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Continuous Preventive Bridge Maintenance

Effect of High Pressure Washing on Concrete Bridges

Time: Wed 2022-06-08 13.00

Location: M108, Brinellvägen 23, Campus, videolänk

Video link:

Language: Swedish

Subject area: Civil and Architectural Engineering, Concrete Structures

Doctoral student: Louise Andersson , Betongbyggnad, RISE AB

Opponent: Docent Ylva Edwards,

Supervisor: Professor Johan Silfwerbrand, Betongbyggnad; Tekn. Dr Anders Selander, Cementa

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QC 20220509


In Sweden, as in many other countries, preventive maintenance of structures andbridges is considered important. It provides several benefits such as prolonged lifespan or service life, less need for repair, and hopefully reduced costs and lowerenvironmental impact.

A large part of Sweden’s bridge stock is getting quite old. The idea that small actionscan improve and/or prolong the status of the bridge and postpone needs for repairor prevent damage with a reduction in life cycle cost is generally in the owner’sinterest. One such preventive maintenance measure is the annual washing ofbridges. While clear positive effects have been observed on the expansion joints,drainage system, and the bridge’s visual appearance, an important question is howthe washing affects chloride ingress, mainly from de-icing salts, in reinforcedconcrete bridge members. The hypothesis is that the high-pressure washing cleansaway the contaminants on the surface and in the long run reduces the chloridecontent. While the practical experience has been positive in Sweden, no research hasyet been done concerning the effect of high-pressure washing on chloride ingress inconcrete bridges.

A study has been conducted on the preventive bridge maintenance practice of theSwedish Transport Administration (STA) and Swedish municipalities. This work hasbeen based on a literature review, a survey of municipalities’ bridge maintenance,and practical participation with contractors during annual maintenance. Field andlaboratory tests were carried out on the effect of washing on chloride ingress in twotypes of concrete. A field station was installed on an edge beam of a bridge and wasfollowed over three years’ exposure including winter seasons, winter maintenance,and annual washing in June. Also, an accelerated test method was developed in thelaboratory to simulate the yearly exposure and test the effect of high- pressurewashing in a long-term simulation over just a few weeks.

The practical aspects of bridge maintenance seem to be quite similar betweenSweden and in other countries. However, in terms of descriptions of and availablemeans for maintenance and repairs, there seem to be larger differences. For the fieldstation, the results after one year’s exposure do not show anything more than theanticipated difference in chloride ingress between the two concrete types understudy. For year two, a slight difference indicated that washed samples had a reducedchloride content. For year three, however, there was no distinct difference betweenivwashed and unwashed samples. The reasons for this need to be further investigatedand examined. This will be done in the continuous tests of field exposure.

The laboratory test method has been developed and successively improved. The shape and levels of chloride ingress are reasonable and comparable with fieldsamples. However, there is a need to examine the effect of natural rain exposurewhich might have the same or greater effect of diluting the chloride content aswashing the surface once a year. Other factors also need to be considered, such aswhen and how often the maintenance is performed. A first step to be able to examinethis has been completed through the development of the accelerated test method.