Early-age thermal crack control in concrete

This guide provides a method for estimating the magnitude of crack-inducing strain and the risk of cracking in concrete, plus advice on designing reinforcement to control crack widths.

CIRIA book 'Early-age thermal crack control in concrete'
CIRIA book 'Early-age thermal crack control in concrete'

Who wrote this?

Phil B. Bamforth BSc (Hons), PhD, C Eng, MICE

Steering group:

  • Keith Wilson, Faber Maunsell (Chair)
  • Chris Clear, BCA
  • Steve Denton, Parsons Brinkerhoff
  • Ravindra Dhir, University of Dundee (CTU)
  • Charles Goodchild, The Concrete Centre
  • Tom Harrison,  QPA-BRMCA (corresponding)
  • Neil Henderson, Mott MacDonald
  • Denis Higgins, CSMA
  • Tony Jones, Arup
  • Rob Lewis, Elkem
  • Jon Knights, Halcrow
  • Bryan Marsh, Arup Materials
  • Andrew Pitchford, CIRIA
  • Ben Sadka, Highways Agency
  • Lindon Sear, UKQAA
  • Jonathan Wood, Consultant (representing ICE)

The project was funded by CIRIA core programme members and by special contributions from:

  • The Institution of Civil Engineers Research and Development Enabling Fund
  • The Concrete Centre
  • The British Cement Association
  • The Cementitious Slag Makers Association, and 
  • The UK Quality Ash Association


It was first published in February 2007.


  • To help both designers and contractors to understand why early-age thermal cracking occurs 
  • To recognise the influencing factors
  • To understand when cracking is most likely 
  • To appreciate the significance of cracking
  • To have methods for its avoidance and/or control

Who should read this?

Anyone who primarily for designers, but information is also included to support contractors.


This 113-page book gives a method for checking that the reinforcement provided will be sufficient to control early-age cracking that may develop due to temperature change and shrinkage.

Early-age thermal cracking occurs when the tensile strain, arising from either restrained thermal contraction or a temperature differential, exceeds the tensile strain capacity of the concrete. In high strength concretes autogenous shrinkage may also contribute to early contraction. Numerous factors influence the risk of early-age cracking including the temperature rise; the coefficient of thermal expansion of the concrete; the restraint to movement offered either by adjacent elements or by differential strain within an element; and the ability of the concrete to resist tensile strain. 

This book is compatible with EN1992-3:2006 and EN1992-1-1 with regard to the properties of concrete and the design of reinforcement. 

It covers:

  • Cause of early-age thermal cracking
  • Significance of cracking
  • Estimating the risk of cracking
  • Factors affecting early-age cracking and data required for design
  • Application of the design process using worked examples
  • Measures to mitigate cracking 
  • Specification, testing and monitoring

For more information and questions, please contact management@ice.org.uk.

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