Reinforced concrete is remarkably durable if appropriately maintained. However, inappropriate formulation and the weather can cause cracks that, if left unsealed or unaddressed, can cause or accelerate the process of decay.
In optimal conditions, concrete can last for millennia, as evidenced by the impressive structures built by the Romans out of their formula for concrete centuries ago. Today, however, a combination of factors—including poor prior maintenance and construction flaws—have made structures made of reinforced concrete gradually show signs of decay. If allowed to progress, these could compromise the structural stability of the building.
Fortunately, there are ways to arrest and prevent the onset of early damage to concrete structures and mitigate their effects on building stability. Ultimately, the best way to avoid the early onset of decay in concrete is by following best-practice guidelines in creating a durable concrete mixture.
Concrete cracks in homes are often small enough to be patched as a do-it-yourself project. Usually, concrete crack repair products can be easily applied to smaller holes and cracks as minor repairs. Meanwhile, larger repairs should be addressed at the soonest convenience by professionals.
The Principles of Expansion
Concrete, like many seemingly unchanging solid objects, expands and contracts with the changes of temperature. Hot weather causes concrete (and the metal reinforcing bars within) to expand, whereas cold weather does the opposite. Concrete pavement possesses its familiar joints specifically to accommodate this expansion while controlling the likelihood of cracks.
Cracking is something to be expected with concrete over time, and superficial cracks may not have much of an effect on the structural integrity of the concrete. This continuous expansion and contraction may take a toll on concrete. Concrete that had properly cured or was made from a suboptimal mixture may be more prone to cracking.
Extensive cracking can be prevented early on by ensuring that the concrete is properly mixed and cured during construction. Too often, the ideal formula for creating a concrete mix is compromised during the building process—something that builders should endeavour to avoid.
Concrete is the result of a careful chemical balance involving water, cement, and aggregate. Using either too much or too little water or the wrong type of cement mixture to the mixture may result in a concrete that is not as strong or as dense as the building demands. Using too much water in concrete mixes, for instance, may create a diluted concrete mixture that would shrink as it dries. This shrinkage would cause cracks to form. Too little water, meanwhile, will cause the concrete to cure inappropriately. Likewise, using a concrete mix not graded for use in buildings of a specific height may lead to cracking due to the concrete’s inability to hold the weight of the building adequately.
Preventing Other Hazards
Large cracks in concrete can potentially undermine the strength of a building, and large-enough cracks can warrant extensive repair of load-bearing walls and reinforcing pillars to ensure the structural stability of the building. The corrosion of the reinforcing bars is also a potential hazard for buildings made of reinforced concrete.
The corrosion of the reinforcing bars is also a potential hazard for buildings made of reinforced concrete. Even seemingly superficial cracks can expose the reinforcing bars to corrosion, which can accelerate the decay of concrete and undermine its structural stability. Sealing these potential holes should be done immediately to prevent oxygen and moisture from harming the reinforcing bars.