In its simplest form, concrete is a mixture of paste and aggregates (rocks). The paste, composed essentially of portland cement and water, coats the surface of the fine (small) and coarse (larger) aggregates. Through a series of chemical reactions called hydration, the paste hardens and gains strength to form the rock-like mass known as concrete. Within this process lies the key to a remarkable trait of concrete: it’s plastic and malleable when newly mixed, strong and durable when hardened. These qualities explain why one material, concrete, can build skyscrapers, bridges, sidewalks and superhighways, houses and dams.
Concrete is a composite with properties that change with time. During service, the quality of concrete provided by initial curing can be improved by subsequent wetting as in the cases of foundations or water retaining structures. However, concrete can also deteriorate with time due to physical and chemical attacks. Structures are often removed when they become unsafe or uneconomical. Lack of durability has become a major concern in construction for the past 20 to 30 years.
In some developed countries, it is not uncommon to find large amount of resources, such as 30 to 50% of total infrastructure budget, applied to repair and maintenance of existing structures. As a result, many government and private developers are looking into lifecycle costs rather than first cost of construction. Durability of concrete depends on many factors including its physical and chemical properties, the service environment and design life. As such, durability is not a fundamental property.
One concrete that performs satisfactory in a severe environment may deteriorate prematurely in another situation where it is consider as moderate. This is mainly due to the differences in the failure mechanism from various exposure conditions. Physical properties of concrete are often discussed in term of permeation the movement of aggressive agents into and out of concrete. Chemical properties refer to the quantity and type of hydration products, mainly calcium silicate hydrate, calcium aluminate hydrate, and calcium hydroxide of the set cement. Reactions of penetrating agents with these hydrates produce products that can be inert, highly soluble, or expansive. It is the nature of these reaction products that control the severity of chemical attack. Physical damage to concrete can occur due to expansion or contraction under loading