The purpose of construction materials testing is to verify the quality of materials used in construction projects. Where does the definition of quality come from, though? Material testing standards. Here’s an overview of standards-setting organizations you should know.
Meeting the appropriate material testing standards is more than a box to check. Compliance is directly tied to the quality of materials, which is tied to the overall safety of the new construction. When you’re following the standards, you’re verifying the structural integrity of your project and reducing the risk of injuries.
Material Testing Standards: 5 Industry Organizations to Follow
Construction material testing standards are established by industry organizations to ensure the quality, safety and performance of materials used in construction projects. These standards outline procedures for testing materials such as concrete, cement, asphalt, steel, and aggregates to assess their properties and adherence to quality criteria.
Here are five industry organizations that provide these standards:
- American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM): international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.
- American Concrete Institute (ACI): non-profit technical society and consensus-based standards developing organization.
- American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO): standards setting body that publishes specifications, test protocols, and guidelines that are used in highway design and construction throughout the United States.
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO): international standard development organization composed of representatives from the national standards organizations of member countries.
- CSA Group (CSA): a global organization that offers testing, inspection and certification services as well as develops standards in 57 areas, including construction and infrastructure.
These industry organizations help shed light on the best ways of doing certain things – like construction materials testing – to ensure quality and safety. However, they are not the same as the regulatory bodies that enforce them. In the United States, regulatory oversight for construction projects is generally deferred to local, state, or federal government agencies. Ultimately, it’s common for these standards to be referenced in building codes and project specifications as established accepted practices and quality benchmarks.
Here are some important standards to know from each organization.
ASTM standards are widely referenced in project specifications. Here are several important standards relating to concrete testing:
- ASTM C39 – Standard Test Method for Compressive Strength of Cylindrical Concrete Specimens
- ASTM C78 – Standard Test Method for Flexural Strength of Concrete
- ASTM C109 – Standard Test Method for Compressive Strength of Hydraulic Cement Mortars (Using 2-in. or [50 mm] Cube Specimens)
- ASTM C140 – Standard Test Methods for Sampling and Testing Concrete Masonry Units and Related Units
- ASTM C143 – Standard Test Method for Slump of Hydraulic-Cement Concrete
- ASTM C469 – Standard Test Method for Static Modulus of Elasticity and Poisson’s Ratio of Concrete in Compression
- ASTM C496 – Standard Test Method for Splitting Tensile Strength of Cylindrical Concrete Specimens
- ASTM C1782 – Standard Specification for Segmental Concrete Paving Slabs
- ASTM C1609 – Standard Test Method for Flexural Performance of Fiber-Reinforced Concrete
Other relevant ASTM standards for materials other than concrete include:
- ASTM C1019 – Standard Test Method for Sampling and Testing Grout for Masonry
- ASTM D3039 – Standard Test Method for Tensile Properties of Polymer Matrix Composite Materials
- ASTM D7012 – Standard Test Methods for Compressive Strength and Elastic Moduli of Intact Rock Core Specimens under Varying States of Stress and Temperatures
- ASTM A370 – Standard Test Methods and Definitions for Mechanical Testing of Steel Products
There are two types of ACI standards: design codes and construction specifications. ACI also offers certification programs for lab and field technicians, which is an increasingly required credential across the United States.
The most important ACI standards for the construction industry are ACI 318 (the code) and ACI 301 (the specifications).
- ACI CODE 318 – focuses on a safe design and public safety
- ACI SPEC 301 – focuses on good concrete construction practices
AASHTO develops standards specifically focused on transportation-related materials and construction projects. Some important AASHTO standards include:
- AASHTO T22 – Standard Method of Test for Compressive Strength of Cylindrical Concrete Specimens
- AASHTO T27 – Standard Method of Test for Sieve Analysis of Fine and Coarse Aggregates
- AASHTO T85 – Standard Method of Test for Specific Gravity and Absorption of Coarse Aggregate
- AASHTO T97 – Standard Method of Test for Flexural Strength of Concrete
- AASHTO T119 – Standard Method of Test for Slump of Hydraulic Cement Concrete
Several ISO standards are relevant to construction materials testing. Some of these include:
- ISO 1920-1: Testing of concrete – Includes 14 parts that range from sampling and properties of fresh concrete, to determining modulus of elasticity in compression
- ISO 13503-2: Measurement of properties of proppants used in hydraulic fracturing and gravel-packing operations
- ISO 14688-2: Geotechnical investigation and testing — Identification and classification of soil — Part 2: Principles for a classification
- ISO 15630-1: Steel for the reinforcement and prestressing of concrete — Test methods — Part 1: Reinforcing bars, wire rod and wire
Two CSA standards are relevant to concrete construction and testing, which can be accessed through a bundle here:
- A23.1:19: Concrete materials and methods of concrete construction
- A23.2:19: Test methods and standard practices for concrete
How to Follow Material Testing Standards
Material testing standards shape the work we do as construction materials testers.
For compliance, reference your project specifications, codes, and relevant regulatory body to see what specific industry standards you need to follow as you conduct your testing. There are a number of manuals, articles, and training materials available that can help you understand the standard language and follow the best practices.
For example, conducting field tests on wet concrete involves several ASTM standards, which can be difficult to follow especially for new testers. However, industry professionals have compiled best practices and supplementary manuals to help interpret the standard language.
In the construction industry, it’s important to do what works — the best practices are best practices for a reason — but remember to stay current with the standard referenced in your project specifications.