There are three different types of cracking that can occur in concrete: shrinkage cracking, tension cracking and creep cracking.
Shrinkage cracking occurs when concrete members undergo changes as a result of either drying or independent influence shrinkage or thermal effects. Once the tensile strength of the concrete is exceeded, a crack will develop. The number and width of shrinkage cracks that develop are influenced by the amount of shrinkage that occurs, the amount of restraint present and the amount and spacing of reinforcement provided. These are minor indications and have no real structural impact on the concrete member.
Tension cracking occurs when concrete members are put into tension by applied loads. This is most common in concrete beams where a transversely applied load will put one surface into compression and the opposite surface into tension due to induced bending. The portion of the beam that is in tension may crack. The size and length of cracks is dependent on the extent of the bending moment and the design of the reinforcing in the beam at the point under the weight. Reinforced concrete beams are designed to crack in tension rather than in density.
A creeping crack is the permanent movement or deformation of a material in order to relieve stresses within the material. Concrete that is subjected to long-duration forces is prone to creeping. Short-duration forces such as wind or earthquakes do not cause creeping. Creeping can sometimes reduce the amount of cracking that occurs in a concrete structure or element, but it also must be controlled.
The amount of primary and secondary reinforcing in concrete structures contributes to a reduction in the amount of shrinkage, creep and cracking.
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