Now, I have to admit that I may not be completely "seeing" what you are describing. And with that in mind, it kind of appears that you might have a crack that goes full height (i.e. potentially into the "compression zone" that is "above" the neutral axis)...but I could not effectively picture the structural system that you were describing to see if that really "jives".
As to permitted crack width, that is generally a function of the exposure of the concrete element. Generally speaking, if you have something that is more at risk of elements that might corrode the rebar, then you will want to keep the cracks smaller. ACI 318 _USED_ to have empirical equations for crack widths and provisions for limiting those crack width. ACI 318 went away from that. This cause the "water tanks" folks to get upset and let to their own concrete code (aka ACI 350). For a long time, they kept those crack width provisions in 350 and still might do so (it has been a LONG time since was a staff engineer for ACI and thus a long time since I actually looked at ACI 350). In 318, crack widths are "implicitly" handled by section 10.6.4 (correct section at least in 318-08). In theory, if you meet the current ACI code provisions (including 10.6.4), then your cracking should be "generally acceptable" (quoting the commentary for section 10.6.4) for typical use. Section 10.6.5 does offer, however, that in more corrosive environments or for "water tight" structures "special investigations and precautions are required", which could entail using ACI 350.
Now, an 1/8" crack in a flexural member does sound concerning...and that could indicate that maybe the steel has yielded, but it is not definite. But, since you found that the existing element "does not work", that might explain it...and "does not work" implies that there might be insufficient steel...which if true, would likely meant that it definitely yielded. Since it "does not work", it is kind of moot as you mentioned.
End result, the answer to your question is that if designed properly to ACI 318, the cracks should be "generally acceptable". If you really want to try to do some crack width calcs, you could try looking in ACI 350...they may still have those provisions in there. If not, you could dig out an old ACI 318 and use those provisions as an approximate "gut check"...the provisions should be around the same area as 10.6 or so (I am too lazy to go grab my 1995 318). But, the idea behind ACI 318 thinking is that they are trying to get you to get the appropriate about of reinforcement and have it distributed appropriately, and if you do that, then cracks should not be a concern.
On Sep 28, 2011, at 11:50 AM, Jeff Hedman wrote: