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Why do BS8007 specify the allowable crack width of water retaining structure as 0.2mm for severe or very severe exposure?

For crack width less than 0.2mm, it is assumed that the mechanism of autogenous healing will take place in which the crack will automatically seal up and this would not cause the problem of leakage and reinforcement corrosion in water retaining structure.


When the cracks are in inactive state where no movement takes places, autogenous healing occurs in the presence of water. However, when there is a continuous flow of water through these cracks, autogenous healing would not take place because the flow removes the lime. One of the mechanisms of autogenous healing is that calcium hydroxide (generated from the hydration of tricalcium silicate and dicalcium silicate) in concrete cement reacts with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in the formation of calcium carbonate crystals. Gradually these crystals accumulate and grow in these tiny cracks and form bonding so that the cracks are sealed. Since the first documented discovery of autogenous healing by the French Academy of Science in 1836, there have been numerous previous proofs that cracks are sealed up naturally by autogenous healing. Because of its self-sealing property, designers normally limit crack width to 0.2mm for water retaining structures.

This question is taken from book named – A Self Learning Manual – Mastering Different Fields of Civil Engineering Works (VC-Q-A-Method) by Vincent T. H. CHU.

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Kanwarjot Singh

Kanwarjot Singh is the founder of Civil Engineering Portal, a leading civil engineering website which has been awarded as the best online publication by CIDC. He did his BE civil from Thapar University, Patiala and has been working on this website with his team of Civil Engineers.

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