Grouting Training Q&A

Grouting Questions Received from December 1-11, 2020 Webinar   

1.  When do you recommend doing the air testing of the ducts? 

The air test is recommended after stressing, cutting the tails, and installing the grout caps are completed. In other words, just prior to grouting. The purpose of air testing is to check for leaks, cross-overs between adjacent ducts, and other issues to allow repairs to be performed and/or grouting plans to be revised prior to grouting. This is the test referred to in the PTI Specification for Grouting of Post-tensioned Structures M55.1-19 Section 5.5.4.  

2.  Do the grout discharge points always have to be above the duct level?  

Yes, the discharge points should always be above the duct level. By keeping the vents and discharge points above the duct level, it helps minimize potential for trapped air pockets. Guidance on the vent locations is provided in ASBI/PTI Specification for Multistrand and Grouted Post-tensioning M50.3-19 Section 9.9.       

3.  About time limit for grouting. When does this time begin? When you finish placing the tendons inside the element? or is it taken after tensioning? 

The time limits, referenced in ASBI/PTI Specification for Multistrand and Grouted Post- tensioning M50.3-19 Table 11.1, are after installation (i.e., placement of strand into the duct).          

4.  To avoid excessive grouting pressure: What diameter of grout hoses is suitable? 

Although the diameter may vary based on the size of the pump and other variables, 1” diameter grout hoses are typical for most operations. The use of a grout header and recirculation line may be helpful in controlling excessive grout pressures, especially in small tendons such as flat duct tendons.

5.  When you try to fix a blockage duct and drill to install a new vent to re-establish one-way grouting, how do you make sure you don't damage the tendon? 

The approach for repairs will depend on the situation, and often can be quite different. A specific tailored plan for each location and situation is recommended, however some various considerations with respect to new ports are listed below:

  • The key is to have an idea of where the tendon should be and work carefully. It is recommended the work be performed by someone experienced in similar types of repairs. It is good practice to first layout the anticipated duct location by measurements from plan locations, use of Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and/or other methods. The approximate expected depth should also be determined before drilling.   
  • Closely monitor the depth of the drill holes until the duct is reached then carefully measure the distance to the duct and set the drill depth to just penetrate the duct to avoid contacting the strand. Marking the drill bit or wrapping a piece of tape around the drill bit at the estimated depth to help in monitoring the depth of the hole may also be used. Drilling at the high point is often the best place to start since the strands will be in the bottom of the duct at high points and less chance of strand damage. It may be possible to drill two holes near the high point, one serving as the inlet, one as the outlet.   
  • It may be prudent to consider different approaches for drilling into concrete and the duct. Typically, a larger, stronger drill and bit are used to drill the concrete but those might be too robust around the tendon steel. Suggest stopping about 1/2” away from the anticipated duct location then using a smaller drill to find the actual duct.  Slow is the key and using a drill with a variable clutch that will stop if the drilling gets too hard may be helpful. As mentioned above, the strand location within the duct should be considered and avoid drilling where the strands may be located. In some cases, it might be necessary, or worth considering, to excavate a larger area of concrete to expose the duct without drilling right down on top of the duct.   
  • One approach assuming the original outlet is still functional is as follows. Connect air at about 30 psi air pressure on the void area. Then probe with a ¼” roto-hammer bit and air will escape as soon as the duct is pierced. Often this must be done multiple times to determine the extent of the void and to pierce the duct in a place that has no strand against the wall of the duct. Then use a larger bit with the depth to the duct marked on it. Stopping just short of this, chip the remaining concrete out and open the wall of the duct by hand. Then insert a new grout port and secure with epoxy. 
  • There is generally a balance that must be maintained in providing adequate access for repair and inspection, but also avoiding doing too much damage by drilling excess holes or chipping more concrete than necessary.
  • Vacuum grouting is a procedure that can be employed as well, but still requires at least one useable grout port.

6.  Could you please send me more information, details about grouting vertical tendons?

A resource on vertical tendons (and excellent resource for many other items as well) is the FHWA Post-tensioning Tendon Installation and Grouting Manual, May 2013, FHWA-NHI-13- 026. Sections 4.3.7 and 4.5.10 and 4.5-11 address vertical tendons. It can be downloaded here: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/construction/pubs/hif13026.pdf.

One of the first considerations in a plan for vertical tendons is to ensure the particular grout to be used is rated for the vertical head/pressure that will be encountered. The pressure should be considered for the equipment as well. In addition, some strategies for grouting vertical tendons may include one or more of the following, especially for tall tendons: breaking the tendon grouting up into stages/lifts, grouting the top portion of the tendon as a separate operation, adding a reservoir/standpipe at the top of the tendon.

7.  Would you recommend me a document in which I can read more about thixotropic grout, its general composition, characteristics, etc.? 

A very good document which includes information on thixotropic grout is Development of High-Performance Grouts for Bonded Post-tensioned Structures (1999). The document can be downloaded here: https://fsel.engr.utexas.edu/pdfs/1405_2.pdf.

In addition, the following article includes some information on promising developments in the use of an in-line density meter that can be used on jobsites to monitor and record the quality parameters of the grout in real time. The article can be downloaded here: http://aspirebridge.com/magazine/2019Fall/CBT-AToolForContinousOnSiteMonitoring.

8.   Is there a minimum length required for trumpets or is that determined by the design engineer during the design phase? Or, are all trumpet lengths determined by the diameter of the anchor head diameter?

I do not know if there is a minimum length. Generally, details like this will determined by the design engineer or the construction engineer developing the PT system. Individual systems are developed by the manufacturer and are used for each project based on the use and characteristics of the project.

9.   How is documentation handled when rust is observed on strands prior to installation? Shouldn't photos be taken of the degree of rust observed and the degree of cleaning made, documenting the coil number associated with the observed rust? And is the Contractor ultimately responsible for the removal of observed rust?  Who is responsible to ensure rust is removed prior installation?

Strand should be protected from corrosion at all costs prior to installation. It should never be stored unprotected and should never be left exposed to the elements. Any rust identified on strand prior to use should be closely examined. If any sign of section loss or pitting is identified, then the strand should be immediately removed from the project. If there is any question as to the severity of the rust, then rejection of the strand should be strongly considered. This is something that should go beyond just documentation if there is a question as to material integrity. All strand should be tracked as far as coil numbers and heat numbers when installed, and this is something that is typically part of a PT stressing worksheet. The contractor is ultimately responsible for the condition of the material used, but this is an issue that the owner will want to have input and know exactly the condition of the material and if it is cleaned, should be carefully inspected.

10. Experience verification.  Would it be advisable for a worker to maintain a log detailing:

  • Dates worked?
  • Hours worked?
  • Duties performed?
  • Have an engineer sign off on each daily log entry related to PT related experience?
  • Overall total of hours to date updated?
  • How should hours (and years) be documented along the way so that when the minimum years (hours) are reached, the worker can apply for Level II Certification?

ASBI has a form found on the website for applicants to provide their work history. Your suggestion for maintaining records is excellent! ASBI does not require someone to "sign off" on the experience record however this is required for the companion PTI certifications.

11. I guess filter condition and changing should be covered in the ASTM Spec?

Yes, correct follow the ASTM standards for all of the tests.

12. Does the Contractor need to demonstrate they can kick in the backup grout plant up and pumping without exceeding 30 minutes?

The location and timing of using the backup grout plant should be included in the plan as one of the troubleshooting items.  Typically, this is not demonstrated or mocked up, but practicing this would not be a bad idea, especially if access is a challenge.

13. What is the best way to test the water temp during prod. grouting? What are acceptable sample points for sampling for water temp? 

Testing the water temperature should be at the water supply as close to introduction to the grout plant as feasible (directly with a thermometer, or with a probe at the end of wire (thermocouple) if it is within a tank that cannot be reached by hand).  For example, if the water is coming from a tank on a truck into an intermediate container (such as a 200-gal plastic tank or trough) near the grout plant before dosing, the intermediate container would be the best place.  If using ice, it may also be beneficial to get several temperature readings including the water source before cooling, to help in planning of future operations. 

14. IF ice is utilized during grouting, wouldn't it be important to make sure that the weight of ice needs to be subtracted from the amount of water that initially is removed so that the total weight of water comes out the same as needed for mixing?

The ice should be used to cool the mix mater and not added directly to the grout mix.  Often a smaller intermediate container between the main water source and the grout plant is where the ice would be added.  The water is then transferred with a submersible pump from the intermediate tank to the calibrated batch tank on the grout plant.

15. Is the pressure increased in flat horizontal ducts?

Ducts with small cross section (flat ducts and PT Bars) can see high pressures occur with typical grout plants.  One strategy to address this is to use a grout header to limit the pressure in those cases.  Alternatively, a smaller grout plant or different type of grout plant may be an option (especially air operated plants as compared to hydraulic or electric which can be somewhat easier to throttle down to low flows/pressures). 

Grouting Questions Received from April 12, 2021 Webinar

1. Where is the best place to satisfy the 90F as the discharge temp is typically hotter than at the mixer where the friction passing through the duct has not taken place, especially on long tendons.

Typically, the temp is taken from the mixer prior to pumping. You're right that it can gain heat during flow through the duct. Because excessive heat can cause you pumping problems, you may want to take the outlet temp on the first tendon just to inform you on the next tendons (it will keep your pumping pressure down so it's worth it even if the spec refers to the inlet).

2. When locking off the air flow for the air test, are you sealing the inlet valve on the duct side or just the input from the air compressor? If you are sealing the air flow input, where is the gauge placed to really check the air pressure change to identify leaks?                                   

For the air test, a valve should be installed at the end of the air hose.  This valve is closed after the required pressure is reached (typically 30psi).

The pressure gauge should be in line between that valve and the tendon inlet. A manifold with a valve relieve the air, the shut off valve to the air hose, gauge, and fitting connection may all be preassembled and hooked up in line.    

3. Is there a test owners can specify to check chloride content in pre-packaged grout?

The Acid Soluble Chloride test can be used on either the dry powder or from powder taken from the hardened grout. ASTM C1152

4. ACI Report 222.2 raised a concern over the use of water-soluble oil related to bond for corrosion protection of strand. What is the most common application of temporary corrosion protection of strand currently used?                                                                                                                       

Vapor Phase Corrosion Inhibitor powders are the most commonly used corrosion protection measure for strands that won't be grouted for some time after installation. Ideally, strands are grouted immediately or within a few days of installation and tensioning.

5. Will the strand supplier typically recommend the 'approved oil'?

Possibly, if they have some experience with the various products. The references in the back of the M55 Spec (30 & 31) are a good source for most of the oils that are likely to be "approved" by an owner/engineer. Note that these have to be applied before inserting the strands so prior approval is required.

6. Can you give a situation where it might actually be warranted to flush the grout out with water-e.g., when the density test at outlet shows there was significant water in the duct or other scenarios?

Not really, flushing will just add more water to the system and if there was water in the ducts to start with, flushing will just add more as it's likely there is no way to eliminate the water from the ducts. The prevention to this situation is to use drains at all low points and keep them open until you are ready to grout. The thixotropic grouts will do a decent (but not perfect) job of driving the accumulated water out of the ducts - the best solution would be to continue pumping grout (I know, that's a lot of extra grout) until the density readings improve - and they will as the grout pushed more water out of the duct.

7. Does it take longer time to install PL3 than the others?

Theoretically it shouldn't take any longer to install PL3 than PL2. PL3 just adds the ability to monitor the in-service tendon. In practice, PL3 does require a few additional components such as half-shells used to isolate tendon ducts from the supporting reinforcing bars so it would take a little more time to do a PL3 installation.

8. How fast do you need to be mixing when you have grout in the second container ready to grout?

After the full speed mixing, you transfer it to the second (agitator tank). In that tank it just needs to keep moving so it doesn't gel up from the antibleed admixture. So, lowest speed on paddle in the second tank is good.

9. When do you perform the pressure bleed test?

Table 3.1 in the PTI Spec tells you which types of grout use which tests. For grouts used in bridges, you do the bleed pressure test. The test is performed a minimum of 1 per project and additional for each truck load. The sample is taken at the mixer -- see PTI Section 4.7.3 of spec.

10. At what point is the tendon tested with air? It seems it needs to be before the 'concrete' is placed correct?

The air test should be performed after the strands are stressed and prior to grouting.  This is required by the PTI M55.1 Section 5.5.4.  Testing prior to concrete placement is not typically required. However, in some special cases may be helpful and/or required.    

11. What if the duct separated during concrete placement?

If the duct was separated and blocked with concrete, it would probably require a substantial concrete removal and repair unless it can be reached from either end.  In some cases, may be able to install strands in adjacent tendons or add tendons to make up for the issue.    

12. When running bleed test during production, what is the point if the results are not available until multiple tendons have been grouted?

It makes sure you can correct the batch going forward plus allows documentation of tendons that may need to be further inspected after grouting.

13. Is there a standard degree of pitting that would disqualify a tendon for use? What would you use to identify the level of pitting found in the field?

In the PTI M-50 Specification you will find 11.5 Acceptance Criteria to determine acceptable strand condition. This references Fig. 11.1 that provides photos of strand before and after cleaning and which conditions are acceptable and which are not. Pictures 1, 2 & 3 are acceptable - all the others would be rejected.

14. What is meant by "Soft Grout"?

Soft Grout is a grout that has not hardened over time in the duct.  This can be caused by the bagged grout being too old or past the expiration date or stored in weather or condition that are too hot.

15. Confirm, the "grout pressure bleed" test is a field/site completed test? Or is this a laboratory test?

There is a table in the back of the student manual that clarifies which tests are Laboratory Tests, Field Trial Tests and/or Production Tests per the PTI M-55 Specifications. Your project specifications may differ.

16. When you tap in a new inlet, is it tapped when the grout is still liquid or after it's hardened? Put another way, are you tapping into flowable grout and continuing to pump from there, or are you tapping ahead of the hardened grout? (What happens to trapped air behind - between the tap and the hardened grout?)

For vertical grouting, the vents are placed ahead of time (during duct placement). Approximately 3 foot between outlet of the first stage and inlet of the second stage is a practical distance to allow for shut off. The grout would be setup and hardened between stages.

If you are not replacing a port or inlet before grouting you wait for the grout to harden.  We would not recommend tapping a tendon that has fresh grout in it as it may create a bigger issue by bleeding down the liquid grout.  This then would require further drilling and investigation.  With the vacuum injection we can effectively fill voids most voids with hardened grout in the tendon.

17. What is the average grout strength?

The M-55 Specification, '4.4.4 Grout Strength' spells out the requirements but they are a minimum required strength of 3,000 psi at 7 days and 5,000 psi at 28 days. Your project specifications may have different requirements. Pre-packaged grouts typically have no issues meeting these requirements with proper proportioning and mixing.

18. What action to be taken if grout leaks happen from a minor crack during grouting? Should grouting continue?

For a minor crack, generally yes, continue grouting.  If a leak was noted, post-grout inspection looking for any voids is recommended.  Attempt to plug the leak during grouting and revisit the location of the leak during post-grout inspection.

19. If during post grouting inspection, some vents are slightly low in grout, is it ok to add more grout?

Yes, during post-grout inspection any voids that are found, or vents that are low, should be filled.  The same grout should be used. 

20. What can we do if we noticed air leak before grouting?

If an air leak is noticed before grouting, determine the source of the leak and repair it.  Once the repair is complete retest and ensure it is resolved.  This may entail a vent repair, tightening a grout cap, or even a concrete repair.  In the cases of two ducts that are communicating with a leak between them, it may be prudent to grout those ducts together.