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“Thicker” Isn’t Always “Stronger” When Building Concrete Roadways: Why Quality Still Matters

By admin_dr on 30 August 17 Concrete contractors

When faced with building a new roadway in or around Savannah, Coastal Georgia or the Lowcountry, it is probably best not to call just any Savannah concrete company. There’s more to concrete roads than simply pouring, and it seems that making a roadway stronger or more reliable isn’t just a matter of making it thicker.

This might seem counter-intuitive.  After all, many old standards set by transportation industries have stressed thickness as a synonym for strength.  However, recent research out of Minnesota—a state that sees significant challenges to their roadways—suggests that thickness is not all it’s cracked up to be.

What A Savannah Concrete Company Should Know About Concrete Reliability

The study was conducted by the University of Minnesota in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  It focused on measuring the strength and durability of installed concrete roadways using new measurement techniques.  Previously, any attempt to measure the thickness of a roadway was inherently destructive—it had to be cored.  However, new ultrasonic techniques allow for meaningful research without drilling holes that potentially compromise the road’s integrity.

The study made several interesting discoveries.

First was that the thickness of the tested roadways was extremely uneven, with variation of a half-inch or more every ten feet.  Often, the roadway measured was not as thick as it was supposed to be, or as regulations demanded.

However, this did not seem to affect the overall performance of the concrete, or how stressed it had become with use.  Instead, what correlated most closely to “distress” was a property known as “sheer wave velocity” and the concrete’s resistance to it.  In short, how much does a concrete road move, or how stressed does it become, when seismic activity sends rolling waves under and through the pavement.

Resistance to seismic waves in the ground is not so much a function of thickness, but of material quality and consistency in the concrete mix. The better the mix, the more consistent the pavement, the stronger the road. Inconsistent mixes make roadways highly vulnerable to seismic movement no matter how thick they are, which renders the concrete more susceptible to cracking and crumbling.  

This is not to say, of course, that thickness serves no purpose.  A roadway must still be thick enough to hold up the quantity of traffic it’s intended to support.  However, according to the study, extra thickness does not appear to add extra strength or reliability.  And extra thickness can create unnecessary additional costs. The key is to have a consistent and high-quality concrete mix instead.

Donald Rushing Construction

For our road projects, we only use proven concrete and proven paving techniques that correlate to the findings of the Minnesota study. Are you planning a concrete project?  Contact Donald Rushing Construction today to speak to one of our concrete construction professionals.

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