American Society of Civil Engineers

Contribution to the Concrete Strength versus Water-Cement Ratio Relationship

by Sandor Popovics, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, (Prof. Emeritus, Dept. of Civ., Arch., and Envir. Engrg., Drexel Univ., Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail: and Janos Ujhelyi, Ph.D., (Consultant, Honorary Dozent, Tech. Univ., Budapest, Hungary. E-mail:

Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, Vol. 20, No. 7, July 2008, pp. 459-463, (doi:

     Access full text
     Purchase Subscription
     Permissions for Reuse  

Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: The first rarely mentioned fundamental assumptions for the strength versus water-cement ratio relationship are discussed, namely, that: (a) the strength of structural concrete is controlled by the strength of the cement paste in it; (b) the strength of a cement paste depends strongly on the porosity in it; and (c) the porosity (capillary) is a function of the water-cement ratio. This is the foundation of the relationship between concrete strength and water-cement ratio. Numerous empirical formulas, so-called strength formulas, have been developed for this relationship; the Abrams’ formula for instance. These formulas estimate the concrete strength from the water-cement ratio only, and they are usually simple but have restricted limits of validity. For improvement, a new type of strength formulas is offered in this paper, formulas that have a second independent variable beside the water-cement ratio, such as the cement content, or water content, or paste content, etc. Such augmentation (a) improves the accuracy of the strength estimation; (b) shows that if two comparable concretes have the same water-cement ratio, the concrete having the higher cement content has the lower strength; and (c) shows that the magnitude of the changes in concrete strength depends on how the water-cement ratio is changed, by changing the cement content or the water content… Experimental data support these expectations. A formula is also presented for the effect of the other kind of porosity, the air content on the concrete strength. The combination of this with any good strength formula gives good fit with experimental results both of air-entrained and nonair-entrained concretes.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Compressive strength
Water content