Concrete slabs are one of the most common structural elements of modern buildings and infrastructures including residential, commercial plazas, hospitals or buildings having industrial significance. Typically 4 to 20 inches of reinforced concrete mat like element is constructed as roof ceilings or floors for interior while thinner slabs are used for exterior paving roadway. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Flat Slab?
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flat Slab?

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Depending on loading conditions, bearing capacity of local soils the type of slabs and supports for them are designed keeping in view the structural and general function of the building or structure. 
There are different types of slabs as I had already explained in a comprehensive article which you can read out here.

But in this post I would be dealing with flat slabs and will also discuss in detail about their advantages and disadvantages so that while deciding the type of slab you would know what could be the benefits or drawbacks as a consequence of using flat slab system.

Flat plates are probably the most commonly used slab system today for multistory reinforced concrete hotels, motels, apartment houses, hospitals, and dormitories. A dormitory?? Ahh what it is? Actually this means a residential hall for a school or an institute that might be used for resident students.

Flat Slab <=> Flat Plate Slab
Flat Slab <=> Flat Plate Slab

So first let us discuss about the bookish definition as “What actually is a flat slab” – but hang on before defining let me make it clear to you that some individuals find difficulty in differentiating the flat slab and flat plate slab. 

Flat Slab <=> Flat Plate Slab

Fat slab is a highly multipurpose reinforced structural slab system which is built monolithic ally with the supporting column reinforced in one or more direction without any provision of beam. The column slab joint grids, in flat slab, are toughened by providing increased local depth in terms of column capital or drop panel. 

Reinforcement and Form work of Drop Panel is Fixed
Reinforcement and Form work of Drop Panel is Fixed

Now the main difference between flat slab and flat plate slab is; 

In flat plate slab the thickness of slab is uniform and does not have column capital or drop panel; but for flat slab the slab column joints are reinforced by providing column capitals and drop panels to satisfy heavy loads and long spans.  

Due to heavy loads and long spans it is necessary to increase column sizes or slab thickness or to use shear heads. Shear-heads consist of steel I or channel shapes placed in the slab over the columns.

Advantages of Flat Slab System

You might be wondering that why the flat slab system are extensively and commonly used; answer is simple the - advantages and benefits - not only after construction but ease and simplicity during construction and design makes it like that common. 

Advantages of Flat Slab System
Advantages of Flat Slab System


They are particularly economical for warehouses, parking and industrial buildings, and similar structures - where exposed drop panels or capitals are acceptable.

2. Less Concrete & Less Reinforcement

As in flat slabs the column capital and drop panels are used; the column – slab joint not necessarily needs shear reinforcement. 

Flat slabs will require less concrete and reinforcing than would be required for flat plates with the same loads and spans.

3. Lesser Depth of Slab System

Regarding the depth of the slab there is a little contradiction; there are some designers that say the flat slab needs more depth than flat plate slab or beam supported slab. Firstly, the depth depends on the loading conditions and the functional requirement of the building. If the building needs enough space with long spans the depth might be more but when it is compared with flat plate slab it is actually lesser. 

4. Flexibility in Layout

When the beams are present; the allocation of partition walls and channeling / ducting of services are predetermined and rigid with no interior layout flexibility for the owner. But due to absence of beams in flat slabs room layout as well as channeling of ducting becomes flexible.  Such conditions are best suited for clients that doesn’t have a fixed purpose of the building; thus the partition walls can be set anywhere as desired. Moreover the absence of beams makes the circulation of air and light easy. 

5. Lesser Storey Height 

Usually in beam supported slabs; false-ceiling is used to house the ducting service and to made-up smooth roofing finish for the occupants. This not only saves the cost of roof cladding but also provide comparatively more effective and functional height of the building.  
Thus we can say that more floor-to-floor height is needed in case of beam supported slab which is not the case with the flat slab. Reducing the height, thickness and absence of beams reduces the foundation load ultimately making flat slab as an economical solution for roofing system.  

6. Fast and Easy Construction

The absence of beams make reinforcement fixing a simple and easy process and in some areas prefabricated steel reinforcement mesh available in various sizes can also be used saving labor cost and saving considerable time.  The ease in fixing of formwork also helps in reducing the cost and time. 

Parking Plaza Slab Repair by Providing column Capital and Drop Panel
Parking Plaza Slab Repair by Providing column Capital and Drop Panel

Disadvantages of Flat Slab System

  • Although there are multi-dimensional advantages of flat slab system but there are certain areas in which one must be watchful and cautious.  
  • Usually during design the middle strip or middle of the slab, critical deflection exists while designing the layout of the structure one must be sure about the anticipated deflection to be as accurate as possible. 
  • Generally flat slab system is not suitable for supporting brittle (masonry) partitions which make them vulnerable in case of seismic activity. 
  • Drop panels sometimes interfere with larger mechanical ducting so this may also to be considered. 
  • Vertical penetrations need to be avoided in areas around columns.

If in 2018 you are not familiar with this highly durable and beneficial construction material than you must read each an every word of this article about Polymer Concrete. Because I'll be going through all the aspects of Polymer Concrete including its definition, how it is produced / made, how it is used, what are its benefits and what are its applications in the industry.  

What is Polymer Concrete?
What is Polymer Concrete? 

So Hang on guys !!!

Do you know what makes up a DNA of your body? Or what actually makes up the plastic bottle in which you drink beverages or what actually makes up the wood used in the chair you are sitting on? Give up? 

They are all Polymers  !!!

Poly = many <> mers = Molecules : so;

If you fully understand the meaning of polymer you’ll be able to define what this polymer concrete really is? 

If you have recently heard the word “polymer Concrete” in 2018 than I am very sad to say you are very late; fellow :D. 

Polymer concrete was actually patented in late 1950s (almost 68 years back from now) and was in a very short time it gains enough popularity in shape of repair agents, precast components and overlay materials.  

So back to what is polymer? 

Polymer is actually a macro-molecule or a large molecule that is composed of many repeated sub-units or smaller molecules called monomers. These polymers are both natural and synthetic having variety of properties that are solely dependent on the properties of the units that forms or creates them.  The smaller units repeat themselves in unique patterns to form sometimes three dimensional networks. 

So now you know what the polymer is so what about mixing them in concrete? 

Why? – Because conventional concrete is too casual to suite our needs and demands. 

Polymer concrete is defined as:- 

“Composite Concrete mixture with polymers to supplement or substitute completely cement as a binder – is termed as Polymer Concrete” 

“Composite Concrete mixture with polymers to supplement or substitute completely cement as a binder – is termed as Polymer Concrete”
“Composite Concrete mixture with polymers to supplement or substitute completely cement as a binder – is termed as Polymer Concrete” 

Now you know what the polymer is but for knowing how polymer is formed lets discuss about chemicals called “Resins”. 

Resins are semi-solid or highly viscous liquids that are capable of hardening permanently upon reaction with water or other suitable compounds.  Resins can be considered as parent for a polymer because polymers are formed after polymerization or curing of resins.  These polymers are added in concrete as epoxy binder that cures and harden concrete into place. 

Like traditional concrete Polymer concrete has the same basic ingredients including sand, aggregate and water.  The properties and benefits of polymer concrete in terms of rapid curing, excellent bond to cement concrete and steel reinforcement, durability and high strength it is widely used as repair material.

It is evident that properties of polymer concrete will mainly depend on the type of polymer resin used therein; but for a given polymer material the properties may also be dependent on :- 

  1. Content of the Binder added
  2. Aggregate Size distribution used
  3. Nature and content of the micro-filler 
  4. Curing conditions

Polymer Resins Commonly used in Polymer Concrete

Most common polymer resins used throughout the world for polymer concrete are as follows :- 

  1. Unsaturated Polyester Resin
  2. Methyl Methacrylate
  3. Epoxy Resins
  4. Furan Resins
  5. Polyurethane resins
  6. Urea Formaldehyde resins

Aggregates & Fillers in Polymer Concrete


  • 75–80% volume in polymer concrete is occupied by the aggregates and fillers
  • aggregates are inert material discrete all over the polymer matrix
  • Two types of aggregates are used like traditional concrete
  • Coarse aggregate = size more than 5 mm 
  • Fine aggregate = size less than 5 mm
  • As far as the grading of aggregate is concerned it is still not have any standard and is varies almost in all systems. 

Use of Micro-fillers

Micro fillers are furthermore added occasionally to the polymer concrete structure to fill the micro-voids. 

Use of reinforcing system

For improving the mechanical properties and strength of the polymer concrete; different types of fibers have been reported to be used like steel, nylon fiber, glass and polypropylene. This improves the mechanical properties including toughness, compressive strength, flexural strength, and fatigue strength.

Benefits of Polymer Concrete

From the start I have repeated many times that use of polymer concrete will add in many advantages and benefits relevant to sustainability and durability of the structure under consideration. The Polymer concrete has far better mechanical properties and durability than the ordinary Portland cement concrete. It would be in the significance of polymer concrete business / researchers if the material is categorized and promoted as a polymer composite. In addition to mechanical properties there is a long list of benefits that have been reported in the literature. Some of them are as follows :- 

  • rapid curing
  • high compressive strength
  • high specific stiffness and strength
  • resistance to chemicals and corrosion
  • ability to form complex shapes
  • excellent vibration damping properties
  • epoxies create a very strong material that shrinks very little as it cures
  • Furan resins can withstand high temperatures
  • Poly-urea resins can replace phenolics or formaldehydes

Applications and Uses of Concrete

  • Polymer concrete is used for many kinds of specialized construction projects. The material is used in electrical or industrial construction where the concrete needs to last a long time and be resistant to many types of corrosion.
  • electrical insulation systems
  • machine tool applications as replacement of cast iron for machine tool

Cost Impact of Polymer Concrete

Polymer concrete is relatively more expensive than conventional concrete which depends on the quantity of the constituents to be used as per mix design. Moreover some researchers have been reported to use indigenous local materials to be used in the matrix of concrete for better properties.  

Polymer concrete has initially been developed as an alternative material in the domain of civil engineering but over a period of time, owing to its superior properties, has found favour as a replacement material in machine building applications.

Fineness of cement is a characteristic property of cement that signifies the particle size of cement and its specific surface area. Greater fineness of cement means the particles are finer and had more surface area. In case of very coarse cement, under some conditions it can cause a serious bleeding problem on some construction projects.

There are already many research articles in journals and research papers that have discussed the effect of fineness of cement on concrete and here I have summarized those research papers to give you an overview of the variations and effects the fineness of cement cause on the properties of concrete.

Effect of Fineness of Cement on Concrete Properties

Fineness of Cement has generally following effects on properties of concrete :- 

  • Increased Rate of Hydration
  • Reduction in Bleeding
  • Increased Modulus of Elasticity
  • Increased drying shrinkage
  • Decreased effect of Freezing and Thawing
  • Decreased detrimental effects
  • Water Requirement

Increased Rate of Hydration 

The rate of hydration depends directly on the fineness of the cement as finer cements offer greater surface area for hydration to take place, and for rapid development of strength, high fineness is necessary. But higher rate of hydration means higher rate of early heat evolution.

Reduction in Bleeding

Increasing the fineness of cement reduces the amount of bleeding in concrete by increasing the water requirement of concrete.
Increased Workability

The workability of non-air-entrained concrete is increased by increasing the cement fineness. The workability of non air-entrained concrete is increased by increasing the cement fineness. In air-entrained concrete the effect of fineness of cement on workability is very much less pronounced.

Increased Modulus of Elasticity

The 28-day compressive strength & modulus of elasticity of concrete, with or without entrained air, increases with an increase in cement fineness. The difference in compressive strength due to difference in fineness of cement is considerably less at 1 year's age.

Increased Drying Shrinkage

The fineness of cement influences the drying shrinkage of concrete. When the water content is increased because of fineness, the drying shrinkage is increased. However, if excessive bleeding due to coarseness of the cement takes place, a reduction in the drying shrinkage occurs.

Decreased Freezing and Thawing

The resistance of air-entrained concrete to deterioration caused by freezing and thawing decreases with an increase in cement fineness. The same trend is noted with non air-entrained concrete, but to a lesser degree.

Decreased Detrimental effects

Both air-entrained and non air-entrained concrete containing 100 percent reactive aggregate are detrimentally affected by increased expansion at all ages by increases in the fineness of a high-alkali cement.

Water Requirement

Increasing the fineness of cement from 2700 to about 4000 cm2/g reduces the water requirement of concrete. Increasing the fineness of cement beyond an optimum limit increases the water requirement of concrete.

AASHTO stands for American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Developed in 1992 a comprehensive soil classification system that helps field engineers in estimating the general properties and characteristics of the soil encountered during the foundation preparation and other relevant construction works.  After the first publication the classification system has undergone several revisions. 

Download AASHTO Soil Classification Excel Spread Sheet [XLSX]
Download AASHTO Soil Classification Excel Spread Sheet [XLSX] 

In the construction of pavements and highway including airways and runways the soil classification is very important so as to determine the quality of the sub-grade material. 

I have already written an article on how we use AASHTO to classify any type of soil with a step by step approach. You can follow the link below. 

But today I am going to share with you a ready to use excel spreadsheet or workbook in which you can only input the pre-requisites and a comprehensive report stating all the properties of the soil under observation would be produced to you which you can print and share for your project. 

Features of the Product

  • Automatic Classification of Soil according to your inputs
  • Comprehensive Calculation Showing 
    • Soil Main Category
    • Group
    • Group Index Value
    • Significant Constituent Material
    • Subgrade Rating
  • Comprehensive Report Showing 
    • Properties of Constitents
    • Group Index and Group name
  • Notes and Graphs are also attached for ready reference and cross checks

  • Name of File : AASHTO Soil Classification - Adnan Aslam (1).xlsx
  • Type of File :XLSX
  • Size :234 KB
  • Cost of File : $5.00 USD 
  • Author : Mr. Asad Warriach (Gujrat Pakistan) 
  • Shared by : Mr. Asad Warriach (Gujrat Pakistan) 
  • Shared Date : 4-Jan-2018

Download AASHTO Soil Classification Excel Spread Sheet [XLSX]
Download AASHTO Soil Classification Excel Spread Sheet [XLSX]  

PDF Generated Report
PDF Generated Report 

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Ordinary Portland Cement: - OPC is produced by finely grinding OPC clinker obtained from the cement kilns. This cement on hydration produces C-S-H gel (Calcium – Silicate – Hydrate) Gel, which provides cementation property and is the primarily responsible for strength is cement products. Along with C-S-H gel it also produces Ca(OH)2, which does not provide any strength, rather it causes further problems of leaching in concrete.

difference between ordinary portland cement and portland pozzolana cement
difference between ordinary portland cement and portland pozzolana cement

It may be noted that leaching or efflorescence in concrete happens when lime compounds, as mentioned above, leads to the formation of salt deposits on the surface of concrete which leads to increased porosity and further enhanced deterioration. 

This usually happens near cracks where pure water can circulate easily.    

Portland Pozzolana Cement

PPC is produced by inter-grinding OPC clinker along with some pozzolanic material like fly ash (FA). This cement also produces on hydration, C-S-H gel along with Ca(OH)2, which further reacts with the pozzolanic material to produce more amount of C-S-H gel, which provides additional cementation and thus increases the overall strength and reduces Ca(OH)2 content.

Pozzolanic materials have siliceous or siliceous and aluminous components that when finely grinded and mixed with water reacts chemically with lime to produce compounds possessing cementations properties. 

The pozzolanic materials are used as supplementary cementations materials. 

One of the widely used pozzolanic material is fly ash (FA). Fly ashes are mostly obtained from coal-fired electric power plants. Coal based thermal power plants have been a major source of Power Generation in India where almost 75% of the total power obtained is from coal based thermal power plants. So resultantly huge amount of its by-product fly ash is obtained which was in the past dumped in lagoons, land fill sites and abandoned quarries. 

In the concrete mix reduction of 40% of Portland cement is usually feasible when replaced with pozzolanic materials. 

Thus, these Pozzolanic Portland Cement have more control on setting time with increased durability. Moreover, cost and pollution are significantly reduced without affecting the final compressive strength characteristics of the Concrete mix

In Portland Pozzolana cement (PPC) Fly ash or pozzolanic material is added to clinker but recently a new trend is introduced to process Fly Ash by blending it with ordinary Portland cement. Fly ash which is sometimes named as Pulverized Fuel Ash with compositions of fine particles of fuel that are driven out of coal-fired boilers. 

One of a significant benefit obtained by the use of flyash material is increased workability which allows the concrete to be used in pumps easily without causing any problems of cracking, permeability and bleeding. With the use of Pozzolanic material the quantity required of cement is reduced which eventually will reduce the amount of Co2 emissions making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

Although the Portland Pozzolana Cement have tremendous advantages over Ordinary Portland Cement but there are certain limitations as well. 

The Portland Pozzolana Cement have major concerns about freeze/thaw performance. Which may need more air entraining admixtures to be added which might increase the overall cost. The seasonal variations and increased salt scaling are another thing one must be careful about. 

Portland Slag Cement:- PSC is obtained by mixing Portland cement clinker, gypsum and granulated blast furnace slag in suitable proportions and grinding the mixture to get a thorough and intimate mixture between the constituents. The resultant product is cement which has physical properties similar to OPC. It has low heat of hydration and is relatively better resistant to chlorides and hence can be used for marine works. Due to the use of Slag in Portland Cement the unit volume is reduced making produced concrete less vulnerable to alkali-silica reaction and sulfate attack

Slag is actually a by-product that is obtained during combustion processes on metals either for their smelting, welding or for other metallurgical operations. Slag is physically similar in looks to a volcanic rock or a basalt or granite rock. 

I am currently working on a Dam Project in South Asia region and here we are using Sharja Slag which is a product of Sharja Cement and Industrial Development Company. The Shrja slag is a ground granulated Blast Furnace slag. 

This material is produced by grinding dried Granulated Slag in a closed circuit milling system to a surface area of ~380m2/kg. This Granulated Slag is the same material used to produce Blastfurnace cement.

So, In this article you have learnt that what is ordinary portland cement, How it is produced. What is pozzolanic materials? how pozzolans are produced? What is the use of these materials in cement? What is slag and how it is used in cement to enhance the properties and sustainability of Cement mix. 

Saad Iqbal

{picture#} Hi there, I am Saad Iqbal from Pakistan - Founder of Iamcivilengineer. I am Currently Working in a Consultancy Firm as Junior Engineer and am a Passionate blogger and a Civil Engineer from UET Taxila, Pakistan. {facebook#} {twitter#} {google#} {pinterest#} {youtube#}


{picture#} Hi there, I am Saad Iqbal from Pakistan - Founder of Iamcivilengineer. I am Currently Working in a Consultancy Firm as Junior Engineer and am a Passionate blogger and a Civil Engineer from UET Taxila, Pakistan. {facebook#} {twitter#} {google#} {pinterest#} {youtube#}
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