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3 Building movement B2 Exterior closure

Building movement
Summary: Causes for building movement include changes
in thermal, moisture and humidity conditions, structural
failure and imposed stresses, including expansive clay

movement under foundations. This article discusses how
an architect can design details to accommodate such di-

mensional movement.

Key words: expansion coefficient, frost expansion, joint

sealants, movement joints, thermal expansion.

All materials expand or contract when heated or cooled and/or when - deflection due to thermal or moisture movement in a component
taking on moisture or drying. While much of this movement may oc- with two edges restrained which is adjacent to an unrestrained
cur at the time of construction, the process of movement of materials component.
and components in buildings is continuous. For design analysis, three
types of movement in buildings can be characterized as linear, differ- - deflection due to horizontal loads on a free edge of a component
ential and transverse. next to an attached edge of another component.
• Linear movement (Fig. 1), or dimensional change within building - differences in deflection between a relatively stiff component next
components, is a continual process due to variations: to a flexible one.

- in internal temperature of the components regardless of material - deflection in two components with rigid, spaced connections be-
used. tween them, when they are restrained at their edges or when un-
der lateral load.
- in exterior temperatures.

- deformation in components due to differentials in temperature be-
• Differential movement (Fig. 2), differential dimensional changes tween opposite faces of one component, or differences in mois-
between components: ture gain/loss, such a warping in wood.
- different coefficients of expansion and contraction of the compo- The thermal movement behavior of common building materials is
nents. For example, a 10 ft. sq. panel of aluminum will contract indicated in Table A. Coefficients of expansion are listed in unit-per-
.155 in. For a temperature drop of 100F; an adjacent masonry degree temperature difference. Coefficients of expansion are without
panel of the same size will only contract .037 inches, or only 20% linear dimension, being feet/feet, meter/meter, and cubit/cubit. The
as much, under the same conditions. values differ according to which temperature scale one uses. Coeffi-
cients of expansion for other materials are listed in the “Miscella-
- different rates of shrinkage and swelling due to changes in inter- neous” section of the A.I.S.C. Steel Construction Manual, where the
nal moisture content between components, or within the compo- coefficients listed are per 100F, while those listed below are per de-
nent. Dimensional changes in wood during loss or gain of mois- gree, as in Brick Institute of America (1991) and in other references.
ture vary depending on whether expansion is tangential in the
direction of growth rings, or radial across growth rings. A piece But reader beware: values for coefficients of thermal expansion vary,
of green Douglas fir will shrink about 1.5% tangentially and about sometimes greatly, according to source and exact material. Example:
2.5% radially when dried to 20% moisture content, the volumet- While single values for concrete are listed in various references, other
ric change being about 3.7%. references indicate a 100% difference in coefficient of expansion de-
pending on the aggregate used. Also, the coefficient of expansion is
- differential movement may also result from movements in the sup-
not truly uniform throughout the full range of temperatures. Prudent
porting frame acting simultaneously with thermal and/or mois-
practice is to assume a little more movement than tabulated values

ture movements.
and resulting calculations indicate.
• Transverse movement (Fig. 3) or movement perpendicular to the
plane of components, may result from differences in the magni- For coal-tar bitumen, the coefficient listed in Table 1 is higher than
tude of lateral loads action on adjacent components or from bend- that shown for built-up roofing, organic felt, and asphalt. At higher
ing stresses: temperatures, the coefficient is less. This is why some roofs split in
very cold weather. Fiberglass felts, with greater strength than organic
- differences in pressures on vertical components, such as wall panels. felts, are more resistant to splitting. Organic felts are weaker in the
TOC - moving loads over horizontal components, when the edge of one
is free to deflect.
transverse direction; fiberglass felts are approximately equal in strength
in all directions. Membrane roofing materials generally become flex-

ible when warm, so thermal expansion of the roof membrane is not a

Author: Donald Baerman, AIA

W Credits: Figs. 1 thru 3 are from Sweets Catalog File. Other drawings created by Wynne Mun.
References: Gordon, J. E. 1988. The Science of Structures and Materials. New York: Scientific American Library.
Additional references are included at the end of this article.

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B2 Exterior closure B2.3 Building movement

See Table 1. Coefficients of expansion of common

Interactive building materials

Coefficient Coefficient Movement

of expansion of expansion per 100F

Material per Degree F. per Degree C. per 100'


Aluminum .0000128 .0000230 1.54"

Milled Steel: .0000065 .0000117 0.78"

Granite; limestone
similar: .0000047 .0000085 0.56"

Brick masonry: .0000036 .0000065 0.43"

Fire clay brick

masonry: .0000025 .0000045 0.30"

CMU, normal
Fig. 1. Linear movement
aggregate: .0000052 .0000094 0.62"

CMU, lightweight
aggregate: .0000031 to .0000056 to 0.37" to
.0000046 .0000083 0.55"

Concrete, limestone
aggregate: .0000033 .0000060 0.40"

Concrete, traprock

aggregate. .0000039 .0000070 0.47"

Concrete, granite
aggregate: .0000044 .0000080 0.53"

certain l.w. agg.: .0000050 .0000090 0.60"

Concrete, quartzite
aggregate: .0000067 .0000120 0.80"

Fir, parallel
to the grain: .0000021 .0000038 0.25" [1]

Fir perpendicular
to the grain: .000032 .000058 6.91"
Fig. 2. Differential movement
Glass: .000008 .000014 0.96"

“Pyrex” glass: .0000018 .0000032 0.22" [2]


glazing sheet: .000037 .000067 4.44" [3]

Built-up roofing,
felt and asphalt,
range 0F—30F: .000037 .000067 4.4"

plastics: .000035 .000063 4.2"

Aramid fibers: .000001 .0000018 0.12" [4]

[1] This is a very low value (but not zero).
.000195 .000351 23.4"
[2] Source: Corning Glass Works. W
[3] This value is almost 5 times as great as that of glass; glazing details may
Fig. 3. Transverse movement have to be modified to accommodate this movement.
[4] Note that this is an extremely low value. Source: Akzo Fibers Division.

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B2.3 Building movement B2 Exterior closure

problem. These materials become more rigid when cold, so shrinkage • Concrete lintels in brick walls often show cracks at the end mortar
may cause damage if the membrane is not adequately anchored. joints. There are several causes:
Possible causes of thermal movement - Concrete shrinks with age, while brick expands with age.
- There are multiple mortar joints in the brick, while the lintel has
• Daily or seasonal air temperature changes.
joints at the ends only. Mortar joints are, or should be, more flex-

• Diurnal movement of the sun and its heating effects, including ible than the masonry units.

reflection from adjacent surfaces, cooling winds, snow, ice and
- Concrete has a higher coefficient of thermal expansion than brick.
• Rigid building elements may expand to the extreme during fires,
• Thin materials exposed to the environment and coupled to mas-
thus destroying or lessening the structural integrity of the build-
sive materials, even if the coefficients of expansion of the two
materials are similar, will change temperature more rapidly.
• A building interior designed to undergo slight change of tempera-
• Loss of initial heat from hydration of massive concrete.
ture during its service life may be exposed to very low or high
• Cooling by operation of building environmental control equip- temperatures during construction.
ment, such as air conditioning and cold storage systems.
Calculating movement
• Heating by operation of fuel-burning equipment and chimneys. It is possible to calculate the probable maximum movement of build-
• Fire. This is normally the most severe thermal change which can ing components, using the coefficients listed in Table 1. The length of
affect buildings. Even components which are not destroyed by the element multiplied by the thermal difference multiplied by the
fire can be severely damaged by thermal movement, and the dam- coefficient of expansion gives the movement length.
age may not be immediately evident.
• Example 1: A dark masonry wall 100 ft. long in New England.
• Low temperatures before occupancy of building and during aban- Assume that it was built at 50F average temperature.
donment. Some of the greatest “normal” stresses may be imposed
- In summer assume that the wall is heated by sunlight to 130°F. The
during construction.
temperature difference from built condition to service condition is
• Differential movement occurs when different parts of a system 80°F. Therefore, 80°F X 100' X .0000034 = .0271 ft. = .33 in.
are exposed to different temperatures. For example, a highly insu-
- In winter assume that the wall occasionally chills to 0°F.
lated building with closely controlled interior temperatures expe-
The temperature difference is 50°F. Therefore, 50°F X 100' X
riences little temperature change and therefore little thermally in-

.0000034 = .2 in.
duced movement on the inside of the walls. The outer portion of
the walls may vary greatly in temperature, from below 0°F Since the summer condition causes the greater movement, design for
(-17.8°C) up to 140°F (60°C) or more for dark surfaces in the sun. that figure. If the wall were built in hotter or colder weather, the ex-
Roofs, oriented nearly perpendicular to the noonday sun in sum- pansion or contraction from the “as built” size would be greater. In
mer, may get even hotter. The exterior of well-insulated buildings this case the extremes are unlikely, since it would be improper to build
experience greater thermal movement than those of poorly-insu- the wall below 40F or above 90F.
lated buildings.
It is not always evident why a wall develops one large crack rather
• Building components intended not to change temperature may be
than several smaller cracks. To some extent this can be predicted
exposed to temperature changes as a result of insulation failure.
empirically, by observing similar construction. For example, it ap-
If, for example, the roof insulation becomes saturated with water,
pears that a long, narrow panel is more likely to crack more often than
then the structural roof deck may get hotter in summer and cooler
a similar panel which is broader, and cracks usually occur where walls
in winter than was anticipated by the design.
are weakened by doors and windows. “Fracture mechanics” relates to
Examples of thermal movement problems such phenomena; see Gordon (1988) for an elementary discussion of
fracture mechanics.
• Masonry walls expand in summer due to seasonal warming. In
winter, due to seasonal cooling and having little tensile strength, There are numerous examples of uninsulated solid masonry buildings
they may crack rather than returning to their initial size. Brick which do not undergo cracking from thermal movement. The prob-
arches and lintels, especially soldier and rowlock-coursed lintels, able reason is that the interior is always at a stable temperature and
having more mortar joints than the adjoining masonry, are highly the exterior is structurally bonded to it. The stress is accommodated

resistant to thermal cracking. Heavy, solid masonry buildings with by elastic behavior in the masonry. It is common, however, for para-
heated interiors do not generally suffer damage from thermal pets of such buildings to crack.
movement as much as insulated buildings, but elements exposed
Design of flexible movement joints
on both sides to the exterior, such as parapets, do suffer damage.
Flexible movement joints may extend through the building, dividing
• Damage from thermal expansion and shrinkage does not neces- the building into parts which may expand and contract independently
sarily occur within the first year. Such damage may take many of one another. It is important that the flexible movement joints in the
years to become visible.
Tinted glass which is partly exposed to the sun and partly in shade
various components be located in line or close together. Traditionally
such joints are called “expansion joints.”

i •
may shatter.
Massive concrete structures may become hot during hydration of
the cement, and may shrink and crack when this internal heat has
passed out of them.
Flexible movement joints may simply extend through walls and other
parts of the exterior closure. They allow differential movement of the
components in which they occur. Such joints are sometimes called
“control joints,” but that term is not in accord with current usage.
W • In winter the outside of chimneys become cold while the flue be- Sources of movement joint details for some different types of con-
comes hot. If the two are rigidly connected, the outside is exposed struction. For brick masonry, see Brick Institute of America (1991).
to tensile stresses and possibly to cracking. For concrete masonry, see NCMA (1973). Fig. 4 shows one type of
movement joint.

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SHELL B2 Exterior closure B2.3 Building movement

Fig. 4. Flexible movement joint


Fig. 5. Masonry damage from lintel crossing movement joint

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B2.3 Building movement B2 Exterior closure

Rules of thumb for placement of flexible movement joints for differ- tive ones. Suppose that the panels are 100 ft. long and that the
ent types of construction in temperate climates include: other parameters do not change. The movement will then be .034
• Solid brick wall, heated and not insulated: joints placement every ft. = .41 in. If the sealant permits 25% movement (such as acrylic
250 ft. (76 m) is the industry recommendation; this author recom- polymeric sealant), the joint should be 1.63 in. wide. If the sealant
mends 80 ft. (24 m). permits 50% extension or compression, the joint could theoreti-

cally be .81 in. wide. However, buildings don’t always perform as
• Insulated brick cavity or veneer wall with window and door open- intended. We cannot reasonably assume that the center of each

ings, outer wythe: placement every 100 ft. (30.5 m) is industry panel will remain fixed and that the ends will move equally. Some-
recommendation; this author recommends 40 ft. (12 m). This times the fixed portion of the panel is at one end or near it. Sup-
guideline is also recommended for parapets and unheated build- pose the two adjacent panels, as described in this example, “stick
ings. The brick recommendations do not mention the ratio of height fast” near their far ends. The common joint will then move more
to length. If the height is small, the writer recommends spacing than 3/4 in., and a 3/4 in. wide joint may extend to 1-1/2 in.
the joints closer to one another. Recommendation: be conservative; few architects can reason-
• For concrete masonry (“block”) walls, insulated and heated and ably regret having called for too many and too wide move-
with masonry joint reinforcement placed 16 in. (40.6 cm.) o.c., ment joints. Careful and clever design can make movement
the industry recommendation is that the “panel length” (a “panel” joints nearly invisible.
being defined as the section isolated by movement joint) should
One should consider the penetrations which may resist the intended
be no more than three times as long as it is high and no more than
movement. A solidly grouted pipe passing through a wall may be sub-
50 ft. (15 m) in length between joints. This author recommends
jected to stress when the wall moves. A metal roof may impose stresses
30 ft. (9 m) between joints. If the wall is longer than three times as
on flashed vents and skylights which penetrate it. Windows anchored
long as it is high, or if it is unheated, this author recommends 20
to the inside and the outside of a wall may be stressed by movement
ft. (6 m).
of the outer wythe.
The above guidelines assume a temperate climate similar to that of
the middle part of the United States, which experiences an average Components with differing thermal expansion characteristics, such
temperature range of from -10 to +90F (-23 to +32°C). In climates as a steel frame and a masonry wall, should be isolated from one
with a smaller temperature range, the spacing for movement joints another enough to allow differential movement. Anchorage should be
may be increased. In climates with larger temperature range, they flexible. Although steel and masonry have similar coefficients of ex-
should be decreased. For example, Saskatoon, Canada has a tempera- pansion, they are often exposed to different temperatures.

ture range from -40 to 104F (-40 to +40°C), and thus the temperature A masonry wall composed of brick, with a lower coefficient of ex-
range differential is 144F (80°C)! pansion on the outside, and Concrete Masonry Units (CMU), with a
Also recommended is the use of grouted, reinforced bond beams and higher coefficient of expansion on the inside, is somewhat self-com-
grouted, reinforced intermittent cores in masonry. This practice per- pensating. The outer wythe is exposed to greater temperature changes
mits longer panels between joints. Post-tensioned bond beams permit and has a lower coefficient of thermal expansion. Thus the joints on
yet longer panels between joints. the inside may be reasonably placed far apart.

Openings and abrupt changes in shape create stress concentrations Moisture expansion and shrinkage
and may require strategically located movement joints even if the spac- Wood
ing is not great. Movement joints should not intersect lintels over open- Wood, as cut, contains several kinds of moisture. Free moisture fill-
ings (Fig. 5). ing the cells does not affect shrinkage. Chemically combined water
To design the movement joints (the “hydrate” of carbohydrate) is not lost unless the wood burns,
rots, and is digested by insects. The water, and the loss of water, which
• Calculate the temperature differential. The extent of movement causes shrinkage, is absorbed and adsorbed on the cell walls.
will vary with the temperature during construction and in service.
Since the designer may not be able to predict this, assume the When wood is dried below 25-30% moisture content, the water on
worst. For example, if a wall will vary in temperature from -10F the cell walls is lost, and the wood experiences shrinkage. The point
to 130F (23°C to 55°C) , and if the specifications permit work to at which shrinkage starts is called the “fiber saturation point.” Through-
take place between 40F to 90F (4°C to 32°C), the possible ex- out the normal range of service conditions, the wood expands during
tremes are: periods of high humidity and shrinks during periods of low humidity.

- Wall built at 40F. In service it may get 50F colder and 90F warmer. The expansion of wood varies approximately (but only approximately)
Use 90F. as the temperature differential. with the relative humidity. A table giving moisture content at various
temperatures and relative humidities is found in Forest Products Labo-
- Wall built at 90F. In services it may get 100F colder and 40F ratory (1987). By combining the results of this table with tables giv-
warmer. Use 100F. as the temperature differential. ing the expansion by moisture content in the same reference, one can
- The larger temperature differential is 100F. calculate the relationship of humidity and moisture expansion as a

TOC • Example 2a: Assume, for an example, insulated brick masonry

with movement joints 40 ft. apart. The 40 ft. panel length X 100F
function of grain or cut (Fig. 6).
• The expansion and shrinkage is least in the direction of the grain,

i temperature differential X coefficient of thermal expansion of almost (but not quite) nil.
.0000034 = .014 ft. = .16 in. If the sealant to be used in the joint • The expansion and shrinkage is moderately high perpendicular to
permits 25% movement, the joint must be at least 4 times the move- the growth rings. For Douglas fir the difference, from fiber-satu-
ment, or 0.67 in. With more extensible and compressible sealants, rated to oven dry, is about 4.1%.
W the joint width can be less wide. The author recommends never
designing movement joints less than about 3/8" wide. • The expansion and shrinkage is highest tangential to the growth
rings. For Douglas fir the difference from fiber-saturated to oven
• Example 2b: If, as a second example, assume you wish to follow dry is about 7.6%.
industry recommendations instead of the author’s more conserva-

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B2 Exterior closure B2.3 Building movement

• The in-service range of moisture content of wood is not always as

great as is shown above. However, the shrinkage from “S-GRN”
to the dryness experienced in an unhumidified building in winter
in cold climates may approximate that range.
• Shrinkage is approximately proportional; for a given change in

moisture from fiber-saturation point to oven dry, the same propor-


tional change occurs in shrinkage.

Normally, for rough framing of buildings, the moisture content should
be below 19% by weight, and for critical applications, it is available
dried to 15% moisture content. If the lumber is first dried, then sur-
faced (planed to a standard size), the grade stamp will show “S-DRY”
or “MC-15” (15% moisture content). Since all lumber is not identi-
cal, the lumber is more uniform in size if it is surfaced after drying.
If uniformity is not important, lumber which is labeled “S-GRN” (sur-
faced “green” before drying) may be used if it is tested for moisture
content before use. Or if shrinkage doesn’t matter at all, the
wood may be used at whatever moisture content it happens to have
upon delivery.
Relatively inexpensive moisture meters are available for testing wood
Fig. 6. Variations in wood cuts and grains. Source: Forest Prod- on the job. A number of such instruments are sold by PRG and by
ucts Laboratory (1987). Delmhorst (see Additional References below). To measure the inner
parts of framing lumber, order hammer-driven electrodes.
Finish woodwork is normally milled at about 12% moisture content
and allowed to reach equilibrium moisture content in its place of in-
There is an incorrect belief that it makes no difference whether the

wood is dry or not, since, after the first rain, it’s saturated with water
anyway. That isn’t usually true.

To avoid problems with movement of wood

• Avoid wood framing with a lot of horizontal-grain wood framing
in conjunction with a material which does not have the same ex-

Fig. 7. Differential wood framing shrinkage

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pansion characteristics. For example, if you intend to apply con-

ventional stucco or brick veneer to a wood frame building, use
balloon framing instead of platform framing. If you must apply
stucco or brick veneer to a building with platform framing, con-
sider continuous vertical furring or horizontal expansion joints at

the floor framing.

• The depth of horizontal wood framing should be the same through-
out the structure. If you design the framing above foundations
with 12 in. of horizontal framing lumber, there should be 12 in. of
horizontal framing lumber at the girders also. This can be accom-
plished by using steel girders or by framing the joists nearly flush
with wood girders, using multi-nailed joist hangers, not straps
(Fig. 7).
• Be careful about using sawn lumber and fabricated structural wood
products together; if one shrinks more than the other the floors
and ceilings may be uneven.
• Avoid massive wooden members over which gypsum wallboard
or plaster is to be applied. Such a detail will almost certainly crack.
If you must have massive wooden members covered with wall-
board, detail resilient furring between the two, or separate the sup-
port for the finish from the structural members (Fig. 8).
• When applying wood siding, do not nail each course with mul-
tiple nails too far apart. For board-and-batten siding, nail boards
midway between battens, and nail battens through the joint be-
tween the boards. Nail wide clapboards just above the top of the
course below. Don’t allow T&G or board siding to be installed
too tight; allow for expansion. Leave gaps between wooden

• Leave gaps of at least 1/8 in. between the sides and ends of ply-
wood panels. If the plywood is for ceramic tile installation, fol-
low Tile Council of America recommendations (1/8 in. gaps).
• Detail woodwork not to show shrinkage cracks.


Fig. 8. Rigid finish over massive wooden members

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B2 Exterior closure B2.3 Building movement

• Real stile and rail paneling must have expansion space around the
panels, and the panels should not be rigidly mounted.
• Do not install wood shingles tight to one another.
• If possible, allow woodwork and wood floors to reach equilib-
rium moisture before installing them. Use a moisture meter to

verify this. If at all possible, the humidity in the space while the

woodwork is being installed should be close to that which will

prevail during occupancy.
• Wooden flooring is prone to moisture expansion problems, and
“floating” wooden flooring is especially prone to such problems.
• For “floating” wooden flooring, the subfloor should be in two
layers, and the layers should be thoroughly adhered and fastened
to one another to act as a continuous diaphragm. As the floor
shrinks in times of low humidity, it must have the strength to re-
tain its integrity.
• There should be an expansion space around the entire perimeter.
This can be hidden by the wall base (Fig. 9).
• If the humidity conditions are expected to vary greatly between
installation and service, or during service, make allowances dur-
ing installation. If the floor is installed during very dry conditions
(cold weather, heated interior, and no humidification), the floor-
ing should not be installed tight; leave a little space between the
strips. If the floor is installed during very humid conditions, drive
the strips tight to one another.
• For extreme variation in humidity, as in a vacation house left un-
occupied in winter, treat the wood with a preservative water-re-

pellent solution before installation. Sanding will remove the treated

top wood, but the finish will serve the same purpose. And don’t
expect a smooth-as-glass finish and total absence of gaps in such

Fig. 9. Floating wood floor

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For demanding applications, wood should be aged long enough not • Ceramic tile will expand as it ages. Sealant in the joints, or an
only for drying but to relax its internal stresses and become stable elastic latex mortar, or both will help absorb the movement harm-
with prevailing site conditions. In the writer’s opinion, the frequent lessly (Fig. 10).
splitting and disntegrating of exterior wood columns is mainly due to Expansive clays
the wood’s not being aged and selected as it once was. To offer an Certain clays, such as bentonite, absorb many times their volume in

extreme but illustrative case of the level of care taken in woodcraft, water and expand accordingly. This expansion in and around building
one major concert piano manufacturer selects its wood, ages it out-

foundation soils reportedly represents one of the largest natural build-
doors under cover for a year, then discards 90%, kiln-dries the re- ing destroyers in the U. S., contending in numbers with building losses
mainder and further rejects half of that, retaining only 5% of the original from earthquakes, floods, and windstorms. The usual mechanism is
for use in manufacture of the final instrument. that the placement of the building on the expansive clay soil inter-
Concrete and concrete masonry rupts normal evaporation and causes the clays to become wetter and
Concrete shrinks as the water adsorbed on the surfaces of the calcium to expand. Other types of moisture change, such as discharge of roof
silicate hydrate crystals in the hydrated cement paste dries, and it and paving drainage near a building, have similar effects. The expan-
shrinks as the water in the small capillaries dries. In general the shrink- sive force is probably most destructive on large, lightly loaded mem-
age of concrete is minimized if the water/cement ratio is kept as low bers such as slabs on grade. These members are displaced upward.
as practicable. If your proposed site has expansive clay soils, or if there is any sub-
stantial probability of its having them, the safe course if to retain a
• Concrete masonry is subject to expansion and shrinkage as is con-
geotechnical engineer familiar with the local conditions and to design
crete. Lightweight masonry units are more likely to exhibit this
accordingly. The local building department should be consulted as to
characteristic than normal weight units.
the prevalence of expansive clays in the area.
• Moisture-controlled masonry units are more stable than uncon-
trolled ones. One effective method of avoiding damage from expansive clay soil is
called “void forming.” A compressible material such as thick corru-
• The partially-completed and completed masonry should be pro- gated cardboard is used to form slabs on grade, which slabs must be
tected against rain and snow by covering the work. reinforced as supported slabs. The void forms serve only as the base
Tile and other thin finishes on which the concrete is placed. When the clay expands, it crushes
The backer board should have low expansion and shrinkage from the cardboard. Another method is to form the slabs above the soil.
moisture and temperature, similar to those of the tile. Glass-rein- Void forming and other construction methods to avoid damage from
expansive clay soils should be designed by geotechnical engineers

forced mortar board and glass-reinforced and faced gypsum sheath-
ing are appropriate; products containing wood fiber are not. familiar with the problem.

• The backer board edges should be spaced apart as recommended Freezing, frost heaving, and salt crystallization
by its manufacturer. Joints in the tile should correspond to joints Freezing of water in absorbent building materials may cause the ma-
in the backer board. terials to burst. For example, water-saturated masonry and concrete
can disintegrate after freezing.


W Fig. 10. Bowing from coupled materials with different expansion characteristics and exposures

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B2 Exterior closure B2.3 Building movement

Frost heaving can move and damage buildings. Water-laden soil can • Excessive and differential foundation settlement.
expand upon freezing and cause enough upward pressure to damage • Shrinkage (and embrittlement) of some organic materials, such as
the building or component.
plasticized polymers.
Keep water away from the footings by providing porous fill and drain-
Additional references
age. Prevent freezing of the soil under the footings by using adequate

Brick Institute of America. 1991. “Movement; Design and Detailing

soil cover or, under special conditions, by using insulation below grade.
of Movement Joints.” Technical Notes, Number 18A. Reston, VA:

Use of insulation to allow the footings to be closer to grade may re-

Brick Institute of America.
quire convincing the building official that the system is valid (see
U. S. HUD 1994). Forest Products Laboratory. 1987. Wood Handbook: Wood as an En-
gineering Material. Madison, WI: Forest Service, U. S. Department
The insulation method of frost protection is especially useful in build-
of Agriculture.
ing alterations. Remember that frost heaving could damage slabs-on-
grade before the building is enclosed and heated. Gordon, J. E. 1978. Structures, or Why Things Don’t Fall Down. New
York: Da Capo Press.
In some cold climates, with lightly-loaded foundations, freezing soil
to the sides of the foundation can lift the foundations up above the Hoadley, R. Bruce. 1980. Understanding Wood. Newtown, CT: The
footings. An inch of polystyrene insulation on the cold side(s) will Taunton Press.
help avoid this problem (Fig. 11).
Massari, Giovanni and Ippolito. 1985. “Damp Buildings Old and
Movement of salt-laden moisture within porous building materials New.” Association for Preservation Technology Bulletin. XVII-1-85.
can cause salts to crystallize near the surfaces where the water evapo- Williamsburg, VA: Association for Preservation Technology.
rates. The salts exert great expansive forces (9,000 psi; 1,305 MPa for
halite) which can cause surface spalling. If the moisture movement is NCMA. 1973. “Design of Concrete Masonry for Crack Control.”
upward in the walls, it is called “rising damp.” For a discussion of NCMA-TEK 53. Herndon, VA: National Concrete Masonry Associa-
“rising damp” and methods to remedy it, see Massari, Giovanni and tion.
Ippolito (1985). Other Association for Preservation Technology pub-
U. S. HUD. 1994. Office of Policy Development and Research. De-
lications describe ways of desalinating salt-saturated masonry.
sign Guide for Frost-protected Shallow Footings. Washington, DC:
Building movement from failure, degradation, or change of its U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Sources of moisture meters for testing wood:

Some examples of such materials failure-induced movement include:
- Expansion of concrete from alkali-silica and sulfate reactions. Delmhorst Instrument Company, 51 Indian Lane East, Towaco, NJ
07082. (800) 222-0638
- Expansion of corroding steel lintels and reinforcing; expansion
and spalling of concrete reinforcing; corrosion of other iron and PRG, Inc., P. O. Box 1768, Rockville, MD 20849-1768. (301) 309-
steel products. See accompanying article on Corrosion of Metals. 2222
• Decay and insect damage in wooden structures.

Fig. 11. Thermal protection of foundations in cold climates.

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