Dealing With Concrete Cancer

Some buildings experience structural damages due to improper concrete maintenance. It is a common defect in many steel-reinforced concrete constructions. Resolving any concrete issue immediately is the best preventive method from further structural damage to the building. A professional, experienced concrete contractor is recommended. Click here for our recommendation.

Bars and mesh made of steel are normally used to reinforce concrete buildings during its construction. Any exposure to air and water can cause the steel to corrode. The steel will be forced to expand, resulting to cracks on the concrete surface. The cracks may expose the steel to the elements, which could lead to the deterioration of the entire building. This condition is called concrete cancer.

Spalling is where the concrete initially cracks, and then starts to break away. Spalling weakens the strength of the concrete making it dangerous as pieces of concrete fall off and could potentially injure people underneath. Check this out.

Steel may still corrode even when enveloped in concrete. It is because concrete is a porous material which constantly absorbs the elements around it. In order to prevent concrete cancer from happening, a good waterproofing is a must. Poorly waterproofed buildings are prone to concrete cancer as they do not have sufficient protection. Moreover, exposure to marine environment can cause chlorides from salt water to enter the concrete and corrode the steel. Any defect in the construction process can also leave the concrete and steel prone to corrosion.

Cracks can also be caused by natural factors, such as earthquakes and extreme heat. These factors can expose the steel to elements, allowing water to enter the building from the ground. Weather is a huge factor to the durability of the concrete. In areas with colder climates, safety precautions and regular maintenance are required to avoid water from freezing on the concrete surfaces.

Once water has penetrated for a time, the reinforcing steel will commence to rust which provides the best evidence of concrete cancer. Read more.

Another major cause of concrete cancer is poor construction quality, especially in older buildings where the materials used in the concrete may not be relevant today. Reconstruction of old buildings will need intensive work since the materials and concrete used before may no longer be able to handle the current weather conditions.

Some of the common solutions are:

  • Preventing the issue from occurring is always better than curing concrete cancer. However, early detection and quick remedial action can arrest the condition and prevent the problem from deteriorating further.
  • Waterproofing is the best preventative measure to protect the building against concrete cancer. High quality waterproofing membranes are extremely resistant to tears and punctures, minimising water leakage into the structure while their exceptional elongation properties prevent any leakage condition from building movement.
  • Both waterproofing membranes have a long lifespan with the durability to withstand extreme weather conditions. When waterproofing is not in place, or has not been executed to high quality standards, the building will be more susceptible to concrete cancer, leading to serious structural damage. 
  • Fix any standing water issues, internal leaks and drips immediately. Water entering the building is most likely to do so through the concrete layer, and cannot be ignored. Quick remedial action will prevent further damage.
  • Cracks in the building’s structure must be dealt with immediately. Consult with a professional on an appropriate sealing solution that would prevent the crack from developing to such an extent that it exposes the steel to the elements.
  • Buildings need regular maintenance, especially to seal the concrete and prevent water damage and general wear and tear.

Removing rusted steel by clearing out spoiled concrete and other loose material is a cost-effective solution to concrete cancer. New steel can already be reinforced to concrete buildings once the old rusted steel is removed. New concrete is poured with additional volume to create a stronger structure. Waterproofing is done after the concrete has settled for added protection.

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