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What is a Concrete Test?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A concrete test is a test which is performed to learn more about the properties of a specific sample of concrete. A number of different tests can be performed on concrete, both on a job site and in a laboratory. Because concrete is an important structural element, testing is mandatory in many regions of the world, and construction companies must provide documentation of their testing and results when asked to do so by government representatives. Test results are also kept on file in case a problem develops in the future.

One of the most classic concrete tests is a slump test. In a slump test, concrete is tamped into a cone which is then removed to see how far the concrete sinks or slumps without the support of the cone. Changes in slump height between batches of concrete can indicate a consistency problem. There are also slump requirements for different types of construction; low slump height concrete, for example, cannot be used to build roadways. Thus, the slump concrete test is both a quality control measure and a consistency measure.

Other types of concrete test can include laboratory analysis of the components of concrete, to confirm that concrete contains what the manufacturer claims it contains, and to learn more about properties such as durability and permeability. Concrete must meet specific standards, especially for high stress projects like bridges and high rise buildings, which makes lab testing important to confirm that concrete is safe to use and that it will withstand years of stress.

Materials testing in general is designed to make sure that materials meet quality control standards, comply with any laws which may be relevant, and contain the components people claim they contain. If concrete fails a concrete test, it may mean that part of a construction project needs to be redone to remove the faulty concrete, or that a batch of concrete needs to be discarded before it can be used in construction.

People have been testing concrete for strength, durability, and workability since Roman times. Curiously, reports about falsification of concrete test results pop up in the news on a regular basis, with construction companies being accused of cutting corners to avoid having to replace work performed with faulty concrete. Reputable companies use third parties to test their concrete so that the results are neutral, ensuring that there will be no doubts about the safety of the concrete in the future.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Izzy78 — On Aug 11, 2011

@jcraig - Whenever something like a school is built lives and millions in taxpayer money is at stake. Since the state is always a watchdog over their public schools, they are going to severely watch over those who build those buildings and make sure they do not take shortcuts to endanger lives.

As far as other buildings go that may not be major projects something has to always be kept in mind by those who build the structures. If the building falls and injures or kills someone they can be held liable for it if it is proven they took severe shortcuts that caused the structure to fall. In some countries to do so intentionally can warrant the death penalty.

In the United States there are so many agencies and safety commissions that watch over and inspect buildings to make sure those who build them do not take shortcuts or are simply lazy with their work because the lives of anyone that steps foot in that building will be at risk.

By titans62 — On Aug 10, 2011

@jcraig - I understand your concerns but based off of my experiences in my high school, I can assure you that shortcuts are not taken when schools are built. When I was a senior in high school we had a calamity happen.

The school, which was built in 1917, had its library cave in during Christmas break. This caused contractors to come in and assess the state of the building. Even though one contractor said that the floor of the library was the only problem and was willing to fix it, the state still sent people in to fully analyze the entire building.

They found out that the old buildings support walls were incredibly decayed and that a new school or an extensive renovation was necessary immediately. Although this may seem like a rare case, the state people who came in watch over the construction of the new building to make sure that no short cuts were taken and everything was done right.

By JimmyT — On Aug 09, 2011

@jcraig - When a school is built the buildings themselves have to meet specific codes that are extremely stringent. Remember that there are usually hundreds of people in the building for eight or nine months a year and the building has to withstand the test of time.

Considering that substantial taxpayer money gets put into the building schools, and they must meet very specific and stringent safety standards decided on by the state, third parties are probably still employed to do concrete tests. Even if the companies do not find third parties to test their concrete I doubt they would take chances when building a school with so many institutions watching over them.

By jcraig — On Aug 08, 2011

I understand that major companies will employ third parties to test their concrete but my question is what about smaller companies? Houses and especially schools do not usually employ major companies, like those who build skyscrapers, to construct their buildings, so how can it be known that these smaller companies, who do not employ third parties to perform a concrete tests, will not cut corners, endangering the students and teachers?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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