What is Concrete Cancer and How to Treat It

The term “concrete cancer” is a very broad phrase, which is generally used loosely to describe the deterioration of concrete due to corrosion of reinforcing steel. Symptoms include corrosion spots, minor and major cracks, surface whitening, delamination, and chipping.

Concrete cancer

is the name given to the deterioration of concrete when the metal inside is exposed to air and water. This causes a weak acid to form, which corrodes the metal and begins to expand, crack, or leak. Concrete cancer is a serious problem that, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can affect the structural integrity of the building.

One of the most common ways damage occurs is through prolonged exposure to salt (chloride). This is often referred to within the industry as chloride-based concrete degradation, and commonly occurs in buildings that are close to the ocean, that have basements that tend to flood, or a combination of both. Even if flooding is only occasional, it still becomes a problem, as there may be small pockets of moisture hidden in the cracks and crevices that continue to consume the concrete. Constituents contaminated with chloride can reach concrete structures if obtained from a chloride-rich environment, such as a coastal region. Chipping damage can be unsightly and structurally devastating if left unaddressed.

At first glance, concrete detachment refers to the state in which concrete begins to peel off or degrade, while concrete cancer is the spread of corrosion through the concrete matrix. Like any problem, it is necessary to understand the specific causes of cancer before appropriate treatment can be applied. The presence of free chloride ions in a reinforced concrete structure causes depasivation of steel reinforcing bars, allowing them to corrode. On the other hand, concrete cancer refers to the worsening of concrete chipping, in which corrosion is the indicator of said condition. If chloride pollution is the problem in buildings near the ocean, you may need specialized repair work to treat concrete cancer. They are a cost-effective repair that serves as an excellent alternative to the disruptive and time-consuming work of breaking and replacing an old concrete slab. Concrete chipping can be commonly identified in walls with crumbled, cracked, or flaky concrete, as well as bubble or rust spots on concrete.

If you need help repairing, removing or installing new concrete, compare quotes for concrete mixers near you. Early diagnosis and treatment will stop further deterioration of the structure and save you money, which you would otherwise have to spend on ongoing repair work. Another preventive treatment for concrete cancer is to repair minor cracks and other damage to the concrete as soon as you notice them. If the damage caused by concrete cancer is moderate, you may be able to remove damaged concrete, clean and replace oxidized and exposed steel, and fill in cracks. 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. Below, you can take a look at the specific causes of cancer and chipping for a deeper understanding.

If you suspect your building may have been affected by concrete cancer or chipping damage it's important to contact an experienced professional for an assessment.

Sophia Harris
Sophia Harris

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