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Choosing Design Methods

for Industrial Floor Slabs


Key factors to consider include type of slab construction and loading conditions

BY BOYD C. RINGO
AND ROBERT B. ANDERSON

ndustrial slabs on grade take a


lot of punishment, often serving as thoroughfares for cargoladen lift trucks. Thats why designing an industrial floor to
withstand anticipated loading conditions is critical to satisfactory
performance.
There are five commonly used
procedures for designing industrial floor slabs. All of them are effective when their recommendations
and details are followed. So, how
does a designer choose the best
method for a particular floor?
The most common approach is
to determine the type of floor construction needed for expected
loading conditions. Then, from the
design procedures described on
page 349, select the most appropriate method for determining floor
thickness, reinforcement, joint
spacing, and other details.

but may be strengthened at the


joints by thickening, dowels, or keys.
Relatively close joint spacing is the
p ri m a ry means of controlling
shrinkage effects. The Portland Cement Association recommends joint
spacing in feet equal to two to three
times the slab thickness in inches.
Type B, slab with shrinkage-control reinforcement. Type B floor
slabs are similar to plain concrete
slabs, but they contain some distributed reinforcement to control
the effects of shrinkage and temperature changes. Joint spacings usually are the same or slightly greater

option for shrinkage control. The


steel fibers, typically added in
amounts of 40 to 60 pounds per cubic yard of concrete, are distributed
throughout the mix. They act as
crack arresters to prevent the propagation of micro-cracking. The
fibers also can increase the effective
modulus of rupture.
Type C, slab with shrinkagecompensating concrete. These
slabs require reinforcing steel,
which must be properly located.
Shrinkage-compensating concrete
does shrink, but before shrinking it
expands by an amount intended to

INDUSTRIAL

FLOOR DESIGNS USUALLY ARE BASED ON ONE OR


MORE OF THE FIVE DESIGN METHODS. . .EACH METHOD HAS
PARTICULAR LOADING CONDITIONS AND SLAB TYPES FOR WHICH
ITS MOST EFFECTIVE.

Types of Slab Construction


ACI 360.1R-92 (Ref. 1) describes six
common types of floor slab construction. The primary differences
between each type are reinforcement
details and joint spacing. Except for
Type F slabs, all slabs are expected to
remain essentially uncracked under
applied loads. Most types use Type I
or II portland cement.
Type A, plain concrete slab. Type
A slabs contain no reinforcement,

than for a plain concrete slab. Reinforcement in Type B slabs must be


stiff enough to be properly placed,
and single layers should be located
at or above the mid-depth of the
slab. Consider using bars or wires,
in welded-wire fabric, with spacings
in each direction of 14 to 16 inches.
Be sure the steel is adequately supported to ensure proper positioning. The use of steel fibers also is an

be slightly greater than the subsequent shrinkage. This concrete can


be produced with an expansive admixture or with Type K cement.
Joint spacings may be significantly
greater than those of the two previously described slabs. Reference 8
can be used as a guide when designing a shrinkage-compensating
concrete floor.
Type D, slab post-tensioned for

crack control. Type D slabs contain


post-tensioning tendons for crack
control. The prestress forces increase the effective modulus of
rupture and allow a wide spacing of
construction joints with no intermediate contraction (control)
joints. With post-tensioned slabs,
one or two layers of polyethylene
sheeting, perforated or nonperforated, often are used for reducing
subgrade drag. Reference 7 gives
design aids for this type of floor
construction.
Type E, lightly reinforced structural slab. These slabs are designed
to support structural loads, such as
columns and walls, directly on the
slab. They also can be used to resist
forces caused by swelling or shrinking of unstable soils. The slabs can
be reinforced with bars, post-tensioning tendons, or both.
Type F, structurally re i n f o rc e d
slab. This slab differs from the others in that the design intentionally
allows cracking at some determined level of loading. The slabs

are structurally reinforced with one


or two layers of steel reinforcement
in the form of deformed bars or
welded-wire fabric. The location of
the steel is critical to the slabs
s t ru c t u ral capacity. Joint spacings
are not critical to the design, other
than for construction purposes,
since some cracking is considered
acceptable.

Methods of Slab Design


Industrial floor designs usually
are based on one or more of the five
design methods listed below. Each
method has particular loading conditions and slab types for which its
most effective. Table 1 correlates
the slab construction types with
appropriate design methods. It also
shows which methods aid in slab
thickness selection, and which
have information on related details, such as joint spacings and reinforcement requirements. Table 2
shows which design method to use
in selecting the appropriate slab
thickness for each type of load. The

SLAB TYPES

references cited after each method


discuss the design process in detail.
Portland Cement Association
(PCA) method. PCAs charts and tables allow slab thickness selection
for dual- and single-wheel axle
loads, rack support post loading,
and uniform loads with fixed or
variable positions. Reinforcement
is optional and is intended for
shrinkage and temperature effects.
Because loadings are assumed to
be in the interior slab area, joint
strengthening is recommended
(Refs. 2 and 3).
Wire Reinforcement Institute
(WRI) method. WRI provides a
method of thickness selection for
single-wheel axle loads and uniform loads with aisles. Only loadings on the interior slab area are
considered. WRI charts include the
effects of relative slab stiffness with
respect to the subgrade. Steel reinforcement is assumed in the design
process (Ref. 4).
United States Army Corps of Engineers (COE) method. Corps of

Engineers design charts are based


on We s t e rg a a rds equations for
edge stresses in slabs on grade.
T h e re f o re, they are appro p ri a t e
when designing for loads immediately adjacent to joints or edges. Also included are load transfer effects
across a joint in terms of a loadtransfer coefficient. Steel reinforce-

the intended reinforcement technique. They control shrinkage and


t e m p e ra t u re effects and increase
the modulus of rupture. Since the
calculation process determines
moments and shears, steel reinforcement also can be used with
this design method (Ref. 7).
American Concrete Institute

WHEN A

SLAB IS TO REMAIN UNCRACKED, THE OBJECTIVE IS TO


LIMIT THE ACTUAL TENSILE STRESS TO AN ACCEPTABLE VALUE.

cation is critical to slab performance. It also provides for a wider


spacing of joints and the elimination of shrinkage cracks (Ref. 8).

Using the Design Charts


A number of values are needed
when using the design charts to determine concrete floor slab thickness and the effect of any prestressing or reinforcement. Some values
come from loading specifications
and some come from the materials,
the site, and the designer. For example, for vehicle axle loads necessary information includes:

For the vehicle:


ment is optional, though its use is
implied. Loadings considered are
heavy axle loadings and other vehicle loads (Refs. 5 and 6).
Post-Tensioning Institute (PTI)
method. PTI publishes tables and
charts that give strength requirements for loadings caused by soils
which expand or contract significantly. Post-tensioning tendons are

(ACI) Committee 223. This procedure does not deal directly with the
selection of slab thickness, which
must be determined by one of the
other methods. Instead, it gives design details and construction practices for the control of early-age expansion and the subsequent
shrinkage of the concrete slab. Reinforcing steel is required and its lo-

TABLE 1. CORRELATION

OF

Vehicle weight, pounds


Load capacity, pounds
Total axle load, pounds
Type of wheels (single or dual)
Ty p eo ft i re s( s o l i do rp n e u m a t i c )
Tire width, inches, or tire pressure, psi
Wheel contact area, square inches
Wheel spacing, inches

SLAB CONSTRUCTION TYPE WITH DESIGN METHOD


Design Methods

Slab Types
A

PCA

WRI

COE

PTI

ACI 223

Plain concrete;
no reinforcement;
portland cement

Thickness selection

Related details

Temperature and
shrinkage reinforcement;
portland cement

Thickness selection

Temperature and
shrinkage reinforcement;
shrinkage-compensating
cement

Post-tensioning for
crack control; portland
cement

Post-tensioning and/or
nonprestressed steel
reinforcement; portland
cement

Nonprestressed steel
reinforcement; portland
cement

(From Reference 1)

Related details
x

Thickness selection
x

Related details

Thickness selection

Related details

Thickness selection

Related details

Thickness selection

Related details

TABLE 2. SLAB THICKNESS SELECTION METHODS


APPROPRIATE FOR DIFFERENT TYPES OF LOADING
Design Methods
Type of Loading

PCA WRI

Uniform Loads and Aisles

Storage Rack Post Loads

Lift Truck Wheels:


Interior Loadings
Edge Loadings

Concentrated Loads
Fixed Locations
Vehicle Loads With Impact
Post-tensioning Prestress1
Shrinkage-compensating
Concrete1

COE

PTI

ACI 223

x
x

x
x
x
x

These are not thickness selection methods. However, the techniques affect the details of
the other four design methods.

For the site and materials:


Concrete compressive strength, psi
Concrete modulus of rupture, psi
Modulus of subgrade reaction
(soil), pci
Safetyfactorselected by designer
The vehicle axle load, commonly
known as the lift truck load, can be
any vehicle that travels on the concrete floor with its wheels in contact with the slab surface. This load
frequently controls the slab thickness required. The best source of
vehicle data is the specification
sheet from the manufacturer. If this
is not available, the designer may
have to assume some values to
complete the design.
Industrial floor designs evaluate
the capacity of the floor slab to resist the moment in the slab beneath the loaded axle. This loading
causes tension on the bottom of
the slab beneath the most loaded
wheel. Its sometime called a positive moment. Since wheel loads
normally are of equal value, both
on the vehicle and in the design
charts, the moments are equal beneath each wheel. PCA design
charts can be adapted for special
cases where wheel loads are unequal on the same axle.

When a slab is to remain uncracked, the objective is to limit the


actual tensile stress to an acceptable value. This value, usually
called the allowable stress, is the
modulus of rupture divided by the
selected safety factor. The thickness determination for this loading
can be determined by PCA, WRI,
and COE charts and tables.
If the concrete floor does not
need to remain completely crackfree (that is, if hairline cracks due to
loading are acceptable), then the
approach can change. The objective, then, is to determine the applied moment in the slab. The moment is then used to design the slab
using common re i n f o rc e d - c o ncrete procedures and to select app ro p riate areas of steel re i n f o rc ement. This can be most easily done
with WRI charts.
Using shrinkage-compensating
concrete or post-tensioning to
build a slab alters the design
p ro c e s s. The intent is to maintain
an uncracked slab by chemical or
physical prestressing rather than by
adjusting slab thickness and joint
spacings. Typically, wider joint
spacings are used.

References
1. ACI Committee 360, Design of Slabs
on Grade (ACI 360.1R-92), American
Concrete Institute, Detroit, 1992.
2. Ralph Spears and William Panarese,
Concrete Floors on Ground, Portland
Cement Association, Skokie, Ill., revised 1990.
3. R. G. Packard, Slab Thickness Design for Industrial Concrete Floors on
Grade, PCA, 1976.
4 . D e s i g nP ro c e d u re sf o rI n d u s t r i a l
S l a b s , I n t e r i mR e p o rt ,1 9 7 3 ;a n d
Structural Welded Wire FabricDetailing
M a n u a l , A p p e n d i xA ,1 9 8 9 ,T h e Wire
ReinforcementInstitute,Reston, Va.
5. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
Engineering Design: Rigid Pavement
for Roads, Streets, Walks, and Open
Areas, Engineering Manual EM 11103-132, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., 1984.
6. Departments of the Army and the
Air Force, Concrete Floor Slabs on
Grade Subjected to Heavy Loads,
Technical Manual TM-5-809-12 and
AFM 88-3, Chapter 15, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington,
D.C., August 1987.
7. Design and Construction of Posttensioned Slabs on Ground, Post-Tensioning Institute, Phoenix, Ariz., 1980.
8. ACI Committee 223, Shrinkage
Compensating Concrete Design (ACI
223-83), ACI, 1983.

Boyd Ringo is a consulting engineer in Cincinnati, and has more


than 40 years experience designing
and building plain and conventionally
reinforced concrete slabs on grade.
Rober t Anderson, long active in
the Post-Tensioning Institute,
helped develop design pro c e d u re s
for post-tensioned slabs. He is president of Robert B. Anderson Consulting Engineers, New Orleans.
Editors Note
This article was adapted from Ringo
and Andersons book, Designing Floor
Slabs on Grade. This comprehensive
reference helps designers select the
most cost-effective approach for
achieving superior crack control, stability, flatness, and overall strength. It
gives step-by-step design procedures
and contains all the necessary charts,
tables, and equations.

PUBLICATION #C940346
Copyright 1994, The Aberdeen Group
All rights reserved