Causes of Cement Cracks and Their Remedies in Building Construction

22 March 2018

An intact concrete shell protects a sprawling city. Only, there are cracks spreading under a structural wall, down to the foundations, and disappearing below the ground line. Cracks, propagating like a spiderweb of fracture lines. And it’s about to get worse, with the morning frost expanding the narrow fissures. If we’re to rectify the problem, the causative factors require identification. Beginning with ground subsidence, let’s probe this shell-cracking issue.

Ground Subsidence Correlations

When a land parcel is properly graded, the surface is flat or predictably sloped. Ground subsidence occurs when the underlying soil strata shifts. Different soils compositions, mineral formations, and buried artificial objects are known to cause these unfortunate circumstances. A consulting engineer’s job here is to call in a ground grading team. This group of excavators and gravel loader trucks compacts the pre-slab fill so that the concrete foundations sit on a stable and firm base. Furthermore, since land is becoming a rare resource in some nations, old quarries and scrapyards have become potential building sites. A geotechnical report is required before such a major land reclamation project can be undertaken. No one wants to build on top of such a shifting ground surface.

Other Causative Culprits

The aforementioned ground survey is looking for clues. Just last week, a deposit of mucilaginous clay was found just below the ground. The area was settling naturally, as intended, but a deep depression was occurring over this one area. Sure enough, the clay was allowing the walls and floors to sink. This time, though, a large patch of clay isn’t the culprit. No, water is leaking from a cracked pipe. It freezes at night, then it expands as the day warms. The leak is cracking the slab concrete. Worse still, the slabs are slightly porous, so the water is corroding the rigid steel bars that reinforce the hardened concrete. Left like this, the entire structure is going to crumble. Repair the leak, have the condition of the concrete assessed, and then install a temporary solution. Helical piles could just save the day here.

Even a nearby tree will crack a concrete slab if it’s given enough time. The root system expands, the soil shifts, and the slabs break open. Install a root barrier as a natural defence system. Optionally, and this applies to a virgin land parcel, plant slow-growing trees, a genus that doesn’t possess a far-ranging root system. Trees, local geological conditions, plumbing and drainage issues, they all possess enough might to crack concrete. Discover the causes, and stop concrete cracks in their tracks.

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