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How to Detect and Deal With Concrete Deterioration

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Many concrete buildings are fifty years old, and it shows. Sometimes, this is a good thing. Aged concrete has an attractive appearance and becomes harder as it gets older. For example, even after 50 years, concrete railway sleepers are generally still in perfect working order.

However, because concrete is so durable, it's easy to become complacent. Sometimes, structures that seemed solid until very recently can become marked with cracks and see corners start to sheer off, leaving rusting support lattices exposed. Also known as "concrete cancer", this kind of damage doesn't just look shabby, it also can undermine the integrity of walls and ceiling too.

In most cases, it is caused by moisture infiltrating concrete structures. It's something that aged concrete buildings suffer from more because precautions probably weren't taken during their construction to waterproof their materials. It's also something that can be guarded against, both for new builds and existing structures. Here's how.

Fix any Drips or Leaks as they Emerge

Always keep in mind that water is the prime cause of concrete cancer, and keeping excess moisture away from vulnerable concrete surfaces is the best way to make them last longer. If you suspect that pipes are leaking or you find the certain concrete surfaces are regularly subjected to rainfall or splashback from washing or industrial processes, take steps to contain those issues. Bringing in a plumber to check your piping on a regular basis can save money on future concrete repairs, so it's well worth it.

Fill in Cracks if they Develop

Sometimes concrete cracks. It could be a result of poor construction methods, moisture infiltration or heat stress, but cracking is a common problem. When cracks develop, water gets in, causing rust, which leads to metal rods expanding, which causes concrete to flake--leaving you with damaged, weaker concrete structures.

Minor cracks can be dealt with fairly easily. Just clean the crack, dry it thoroughly and use a caulking gun to apply patching compound. However, for deeper, larger cracks, waterproofing may be required.

Use Waterproofing Membranes in New and Old Concrete

Waterproofing membranes come in a wide variety of materials, including asphalt, plastic and concrete. What they all have in common is the ability to create a reliable barrier between concrete and the external environment.

Modern waterproofing materials tend to incorporate resistance to corrosive chemicals, making them suitable for storage tanks in industrial settings, but they are just as useful for subsurface applications in residential properties (like storage pits or basements). They can also be installed in both new and old concrete surfaces, prolonging the life of vulnerable walls or ceilings. Your engineer should be able to advise about whether to repair or replace your concrete surfaces.

If you suspect that your concrete is ready to crack, or you have already detected signs of decay, bringing in the experts to assess whether repair work is required. You may find that a small expense can keep your property looking at its best for decades to come.