Concrete Admixture Concrete

Concrete admixtures are essential components used to enhance the properties of concrete mixes. This guide provides valuable insights into various types of concrete admixtures, their characteristics, European standards and applications.

Beaker with blue liquid admixture for concrete

Concrete Admixture Basics

Thin slice of concrete under microscope in lab showing use of SikaControl AER air entrainer concrete admixture


Concrete admixtures are liquids or powders which are added to the concrete during mixing in small quantities. The dosage is usually defined based on the cement content (expressed as a percentage by weight of cement or %bwc).

Concrete admixtures have a significant impact on the fresh and/or hardened concrete properties. Admixtures can act chemically and/or physically on the cement hydration.

Concrete Admixtures Defined According to European Standards

According to EN 206, various types of concrete admixtures are defined with requirements described in EN 934-2. In the standard EN 934-2, the different product groups are defined and described below.

Dosage of Admixtures According to EN 206
Permitted Dosage ≤ 5% by weight of the cement.
(The effect of a higher dosage on the performance and durability of the concrete must be verified.)
Low Dosages Admixture quantities < 0.2% of the cement are only allowed if they are dissolved in part of the mixing water.)

If the total quantity of liquid admixture is > 3 L/m³ of concrete, their water quantity must be included in the w/c-ratio calculation.

If more than one admixture is added, their compatibility must be verified by specific testing.

concrete handbook graph for superplasticizer dosage - % by weight of cement
Image: Water reduction with Sika® ViscoCrete® / SikaPlast® / Sikament®
Admixtures According to EN 934-2
Water Reducing Admixture / Plasticizer Admixture which permits a reduction in the water content of a given mix without affecting the consistence, or which increases the slump/flow without affecting the water content; or produces both effects simultaneously.
High Range Water Reducer / Superplasticizer Admixture which permits a high reduction in the water content of a given mix without affecting the consistence, or which increases the slump/flow considerably without affectingthe water content; or produces both effects simultaneously.
Retarder and Water Reducing Admixture Combines effects of a water reducing admixture (primary effect) and a retarder (secondary effect).
Retarder and Superplasticizer Combines effects of a superplasticizer (primary effect) and a retarder (secondary effect).
Set Accelerator and Water Reducing Admixture Combines effects of a water reducing admixture (primary effect) and a set accelerating admixture (secondary effect).  
Viscosity Modifying Agent (stabilizer/water retaining admixture) Reduces the loss of mixing water by reduction of bleeding of the fresh concrete.
Air-entraining Agent Provides evenly distributed air voids system by introducing a specific quantity of small air bubbles during the mixing process which remain in the concrete after it hardens.
Set Accelerator Reduces the time to initial set, with an increase in initial strength.
Hardening Accelerator Accelerates the early strength development of the concrete, without or with minor influence on the setting time and plastic properties of freshly mixed concrete.
Retarder Extends the time to initial set, with an extended workability time and retardation of early strength development.
Water Resisting Admixture
Reduces the capillary water absorption of hardened concrete.

Additional Types of Concrete Admixtures Not Defined in European Regulations

Shrinkage Reducing Admixtures Reduces early age drying shrinkage of the concrete in order to prevent drying shrinkage cracks.
Pumping Aid Admixture to improve the stability of the fresh concrete and easy pumping of concrete especially with application of difficult aggregates and unfavourable grading curves.
Corrosion Inhibiting Admixtures Admixture producing a protective layer on the steel reinforcement in reinforced concrete. As a result start of corrosion is delayed and corrosion speed is decreased leading to extended durability.
Surface Improving Admixtures Blowhole reducing admixture that significantly reduces the overall air void content in the fresh concrete for production of high quality fair-faced concrete.
Admixtures to Control Alkali-silica Reaction Admixture allowing for control of alkali-silica reaction (ASR) in high-alkali concrete. Application minimizes deleterious expansions in concrete due to ASR and increases durability and life span of the concrete structure.
Animated GIF of concrete pouring into slab with rebar reinforcement

Concrete Admixtures According to ASTM Standard

According to ASTM regulations, concrete admixtures are described as:

Chemical Admixtures
Air-Entraining Admixtures
ASTM C1582
Corrosion Inhibiting Admixtures
ASTM C1622
Cold-Weather Admixture Systems
ASTM C1141
Shotcrete Admixtures
Click on these three ASTM standards to learn more about each one:


Standard Specification for Chemical Admixtures for Concrete

This standard covers the materials and the test methods for use in chemical admixtures to be added to hydraulic-cement concrete mixtures in the field.

The standard states the following eight types:

Type A:  Water-reducing admixtures
Type B:  Retarding admixtures
Type C:  Accelerating admixtures
Type D:  Water-reducing and retarding admixtures
Type E:  Water-reducing and accelerating admixtures
Type F:  Water-reducing, high range admixtures
Type G:  Water-reducing, high range, and retarding admixtures
Type S:  Specific performance admixtures (e.g. slump retaining admixtures, used to improve and extend workability time of freshly mixed concrete without negative effect on setting times)


Standard Specification for Pigments for Integrally Colored Concrete

This standard covers the basic requirement for colored and white pigments in powder form to be used as admixtures in concrete for the purpose of producing integrally colored concrete.

Where the pigments are a constituent of a multi component admixture, this specification applies to the pigment constituent of the admixture. This specification does not include the determination of pigment stability when elevated temperature using low-pressure (atmospheric) or high-pressure (autoclave) steam is used to accelerate the curing process.

Cement (either Type I or Type II), aggregates, and admixtures materials shall be subjected to the following test methods: water wettability; alkali resistance; percentage of sulfates; water solubility; atmospheric curing stability; light resistance; effects on concrete, which include preparation of mixtures, making and curing, time of setting, air content, and compressive strength; and color match of shipment.

ASTM C1622

Standard Specification for Cold-Weather Admixtures Systems

This standard covers cold-weather admixture systems to be added to hydraulic-cement concrete when the temperature of the concrete immediately after placement will be low.

This specification stipulates tests of the cold-weather admixture system with suitable materials specified or with materials proposed for specific work, and provides three levels of testing. The apparatus used shall be suitable for low temperature environment.

The concrete, cementitious materials, aggregates, and air-entraining admixture shall be tested and shall conform to the values of chemical and performance requirements such as initial setting time, compressive strength, shrinkage, durability.

Polycarboxylate Ether Technology

The major characteristic of polycarboxylate ether-based superplasticizer technology is its targeted polymer design to achieve specific concrete properties. The mode of action is based on the adsorption of the PCE onto the cement grain and dispersion of the particles by electrostatic repulsion and steric hindrance.

Characteristics that can be influenced are:
  • Adsorption speed
  • Water reduction with high initial liquefaction / workability
  • Slump retention without retardation and subsequent fast strength development
  • Early strength development with sufficient workability time
  • Stickiness
  • Stability / viscosity

Various combinations of these properties can be optimized.

Polymer Structure of PCE and How It Works


Polymer Structure PCE

The polymers consist of backbones with carboxyl groups and side chains.

  • The first component – backbone with carboxyl groups – is responsible for the attainable water reduction / initial slump and mixing time respectively.
  • The second one – side chains – determines the slump keeping capability of the superplasticizer, affected by an increasing number of side chains.

The crucial factor is the limited space for carboxyl groups and side chains along the backbone. Either a carboxyl group or side chain can be attached at a certain location.

Variations in those factors lead to three generic types of polymers:

  1. water reducing
  2. slump controlling
  3. slump retaining polymers
polymer structure PCE drawing with text concrete handbook

Mode of action: PCE

adsorption of the polymer (backbone) on the cement grain.drawing concrete handbook

Adsorption of the polymer (backbone) on the cement grain.

detail of the adsorption of the polymer drawing concrete handbook

Detail of the adsorption of the polymer (backbone) on the cement grain.

improved workability due to steric hindrance. drawing concrete handbook

Improved workability due to steric hindrance.

detail of improved workability due to steric hindrance drawing concrete handbook

Detail of improved workability due to steric hindrance.

Designing an Ideal PCE with Sika® ViscoCrete®

It is possible to design a PCE with a large number of carboxyl groups and consequently low number of side chains, leading to high water reduction and shorter slump life of the concrete (Water Reducing ViscoCrete® Polymer).

Another possibility is to have a large number of side chains resulting in lower water reduction and longer slump life. These type of PCE work by creating a certain depot effect which results in an extended slump retention (Slump Retaining ViscoCrete® Polymer).

The third possibility is to design PCE which are able to change their structure in concrete over time. This special behavior causes a delayed dispersion effect. Such kind of specifically designed polymer can be used for slump controlling (Slump Controlling ViscoCrete® Polymer).

The Sika® ViscoCrete® technology offers more than the possibility to design PCE polymers with specific properties. It enables combination of various polymers to exploit the potential of each one. This compatibility is a major advantage of Sika® ViscoCrete® technology: tailor made solutions can be developed and adapted to the performance of the concrete mix. Moreover, final products can be optimized regarding the local market requirements to yield the best cost-performance solution.

Sika® ViscoCrete® Product Technology
Viscocrete product technology graph concrete handbook

Sika Products

Here is a handy glossary of Sika concrete admixture product brands and their admixture type:

Brand Name
Product Type
SikaControl® AER Air-entrainer
Sika® Antisol® Curing agent
SikaRapid® Antifreeze Cold weather concreting admixture
SikaColor® Concrete colors
SikaControl® SRA Shrinkage reducer
SikaControl® ASR Admixture to control alkali-silica reaction in concrete
Sika® FerroGard® Corrosion inhibitor
SikaFiber® Micro synthetic, macro synthetic or steel fiber
SikaFume® Silica fume
Sika® Stabilizer Lightcrete Foaming admixture
Sikament® Superplasticizer
SikaPaver® Compaction aid / anti-efflorescence admixture
SikaControl® PerFin Concrete surface improver
SikaPlast® Superplasticizer
Sika® Plastiment® Plasticizer / water reducer
Sika® Plastocrete® Plasticizer / water reducer
Sika® Stabilizer Poro Foam formers
Sika® Stabilizer Pump Pumping agent
SikaRapid® Concrete accelerator
Sika® Rugasol® Surface retarder
Sika® Separol® Mold release agent
Sika® Sigunit® Shotcrete accelerator
Sika® Stabilizer VMA Viscosity modifying agent
SikaTard® Concrete and Shotcrete retarder
Sika® ViscoCrete® Superplasticizer
Sika ViscoFlow® Workability enhancing admixture
SikaControl® WT Water resisting admixture
Sika® Stabilizer VMC Special stabilizing admixture

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