Common Problems in Concrete Structures and How to Solve Them

by Tendon, on Jan 26, 2023 7:00:00 AM

When it comes to building materials, concrete is as durable, low-maintenance and versatile as they come. It is fire-safe and provides excellent insulation value to buildings, making it a fantastic option for a wide variety of structures. However, there are a few common problems in concrete structures that require expert care to prevent or solve.

Tendon Systems specializes in providing turn-key engineering, project management and restoration services for concrete projects. Give us a call at (678) 835-1100 or contact us online to learn more about our services.  

For building professionals seeking information about common problems with concrete and how to solve them, read on. Our guide covers the most common concrete problems, typical causes for issues in concrete structures and the Tendon Systems solutions.

Common Problems with Concrete Structures

Though concrete is a strong and reliable material, property owners dealing with it can face problems. A few of the most common are listed below.

1. Cracks

While surface cracks may seem like a superficial problem, over time, they will travel and expand to the bottom of concrete slabs. This process can happen within several months and can lead to degradation of the structure such that the only solution is a complete replacement of the concrete.

One way to prevent cracking is by using post-tensioned concrete. The post-tensioning process helps prevent cracking by placing the concrete structure under compressive stress to offset the potential tensile stress. 

Post-tensioned concrete is ideal for pedestrian and vehicle safety in the following structures:

  • High rise apartments 
  • Multi-family houses
  • Parking structures 
  • Hotels, resorts and other tourist accommodations
  • Office buildings and retail spaces
  • Condominiums

For early maintenance on minor cracks, simply clean and fill the cracked area with a concrete filler. Once the crack is filled, allow the repair to cure fully before applying a concrete sealant and resuming full use of the space. 

Please note that minor repairs on concrete cracks should only be performed by non-professionals if the damaged concrete does not put civilians at risk in any way. It is always a good idea to outsource concrete repairs to a trusted contractor.

2. Crazing

Crazing is when a large number of minor cracks appear on the surface of the concrete. This commonly results from amateur craftsmanship, improper mixing of concrete or poor curing conditions during the concrete’s installation. 

Unlike large cracks, the minor cracks that result from crazing will not continue to penetrate deep into the concrete slab. As a result, crazing often does not pose the same level of structural risk as cracking. 

Crazing can cause damage to the concrete’s insulation value and moisture seal, which could lead to future structural deficiencies or damage. It also decreases the aesthetic value of your structure. 

Professional concrete contractors can typically prevent crazing by adhering to proper installation procedures, but if your concrete is already damaged, the best solution is concrete restoration or resurfacing.

For concrete repair, waterproofing, wall and deck coatings, historic preservations and more, resurfacing can be an affordable way to achieve the look of freshly poured concrete without the work and cost of complete structural replacement.

3. Discoloration

Depending on the level and type of usage, concrete structures can become discolored due to stains, improper installation and poor cleaning techniques. If not addressed promptly, the discoloration can spread over the entirety of the concrete slab, so it’s important to take care of these concerns immediately.

In most cases, discoloration is only a superficial concern and can be solved with a wire brush and cleaning solution. For more stubborn discoloration, chemicals like hydrochloric acid or trisodium phosphate may be necessary. 

4. Scaling, Blistering and Delamination

The top surface of your concrete can become damaged in a variety of ways.

Scaling: The damage is inflicted on the surface of the concrete by abrasive materials such as de-icing agents. 

Blistering: Occurs when air that is trapped in the concrete bubbles up and damages the seal, resulting in the peeling of the surface layer. 

Delamination: This is when the top layer is separated from the rest of the slab due to pressure from water and air. This usually results from faulty installation procedures. 

While all three of these problems can be avoided with proper installation or maintenance techniques, once the damage occurs, the best solution is to resurface the slab before it continues to spread. 

5. Buckling

Tree roots and drastic weather conditions can result in a form of concrete damage called buckling. This is when the concrete is disturbed by a force that causes it to buckle and crack apart. 

Repairs for buckling can be extensive, as the broken area of concrete must be replaced and the cause of the damage will need to be considered in the new design of the structure. For example, the trees that caused the damage must be removed, or the structure will need to be supported in the case of more growth. 

Hiring a team of professional concrete contractors is the only way to avoid buckling in your structure, as they are experienced at engineering and designing structures that consider environmental damage prevention.

6. Curling

Concrete curling can make a massive difference in the quality of the structure’s intended use. It is most common in areas where there are major temperature differences between the surface and air of the structure’s location. Curling causes the concrete to separate from its base which results in an insufficient level of support.

Professional concrete contractors understand how to design a concrete system that suits the climate where the structure is located. They will use proper curling techniques and a sufficient amount of support and reinforcement so that curling does not cause concern in your structure. 

7. Dusting

While concrete dusting may seem like a superficial problem, dust often contains toxins such as crystalline silica, which can cause permanent damage to the lungs. For this reason, dusting is a problem that must be seriously considered from the installation to the maintenance of each concrete slab.

Dusting occurs when there is an excess of water in the concrete which results in bleeding water pushing ultrafine particles to the surface of the concrete. 

Professional concrete contractors will mix and install concrete properly to avoid this issue. However, if you’re already experiencing concrete dusting, you can solve the problem by applying a sealant to the surface of the concrete, or by investing in concrete restoration.

Common Causes of Problems in Concrete Structures

Defects, problems and damage in concrete structures are usually caused by either poor engineering, design or installation. 

Design Errors

Concrete structures must be engineered and designed with a variety of factors in mind. Many structural defects are a result of design errors, unexpected loads and a lack of consideration for environmental factors. 

Depending on their location, concrete structures must be designed to withstand the following environmental risks:

  • Disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires and storms
  • Chemical exposures
  • Extreme temperature changes between seasons
  • Marine environment exposure
  • Regular use of abrasive materials such as de-icing salts and sands
  • Wind, undergrowth and other movements

The best concrete contracting teams will have a wealth of engineering and design experience in addition to their installation experience. This will ensure minimal maintenance and repairs are needed so that the structure will perform as intended for the entirety of its life cycle.

Installation and Construction Defects

Professional concrete contractors understand the importance of precision and attention to detail when it comes to the installation of concrete structures. This is because the majority of problems with concrete are the result of improper installation.

Some common construction and installation problems include:

  • Poor quality or incorrect materials 
  • Non-adoption of designed concrete mix
  • Non-adherence to proper installation procedures 
  • Poor detailing

To avoid costly repairs and unnecessary maintenance, concrete structures require engineering, design and installation by trusted concrete contractors.

Tendon Systems Solutions for Concrete Structure Problems

At Tendon Systems, we provide engineering, project management and restoration solutions for your concrete problems. If you want to learn more about how our turn-key services can restore your concrete structure, give us a call at (678) 835-1100 or contact us online today.