Factors that Cause Concrete Disintegration in Building Construction

30 August 2017

Of all the materials we use in the construction industry, concrete is considered the most reliable. The word concrete has even become a popular adjective, one that implies solid strength. It’s with some distaste, then, that we talk about the factors that cause concrete disintegration in the building industry. Nevertheless, it’s our duty to consider every possibility, and there are conditions where concrete will break down. We begin with sulphate attacks.

Concrete Deterioration: Sulphate Attacks

Soluble sulphates (sulfates) undermine the rocky performance features that we’ve come to expect from this construction mainstay. The chemical assault takes place at a microscopic level, a place where the sulphate ions weaken the pasty compounds that bind the concrete. Industrial waste waters, rich in soluble sulphates, are often responsible for this phenomenon. Therefore a high water table, one that contains these compounds, will likely cause the hard material to crack and deteriorate.

Assessing Soil Acidification Effects

Next, the free lime embedded in some concrete products can be destabilized by the ground that it sits upon, especially when that soil exhibits acidic properties. Soil acidification takes place when the pH of the land is lowered, perhaps due to the mismanagement of the agricultural enrichment chemicals that local farmers are using with such reckless abandon. Ideally, the land pH should be chemically neutral, but certain soil management practices are driving this integer low. Fortunately, superior concrete mixes incorporate acid resistance features, but material erosion still takes place as the acidity of the soil elevates.

Localized Deterioration Agents

The freezing and thawing of trapped moisture will crack even the best concrete blocks. If this event takes place often, the site’s drainage system may need an expansion branch. Similarly, moist waters can form an electrolytic component when there are certain chemicals suspended in that fluid base. Left to seep into metal-reinforced concrete blocks, the electrolytic action corrodes the iron-based framework. Undermined in this way, the orange-stained reinforcement network warps and breaks down the building material until it’s a crumbling mess. High-quality steel alloys and low-permeability concretes are known to solve this issue.

The ground around a land parcel is like a living, breathing entity. It’s loaded with soluble minerals, with chlorine and sulphates, and there’s water to carry these corrosive elements. A properly conceived and installed drainage system keeps the water low. Meanwhile, top-tier alloys and non-permeable concrete mixes protect the interior reinforcing parts within the construction material. Finally, soil management strategies need to be addressed, for these programs control the ground pH level.

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