete are cast against smooth impermeable formwork, any surface blemishes are obvious and remedial work is difficult to achieve without tell tale signs. compaction, the cement paste acts as a lubricant for aggregates so that they can be packed and fill voids. The water/cement ratio also plays a large role. Concrete with a high water/cement ratio will separate if over vibrated, thus giving rise to a large risk of water pores on the surface against formwork. The use of formwork with a hard smooth surface contributes to the formation of blowholes. Lean concrete gives significantly more blowholes than a rich concrete. Prevention measures include ensuring: A thin, even coating of release agent Concrete with a good workability Adequate vibration Honeycombing

Viewing distance
When a building is completed, many parts will not be seen close up. This should be considered when setting standards for minor surface blemishes. The demands for the very best quality at close viewing should be reserved for the entrance areas and surfaces where people can regularly see the concrete close up. Some of the most common blemishes and advice on how to avoid them are given below. Blowholes These are individual small air pores usually only a few millimetres across. They are created by air or water which adhere to the surface of the formwork during compaction. blowholes are more likely to occur on vertical surfaces rather than horizontal surfaces. Blow-hole formation can be caused by different factors. The fineness of the cement and the dispersal of cement paste have an influence on the flow characteristics of the concrete. During

This has the appearance of a coarse stony surface with multiple honeycombing. It is usually a result of poor compaction or inadequate fines in the mix. To avoid: Check the sand and cement content is adequate Check the grading of the coarse aggregate Ensure adequate mixing and placing to avoid segregation Provide adequate vibration Surface crazing This consists of a network of fine cracks over the whole of the surface. This is usually caused by shrinkage of the surface material after the concrete has hardened. Prevention measures include: Avoiding shiny, impermeable formwork surfaces Correct curing

Extensive blowholes and honeycombing indicate poor site practice

Plastic sheeting used to cure concrete can result in areas of varying porosity



Production of concrete Avoiding blemishes

Blooming on coloured concrete Blooming is the formation of whitish stains on the concrete surface as a result of hydration of the concrete and the evaporation of salts in the concrete. While these stains spoil the colour, they do not have any impact on the strength of the concrete. In coloured concretes, the following measures should be taken in order to prevent blooming: During concrete production, maintain a low water-cement ratio Ensure the formwork is leak-free and the concrete is well compacted to reduce the permeability of the concrete Make sure that there are no salts in the mix water, aggregates or water used for curing Use pusolonic additives in the concrete mix The differences in density, surface texture and moisture content tend to produce differences in colour, with the repair usually appearing darker. Any difference is likely to be exaggerated over time, as the more absorptive repair surface collects and holds more dirt from weathering. High standards of workmanship are required wherever high quality fair faced concrete is specified. Concrete with an acid etched or lightly sand blasted finish is much more forgiving of minor surface blemishes and any repair treatment that may be necessary.

Colour variations These can occur for a number of reasons, including the different absorption or roughness characteristics of adjacent sections of formwork, or uneven curing or exposure as a result of different drying conditions in adjacent castings. Grout loss at joints in the formwork can also cause a darkening of the concrete at joints. Remedial work It is virtually impossible to treat surface blemishes so that the repair is indistinguishable from the original concrete. Even where the same concrete mix is used, a surface finished by hand will never be as dense as a concrete mechanically compacted against formwork and subject to the pressure of concrete above.

Colour variation due to differences in formwork texture and absorption


Production of concrete Detailing

Creating a blemish-free white concrete is only one half of the design process. Where concrete is used externally, it must be detailed to take account of weathering. In particular, the runoff of rainwater and the build-up of dirt particles as the building ages. It is important to understand that weathering will inevitably result in changes to the appearance of a building. The aim of the detailing and design features should be, as far as possible, to achieve a controlled and graceful ageing. This is particularly important for a building constructed of white concrete. The following advice is intended as an aid in the design, production and maintenance of in situ concrete structures and precast elements.

Dirty water running off the roof and onto the concrete facade

Shape and orientation

The overall shape and orientation of any structure influences how different parts of the building are affected by weather, the direction of the prevailing wind and the microclimate of nearby structures. This means that the various concrete surfaces are subjected to unevenly distributed amounts of water, sun and airborne particles for their entire life. For example, a building in an urban area will be subjected to traffic-generated dust and dirt at its base but a cleaner, windier and wetter microclimate at roof level. The detailing of the building can be used to try and obscure or emphasise the boundaries between the differently affected parts of the building.

Polished concrete panels promote water run-off combined with deep joints where dirt is deposited

The wide overhang and guttering protect this facade from run-off

Facade composed of large sloping sections water will run to the bottom of each section and deposit dirt along the edge, accentuating rather than obscuring the design

Different facades of the same building show how the same element is affected differently by rainwater run-off and dirt accumulation the centre example is also affected by wind turbulence from an adjacent building



Production of concrete Detailing

There are two objectives when detailing a concrete structure: Emphasising the desired architectural expression of the building Removing or distributing water in a controlled way on the building surface There are a whole array of architectural design features that can be employed to manage water flow:
Festoon staining of concrete is one of the most common defects on many modern buildings with flush sills and no drip projections

Horizontal projections Surface texture Changes of plane Horizontal projections, such as string courses and sills, shelter the area below, particularly at lower levels. However, at roof level, small overhangs at copings do not offer the same protection because of local wind turbulence. Much larger overhangs are necessary at roof level to shelter the wall below. From experience and observation, the three ways to avoid unsightly effects of rainwater staining are: Avoid concentrations of water flow Use overhanging details to throw as much water as possible clear of the wall surface Disperse the remaining flow as evenly as possible over the surface
With a flush sill, water running down the window picks up dirt and gets blown to one end of the sill by the prevailing wind dirt is deposited as the water runs down the wall surface

Surfaces with vertical striations are the best at disguising the accumulation of dirt.

Concrete surfaces which weather most successfully in our damp climate are those which are heavily textured, or are made up of relatively small units or a series of well defined areas. Surface texture such as profiling or exposed aggregate invariably improves weathering characteristics. Vertically profiled concrete is particularly successful at concealing grime build-up, which tends to enhance the shadow effect of the profile. With exposed aggregate finishes water flow is impeded and dirt tends to get deposited in the recesses, again emphasising the modelling.

The more shaded parts of a building receive less rain and therefore retain more dirt


Coloured concrete
Coloured concrete can be achieved by using coloured aggregates, pigments or colour stains.

Colour pigments
Through coloured concretes, mortars and renders are achieved by adding pigments to BS EN 12878: 2005. As pigments are very fine powders, it is normal to use admixtures to disperse them. In practice, many proprietary colouring agents already contain admixtures. For extremely white concrete the white pigment Titanium Dioxide may be added. However, because it is non-hydraulic, such whiteners should be applied with care. Combining two or more pigments provides a wide range of colour choices. Using white cement intensifies the colour of pigmented concrete. White cement is particularly suitable for use with yellow, green and blue pigments as the finished colour is much cleaner and brighter than with ordinary Portland cement, which tends to mute the colour. The following guidelines can be used to determine the intensity of colour: For light pastel colour based on Snowcrete, use 1-2kg pigment per 100kg of cement For middle colouring, use 3-5kg pigment per 100kg of cement For strong colouring,use 6-8kg pigment per 100kg of cement It is recommended that the pigment is mixed with the sand, aggregate and a small amount of water before adding the cement. Pigment granules require a minimum of moisture to be fully dispersed. Only when the dry ingredients have been thoroughly mixed should the main water content be added. These mixing instructions will produce a uniform, brilliant and reproducible colour tone in the concrete or render. It is best to make sure that the fillers, sands and aggregates used have a colour as close as possible to the pigment colour. Difficulties can arise if there are large colour variations in aggregates, especially when the construction has been exposed to normal wear. Initially, the outer layer of coloured cement paste covers all aggregate particles, but will in time be worn away thus allowing the colour of the aggregate material itself to become dominant. This condition will, primarily, concern those engaged in paving.
The architect John Outram is well known for his use of coloured concrete Photograph Peter Cook/VIEW

The sculptor Carole Vincent used coloured concrete to spectacular effect at the 2001 Chelsea Flower Show






Green 1% 3.5% 5% 7% 9%

Colour intensity depending on dosage quantity with associated colour shade scale. 31


Coloured concrete

Coloured aggregates
A consistent concrete mix and exposure technique are essential where the aggregate is to be exposed. Although the colour of the coarse aggregate will be dominant, the size, shape and grading will also affect the finished texture and appearance. Colour pigments can be used in combination with coloured aggregate to further extend the visual range. Pigments with a similar colour to the aggregate can strengthen the overall concrete colour. Alternatively, aggregates and pigments with extreme colour differences can produce striking effects.

Somerford Keynes limestone, 1% yellow pigment

Colour stains
Colour stains can be used to turn a plain concrete surface into a decorative and stylish one. Colour stains are often used to imitate the appearance of traditional natural materials such as marble and slate but at a realistic and affordable price. Colour can also be used to create patterns in flooring to almost any design. Traditional concrete stains are limited to a palette of eight colours and are acid based. However, modern stains are available in virtually any colour and are usually water based.
Criggion granite, 1% green pigment

Coloured concrete made with Snowcrete makes it possible to add any colour anywhere

Although not suitable for every application, colour stains vastly improve the choices for designers when looking for a stained floor. Colour stains will leave a variegated finish to concrete floors and are not designed for dense single colours. Coloured staining of concrete floors is widely used in the USA and is also gaining interest in the UK.

Alternative offer from Lafarge Readymix

Lafarge Readymix, part of the Lafarge Group, exclusively offer Artevia Colour, a range of concretes using liquid pigment technology to provide unparalleled quality and consistency of colour and texture. Offering a wide range of earthy tones designed to complement and enhance an area's appeal, you are sure to find a mix which suits your design. Alternatively, bespoke colours or special design mixes are also available, just call Lafarge Readymix's specialist sales team on 0870 336 8256.

Artevia colour uses specialist pigments to produce rich, vibrant colours 32

Cast in concrete II, Susan Dawson, British Precast Concrete Federation, 2003 Written by an architect, this is an authoritative work on architectural precast concrete, its nature, potential, use and advantages. Copiously illustrated with case studies, the book covers design, structural and physical properties, manufacturing processes, surface colour and texture, transportability, weathering and environmental issues. The history of architectural precast concrete is also recounted with reference to well-known historic buildings.

Precast concrete paving A design handbook, C Pritchard, Edited by S Dawson, British Precast Concrete Federation, 1999 Provides advice on aesthetics, in-depth information on technical and specification data plus practical applications and detailing tips and ideas. Clear diagrams aid understanding of the techniques and coloured photos illustrate the applications.

Appearance Matters 6 The weathering of concrete buildings, W Monks, British Cement Association, 1986 Describes the effects on well made concrete of natural forces such as rain and sunlight, and unnatural forces such as pollution. Gives advice on the control of weathering. Contains 30 illustrated study sheets on detailing to avoid weathering problems.

Design, manufacture and installation of glass reinforced concrete, Concrete Society, 1998 Produced by the National Precast Concrete Association, Australia, this guide covers materials, GRC manufacture, curing, properties, quality control, strength, contract considerations, practical applications, surface finishes and concludes with a section on vibration-cast GRC. Basic concepts are illustrated using line drawings and graphs, to provide an ideal introduction to GRC.

GRC in action, Concrete Society, 2003 An illustrated introduction to the properties and applications of GRC. It aims to give architects and engineers an insight into the wide range of applications of GRC currently being executed throughout the world. Download from: www.grca.org.uk



British Standards Institution BS EN 197-1: 2000 Cement. Compositions, specifications and conformity criteria for common cement BS EN 206-1: 2001 Concrete Part 1: Specification, performance, production and conformity BS EN 934-2: 2001 Concrete admixtures Definitions, requirements, conformity, marking and labelling BS 8500-1 Concrete Complementary British Standard to BS EN 206-1, Part 1: 2002 Method of specifying and guidance for the specifier. BS 8500-2 Concrete Complementary British Standard to BS EN 206-1, Part 2: 2002 Specification for constituent materials and concrete. BS 8500-1 covers all the information needed in the UK to specify concrete, whilst BS EN 206-1 and BS 8500-2 contain information required by concrete producers. BS 8110 Structural use of concrete, Part 1: 1997, Code of practice for design and construction BS EN 12620 Aggregates for concrete (supersedes BS 882) BS EN 12878 Pigments for colouring building materials based on cement and lime Specifications and methods of test (supersedes BS 1014) BS EN 13139: 2002 Aggregates for mortar (supersedes BS 1199 and BS 1200) BIP 2001: 2004 Standards for fresh concrete British Cement Association (BCA) Appearance Matters 1 Visual concrete: design and production, W Monks, 1988 Appearance Matters 3 The control of blemishes in concrete, W Monks, 1981 Appearance Matters 6 The weathering of concrete buildings, W Monks, 1986 Appearance Matters 7 Textured and profiled concrete finishes, W Monks, 1986 Appearance Matters 8 Exposed aggregate concrete finishes, W Monks Appearance Matters 9 Tooled concrete finishes, W Monks, 1985



For further information:

Technical helpline 0870 609 0011 E-mail info@lafargecement.co.uk Customer services 0870 600 0203 E-mail customerservice@lafargecement.co.uk Facsimile 01635 280250 Website www.lafargecement.co.uk

Lafarge Cement reserves the right to change content within this publication without notice, owing to a policy of continuous development and improvement

Lafarge Cement UK Manor Court, Chilton, Oxon OX11 ORN