The importance of Construction Material Testing
Construction Material Testing, or CMT, is the process by which materials are tested before they are used in new building work, refurbishments and extensions.
The precise definition of CMT depends on the job and on the materials used. For example, you might need to test the tensile strength of a load-bearing building material, or the porosity of a material that will be used in a very humid environment.
However, the intended outcome is always the same: to ensure that materials are safe and reliable, and that they will do the job for many years without expensive maintenance, without damage to the building, and without endangering property or human life.
Types of Construction Material Testing
There are two main types of Construction Material Testing:
A lot of CMT happens in the laboratory, before materials are shipped or even specified. This allows precise characteristics to be listed on product datasheets, so that you can choose the correct materials for the job without needing to test them yourself.
Alternatively, you might request a sample or buy a small quantity of a particular product, carry out laboratory testing yourself, and only then specify it for use at scale across your project.
In some cases, laboratory testing is used as a follow-up if field testing of construction materials proves inconclusive, or if the results obtained are on the border of acceptability.
Common Types of Laboratory Testing
There are many types of laboratory testing but some of the most common construction materials tested in the laboratory include:
- Bulk specific gravity
- Compression strength testing
- Efflorescence testing
- Flex strength testing
- Structural masonry testing
- Tensile strength testing
- Unit weight
- Bearing ratios
- Chloride testing
- Compressive strength testing
- Hydraulic conductivity
- Permeability testing
- pH testing
- Swell testing
This is not an exhaustive list, but it shows some of the physical properties that can be verified in the laboratory, before a particular product is used on a job.
Field testing is an important on-site process, especially in industrial developments such as utilities, transport infrastructure, airports and so on.
Like lab testing of construction materials, field testing depends on the specific materials already on-site or intended for use in new development, and can include asphalt, concrete, masonry, timber, soil, steel and more.
Common characteristics checked using field testing include strength, compaction, moisture and air content, and wherever possible these are verified via a combination of visual inspection and non-destructive methods to avoid damage to the materials in situ.
Why is CMT important?
Testing construction materials gives developers confidence that they are fit for the job. Testing by manufacturers also allows the correct products to be specified upfront.
On-site testing ticks the necessary health and safety boxes and allows developers to offer guarantees over many years, without facing costly remedial work in the future.
For all of these reasons and more, you should always be aware of your obligations, but you should also see CMT as a way to protect your investments and your workforce alike.
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