What is an Expansion Joint in Concrete

All materials expand or contract with the increase or decrease in temperatures including concrete. Therefore suitable arrangements are not ensured for the expansion and contraction of concrete due to the temperature changes the cracks may occur. For that reason providing expansion joint in certain distance for concrete works.

Weather changes during the year produce temperature variations that cause expansion and contraction in concrete paving slabs, building faces, and pipelines. Expansion joints permits thermal contraction and expansion without inducing stresses into the elements.

In a typical expansion joint, it normally contains the following components:

  1. Joint sealant.
  2. Joint filler.
  3. Dowel bar.
  4. PVC dowel sleeve.
  5. Bond breaker tape and cradle bent.
Joint sealant:

It seals the joint width and prevents water and dirt from entering the joint and causing dowel bar corrosion and unexpected joint stress resulting from restrained movement.

Joint filler:

It is compressible so that the joint can expand freely without constraint. Someone may doubt that even without its presence, the joint can still expand freely. In fact, its presence is necessary because it serves the purpose of space occupation such that even if dirt and rubbish are intruded in the joint, there is no space left for their accommodation.

Dowel bar:

This is a major component of the joint. It serves to guide the direction of movement of concrete expansion. Therefore, incorrect direction of placement of dowel bar will induce stresses in the joint during thermal expansion. On the other hand, it links the two adjacent structures by transferring loads across the joints.

PVC dowel sleeve:

It serves to facilitate the movement of dowel bar. On one side of the joint, the dowel bar is encased in concrete. On the other side, however, the PVC dowel sleeve is bonded directly to concrete so that movement of dowel bar can take place. One may notice that the detailing of normal expansion joints in Highways Standard Drawing is in such a way that part of PVC dowel sleeve is also extended to the other part of the joint where the dowel bar is directly adhered to concrete. In this case, it appears that this arrangement prevents the movement of joint. If this is the case, why should designers purposely put up such arrangement? In fact, the rationale behind this is to avoid water from getting into contact with dowel bar in case the joint sealant fails. As PVC is a flexible material, it only minutely hinders the movement of joint only under this design.

Bond breaker tape:

As the majority of joint sealant is applied in liquid form during construction, the bond breaker tape helps to prevent flowing of sealant liquid inside the joint.

Cradle bar:

It helps to uphold the dowel bar in position during construction.


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