What Causes Concrete Spalling?

The monotony of everyday life plays out as normal. Wake up, look nice and tidy like James Bond, take the kids to school, go to work, successfully finish your spy mission, pick the kids up, and come back home to start the cycle over again. Another typical day. The days blend until you have the day off. That off day is when you notice…

Your driveway looks like someone ate a concrete loaf of bread and forgot to clean up the crumbs. RUDE!

A section of your driveway looks deteriorated as though it’s starting to turn to ash after Thanos snapped his fingers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. But don’t worry. Your concrete is still there. Only not all there. There is good reason to be concerned.  

Dalinghaus Construction has inspected the foundations of more than ten thousand homes, servicing more than a thousand. We look at everything from the cracks in the ceiling to the damaged concrete in the ground. While we’re fantastic at understanding foundations, we know concrete, too. We’ve seen our fair share of concrete spalling in over a decade of being in business.

Concrete spalling – what is it?

We see concrete every day. The material used for our driveways, sidewalks, and even the foundations of our homes. While we understand the material, what does it mean to have concrete spalling?  

Robinson Forensics defines spalling as:

  • Flakes of material that are broken off of a larger solid body.

Concrete is flaking off of the larger body. Your concrete will look flaky and crumbily as the larger body slowly deteriorates.

If you prefer watching videos over reading, here’s a quick tip video (from yours truly) that lays out what concrete spalling is:

The cause

The presence of moisture will always be the number one culprit. As the water begins to pool and has nowhere to go, you start to see more severe concrete spalling.

There are two types of concrete spalling we see:

  1. Concrete spalling on flatwork.
    • Damage to any concrete work along a horizontal plane of your property.
  2. Rebar causing spalling from rusting.
    • The iron or steel is oxidizing, causing the rebar to rust as it makes contact with moisture. Iron combines with oxygen in the presence of water.
      • Also known as Oxide jacking.
    • The rust is causing expansion. The concrete is breaking since it has nowhere to go.
    • Improper concrete curing / lackluster finishing techniques.
    • Lower-quality concrete.
    • The wear and tear of the freeze-thaw cycle.
    • Electrochemical reactions.

Spalling can also be caused by:

  • Improper concrete curing / lackluster finishing techniques.
  • Lower-quality concrete.
  • The wear and tear of the freeze-thaw cycle. 
  • Electrochemical reactions.

Check out post: Can Tree Roots Damage Your Foundation?

Potential dangers from spalling

The New York Times wrote a story in 2021 about the Champlain Towers, a skyrise condominium building in Miami, collapsing allegedly due to problems with rebar and concrete being exposed to high amounts of moisture from constant leaks. What resulted is the building’s concrete chipping off in certain areas, compromising the integrity and weight distribution. 

It’s been argued the neglect resulted in this catastrophic collapse. The situation is unfortunate, especially with 98 people losing their lives in the process of something that could have been prevented. The issues were not taken care of immediately while the condo board was aware, worsening the amount of spalling to the point the building couldn’t handle it anymore.

Not to put a damper on your time reading this. What happened leaves many people grief-stricken. A disastrous situation could have been prevented if the issues weren’t neglected.

If you’re in charge or the owner of a building, people’s lives can be on the line. If there is an issue you’ve been made aware of, take care of it. 

Any structure that has an issue to the point of compromising a building’s integrity needs to be addressed immediately. This also includes homes and any other living spaces.

Thankfully, this is a worst-case scenario. The spalling you endure as a homeowner can be different. If the surface of your driveway is experiencing spalling, it isn’t catastrophic. The flaking doesn’t look the most appealing, but that’s a better outcome than a building collapsing. 

If the damage to your concrete on a walkway or driveway is bad enough, that could create a tripping hazard. Other than that, spalling is mostly a visual issue. 

There are times when moisture makes it to the footing of homes, causing foundation damage to the structure. If this is happening, find someone to fix the footing ASAP. A severely damaged footing can compromise the structure and foundation, as well as decrease the home’s value.

Here is a video to help you further understand what it means to have concrete spalling on your home’s foundation or footing:

How spalling is fixed

Dalinghaus Construction will patch the damaged concrete if the damage isn’t caused by rebar. If the damage is so bad to where it reminds you of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, the concrete will need to be replaced.

We aren’t in the business of trying to cover up a bad tattoo by making it worse. We find the problem areas and make things more appealing.

If concrete spalling is caused by rebar, we need to get rid of the metal and prevent any future rust. The sections rusted out are replaced by new rebar or polyurethane.

If the damage is bad enough, you won’t be able to sell your home for what you want 

As your home becomes more damaged, the value of the home goes down. If you do want to sell your home on the market, you are legally obligated to disclose any damages. Your home will be far tougher to sell to your average homebuyer, who doesn’t want to deal with the issues before buying the home. 

Do you know who will buy your home? Cash buyers. They have the money to not deal with the market, having the ability to negotiate and purchase your home at least 30% cheaper. So if your home was originally worth one million dollars, they can purchase your home at $700k. That’s a pretty penny you’re losing. 

How to prevent concrete spalling

Don’t let moisture sit and pool. Have good water mitigation so moisture is being pushed away from your foundation. That way it won’t get in the rebar and your footings. 

As you see concrete spalling, address it immediately. It only gets worse and more expensive to fix over time.

If you’re reading this at home, you don’t want your structure to be compromised in any way. We don’t want you to lose value in your largest investment.

Dalinghaus Construction can repair your spalling!

And if there’s anything we’re good at, it’s giving you relief when your home doesn’t. We believe in providing preventative measures to be the best form of maintenance. Get your spalling treated as soon as possible so you’ll have zilch to worry about. 

We can evaluate your foundation and concrete when you’re concerned. If you’re noticing issues with your concrete, schedule a free evaluation with Dalinghaus Construction. You can call us at (877) 360-9227, or schedule your free evaluation by clicking the button below!


Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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