Common Concrete Problems That Occur in Commercial Construction

Commercial construction is a fast-paced setting where contractors need to make perfectly sure that they are able to meet both deadlines and budget constraints or else risk setting off a ripple effect for the job and their bottom line. However, as any experienced contractor will tell you, due to human error or issues outside your control, reinforced concrete problems do happen. 

The best asset you have as a contractor is already knowing as many of these potential issues as possible, and having a plan of action in place in case you see some signs of trouble. Here’s a closer look at what those problems are and what the action plans should look like.

concrete problems
Photo By Valentin Agapov

Breaking Down Concrete Problems And Solutions

Concrete Condensation Problems

Concrete condensation, also known as concrete sweating, occurs when the surface of the slab is cooler than the dew point of the ambient air above it. This causes moisture to start condensing on the slab surface. Concrete condensation tends to occur in areas where warm and moist air starts to flow into a building with cool floors. Aside from looking unappealing visually, this also potentially provides a home for mold and mildew, and can pose a slip hazard in extreme cases.

During concrete construction, it’s important to keep the surrounding air as dry as possible to avoid any additional condensation, whether you’re using heaters or a tarp. 

concrete problems
Photo By Nopphinan

Concrete Scaling

Concrete scaling occurs when you see the surface of the concrete break off and begin to peel away. There are a few things that can lead to concrete scaling, including:

-Not curing the concrete properly

-Exposing concrete to the freeze-thaw cycle

-A poor concrete mix with weaker strength

Depending on the root issue, you can take a few steps to avoid concrete scaling from happening. As a start, considering using a low slump air in your entrained concrete mix. Also, make sure that water has completely evaporated from the surface before progressing forward. If this installation is being done during the winter, make sure you avoid using salt or similar chemicals.

Concrete Discoloration

A light or dark patch on concrete is generally an aesthetic problem, but it can spread. This is generally caused either by failure to install the mix properly or stains from contaminant chemicals introduced during the process. 

When a patch of discolored concrete is discovered, professionals generally scrub it down with diluted vinegar (for small patches) or hydrochloric acid (for major patches). With that said, if it is your first time doing this, you may want to reference the best fit for the concrete mix/installation you have. Using the wrong chemical could make things worse, not better. 

Concrete Cracking

When it comes to cracks in concrete, these can fall into the structural or surface crack category. A surface crack is only a few millimeters in width and depth. Generally, these occur due to cycles of freezing and thawing, poor practices, or putting new concrete over old concrete, then having the new concrete cure. Generally, a small amount of these are common in most concrete installations, and generally don’t require any additional concern on your part. However, if you find they continue to break down and expand, you will need to repair them at some point.

Once concrete cracks grow over 0.25 inches in width, they are officially structural cracks. They can go all the way through a wall or slab. Generally, these are caused due to the fill material supporting the structure settling, or erosion getting rid of fill support. Weathering can increase the size and stability issues that come with structural cracks, so you need professional intervention as soon as possible.

concrete problems
Photo By I.Friedrich

Concrete Blisters

Concrete blisters appear when bubbles of air get stuck under a surface that’s already sealed, creating a series of bumps. Most of the time, these are caught during the process of laying the concrete slab, and if the concrete is not exposed, it may not even be noticed at all by your customer. However, this can be easily remedied by altering the concrete mix to make sure there’s not too much excess air in it.

Concrete Crazing

Concrete crazing is a variant of cracking, a series of several interconnected, tiny cracks. While they are more of an aesthetic issue, the cracks can spread quickly, creating issues with the appearance. 

There are a few major steps you can take to minimize the chance of crazed concrete, including:

-Making sure that you cure it on schedule

-Not dusting dry cement on the surface when there is water around

-If you are in hot and dry conditions, spraying water on the subgrade. This makes sure it doesn’t absorb water from the concrete mix

Lack of Project Oversight

There are a lot of different issues that commercial concrete contractors may run into while doing their jobs. Sometimes, it’s technical issues like not properly concrete curing or having the incorrect mix of materials. However, a lot of these smaller issues generally stem from greater systemic issues with your company. This can include not having the proper materials on hand at your job site, cutting corners because you need to tighten the belt after you bid too low on a job, or simply failing to communicate directives from the office to the job site. 

For example, if you are doing two different concrete installations at two different parts of a building, and you fail to communicate that you need two different mixes, you could have one area that looks great and the other that has crazed concrete. 

Technology is an important tool to keep these concrete problems from happening, and eSUB is among the best options out there for concrete project management software. From looking at your bid history to helping keep track of all your project variables, this software gives you a concrete, data-based snapshot of your business and how it works. This is key for helping avoid a lot of the common concrete problems that can arise.