Treat Concrete Cancer When it Becomes Apparent

13 September 2012
By Chris Jakovljevic

I was reminded this week of the need to fix structural issues as they become apparent and to not delay maintenance. I was discussing the importance of a potential client who believed that fixing concrete cancer was as simple as removing the dummy concrete and rendering over the exposed area. I explained to them that this was a myopic view and one which would cost them more money in the short and medium-term. They didn’t want to agree, arguing that no immediate action was necessary to rectify the underlying issues I had explained. When they said this, I was reminded of the old expression which I will paraphrase here to make my point:

“In not making a decision, you are choosing to make a decision.” Basically, when you fail to make a choice about something, time and circumstance will make the choice for you. This premise holds true when it comes to structural repair issues too.

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Using Concrete Cancer as an example

Take the example of Concrete Cancer. Not only is it ugly and destructive but it is potentially dangerous. But what is Concrete Cancer when you boil it down?  In simple terms, it represents the visible manifestation of underlying structural issues such as rusting reinforcement, water leaks and structural degradation. This may not at first seem too worrisome, but in fact, it is.

What you see on the surface as your concrete flakes and bubbles (or as leaching stains become apparent) may seem worrisome only. However, this concrete hides a more sinister problem such as water ingress and rusted reinforcing which will continue to worsen with time. Ignoring it, will not make it go away. If anything, in ignoring it, or in treating the visible signs only, you are in the long term only going to increase your maintenance costs. Rust will continue to eat away at your steel which has now become exposed – whether or not it is in direct contact with water – and thus sap the structural integrity of the building. It will also cause other cracks in your building which may allow water to leak into the internal cavities causing eater damage.

Time and time again, we have seen examples where clients have delayed making a decision on repairing their building issues, only for them to realise (too late) that this very delay ends up costing them tens of thousands (sometimes more) of dollars more than it would have if they had corrected the entire issue – not just the signs – early in the piece.

My advice is this; Whether it is your building, your health or a safety issue, take steps to rectify the problem as soon as it becomes apparent. It will ensure that your building will be around a lot longer, and will cost you less to maintain moving forward.