Concrete Spalling in Your Building

Concrete Spalling in Your Building

Concrete Spalling and What You Need To Know

Concrete is one of the most common materials used in construction. It consists of coarse aggregate (such as gravel or crushed stone), fine aggregate (such as sand), cement, and water. When these components are mixed together, they form a fluid-like substance that can be poured and molded into various shapes before hardening into a strong and durable material.

Cement acts as the substance that holds everything together, forming a solid mass when it cures. Water is added to initiate the chemical reaction known as hydration, which causes the cement to harden and bind the aggregates. The aggregates provide strength and stability to the concrete, while the cement paste fills the spaces between them, creating a dense matrix.

Concrete is widely used in construction for various applications such as building foundations, roads, bridges, dams, sidewalks, and more, due to its versatility, durability, and relatively low cost. Majority of the commercial and residential buildings here in Miami and Broward consist of buildings composed of concrete. The concrete can also be reinforced with materials like steel rebar to enhance its strength and resistance to tensile forces. Therefore, even if your building isn’t composed entirely of concrete; the concrete reinforces and strengthens the structure of your building. Throughout this article, we will discuss the importance of concrete, spalling, and concrete restoration. Here is a link to the services we provide when it refers to concrete spalling in a building.

What is concrete spalling?

When we talk about concrete spalling, we’re referring to the natural breakdown of concrete. This typically occurs overtime due to poor weather conditions such as tropical storms or hurricanes or a chemical reaction resulting in portions of the concrete falling off. Spalling can weaken the integrity of the concrete, leading to structural issues if left unchecked. It often appears as flakes or chunks of concrete breaking away from the surface, exposing the underlying aggregate and reinforcing materials.This is important because this now means the concrete in your building has weakened and has become compromised. Once the concrete has been compromised, you should look into contacting a general contractor such as ourselves for structural repairs. 

How do I know if concrete is spalling?

Concrete spalling is typically identifiable through several key indicators. Firstly, visible signs such as flakes or chunks breaking off from the surface are a clear indication of deterioration. This can often expose the underlying aggregate material and result in a rough texture. Additionally, cracks and fractures may accompany spalling, weakening the structural integrity of the concrete. These areas may produce hollow sounds when tapped, signifying a loss of bond with the substrate beneath. Moreover, rust stains may be visible, particularly if the spalling is caused by corrosion of reinforcing steel within the concrete. Monitoring for progressive deterioration is crucial, as untreated spalling tends to worsen over time.

If concrete spalling is suspected, it’s advisable to seek professional assessment from a structural engineer or concrete contractor. They can accurately evaluate the extent of the damage and recommend appropriate repair or remediation measures. Early intervention is key to preventing further deterioration and maintaining the integrity of the concrete structure

What is it caused by?

Besides poor weather conditions faced here in South Florida, concrete spalling is also more commonly caused by corrosion of reinforced steel bars. When steel is put into concrete, the natural alkaline environment helps protect it from rusting. But this protection can weaken if acidic gas from the air gets in, a process called carbonation, or if salts from marine areas or de-icing salts are present. When these mix with oxygen and water, they create conditions for rust. Why some concrete buildings break down more than others depends on how old they are, how well they’re looked after, how good the concrete is, how thick the concrete cover over the steel is, and what the local environment is like.

If your property is located near Miami Beach or near the coast of South Florida, you should be especially wary of any concrete spalling as the concrete is more susceptible to these types of damages.

What happens after concrete spalls

Well, once concrete begins spalling it’s not an attractive feature. Concrete spalling will make your building look old and look like the building is falling apart. You should look to maintain the property value if you are a property owner or manager. Also, concrete spalling isn’t something any residents or occupants of your building will want to see either. Besides the unattractive physical appearance spalling creates; this also creates a hazardous issue for occupants of your building. You do not want to create any legal liabilities if anyone gets injured from concrete debris. 

The issue with concrete spalling is that, if left unaddressed, can spread to other parts of the building and create even more issues. Legal liabilities, financial burdens, hazardous issues, and an unattractive appearance for your commercial property are all disadvantages from concrete spalling. This is why it’s important to address any concrete spalling immediately as soon as you notice the damage.

Once the concrete begins to spall, it will start falling apart slowly over time. Pieces of the concrete will create debris and make that portion of the building appear deteriorated. If you are a property owner or manager, we recommend that you address and repair the spalling before it’s too late and begins to spread. As previously stated, it will protect you from any legal issues, financial costs, hazard issues, and any physical unattractiveness.

How can I repair the concrete spalling

Repairing the concrete is a multi-step process which involves preparing, removing, applying a bonding agent, repairing the concrete, curing and protecting the concrete. Listed below are the following steps outlined on how to properly repair the concrete. 

Surface Preparation

Start by cleaning the affected area to remove loose debris, dirt, and contaminants. Use a wire brush, pressure washer, or other suitable cleaning method to ensure a clean and sound substrate.

Removal of Damaged Concrete


Carefully chip away any loose or deteriorated concrete using a hammer and chisel, a grinder with a diamond blade, or other appropriate tools. Create a clean and uniform edge around the damaged area to ensure proper bonding of the repair material.

Application of Bonding Agent

Apply a bonding agent or primer to the prepared surface according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This helps improve adhesion between the existing concrete and the repair material.

Repair Material Application

Choose a repair material based on the extent of the damage and the specific requirements of the project. Common repair materials include polymer-modified cementitious mortars, epoxy-based compounds, or specialized repair products designed for spalling concrete.

Placement and Finishing

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for mixing and applying the chosen repair material. Fill the damaged area with the repair material, ensuring it is properly compacted and smoothed to match the surrounding concrete surface.

Curing and Protection

Allow the repair material to cure according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. During the curing process, protect the repair from excessive moisture loss, direct sunlight, and rapid temperature changes to ensure optimal strength development.

Surface Finishing

Depending on the desired aesthetic appearance and functional requirements, you may choose to finish the repaired surface with a suitable coating, sealant, or surface treatment.

Regular Maintenance

It is very important to utilize a routine maintenance program to ensure the structural integrity of your building. Implement a regular maintenance program to monitor the condition of the repaired area and address any signs of deterioration promptly. Periodic inspections and proactive maintenance can help extend the age of the building, of the repaired concrete, and prevent future spalling incidents.

It’s essential to consult with a qualified professional or concrete repair specialist to assess the extent of the damages and determine the most appropriate repair method for the damages. Additionally, always follow safety precautions and use personal protective equipment when handling repair materials and tools.

Protecting Concrete Structures from Spalling: Best Practices and Maintenance Strategies

As we’ve discussed throughout this article, concrete structures are vulnerable to spalling, a process where layers of concrete break off from the surface, leading to structural deterioration. Implementing best practices and maintenance strategies is crucial to protect concrete structures from spalling and extend the age of your building. Here are some effective approaches:

Quality Construction Materials


Start with high-quality construction materials, including durable aggregates, proper cementitious materials, and effective admixtures. Using materials with appropriate characteristics for the specific application can enhance concrete durability and reduce the risk of spalling.

Proper Mix Design

 Ensure that the concrete mix design meets the project requirements and considers factors such as exposure conditions, loading conditions, and environmental factors. A well-designed concrete mix with the right proportions of cement, aggregates, water, and admixtures can improve resistance to spalling.

Reinforcement Protection

Protect reinforcing steel within the concrete from corrosion, which can lead to spalling. Use corrosion-resistant reinforcement such as epoxy-coated or stainless steel rebar, and provide adequate concrete cover to shield the reinforcement from environmental factors.

Waterproofing and Sealing

Apply waterproofing membranes, coatings, or sealants to the surface of concrete structures to prevent moisture ingress. Effective waterproofing helps minimize the penetration of water, chlorides, and other harmful substances that can accelerate deterioration and spalling.

Control Joint Installation

Install control joints at appropriate locations to control cracking and minimize the risk of spalling. Properly designed and placed control joints allow for controlled cracking and reduce stress concentrations in the concrete.

Regular Inspection and Maintenance


Implement a proactive inspection and maintenance program to identify any signs of deterioration and address issues promptly. Regularly inspect concrete structures for cracks, any faults, efflorescence, and other signs of distress, and perform necessary repairs immediately and maintenance as needed.

Surface Protection

Protect concrete surfaces from abrasive wear and tear, chemical exposure, and environmental aggressors by applying protective coatings, surface treatments, or overlays. These protective measures can enhance durability and resistance to spalling. By doing so, you will only strengthen the concrete and thus protect your building from future incidents.

Avoiding Deicing Chemicals

Minimize the use of deicing salts and chemicals on concrete surfaces, especially in areas prone to freezing and thawing cycles. These chemicals can accelerate deterioration and contribute to spalling by corrosion of reinforcing steel and disrupting the concrete matrix.

By using these best practices and maintenance strategies, concrete structures can be protected from spalling, ensuring their longevity and structural integrity over time. Collaborating with experienced professionals and specialists in concrete construction and maintenance can further increase the strength of these protective measures

Wrapping things up of your knowledge on concrete spalling

In conclusion, concrete spalling presents a significant challenge to the integrity and longevity of concrete structures. Its detrimental effects, including reduced structural stability and compromised aesthetics, underscore the importance of implementing proactive measures to prevent and mitigate spalling. By following the best practices in construction, using quality materials, and implementing robust maintenance strategies, concrete structures can be effectively protected against spalling. Additionally, regular inspections and prompt repairs are essential to address any signs of deterioration promptly and prevent further damage. Recognizing the importance of protecting concrete structures from spalling not only ensures their durability and safety but also contributes to sustainable infrastructure development by extending the service life of assets and minimizing the need for costly repairs or replacements in the future. Ultimately, investing in preventive measures to combat spalling is essential for preserving the functionality, safety, and aesthetic appeal of concrete structures for generations to come.

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