Maintaining Post-Tensioned Concrete Structures for Longevity

by Tendon, on Sep 8, 2023 8:00:00 AM

In the field of structural engineering, post-tensioned concrete is a marvel. It provides strength, durability, and flexibility in design, allowing for the creation of large open spaces without the need for beams and bulky supports. However, like any other structural system, maintaining post-tensioned concrete structures is crucial to ensure their longevity and safety.

What is Post-Tensioned Concrete?

Post-tensioned concrete contains plastic-encapsulated steel cables or tendons placed in grid patterns throughout the slabs before the concrete is poured. After the concrete has been poured and has reached adequate strength, these tendons are tensioned, compressing it, and increasing its capacity to bear a load.

Why is Maintenance Important?

Often overlooked in the excitement of design and construction, maintenance is central to the health and longevity of post-tensioned concrete structures. Neglecting regular upkeep can lead to safety hazards, functional inefficiencies, and an accelerated decline in the life of the structure. Proper maintenance not only safeguards the structural integrity but also ensures:

  1. Safety: Post-tensioned structures are under immense internal forces. If not maintained properly, they could become safety hazards.
  2. Longevity: Regular maintenance ensures that the structure remains in optimal condition and serves its purpose for many years.
  3. Aesthetics: Apart from structural reasons, maintaining the structure keeps it looking fresh and clean, essential for buildings with architectural significance.

A Structured Approach to Maintenance is Key

Navigating the world of post-tensioned concrete maintenance might seem daunting, but with a structured approach, it becomes manageable and effective. These structures require specialized care due to the intricate balance of materials and forces. As you endeavor to ensure the longevity and safety of your structure, a structured approach to maintenance is key and should include:

  1. Regular Inspections: These are the backbone of any maintenance regimen. An expert should inspect post-tensioned structures at least once every two years. They should look for signs like rusting, exposed tendons, cracking, or any other visible deformities.
  2. Protection from Water: Moisture is an enemy of post-tensioned structures, especially at the anchor points where tendons are exposed. Ensuring that the post-tension anchors and cables remain encapsulated and the cable system remains waterproof will prevent corrosion of the steel tendons.
  3. Repair Cracks Promptly: While some minor cracks in the concrete are expected and not a cause for concern, significant cracking can be a sign of structural issues. If such cracks are detected, they should be repaired and monitored.
  4. Monitor the Anchorage: The anchoring points of the tendons are critical. They should be regularly checked for signs of rust, degradation, or loss of tension.
  5. Replace Damaged Tendons: If tendons show signs of damage or loss of tension, they should be replaced or repaired immediately. This is a complex process and requires expertise.
  6. Protect Against Chlorides: In coastal regions or areas where deicing salts are used, chloride-induced corrosion can become a concern. It's essential to ensure that the concrete cover is adequate and free from cracks.
  7. Maintain Records: Inspections, repairs, or maintenance should be meticulously documented. These records are invaluable in understanding the structure's history and planning future maintenance activities.
  8. Engage Experts: Post-tensioned concrete structures are specialized. It's crucial to engage professionals with experience in post-tensioning for inspections, repairs, and consultations.

Post-tensioned concrete structures offer incredible benefits in terms of design flexibility and load-bearing capacity. However, their maintenance is paramount to ensure they remain safe and effective throughout their lifespan. With regular inspections, prompt repairs, and a keen eye for detail, these structures can serve communities for generations.

Your Expert in Post-Tensioned Concrete Construction and Maintenance

For over 30 years, Tendon Systems, now a part of CMC, has been an industry-leading provider of post-tensioning, barrier cable, and restoration services across the United States. Built on a foundation of quality products, exceptional services, and engineering expertise, the Tendon team has what your post-tensioned structure needs to be built with excellence and maintained for years.