How to Fix Concrete Scaling Before It Becomes a Bigger Problem

Construction sites and outdoor areas that experience fluctuations in temperature and humidity can be vulnerable to concrete scaling.

Scaling is a type of wear and tear caused by the formation of an external layer on the surface of concrete, due to moisture seeping through tiny cracks or fractures.

As temperatures drop, any moisture trapped beneath the hardened surface will expand, causing thin layers of cement paste to separate and form a rough, flaky layer on the concrete.

Concrete scaling can be repaired by removing any loose concrete and cleaning the surface of dirt and debris first. The area should then be dampened and a thin layer of cement paste applied before placing the new concrete.

Latex-modified concrete is a good option for resurfacing, and pressure should be applied while finishing the operation. Finally, construction joints can be sealed with an epoxy resin sealer for extra protection.

how to fix concrete scaling

Why Does Concrete Scaling Occur?

Concrete scaling is a phenomenon that is characterized by the erosion of concrete surfaces.

This can be caused by both water and air, but water is usually the culprit. The effects of concrete scaling can be seen in walls, foundations, and other structures made out of concrete.

It creates an unsightly appearance on the surface of the structure and can cause more serious damage if left unaddressed over time.

The process begins when moisture seeps into concrete’s pores, which are natural spaces between its different layers.

As this moisture builds up, it starts to react with minerals naturally found in cement-based materials such as calcium hydroxide or calcium carbonate.

This reaction creates an alkaline environment that can lead to a chemical reaction known as “efflorescence” – when soluble salts move to the surface due to pressure from within.

Eventually, this leads to the formation of white deposits on the surface of the structure, which are known as scaling deposits.

wall texture with yellow paint chipped and cracked in places

In addition to efflorescence, changes in temperature can also contribute to concrete scaling. When temperatures drop near freezing levels during winter months, any existing moisture will expand and contract due to thermal cycling.

This then causes micro-cracks in the material which then leaves room for more water absorption – further accelerating the process of erosion.

Furthermore, high wind velocities can also carry small bits of sand and dust particles onto a structure’s surface which may cause additional wear on an already weakened material over time.

How to Prevent Concrete Scaling from Occurring

Concrete scaling is one of the most common issues that occur with concrete structures and can lead to several issues if not prevented.

Scaling is caused by a variety of factors, including climate changes, surface water, and chemical reactions.

To prevent concrete scaling, it’s important to understand what causes it and take specific measures to combat these conditions.

Observe Proper Water-Cement Ratio

One of the main causes of concrete scaling is an improper water-cement ratio. When too much water is added to the concrete mix, it enters the pores of the material and can cause deterioration and scaling over time.

To prevent this from happening, it’s important to ensure that the right amount of water is added to the mix according to its mix proportioning and performance criteria.

This should be done with careful consideration as too little water can lead to a lack of cohesion while too much will create weak bonds between particles in the material and cause scaling over time. 

Use Proper Curing Techniques

To ensure optimal performance and longevity, it’s important to use proper curing techniques when installing concrete.

Proper curing entails keeping the surface moist and covered with a polymer-based membrane or plastic sheeting to prevent the loss of moisture.

Different methods such as wetting, steam curing, ponding, or using curing compounds are used for curing concrete depending on the location, size, and nature of the construction project. 

Inspect for Possible Contamination 

Contamination can also lead to premature scaling of concrete structures if not properly monitored.

Any chemicals present on surfaces during construction must be removed before pouring takes place because their presence can compromise the strength and stability of surface layers. This may lead to scaling over time.

In addition, any metal components used in construction should be inspected for corrosion as oxidation products can seep into nearby concrete layers and damage them eventually leading to scaling issues. 

Prevent Excessive Temperature Changes 

While we don’t have complete control over external environmental factors, proper insulation can help to mitigate the effects of temperature changes on concrete.

It’s recommended, however, that temperature control measures are taken such as using insulation or windbreaks around working areas during cold weather conditions or providing shade during hot weather conditions.

Avoiding drastic temperature changes can help to maintain the integrity of concrete structures and prevent scaling from occurring. 

Grungy Brick Wall (XXXL), concrete scaling

Do Not Proceed with Decorative Finishes Until the Structure is Dry

To prevent concrete scaling, it is important to make sure the surface of the structure is dry before applying any decorative finishes.

This can be done by ensuring that the water does not remain on the surface, allowing it to evaporate quickly and completely.

If any decorative finishes are applied while the concrete is still wet, it can reduce the strength of the structure and increase its susceptibility to scaling in the future. Therefore, it’s important to inspect surfaces for moisture before applying any protective coating or sealant. 

Simple Steps on How to Fix Concrete Scaling

There are certain instances when the damage has already been done. In such cases, it is important to determine the cause of the scaling and take steps to repair the affected areas. Here are some simple steps on how to fix concrete scaling:

Remove Loose Particles and Dirt

With the help of a broom or brush, remove any loose particles and dirt from the surface of the concrete. You may have to remove the flaky portion with a chisel in some cases.

Clean the Area

Once all the loose particles have been removed, you can then clean the area with a pressure washer. Make sure that you do not use hot water as this may further damage the surface of the concrete.

Resurface the Affected Area

There are different kinds of concrete that can be used for resurfacing, including latex-modified concrete and polymer-modified concrete. It is important to select a resurfacing material that is compatible with the existing concrete surface.

Apply Pressure When Curing

It is essential to apply pressure when curing the resurfaced concrete. This helps to make sure that there are no weak spots or cracks in the material and thus helps to prevent further scaling.

Concrete being pressure washed.

Finish with an Epoxy Resin Sealer

Use an epoxy resin sealer to finish the resurfaced area. This sealant will help protect the concrete from water, dirt, and other environmental elements that can lead to scaling in the future.

How to Fix Concrete Scaling: Final Thoughts

The construction industry has seen its fair share of concrete scaling disasters, but with proper maintenance and inspection, the risk of scaling can be reduced significantly.

As always, it’s better to be proactive than reactive when it comes to dealing with problems like concrete scaling.

Taking regular care of your surfaces will not only increase their lifespan, but will also help to prevent scaling in the future.

It is also important to use only the best quality materials when constructing or repairing concrete surfaces, as this will help to ensure that they are more resistant to scaling and other damages.

Following the tips and steps outlined above will help to ensure that your concrete surfaces remain strong and resilient no matter what weather conditions they may face.  

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