How to Prevent and Treat Concrete Cancer

Today, Partridge cares for about 50 to 75 buildings each year that show signs of concrete cancer. Like cancer in humans, when it comes to specific cancers, prevention is the best cure. But, if you own a building that already displays signs, the best way to act is to act quickly and address the problem. Our Remedial division conducts inspections and prepares reports on concrete cancer in buildings, and even establishes repair methodologies and supervises and manages the repair process project.

If you have suspicions about your building or would like more information about it, do not hesitate to contact our repair division. Concrete cancer occurs when steel reinforcement within a concrete slab begins to rust. As the steel oxidizes, it expands and displaces the surrounding concrete, causing it to become brittle and crack, compounding the problem. Specific cancer refers to the spread (and worsening) of concrete chipping.

Concrete is porous, absorbing the acid created during the chipping process, accelerating corrosion and exposing the internal steel structure to air and water. Again, this speeds up the corrosion process and ultimately leads to significant and costly property damage. A particular structure with a higher risk of cancer is a structure exposed to any or all of the above. However, concrete cancer is generally prevalent in buildings that are more than 10 years old.

That's not to say that younger buildings aren't at risk, but if your building is more than 10 years old, you should be very aware of signs. As the steel oxidizes, it expands, displacing the concrete around it, causing it to crack and become brittle, thus speeding up the process. To reinforce concrete buildings, the material is usually poured around an iron support or steel bars and mesh. While this generally keeps the structure of a building high, this combination of materials can also lead to the development of cancer in concrete, especially in buildings with inadequate waterproofing or construction defects.

Without repair, concrete cancer can cause structural integrity issues, making it too big of a repair problem and costing much more if a complete replacement is needed. The term “concrete cancer” is used because cracks further expose steel to the elements, accelerating the level of corrosion and deterioration of the building. For situations where concrete carbonation and low concrete coverage are the problem, the engineer might recommend the use of a polymer-modified repair system. This solution consists of removing the concrete around the reinforcing bars and cleaning the steel, before applying both the steel primer and a polymer-modified material.

Flat concrete roofs are particularly vulnerable to leaks and water-driven concrete cancer if not properly waterproofed. The metal structure begins to expand and replace the concrete, causing chipping and, in a vicious circle, increasingly exposing the reinforcing structure to the air and water that caused the oxidation process in the first place. Sea air can cause problems if concrete or plaster is not properly protected or maintained. If you have detected signs of concrete shedding or concrete cancer, you must act to prevent continued damage.

Consider high-quality waterproofing options such as Wolfin or Cosmofin waterproofing membranes to seal new horizontal concrete surfaces. Before you start, you'll need to understand what specific cancer is, what you can do about it, why getting expert help is important, and how you can prevent it from happening again. While the term hints at how serious this type of damage can be, it is possible to correct particular cancer in some cases. An anti-carbonation sealant is usually also placed over the entire surface of the concrete to reinforce its strength.

Polymer-modified cement mortar has been widely used as a repair mortar due to its high strength, good durability and good bonding properties to old concrete constructions.

Sophia Harris
Sophia Harris

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