From sidewalks to driveways, concrete is an essential part of our everyday lives and structural foundations. Unfortunately, over time it can suffer from wear and tear, leading to crumbling and deterioration.
This can be a huge headache for homeowners who are faced with the costly task of replacing or repairing their concrete surfaces. But there is light at the end of the tunnel – concrete can be saved with a few simple steps.
Don’t let a little bit of broken cement ruin the look of your home. If caught early enough, you may be able to repair crumbling concrete by first identifying the cause of the crumbling.
There are many factors that can lead to concrete deterioration, including weathering and water damage. Once the cause of the crumbling is identified, you can begin by cleaning and patching up any cracks or holes in the surface.
Reasons Behind a Crumbling Concrete
If your structure is starting to show signs of deterioration, chances are it’s due to spalling. This is when the surface of the concrete starts to chip away and break apart from repeated exposure to freezing and thawing temperatures.
Aside from weather-related damage, aging can also be a contributing factor.
Here are some of the primary reasons behind crumbling concrete:
Thawing and Freezing
Concrete may seem like an unmovable and eternal material, but in reality, it can absorb water if not properly sealed. When the moisture found within the concrete’s pores freezes over, it begins to push apart the cement binder molecules.
This expansion and subsequent contraction due to melting cause a crumbling effect which can weaken the structure of walkways or steps.
If you live in an area with sometimes freezing temperatures, applying a sealant yearly is key for keeping out moisture and protecting your concrete structures from weathering.
Artfully done, a good sealer can maintain structural integrity and the overall look of your outdoor space.
Whenever exposed to direct sunlight, concrete can start to lose its robustness over time due to UV exposure.
This is especially true if the surface was not properly sealed in the first place.
If you notice that your concrete is beginning to fade, chip or crack, it may be a sign that it needs to be replaced. Applying a UV-resistant sealant can help prevent this damage before it’s too late.
Concrete, commonly used in residential and commercial construction, requires an aggregate – a type of gravel – to remain structurally sound.
Unfortunately, many mineral deposits found within the stone used for this gravel can slowly leech out and cause significant damage to concrete over time.
The most common culprit is pyrites, but other minerals such as silica and mica have also been known to cause crumbling or cracking when present in high concentrations.
Fortunately, modern concrete production standards are designed to prevent these issues from occurring in newer buildings; however, older structures may still be at risk of this kind of deterioration due to the presence of these harmful minerals.
The Use of Salt During Winter
The cold winter months can turn any driveway, especially one made of concrete, into a slippery and dangerous mess.
To prevent accidents, many people will sprinkle rock salt on the pavement to melt the ice away. However, this is not the best solution as the salt actually causes damage to the concrete surface.
Chloride ions in the salt chemically react with and corrode concrete, resulting in pits or crumbling.
To prevent this type of destruction and still get traction, it’s best to use an alternative de-icing agent like magnesium chloride or potassium chloride.
These are not only effective at melting ice but also won’t cause any harm to your driveway. So don’t be tempted by cheap rock salt and invest in safe de-icing agents – it will be worth it in the long run!
Mixed with Too Much Water
Concrete, when dry, is available in a range of forms. For example, you can purchase cement in bags or ready-mixed with gravel.
As soon as the liquid is blended into the mix, its chemical properties cause the concrete to begin to set. However, too much water can weaken the powerful bonds that give the concrete its longevity and strength.
According to the Portland Cement Association, using more moisture than the mixture calls for can lead to crumbling under pressure and an inferior finished product.
Fortunately, by following the instructions on your chosen mix precisely, you can ensure a reliable outcome every time.
At first, mixing concrete may appear to be a straightforward task but it’s actually quite complex; not only do you need to make sure that each ingredient is measured precisely but also that no extra water is added at any point.
It’s essential that you adhere to manufacturers’ guidelines in order to get strong results that will stand up against daily wear and tear. If done correctly your hard work will result in a resilient surface that can endure many years of use.
How to Fix a Crumbling Concrete?
Concrete is a common material that needs to be maintained and inspected for any signs of damage, such as crumbling or cracking.
If left unchecked, these issues can quickly spread and lead to costly repairs. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to restore the integrity of your concrete surface before it’s too late.
Prep and Clean the Surface
Prepping the surface for your project is essential to ensure that it’s fit and ready to take on whatever task you have in mind. To do so, you’ll need to make sure that you remove any dirt, oil, grease, or other bond-inhibiting materials from the area.
You can do this by using a high-pressure water blast, scrabbling, or other appropriate mechanical means to get an exposed aggregate surface profile of ±1/16″ (1.6 mm) (CSP-5).
Afterward, a pull-off test should be done to make sure that the decontamination process was successful.
This test will measure the bonding strength of the existing material and make sure that any cracks or holes are filled before painting or staining.
Before application, it’s also important that the substrate is saturated, but not flooded, with a curing compound or other sealers to prevent any moisture from getting into the concrete.
Fill the Cracks
Once the surface is prepped and cleaned, you can begin to fill in any cracks or holes with a patching material. This material can be a combination of sand and cement or a commercially available product that is designed for this purpose.
The patch must be worked thoroughly into the cracks to ensure a tight bond and should be allowed to dry before attempting any further repair work.
Make sure that you are smoothing out as much as possible while filling these spots to avoid further damage or crumbling.
Once filled, the cracks should be left to dry and cure for at least 24 hours before applying any other treatments or coatings. If moisture is still present in the concrete then it can weaken the material.
Let it Cure
Curing treatment is an important step that should be done after any concrete repairs or installations.
Concrete requires time to strengthen and become hard, this is known as the curing process. Without it, your project won’t perform as expected and could result in premature cracking or crumbling.
The curing process usually takes around 28 days, however, this can vary depending on the type of concrete that was used. During this time it’s important to keep the surface moist by covering it with a plastic sheet, misting it at regular intervals, or other appropriate methods.
Moist curing should end 28 days after the concrete was initially placed, however, some experts suggest keeping it moist for an additional 7-14 days.
Protect the Surface
After the curing process is complete, or while the curing process is ongoing, ensure that the freshly applied concrete or mortar is away from frost, wind, direct sunlight and/or heat.
Minimizing the Occurrence of Concrete Crumbling
Protecting your concrete foundation from crumbling is essential, and there are a few steps you can take to help minimize the occurrence.
Regularly Keep Your Gutters Clean
The most important step in preventing deterioration is to keep your gutters clear. Leaves, twigs, dirt, and other debris can clog the gutters, causing rainwater to spill over the edges and directly around the base of your foundation.
Regularly cleaning out your gutters will help prevent water damage in this area, which can lead to cracking and crumbling of concrete.
Seal the Concrete
Sealing your concrete is an important step in keeping it safe from the elements.
A quality sealer will help protect against water and chemical damage, as well as UV rays that can cause fading or discoloration of the surface.
Sealing should be done at least once a year to keep it in tip-top shape.
Add an Exterior Drain
Adding an exterior drain to your property can help keep rainwater away from the foundation. This will reduce the chances of water damage, which can lead to crumbling.
Make sure that the drains are installed correctly by a qualified contractor and that they are regularly maintained over time.
Finally, regular inspections of your concrete surface can alert you to any potential issues before they become a bigger problem.
Make sure to check for signs of cracking, chipping, or other damage regularly to ensure that the concrete is in good condition and won’t crumble away.
A good quality patching material should be used to fill any cracks or holes in your concrete surface.
While crumbling is usually caused by water damage, there are a few steps you can take to minimize its occurrence.
Regularly clean out your gutters, seal the concrete and add an exterior drain, and do regular inspections of the surface. Following these steps can help protect your concrete from further damage.