Calculation of maximum crack width for practical design of reinforced concrete

Dirk Schlicke*, Eva Maria Dorfmann, Ekkehard Fehling, Viet Tue Nguyen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cracks are an essential characteristic of reinforced concrete (RC) construction. Serviceability and durability, however, require a reasonable limitation of the maximum crack width. The prediction of the maximum crack width of RC, however, is not trivial and has been much debated over the past decades. This article starts with a fundamental comparison of basic procedures for determining the crack width, namely using a mechanical or calibrated model. Following, the behavior of reinforced concrete during crack formation is thoroughly discussed with a focus on the bond stress-slip relation at the reinforcement-concrete interface and with regard to the particular crack stage. Based on these fundamentals, a mechanical calculation model is then proposed for practical calculation of maximum crack width in RC members. The suitability of the proposed model is demonstrated by the comparison of predicted and experimentally obtained maximum crack widths for a database including 460 crack width measurements. It is shown that the current state of knowledge enables a mechanically plausible calculation of the maximum crack width. Although the formulation based on the bond law is not trivial, the calculation model can be prepared with appropriate simplifications in a practical way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-61
Number of pages17
JournalCivil Engineering Design
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems

Treatment code (Nähere Zuordnung)

  • Basic - Fundamental (Grundlagenforschung)


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