How Are Construction Materials Tested?

Construction Materials Testing

Whether it’s asphalt, concrete, or steel beams, construction materials must be tested to prove they can withstand decades of use without collapsing or putting people at risk. Below, Armand Candea of Candea Development in Chicago explains how building materials are put through the ringer. Since these tests are in place to protect you and your family, take a moment to familiarize yourself with how construction materials are tested, and rest assured that your home is structurally sound.

Before manufacturers can ship construction materials to be sold, they test the materials using physical and chemical processes to guarantee they’re not damaged or compromised. Only once the materials pass the test can they be used in a building or construction project. Once they arrive on-site, materials are often tested again to ensure structural integrity.

This post will quickly explore a handful of the physical and chemical tests used to check construction materials. We will focus on three materials — wood, concrete, and bricks — commonly used in most homes and buildings around the nation.

Moisture Tests for Timber

If exposed to excess moisture, untreated timber can rot, making it useless as a construction material. Therefore, manufacturers and construction teams must physically test their lumber for moisture using an electrode meter. The meter sends out an electric pulse that calculates moisture content based on the amount of electrical resistance. Electricity moves through water without much resistance so a low resistance rating suggests a higher water content.

There are two types of meters — pin and pinless meters. Pin meters are inserted into the wood to gauge electrical resistance whereas pinless meters use a special plate to measure resistance. According to U.S. standards, interior timber should have a moisture content between 6% and 9%, while exterior timber can go as high as 14%.

Quality Control Tests for Bricks

Bricks are used to add support and strength to a building. Understandably, then. they have to go through a long list of tests before they’re cleared for use. One of the most intense tests is a compression test. Manufacturers place bricks into a press and slowly increase the pressure until the brick breaks. Based on the amount of pressure applied, the bricks are then rated for certain uses.

Bricks are also tested for soundness and hardness. These tests are less involved and usually done on the construction site. To test for soundness, construction workers take two bricks and smack them together. If they are sound, the bricks will not break and should give off a metallic clacking sound. To test hardness, they try to scratch the brick and if it survives unscathed, it’s of good quality.


Compression Tests for Concrete Cubes

Unlike bricks, concrete is usually mixed and poured on-site. To test the quality of concrete, manufacturers produce a batch of 150 x 150 x 150mm-sized cubes of cured and tempered concrete. Once the cubes set, they’re then placed in a press and squeezed until they fail. The cubes are tested at 7, 14, and 28 days and should become stronger following longer curing times.

Final Thoughts

Testing the strength and durability of construction materials helps guarantee that your home will not collapse under its own weight. Thanks to a series of compression and soundness tests, you can rest easy knowing that the timber, bricks, and concrete used to build your home are of the highest quality.



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Armand Candea

Armand Candea is a founding partner of Candea Development in Chicago and writes about real estate news.