Concrete is strong and durable, but it is not immune to problems. The perceived strengths of concrete have made many homeowners oblivious to possible issues with their concrete. However, ignoring the problem could lead to much bigger and more expensive repairs down the road.
So, what are concrete problems, how do you spot them, and more importantly, how to prevent them.
Concrete problems generally fall into one of three categories:
-Deterioration caused by weather or wear and tear: If you live in an area with freezing winters, your concrete is susceptible to a condition called spalling. Spalling happens when water seeps into the concrete and then freezes, causing the concrete to crack and break off in chunks.
-Deterioration caused by faulty installation: Concrete that is not properly mixed or placed is more likely to develop cracks, uneven settling, or voids (holes). Improperly cured concrete can also be weaker and more prone to weathering and wear and tear.
-Deterioration caused by chemical reactions: Concrete can be damaged by certain chemicals, such as de-icing salts, pool chemicals, or even spilled gasoline. Reactions between the chemicals and the concrete can cause it to crack, pit, or spall.
What are the telltale signs of concrete problems?
The first step to knowing you have a concrete problem is recognizing the symptoms. While the symptoms can differ depending on your home’s location, certain patterns are observed in homes around the states.
Pitting, flaking, and staining concrete: Concrete that is starting to pit, flake, or stain is likely experiencing weathering.
Sinking or settling concrete: Concrete that has sunken or settled unevenly is likely the victim of faulty installation or poor soil conditions.
Cracking Concrete: Cracks in concrete can be caused by many things, from weathering to settlement to chemical reactions.
Soil Washout: Soil washout is a common problem in areas with heavy rains. It happens when the soil around your foundation washes away, leaving the foundation unsupported.
Unlevel steps: If your concrete steps are unlevel, it could be a sign of settling or poor installation.
If you’re concerned that your concrete might be suffering from one of these issues, you can do a few things to check it out.
First, take a look at the surface of the concrete. Are there any cracks? If so, are they big enough that you can fit a pencil into them? If so, your concrete has structural damage and will need to be repaired.
Second, tap on the concrete with a hammer or other hard object. Does it sound hollow? If so, your concrete has voids and will also need to be repaired. Finally, look for any signs of flaking or spalling on the surface of the concrete. This is usually caused by weathering and can be fixed with a concrete sealer.
If you find that your concrete needs repair, the good news is that it is usually a fairly straightforward process. In most cases, cracks can be repaired with a concrete patching compound, and voids can be filled with expanding foam. If your concrete is severely damaged, you may need to have it replaced. However, this is required only in extreme cases.
What can you do about concrete problems?
The best way to deal with concrete problems is to prevent them in the first place. That means working with a reputable contractor who uses quality materials and knows how to mix properly, place, and cure concrete. If you already have concrete problems, there are still things you can do to mitigate the damage and repair the concrete. For example, if your concrete is pitted or flaking, you can apply a sealer to protect it from further weathering. If your concrete has cracks, you can repair them with epoxy or other patching materials. And if your foundation is experiencing soil washout, you can install a French drain to redirect the water away from your home. In addition,
– Seal your concrete: Sealing your concrete will help protect it from weathering, staining, and chemical reactions.
– Fix cracks and holes promptly: Cracks and holes should be repaired as soon as they are noticed to prevent water and other debris from entering and causing further damage.
– Keep gutters clean: Clogged gutters can cause water to pool around your foundation, leading to soil erosion and washout.
– Inspect your concrete regularly: By inspecting your concrete regularly, you can catch problems early and prevent them from getting worse.
No matter what concrete problem you’re dealing with, it’s important to take action quickly. The sooner you address the problem, the less damage it will cause and the easier it will be to repair. If you ignore the problem, it will worsen and eventually lead to structural damage or even collapse. If you have any concerns about the condition of your concrete, be sure to contact a home repair professional for an inspection. They will be able to tell you if your concrete requires repair and can advise you on the best course of action. With a little bit of care, your concrete can last for many years.