notes on placing an exposed slab on grade

July 22, 2012

Here are some quick notes on our Exposed Slab on Grade (placed on top of continuous 15mil vapor retarder and 4″ of eps insulation):

Placing concrete on a continuous vapor retarder definitely ups the degree of difficulty when it comes to finishing and curing the slab.  Water in the slab can only move out the top, meaning the slab can dry unevenly, crack, and even curl.  To compensate we are trying a wet “flood” cure.

We decided to use fiber mesh reinforcing and eliminate the steel reinforcing altogether from slab.  Apparently the fiber can make finishing trickier, but it typically results in strong slab with less cracking and for a bit less cost.

The type and location of joints is always a question – we even considered for awhile not using them and letting the slab crack more randomly (it will crack).  In the end we decided to use a tooled joint (in this case made with a custom tool from another project) and to place them strategically under walls so they are barely visible.  Tooled joints can be made almost immediately before cracking can happen whereas sawcuts have to wait until slab is firm enough to handle the saw, and potentially after random cracks have already occurred.  Saw cuts also have a risk of spalling, but when they are executed properly they certainly look best.

After knocking around options for curing the slab, we decided to go old school and use a wet flood method.  The idea is to cure the slab slowly and evenly by keeping it wet and cool, allowing it to gain as much strength as possible before subjecting it to the stresses that occur when it dries out.  The slab edge formwork was already above the top of the slab, so it was relatively easy to keep the slab underwater.  It uses a fair amount of water as there are minor breaches in the perimeter formwork dam, but it eliminates the use of expensive chemical curing compounds.

So far we have kept the slab wet for 5 days (flooded most of the time) and we’re still babysitting it.  It’s time to get set up for the last small concrete pour (a plinth for the stair which doubles as a landing), so the wet curing will come to an end. Only time will tell what the result will be, and we’ll never know if our methods were better or worse.

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One Response to “notes on placing an exposed slab on grade”


  1. […] framing has been moving along at skidmore passivhaus since we placed our slab on grade. […]


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