Upon completing this section, you should be able to determine projects suitable for and lifting methods necessary for precast and tilt-up construction.

Concrete cast in the position it is to occupy in the finished structure is called cast-in-place concrete. Concrete cast and cured elsewhere is called precast concrete. Tilt-up concrete is a special type of precast concrete in which the units are tilted up and placed using cranes or other types of lifting devices.

Wall construction, for example, is frequently done with precast wall panels originally cast horizontally (sometimes one above the other) as slabs. This method has many advantages over the conventional method of casting in place in vertical wall forms. Since a slab form requires only edge forms and a single surface form, the amount of formwork and form materials required is greatly reduced. The labor involved in slab form concrete casting is much less than that involved in filling a high wall form. One side of a precast unit cast as a slab maybe finished by hand to any desired quality of finishing. The placement of reinforcing steel is much easier in slab forms, and it is easier to attain thorough filling and vibrating. Precasting of wall panels as slabs may be expedited by mass production methods not available when casting in place. Relatively light panels for concrete walls are precast as slabs (figure 6-8). The panels are set in place by cranes, using spreader bars (figure 6-9). Figure 6-10 shows erected panels in final position

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Figure 6-8.-Precast wall panels in stacks of three each.


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Figure 6-9.-Precast panels being erected by use of crane and spreader bars.


The casting surface is very important in making with precast concrete panels. In this section, we will cover two common types: earth and concrete. Regardless of which method you use, however, a slab must be cast in a location that will permit easy removal and handling.

Castings can be made directly on the ground cement poured into forms. These "earth" surfaces are economical but only last for a couple of concrete pours. Concrete surfaces, since they can be reused repeatedly, are more practical.

When building casting surfaces, you should keep the following points in mind:

  • The subbase should be level and properly compacted.
  • The slab should be at least 6 inches thick and made of 3,000 psi or higher reinforced concrete. Large aggregate, 2 1/2 inches to 3 inches maximum, may be used in the casting slabs.
  • If pipes or other utilities are to be extended up through the casting slab at a later date, they should be stopped below the surface and the openings temporarily closed. For wood, cork, or plastic plugs, fill almost to the surface with sand and top with a thin coat of mortar that is finished flush with the casting surface.
  • It is important to remember that any imperfections in the surface of the casting slab will show up on the cast panels. When finishing the casting slab, you must ensure there is a flat, level, and smooth surface without humps, dips, cracks, or gouges. If possible, cure the casting surface keeping it covered with water (pending). However, if a curing compound or surface hardener is used, make sure it will not conflict with the later use of bond-breaking agents.


The material most commonly used for edge forms is 2-by lumber. The lumber must be occasionally replaced, but the steel or aluminum angles and charnels may be reused many times. The tops of the forms must be in the same plane so that they maybe used for screeds. They must also be well braced to remain in good alignment.

Edge forms should have holes in them for rebar or for expansion/contraction dowels to protrude. These holes should be 1/4 inch larger in diameter than the bars. At times, the forms are spliced at the line of these bars to make removal easier.

The forms, or rough bucks, for doors, windows, air-conditioning ducts, and so forth, are set before the steel is placed and should be on the same plane as the edge forms.


Bond-breaking agents are one of the most important items of precast concrete construction. The most important requirement is that they must break the bond between the casting surface and the cast panel. Bond-breaking agents must also be economical, fast drying, easily applied, easily removed, or leave a paintable surface on the cast panel, if desired. They are broken into two general types: sheet materials and liquids.

There are many commercially available bond-breaking agents available. You should obtain the type best suited for the project and follow the manufacturer’s application instructions. If commercial bond-breaking agents are not available, several alternatives can be used.

  • Paper and felt effectively prevent a bond with a casting surface, but usually stick to the cast panels and may cause asphalt stains on the concrete.
  • When oiled, plywood, fiberboard, and metal effectively prevent a bond and can be used many times. The initial cost, however, is high and joint marks are left on the cast panels.
  • Canvas gives a very pleasing texture and is used where cast panels are lifted at an early stage. It should be either dusted with cement or sprinkled with water just before placing the concrete.
  • Oil gives good results when properly used, but is expensive. The casting slab must be dry when the oil is applied, and the oil must be allowed to absorb before the concrete is placed. Oil should not be used if the surface is to be painted, and crankcase oil should never be used.
  • Waxes, such as spirit wax (paraffin) and ordinary floor wax, give good-to-excellent results. One mixture that may be used is 5 pounds of paraffin mixed with 1 1/2 gallons of light oil or kerosene. The oil must be heated to dissolve the paraffin.
  • Liquid soap requires special care to ensure that an excess amount is not used or the surface of the cast panel will be sandy.

Materials should be applied after the side forms are in place and the casting slab is clean but before any reinforcing steel is placed. To ensure proper adhesion of the concrete, keep all bond-breaking materials off the reinforcing steel.


Reinforcing bars (rebar) should be assembled into mats and placed into the forms as a unit. This allows for rapid assembly on a jig and reduces walking on the casting surface, which has been treated with the bond-breating agent.

Extra rebars must be used at openings. They should be placed parallel to and about 2 inches from the sides of openings or placed diagonally across the corners of openings.

The bars may be suspended by conventional methods, such as with high chairs or from members laid across the edge forms. However, high chairs should not be used if the bottom of the cast panel is to be a finished surface. Another method is to first place half the thickness of concrete, place the rebar mat, and then complete the pour. However, this method must be done quickly to avoid a cold joint between the top and bottom layers.

When welded wire fabric (WWF) is used, dowels or bars must still be used between the panels and columns. WWF is usually placed in sheets covering the entire area and then clipped along the edges of the openings after erection.

If utilities are going to be flush-mounted or hidden, pipe, conduit, boxes, sleeves, and so forth should be put into the forms at the same time as the reinforcing steel. If the utilities pass from one cast panel to another, the connections must be made after the panels are erected but before the columns are poured. If small openings are to go through the panel, a greased pipe sleeve is the easiest method of placing an opening in the form. For larger openings, such as air-conditioning ducts, forms should be made in the same reamer as doors or windows.

After rebar and utilities have been placed, all other inserts should be placed. These will include lifting and bracing inserts, anchor bolts, welding plates, and so forth. You need to make sure these items are firmly secured so they won’t move during concrete placement or finishing.


With few exceptions, pouring cast panels can be done in the same manner as other pours. Since the panels are poured in a horizontal position, a stiffer mix can be used. A minimum of six sacks of cement per cubic yard with a maximum of 6 gallons of water per sack of cement should be used along with well-graded aggregate. As pointed out earlier, though, you will have to reduce the amount of water used per sack of cement to allow for the free water in the sand. Large aggregate, up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, may be used effectively. The concrete should be worked into place by spading or vibration, and extra care must be taken to prevent honeycomb around outer edges of the panel.

Normal finishing methods should be used, but many finishing styles are available for horizontally cast panels. Some finishing methods include patterned, colored, exposed aggregate, broomed, floated, or steel-troweled. Regardless of the finish used, finishers must be cautioned to do the finishing of all panels in a uniform manner. Spots, defects, uneven brooming, or troweling, and so forth will be highly visible when the panels are erected.

Without marring the surface, curing should be started as soon as possible after finishing. Proper curing is important, so cast panels should be cured just like any other concrete to achieve proper strength. Curing compound, if used, prevents bonding with other concrete or paint.


Tilt-up panels can be set up in many different ways and with various kinds of power equipment. The choice depends upon the size of the job. Besides the equipment, a number of attachments are used.


The most popular power equipment is a crane. But other equipment used includes a winch and an A frame, used either on the ground or mounted on a truck. When a considerable number of panels are ready for tilting at one time, power equipment speeds up the job.


Many types of lifting attachments are used to lift tilt-up panels. Some of these attachments are locally made and are called hairpins; other types are available commercially. Hairpin types are made on the job site from rebar. These are made by making 180 bends in the ends of two vertical reinforcing bars. The hairpins are then placed in the end of the panel before the concrete is poured. These lifting attachments must protrude from the top of the form for attaching the lifting chains or cables, but go deep enough in the panel form so they won’t pull out.

Among the commercial types of lifting attachments, you will find many styles with greater lifting capacities that are more dependable than hairpins if properly installed. These are used with lifting plates. For proper placement of lifting inserts, refer to the plans or specs.

Spreader Bars

Spreader bars (shown in figure 6-9) may be permanent or adjustable, but must be designed and made according to the heaviest load they will carry plus a safety factor. They are used to distribute the lifting stresses evenly, reduce the lateral force applied by slings, and reduce the tendency of panels to bow.


Once the concrete has reached the desired strength, the panels are ready to be lifted. The strength of the inserts is governed by the strength of the concrete.


An early lift may result in cracking the panel, pulling out the insert, or total concrete failure. The time taken to wait until the concrete has reached its full strength prevents problems and minimizes the risk of injury.

There are several different pickup methods. The following are just some of the basics. Before using these methods on a job, make sure that you check plans and specs to see if these are stated there. Figure 6-11 shows four different pickup methods: 2, 2-2, 4-4, and 2-2-2.

The 2-point pickup is the simplest method, particularly for smaller panels. The pickup cables or chains are fastened directly from the crane hook or spreader bar to two pickup points on or near the top of the precast panel.

The 2-2 point pickup is a better method and is more commonly used. Variations of the 2-2 are 4-4 and 2-2-2, or combinations of pickup points as designated in the job site specifications. These methods use a combination of spreader bars, sheaves, and equal-length cables. The main purpose is to distribute the lifting stresses throughout the panel during erection. Remember, the cables must be long enough to allow ample clearance between the top of the panel and the sheaves or spreader bar.


Erecting is an important step in the construction phase of the project. Before you start the erecting phase and for increased safety, you should make sure that all your tools, equipment, and braces are in proper working order. All personnel must be well informed and the signalman and crane operator understand and agree on the signals to be used. During the erection of the panels, make sure that the signalman and line handler are not under the panel and that all unnecessary personnel and equipment are away from the lifting area. After the erection is done, make sure that all panels are properly braced and secured before unhooking the lifting cables.

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Figure 6-10.-Precast panels in position.

Bracing is an especially important step. After all the work of casting and placing the panels, you want them to stay in place. The following are some steps to take before lifting the panels:

  • Install the brace inserts into the panels during casting if possible.
  • Install the brace inserts into the floor slab either during pouring or the day before erection.
  • Install solid brace anchors before the day of erection.
  • If brace anchors must be set during erection, use a method that is fast and accurate.

Although there are several types of bracing, pipe or tubular braces are the most common. They usually have a turnbuckle welded between sections for adjustment. Some braces are also made with telescoping sleeves for greater adaptability. Figure 6-10 shows tube-type braces used to hold up panels. Cable braces are normally used for temporary bracing and for very tall panels. Their flexibility and tendency to stretch, however, make them unsuitable for most projects. Wood bracing is seldom used except for low, small panels or for temporary bracing,

Jointing the panels is simple. Just tie all the panels together, covering the gap between them. You can weld, bolt, or pour concrete columns or beams. Steps used to tie the panels should be stated in the plans and specs.

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