Friday, July 12, 2024

Types of concrete admixtures and their uses

Concrete or mortar is enhanced by incorporating admixtures, which serve to accelerate the hydration process of hydraulic cement and reduce the setting time. These admixtures are introduced into the concrete mixture either just before or during the mixing process. The addition of concrete admixtures can enhance various properties of concrete, such as its quality, workability, and the ability to speed up or slow down the setting time, among other alterations that can be made to achieve desired outcomes.

Based on their functions, admixtures can be classified into the following categories:

  1. Retarding admixtures
  2. Accelerating admixtures
  3. Superplasticizers
  4. Water reducing admixtures
  5. Air-entraining admixtures
  6. Waterproofing admixtures
  7. Bonding admixtures

Retarding Admixtures

Retarding admixtures are substances added to cement to prolong the setting time, effectively slowing down the hydration process. They are particularly useful in hot weather conditions to counteract the accelerating effects caused by high temperatures and large concrete masses. These types of admixtures are commonly referred to as water-reducing retarders because they also reduce the water content in the concrete. According to the ASTM C 494 classification, Type B admixtures are solely retarding agents, while Type D admixtures possess both retarding and water-reducing properties, resulting in concrete with higher compressive strength due to a lower water-cement ratio.

Retarding admixtures can be classified into two categories: organic and inorganic agents. Organic retardants include calcium, sodium, and NH4 salts of lignosulfonic acids, hydroxycarboxylic acids, and carbohydrates. Inorganic retardants encompass lead and zinc oxides, phosphates, magnesium salts, fluorates, and borates.

To illustrate the effects of retardants on concrete properties, lignosulfonate acids and hydroxylated carboxylic acids can extend the initial setting time by one to three hours when used within the temperature range of 65 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is not necessary for concrete contractors to memorize these specific chemical results. Instead, the concrete supplier should offer suitable admixtures and concrete mixes based on the specific requirements and objectives of the project.


Accelerating admixtures

Accelerators are additives that decrease the setting time of concrete, allowing for cold-weather pouring, early form removal, early surface finishing, and sometimes early load application. However, careful consideration is necessary when selecting the type and proportion of accelerators, as commonly used accelerators tend to increase the drying shrinkage of concrete in most situations.

One commonly used accelerator is calcium chloride, which serves to accelerate the setting time and increase the rate of strength development. It is essential for calcium chloride to meet the requirements outlined in ASTM D 98. It is important to note that excessive amounts of calcium chloride in the concrete mixture can lead to rapid stiffening, an increase in drying shrinkage, and corrosion of reinforcement. In colder climates, calcium chloride should not be utilized as an anti-freeze. This is because a significant quantity of calcium chloride would be required to lower the freezing point of the concrete, potentially causing damage to the concrete itself.



Superplasticizers, also known as plasticizers, are a type of water-reducing admixture commonly used in concrete. They differ from what is typically referred to as a “water reducer” or “mid-range water reducer” by being categorized as “high-range water reducers.” High-range water reducers are admixtures that allow for significant reduction in water content or increased flowability without significantly impacting the setting time or increasing air entrainment. The specific ranges and effects of each type of superplasticizer are defined by manufacturers, concrete suppliers, and industry standards.

Superplasticizers offer the ability to maintain a desired consistency and workability of concrete with significantly reduced water requirements. The dosage required varies depending on the specific concrete mix and the type of superplasticizer used. Additionally, superplasticizers have the potential to enhance the strength of the resulting concrete. Like other admixtures, superplasticizers can also have an impact on other properties of concrete. It is important to consult the manufacturer or concrete supplier for detailed information regarding the specific effects of superplasticizers and their recommended usage.


Water reducing admixtures

Water-reducing admixtures are additives that allow for the use of less water while maintaining the desired consistency of concrete or increase the slump (workability) of concrete without adding additional water. These admixtures can have an impact on the initial set time of concrete. They are commonly used in hot weather conditions to facilitate concrete placement and assist in pumping.

On the other hand, a water-reducing plasticizer is a hygroscopic powder that can also entrain air into the concrete mixture by affecting the surface tension of water. This allows it to provide some of the benefits associated with air-entrained concrete (such as improved durability and resistance to freeze-thaw cycles).

water reducing admixtures

Air-entraining admixtures

Air-entraining agents are additives used in concrete to introduce small air bubbles throughout the mixture. The main advantage of incorporating air bubbles is to enhance the durability of the concrete, particularly in regions with freeze-thaw cycles, where the expansion and contraction of water can lead to cracking and damage.

While the presence of air in concrete may cause a slight reduction in strength, this can be compensated for by adjusting the water-cement ratio through improved workability achieved by the air-entraining agent or by using other suitable admixtures. It is important to note that the combination of admixtures should be handled by a competent professional, as some interactions between different admixtures may have undesirable effects.

Air entraining

Waterproofing admixtures

Waterproofing admixtures, also known as water-resisting admixtures or permeability-reducing admixtures, are substances used in concrete to prevent the passage of water through hardened concrete when under pressure. These admixtures are designed to control the porosity of concrete and provide protection against water infiltration.

Waterproofing admixtures contain porous materials that have the ability to absorb water and water-borne contaminants. They incorporate hydrophobic and pore-blocking ingredients that react with the products of cement hydration, resulting in the formation of a hydrophobic material. This hydrophobic material resists the ingress of external water, thereby reducing absorption into the concrete. The use of waterproofing admixtures can enhance the durability of structures and decrease maintenance costs by protecting them from degradation caused by water exposure.

Different types of waterproofing admixtures are available for various components of a structure, such as the roof, basement, or walls. The selection of the admixture depends on factors such as the specific location, climatic conditions, and purpose of the structure. Waterproofing admixtures find wide-ranging applications in construction and infrastructure development projects.


Bonding admixtures

Bonding admixtures are additives that can aid in establishing a strong bond between new/fresh concrete and existing/set concrete. These admixtures typically contain compounds and materials such as polyvinyl chlorides, acetates, acrylics, and butadiene-styrene co-polymers. They are used to enhance the bonding properties and ensure a reliable connection between different concrete sections.

Coloring agents have gained popularity, especially for applications like patios and walkways. They are primarily applied to the surface of the concrete and often have the additional benefit of surface hardening. However, it is important to note that surface applied coloring admixtures should generally not be used with air-entrained concrete, as it may negatively impact the air void system and compromise the durability of the concrete.

Alternatively, integrally colored concrete is an option where coloring agents are mixed into the concrete mixture itself. This creates a consistent color throughout the entire concrete structure.



Various types of admixtures play crucial roles in enhancing the performance and aesthetics of concrete. Admixtures such as retarding and accelerating agents help manage the setting time of concrete, while water-reducing admixtures and superplasticizers offer the ability to reduce water content and improve workability. Air-entraining agents provide durability in freeze-thaw conditions, while waterproofing admixtures protect structures from water infiltration and increase their longevity. Bonding admixtures assist in establishing strong connections between different sections of concrete, and coloring agents offer decorative options for patios and walkways.

The selection and application of admixtures should be done by professionals who understand their specific properties and interactions. By utilizing the appropriate admixtures for specific needs, the performance, durability, and aesthetic qualities of concrete structures can be optimized. Overall, admixtures offer versatile solutions to meet the varied requirements of construction and infrastructure projects, ensuring the desired results and enhancing the overall quality of concrete structures.

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