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Partially destructive strength tests 111

wide and although surface zone effects must be considered, the approach
appears to offer the most reliable available indication of in-situ strength
apart from cores. Although equipment costs are high, the damage, time and
cost of testing will be considerably less than for cores. Problems may arise
from the presence of reinforcement within the test zone, and bars must be
avoided, but the value of this test is considerable in situations where mix
details are not known. Wood-screw method
A simple pull-out technique utilizing wood-screws has been described by
Jaegermann (121). This is intended for use to monitor strength development
in the 515 N/mm2 strength range for formwork stripping purposes in
industrialized buildings.
A nail is driven into the surface of the fresh concrete to push aside aggregate particles, and the screw with a plastic stabilizing ring attached at the
appropriate height is inserted until the ring touches the concrete surface. The
unthreaded upper part of the screw is painted to prevent bonding and tests
can be made at different depths by using screws of different lengths. A load
is applied to the screw head by means of a proving ring or hydraulic jacking
device. The principal assumption is that the force required to pull the screw
from the concrete is dominated by the fine mortar surrounding the screw
threads, and laboratory trials suggest good strength correlations with reasonable repeatability but further development is needed to facilitate field usage.

4.3 Pull-off methods

This approach has been developed to measure the in-situ tensile strength
of concrete by applying a direct tensile force. The method may also be
useful for measuring bonding of surface repairs (122) and a wide selection
of equipment is commercially available (123) with disk diameters typically 50 or 75 mm. Procedures are covered by BS 1881: Part 207 and it
should be noted that the fracture surface will be below the concrete surface
and will thus leave some surface damage that must be made good. ASTM
C1583 (124) also covers this test method for in-situ applications whilst BS
EN 1542 (125) uses the technique on laboratory specimens to assess the
bond properties of repair materials.
Pull-off tests have been described (120), which were developed initially
in the early 1970s for suspect high alumina concrete beams. A disk is glued
to the concrete surface with an epoxy resin and jacked off to measure the
force necessary to pull a piece of concrete away from the surface. The direct
tension failure is illustrated in Figure 4.24, and if surface carbonation or
skin effects are present these can be avoided by the use of partial coring to
an appropriate depth. Limpet loading equipment with a 10 kN capacity

112 Partially destructive strength tests

Figure 4.24 Pull-off method surface and partially cored.

is commercially available to apply a tensile force through a rod screwed

axially into a 50 mm diameter disk. This equipment (Figure 4.25) bears
on the concrete surface adjacent to the test zone and is operated manually
by steady turning of the handle, with the load presented digitally. Another
common type of loading system is by means of a tripod apparatus, with the
load applied mechanically (as in Figure 4.26) or hydraulically. Despite wide
variations in loading rates and reaction configurations between different
systems, the authors (126) have concluded that results are unlikely to be
affected provided there is adequate clearance between the disk and reaction
points. Considerable care is needed in surface preparation of the concrete
by sanding and degreasing to ensure good bonding of the adhesive, which
may need curing for between 1.5 and 24 hours according to material and
circumstances. Difficulties may possibly be encountered with damp surfaces.
BS 1881: Part 207 requires that the mean of six valid tests should be
used, and that these should be centred at least two disk diameters apart.
The stiffness of the disk has been shown to be an important parameter
and the limiting thickness/diameter ratio will depend upon the material
used (126). This is illustrated in Figure 4.27 from which it can be seen that
to ensure a uniform stress distribution, and hence maximum failure load,
steel disk thickness must be 40% of the diameter whilst for aluminium this
rises to 60%. These experimental findings have been supported by finite
element analyses.
A nominal tensile strength for the concrete is calculated on the basis
of the disk diameter, and this may be converted to compressive strength
using a calibration chart appropriate to the concrete. This calibration will

Partially destructive strength tests 113

Figure 4.25 Limpet equipment.

differ according to whether coring is used or not (119), with cored tests
generally requiring a lower pull-off force. Partial coring will transfer the
failure surface lower into the body of the concrete, but the depth of coring
may also be critical, as illustrated by Figure 4.28, and should always exceed
20 mm. Reinforcing steel clearly must be avoided when partial coring is
used. A test coefficient of variation of 7.9% with a range of predicted/actual
strength between 0.85 and 1.25 related to 150 mm Portland cement cubes
has been reported by Long and Murray (120) using the mean of three test
results. A typical calibration curve is illustrated in Figure 4.29, and it is
claimed that factors such as age, aggregate type and size, air entrainment,
compressive stress and curing have only marginal influences upon this.
Extensive field tests during the construction of a multistorey car park have
also been successfully undertaken (127).
BS 1881: Part 207 recommends that a strength correlation should be
established for the concrete under investigation and that site results from
one location are likely to yield a coefficient of variation of about 10%.
Accuracies of strength predictions under laboratory conditions of about

Figure 4.26 Hydrajaws tripod equipment.

Figure 4.27 Effects of disk type and thickness (based on ref. 126).

Partially destructive strength tests 115

Cube compressive strength (N/mm2)

Figure 4.28 Effects of partial coring (based on ref. 126).

specific mix with varying age


lower 95%
confidence limit

Puff-off tensile strength (N/mm )

Figure 4.29 Typical pull-off/strength correlation for natural aggregate (based on

ref. 127).

15% (95% confidence limits) are likely. The authors (126) have also
demonstrated that separate correlations are required for different types of
lightweight aggregates, as illustrated in Figure 4.30, and that these are
different to those for natural aggregates due to different tensile/compressive

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Figure 4.30 Typical strength correlations for lightweight aggregates ( based on ref. 34).

strength relationships. It can be noted that pull-off values for lightweight

aggregates are higher than for natural aggregates at a given strength level.
This test is aimed primarily at unplanned in-situ strength determination.
The method is particularly suitable for small-section members, and longterm monitoring procedures could also be developed involving proof load
tests at intervals on a series of permanent probes. It is also particularly
suited, with the use of partial coring into the base material, for assessment
of bonding strength of repairs as indicated above.
This is an area receiving considerable industrial interest and many repair
specifications now require pull-off testing as part of quality control procedures (see reference to US and European Standards above). In such cases it
is usual to specify a minimum pull-off stress and it is thus vital that the test
procedures are carefully specified or standardized if this is to be meaningful.
A novel friction transfer device has recently been reported (128) in which
a partial core is physically gripped to avoid disk adhesion problems. A torsional load is then applied by torquemeter to cause a shear failure within
the core or at an interface between the substrate and an applied repair

4.4 Break-off methods

4.4.1 Norwegian method
Johansen (108) has reported the use of a break-off technique developed in
Norway. This is intended primarily as a quality control test, and makes a