– Concrete Deterioration –
I found this great article on Oldhouseweb.com and wanted to share it. The article goes into concrete deterioration causes and solutions. One solution is to seal your concrete with with the proper sealants. Creto DPS is a penetrating concrete sealant that permanently waterproofs concrete while leaving the substrate breathable. It also strengthens the concrete up to 300% and increases the bonding ability of topical sealants. Topical sealants can be applied to further prevent concrete deterioration. Creto TopSeal is a hydrophobic, natural looking, topical sealant that is VOC free like all of the other Creto products. This combination of sealants can greatly reduce concrete deterioration and keep repair costs down on your property. Hope you enjoy the article below. The full article is linked at the bottom of the page.
Causes of Concrete Deterioration
Deterioration in concrete can be caused by environmental factors, inferior materials, poor workmanship, inherent structural design defects, and inadequate maintenance.
Environmental factors are a principal source of concrete deterioration. Concrete absorbs moisture readily, and this is particularly troublesome in regions of recurrent freeze-thaw cycles. Freezing water produces expansive pressure in the cement paste or in non-durable aggregates. Carbon dioxide, another atmospheric component, can cause the concrete to deteriorate by reacting with the cement paste at the surface.
Materials and workmanship in the construction of early concrete buildings are potential sources of problems. For example, aggregates used in early concrete, such as cinders from burned coal and certain crushed brick, absorb water and produce a weak and porous concrete. Alkali-aggregate reactions within the concrete can result in cracking and white surface staining. Aggregates were not always properly graded by size to ensure an even distribution of elements from small to large. The use of aggregates with similarly sized particles normally produced a poorly consolidated and therefore weaker concrete.
Early builders sometimes inadvertently compromised concrete by using seawater or beach sand in the mix or by using calcium chloride or a similar salt as an additive to make the concrete more “fireproof.” A common practice, until recently, was to add salt to strengthen concrete or to lower the freezing point during cold-weather construction. These practices cause problems over the long term.
In addition, early concrete was not vibrated when poured into forms as it is today. More often it was tamped or rodded to consolidate it, and on floor slabs it was often rolled with increasingly heavier rollers filled with water. These practices tended to leave voids (areas of no concrete) at congested areas, such as at reinforcing bars at column heads and other critical structural locations. Areas of connecting voids seen when concrete forms are removed are known as “honeycombs” and can reduce the protective cover over the reinforcing bars.
Other problems caused by poor workmanship are not unknown today. If the first layer of concrete is allowed to harden before the next one is poured next to or on top of it, joints can form at the interface of the layers. In some cases, these “cold joints” visibly detract from the architecture, but are otherwise harmless. In other cases, “cold joints” can permit water to infiltrate, and subsequent freeze-thaw action can cause the joints to move. Dirt packed in the joints allows weeds to grow, further opening paths for water to enter. Inadequate curing can also lead to problems. If moisture leaves newly poured concrete too rapidly because of low humidity, excessive exposure to sun or wind, or use of too porous a substrate, the concrete will develop shrinkage cracks and will not reach its full potential strength.
Structural Design Defects in historic concrete structures can be an important cause of deterioration. For example, the amount of protective concrete cover around reinforcing bars was often insufficient. Another design problem in early concrete buildings is related to the absence of standards for expansion-contraction joints to prevent stresses caused by thermal movements, which may result in cracking.
Improper Maintenance of historic buildings can cause long-term deterioration of concrete. Water is a principal source of damage to historic concrete (as to almost every other material) and prolonged exposure to it can cause serious problems. Unrepaired roof and plumbing leaks, leaks through exterior cladding, and unchecked absorption of water from damp earth are potential sources of building problems. Deferred repair of cracks allowing water penetration and freeze-thaw attacks can even cause a structure to collapse. In some cases the application of waterproof surface coatings can aggravate moisture-related problems by trapping water vapor within the underlying material
Major Signs Of Concrete Deterioration
Cracking occurs over time in virtually all concrete. Cracks vary in depth, width, direction, pattern, location, and cause. Cracks can be either active or dormant (inactive). Active cracks widen, deepen, or migrate through the concrete. Dormant cracks remain unchanged. Some dormant cracks, such as those caused by shrinkage during the curing process, pose no danger, but if it does not get repaired, they can provide convenient channels for moisture penetration, which normally causes further damage.
Structural cracks can result from temporary or continued overloads, uneven foundation settling, or original design inadequacies. Structural cracks are active if the overload is continued or if settlement is ongoing; they are dormant if the temporary overloads have been removed, or if differential settlement has stabilized. Thermally-induced cracks result from stresses produced by temperature changes. They frequently occur at the ends or corners of older concrete structures built without expansion joints capable of relieving such stresses. Random surface cracks (also called “map” cracks due to their resemblance to the lines on a road map) that deepen over time and exude a white gel that hardens on the surface are caused by an adverse reaction between the alkalis in a cement and some aggregates.
Since superficial repairs that do not eliminate underlying causes will only tend to aggravate problems, professional consultation is recommended in almost every instance where noticeable cracking occurs.
Spalling is the loss of surface material in patches of varying size. It occurs when reinforcing bars corrode, thus creating high stresses within the concrete. As a result, chunks of concrete pop off from the surface. Similar damage can occur when water absorbed by porous aggregates freezes. Vapor-proof paints or sealants, which trap moisture beneath the surface of the impermeable barrier, also can cause spalling. Spalling may also result from the improper consolidation of concrete during construction. In this case, water-rich cement paste rises to the surface (a condition known as laitance). The surface weakness encourages scaling, which is spalling in thin layers.
Deflection is the bending or sagging of concrete beams, columns, joists, or slabs, and can seriously affect both the strength and structural soundness of concrete. It can be produced by overloading, by corrosion, by inadequate construction techniques (use of low-strength concrete or undersized reinforcing bars, for example), or by concrete creep (long-term shrinkage). Corrosion may cause deflection by weakening and ultimately destroying the bond between the rebar and the concrete, and finally by destroying the reinforcing bars themselves. Deflection of this type is preceded by significant cracking at the bottom of the beams or at column supports. Deflection in a structure without widespread cracking, spalling, or corrosion is frequently due to concrete creep.
Stains can be produced by alkali-aggregate reaction, which forms a white gel exuding through cracks and hardening as a white stain on the surface. Efflorescence is a white, powdery stain produced by the leaching of lime from Portland cement, or by the pre-World War II practice of adding lime to whiten the concrete. Discoloration can also result from metals inserted into the concrete, or from corrosion products dripping onto the surface.
Erosion is the weathering of the concrete surface by wind, rain, snow, and salt air or spray. Erosion can also be caused by the mechanical action of water channeled over concrete, by the lack of drip grooves in beltcourses and sills, and by inadequate drainage.
Corrosion, the rusting of reinforcing bars in concrete, can be a most serious problem. Normally, embedded reinforcing bars are protected against corrosion by being buried within the mass of the concrete and by the high alkalinity of the concrete itself. This protection, however, can be destroyed in two ways. First, by carbonation, which occurs when carbon dioxide in the air reacts chemically with cement paste at the surface and reduces the alkalinity of the concrete. Second, chloride ions from salts combine with moisture to produce an electrolyte that effectively corrodes the reinforcing bars. Chlorides may come from seawater additives in the original mix, or from prolonged contact with salt spray or deicing salts. Regardless of the cause, corrosion of reinforcing bars produces rust, which occupies significantly more space than the original metal, and causes expansive forces within the concrete. Cracking and spalling are frequent results. In addition, the load-carrying capacity of the structure can be diminished by the loss of concrete, by the loss of bond between reinforcing bars and concrete, and by the decrease in thickness of the reinforcing bars themselves. Rust stains on the surface of the concrete are an indication that internal corrosion is taking place.