I spend a good deal of my time in a special kind of detective work--troubleshooting concrete problems. But when I arrive to investigate a problem the perpetrators of the problem are nowhere to be seen, physical evidence has been removed or tampered with, and witnesses have either disappeared or are unavailable for comment. It seems that few people ever think to write down any information, take any pictures, or even make a brief entry in a diary. There is often a group of people--owner, engineer, architect, contractor and material supplier--expecting an instant solution to the mystery. It's just not that simple. It takes a lot of hard, time-consuming detective work.

If you are--or even think you might be--involved in a concrete problem you might want to consider the following. First, preserve the evidence. Retain representative samples of the components of the concrete, including portland cement, aggregates, admixtures, pozzolans, and other ingredients. Second, institute a program of record keeping by your plant and field personnel. Accurate samples and records will help the concrete troubleshooter arrive at a conclusion more precisely and efficiently.