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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-16-008    Date:  May 2016
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-16-008
Date: May 2016


Dimensional Stability of Grout-Type Materials Used As Connections for Prefabricated Bridge Elements

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The increasing use of accelerated bridge construction methodologies has led to widespread use of prefabricated bridge elements. These elements are commonly constructed offsite and assembled in the field through the use of field-cast grout connections. The materials used in these connections must provide superior performance to guarantee the proper functioning of the structure; however, it is not uncommon for these grouted connections to exhibit cracking and subsequently leakage either through the grout or at the interfaces with the prefabricated components. This cracking is recognized as being linked to the shrinkage that these grouts exhibit during the first days and weeks after casting. As part of the Federal Highway Administration’s efforts to facilitate the use of accelerated construction technologies, the Structural Concrete Research Program has assessed grout shrinkage performance and developed recommendations for appropriate use of grouted connections. This report presents the dimensional stability results (with special focus on shrinkage) of a wide range of grout-type materials, providing the basis for a broader understanding of the shrinkage performance that an owner could anticipate experiencing with these materials. This report will be of interest to engineers, academics, researchers, and industry partners who are involved with the specification and use of field-deployed grouts.

Jonathan Porter
Acting Director, Office of Infrastructure Research and Development


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers’ names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

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Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3 Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Dimensional Stability of Grout-Type Materials Used as Connections for Prefabricated Bridge Elements

5. Report Date

May 2016

6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

Igor De la Varga and Benjamin A. Graybeal

8. Performing Organization Report No.


9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Office of Infrastructure Research & Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.
12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Infrastructure Research & Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered


14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

The research discussed herein was completed at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. Portions of the work were completed by SES Group & Associates, LLC, under contract DTFH61-13-D-00007.

16. Abstract

The research presented in this report focuses on addressing performance concerns related to dimensional stability (primarily early age shrinkage) of 11 commercially available grout-type materials. Some of these grouts, especially those classified as “non-shrink grouts,” have been observed to display significant dimensional instability when deployed in connection details during bridge construction projects. The test methods used to evaluate dimensional stability are those described in the ASTM C1107 test method. After an initial evaluation, it was observed that the test methods used for evaluating dimensional stability described in this standard specification consider several parameters simultaneously (e.g., chemical expansion and shrinkage, autogenous and plastic shrinkage, etc.), thus providing a qualitative approach that is only useful for comparative purposes. To more completely assess this variety of parameters, volume changes were assessed from a fundamental point of view, measuring pure expansion/shrinkage deformations via test methods such as ASTM C157 and ASTM C1698. The results show that most of the grouts evaluated in this research seemed to perform well in terms of dimensional stability when tested in accordance with ASTM C1107. However, separate testing to specifically assess autogenous and drying deformations (shrinkage and expansion) demonstrated that ASTM C1107 is not necessarily an appropriate means to capture the full range of critical dimensional stability behaviors. Given the fact that most of the cement-based grouts commonly exhibit shrinkage, this research also included additional tests focused on the partial shrinkage mitigation by including internal curing through the use of prewetted lightweight aggregates. In summary, this research demonstrates the types of shrinkage performance that can be expected from these types of grouts, the shortcomings of the commonly used test methods, alternative test methods that may better demonstrate real world performance, and an innovative way of reducing part of the shrinkage observed in some of the grouts.

17. Key Words

Accelerated bridge construction, prefabricated bridge element, grout-type materials, dimensional stability, shrinkage, internal curing

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions. This document is available through the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161.

19. Security Classification
(of this report)


20. Security Classification
(of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price


Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized

SI* (Modern Metric) Conversion Factors


List of Figures

List of Tables

List of Abbreviations
ABC accelerated bridge construction
IC internal curing
LWA lightweight aggregate
PBE prefabricated bridge element
PBES prefabricated bridge elements and systems
RH relative humidity
SAP superabsorbent polymer
SEM scanning electron microscope
UHPC ultra-high performance concrete
w/b water-to-binder ratio
w/c water-to-cement ratio
w/swater-to-solids ratio



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Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center | 6300 Georgetown Pike | McLean, VA | 22101