Bridge engineers and managers in coastal areas and cold regions frequently specify the application of surface treatments on concrete bridge decks as barriers against chloride ingress. In consideration of concrete cover thickness and the presence of stay-in-place metal forms (SIPMFs), the objective of this research was to determine the latest timing of initial surface treatment applications on concrete bridge decks subjected to external chloride loading before chlorides accumulate in sufficient quantities to initiate corrosion during the service life of the deck. Chloride concentration data for this research were collected from 12 concrete bridge decks located within the I-215 corridor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Numerical modeling was utilized to generate a chloride loading function and to determine the diffusion coefficient of each deck. Based on average diffusion coefficients for decks with and without SIPMFs, chloride concentration profiles were computed through time for cover thicknesses of 2.0 in., 2.5 in., and 3.0 in. The results of the work show that the average diffusion coefficient for bridge decks with SIPMFs is approximately twice that of decks without SIPMFs and that, on average, each additional 0.5 in. of cover beyond 2.0 in. allows an extra 2 years for decks with SIPMFs and 5 years for decks without SIPMFs before a surface treatment must be placed to prevent excessive accumulation of chlorides. Although the data generated in this research are based on conditions typical of bridge decks in Utah, they clearly illustrate the effect of cover depth and the presence of SIPMFs. Given these research findings, engineers should carefully determine the appropriate timing for initial applications of surface treatments to concrete bridge decks in consideration of cover depth and the presence of SIPMFs. For maintenance of concrete bridge decks with properties similar to those tested in this study, engineers should follow the guidelines developed in this research to minimize the ingress of chlorides into the decks over time and therefore retard the onset of reinforcement corrosion; altogether separate guidelines may be needed for decks having substantially different properties. Surface treatments should be replaced as needed to ensure continuing protection of the concrete bridge deck against chloride ingress.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Civil and Environmental Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





concrete bridge decks, chloride concentration, surface treatment, stay-in-place forms, diffusion coefficient