The project as described sounds very feasible for a structural shotcrete application. As we understand, the concerns are:
- Detailing construction joints—Please refer to ACI 506R, “Guide to Shotcrete,” Paragraph 5.7, Joints. Typically, shotcrete joints are beveled to increase the surface area of the bonding surface and reduce the likelihood of trapping rebound. Other considerations for construction joints should follow the principles of cast-in-place concrete. Shotcrete is a method of placing concrete.
- Curing—Shotcrete is concrete consisting of smaller aggregates and generally higher cement content. Good curing practices should be followed as they should be with cast-in-place concrete. Considerations should include the temperature and humidity when evaluating a curing program. High temperatures with low humidity will require significantly more effort than high temperature with high humidity. The key is to ensure that sufficient moisture is available to hydrate the cement during the curing period.
- Plastic shrinkage gaps or cracking—The shrinkage characteristics of shotcrete are similar to cast-in-place concrete. Shotcrete is composed of smaller particles and higher cement but generally places at a low water-cement ratio (w/c) or less than 0.45. Shotcrete is somewhat more prone to plastic shrinkage cracking due to the surface not being protected by a form in its early stages. If the finished surface is subjected to high ambient temperatures, low humidity, or high winds, it will tend to dry quickly on the surface and exhibit more plastic shrinkage cracking. In these environmental conditions, fogging of the exposed shotcrete surfaces soon after shotcreting may help to reduce or eliminate the plastic shrinkage cracks. Plastic shrinkage cracks are generally superficial in nature and can be repaired if necessary.
- Slump to be reduced to 2 ± 1 in. (51 ± 25 mm)—This is a good range if measured and treated properly. It is important to ensure that the shotcrete material has enough slump at the nozzle to properly encapsulate the reinforcing steel and is stiff enough to stay in place without sloughing or sagging. The slump at the nozzle is far more relevant than the slump at the pump.
The important factors influenced by slump are maintaining the proper water-cementitious material ratio (w/cm) and consistency at the nozzle to ensure good placement. The most important consideration is to ensure that you have an experienced shotcrete contractor who has a history of success with similar projects with respect to the size and complexity of the installation. You can locate shotcrete contractors on the ASA online Buyers Guide at www.shotcrete.org.