The large, solid coarse aggregate particles form the basic structural members of the concrete. The voids between the larger coarse aggregate particles are filled by smaller particles. The voids between the smaller particles are filled by still smaller particles. Finally, the voids between the smallest coarse aggregate particles are filled by the largest fine aggregate particles. In turn, the voids between the largest fine aggregate particles are filled by smaller fine aggregate particles, the voids between the smaller fine aggregate particles by still smaller particles, and soon. Finally, the voids between the finest grains are filled with cement. You can see from this that the better the aggregate is graded (that is, the better the distribution of particles sizes), the more solidly all voids will be filled, and the denser and stronger will be the concrete.
The cement and water form a paste that binds the aggregate particles solidly together when it hardens. In a well-graded, well-designed, and well-mixed batch, each aggregate particle is thoroughly coated with the cement-water paste. Each particle is solidly bound to adjacent particles when the cement-water paste hardens.
AGGREGATE SIEVES. - The size of an aggre- gate sieve is designated by the number of meshes to the linear inch in that sieve. The higher the number, the finer the sieve. Any material retained on the No. 4 sieve can be considered either coarse or fine. Aggregates huger than No. 4 are all course; those smaller are all fines. No. 4 aggregates are the dividing point. The finest coarse-aggregate sieve is the same No. 4 used as the coarsest fine-aggregate sieve. With this exception, a coarse-aggregate sieve is designated by the size of one of its openings. The sieves commonly used are 1 1/2 inches, 3/4 inch, 1/2 inch, 3/8 inch, and No. 4. Any material that passes through the No. 200 sieve is too fine to be used in making concrete.
PARTICLE DISTRIBUTION. - Experience and experiments show that for ordinary building concrete, certain particle distributions consistently seem to produce the best results. For tine aggregate, the recommended distribution of particle sizes from No. 4 to No. 100 is shown in table 6-1.
The distribution of particle sizes in aggregate is determined by extracting a representative sample of the material, screening the sample through a series of sieves ranging in size from coarse to fine, and determining the percentage of the sample retained on each sieve. This procedure is called making a sieve analysis. For example, suppose the total sample weighs 1 pound. Place this on the No. 4 sieve, and shake the sieve until nothing more goes through. If what is left on the sieve weighs 0.05 pound, then 5 percent of the total sample is retained on the No. 4 sieve. Place what passes through on the No. 8 sieve and shake it. Suppose you find that what stays on this sieve weighs 0.1 pound. Since 0.1 pound is 10 percent of 1 pound, 10 percent of the total sample was retained on the No. 8 sieve. The cumulative retained weight is 0.15 pound. By dividing 0.15 by 1.0 pound, you will find that the total retained weight is 15 percent.
The size of coarse aggregate is usually specified as a range between a minimum and a maximum size; for example, 2 inches to No. 4, 1 inch to No. 4,
Table 6-1. - Recommended Distribution of Particle Sizes