Materials Testing Glossary - Building Terms Explained

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There is an extensive set of building industry terms concerning materials testing and the various equipment used. To assist those who are unfamiliar with them, here’s a list of the most common ones.

Air Entrainment

This involves the deliberate injection of microscopic air bubbles into a concrete mix through the addition of an air entraining solution. The purposes of this procedure is to improve the usefulness of the compound and its resistance to wear and tear, once it has set. The bubbles help to reduce friction between the base elements of the concrete mix, such as crushed stones, gravel etc and are also used to effectively soak up the various stresses that result when the mix expands or contracts.

Compressive Strength

This is defined as the maximum load and stress that a material can be subjected to, before it fails. Compression is the direct result of pressure and materials that are subjected to pressure that exceeds their compressive strength, often undergo deformation. For this reason, analysing a material to find out its compressive strength is vital for creating robust buildings, just as it is for discovering the strength of existing members.


The means of sustaining the necessary level of moisture and heat levels throughout a slab of newly placed and finished concrete. Precise curing is imperative for allowing constant hydration, strength evolvement, slab cohesion, protection against freezing and thawing, as well as safeguarding the concrete against unwanted erosion.

The time required to cure concrete depends on a wide range of factors, such as environmental conditions, overall size of the concrete, it’s strength, it’s mixture and so on. The curing procedure can involve a number of different methods. Ensuring a consistent level of moisture for a concrete element can be achieved by spraying and fogging, placing plastic or paper sheets on top of the area or by utilising left in place forms, which deliver adequate shelter for concrete, from moisture reduction.

Foam Bitumen

An asphalt substance that results from the addition of small volumes of air and water to hot bitumen. When water is combined with bitumen at a suitably high pressure, it instantly vaporises, forming bubbles wrapped in oil. This process prompts the bitumen to rapidly increase in volume, to around 20 times its original size, reducing its density. Once the solution has expanded, its injected via nozzles into a mixer, that merges the new mixture with other aggregate materials, such as gravel, crushed stone, sand etc. The resulting compound is flexible and moisture resistant, making it perfect for surfacing new areas or renewing older ones.


A non-invasive mechanism used to identify reinforced steel bars within concrete. The apparatus creates a magnetic field and analyses the response between the magnetic field and metals within the concrete. Based on this response, the gadget can then calculate the size of the reinforced steel, the spacing, configuration and more.


A simple gadget used for determining how deep a particular soil material can be penetrated. This is useful for identifying whether a soil is suitable for the construction of a new road surface or not.

Petrographic Analysis

An analysis procedure performed by materials testing companies, that inspects and assesses the various physical qualities of structures. This helps to reveal and pinpoint any areas of underlying weakness and decay. The outcome of the analysis helps engineers to decide on appropriate measures to take for fixing structural members.


A device used to calculate and compare the density of solid materials.

Shear Wall

A structure whose purpose is to withstand shear forces. Such structures reverse the results of lateral loads imposed on a member.

Tensile Strength

The measure of a material’s resistance to pulling or stretching, before it fails.

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