Why Concrete Spalling is Worse on Ocean-Front Apartments

13 April 2020
By Ian

If you live in or manage an apartment near the ocean, let us be honest — we are a little bit jealous. Ocean views, proximity to the water in summer, and a lifestyle that helps give you balance to your stresses are all part and parcel.

However, as you would also know, there is a price to pay for your building—OCEAN SPRAY. Not only does the ocean coat your car and windows with salt spray, meaning you have to remove it regularly, but this same salt spray has an increased likelihood of affecting the structural elements within your building too.

Unlike your car, which you can rinse off, it’s harder to get the spray off all areas of your building, meaning, over time, those forces of nature which whip salty water at your building will cause small amounts of erosion and damage. Repeated battering by wind, dew, light rain and the like mean that the salt sitting on the concrete has a high chance of reacting with the chemicals within your concrete and those in the steel itself, leading to rust. Over time, this rust will lead to concrete spalling.

To help you limit the need for concrete spalling repair, we have highlighted four weak spots on your building that you need to regularly maintain (or at least check) to help preserve the integrity of your building:

  • Flat roofs
  • Windows and doors
  • Façade
  • Carparks and planterboxes.

But before that, let us learn about efflorescence, which is a cause of concrete spalling in structures located near the seas.

What is efflorescence?

Efflorescence is a natural process that is characterised by white salt deposits found on concrete surfaces. It typically indicates that there is a chemical reaction occurring within the concrete where the result is salt which both reacts with the steel and migrates to the surface. In the case of ocean spray, the salt in the ocean can exacerbate the process and cause increased salt build up which reacts with the steel.  What you see is a whitish coating on concrete.

While the presence of white deposits may look harmless, you should not ignore it. Don’t be fooled and think that the phenomenon is simply a discolouration on your wall, roof, or the floor, because guess what, it is not just that.

While the saltwater mist evaporates, some portion of it is absorbed by the concrete. Moisture seeps through the super tiny gaps within the concrete and dissolves the mineral salts found in the cement. The salts are then washed out of the concrete, which breaks down the strength of the cement component. This results in a degradation of the quality of the concrete — in other words: sandy and porous concrete.

If you’re an avid reader of our blog, you know what rusting does to the structural integrity of your building. If you haven’t read it, don’t worry. You can check this blog post, The Severity of Rust Stains, to learn more.
Now that we’ve established why beach-front properties are more prone to concrete spalling, let’s look into the four weak spots in a structure. Take note of these areas in your maintenance efforts so that you won’t have to engage in costly concrete spalling repair procedures in the future.

Flat Roofs

Non-pitched roofs will by their nature, be a hotspot for pools of water. If you have concrete flat roofs in your beachfront property, except for puddles of water to form especially in spaces where the surface is uneven. Where the surface may appear flat and the runoff adequate, over time, you will find out if this is true.

To prevent water ingress caused by ponding, make sure to have your flat roof regularly cleaned and ensure there is no areas of collected water. Not only is it a breeding ground for mosquitos, but it is an invitation for ongoing trouble. If you have waterproof membrane installed on the roof, make sure that they are still 100 percent waterproof—especially if the infrastructure is a little bit on the older side.

If you don’t have waterproofing membrane installed, now is the time to have them laid on the flat roof to ensure that even the tiniest droplet of water and ocean spray won’t seep through the concrete.

Windows and Doors

Regular maintenance checks on the property’s windows and doors should be conducted. Watch out for the rotting of wooden frames and the rusting of steel frames. If you notice that the frames have been damaged, showing gaps that could possibly be the entry point for saltwater mist, address them right away.

Also, keep in mind that crevices and seals of the windows and doors are a favourite spot for salt deposits. That is why it is important to wipe them regularly to prevent the salts from sitting on them.

If the building is old, you might discover that existence of gaps between the door and the floor or between the window and the wall. This could be a sign of concrete cancer, meaning the reinforced steel within your foundation has been compromised, rusted, and expanded because of moisture that penetrated through the concrete and into it.

The Facade

Check the façade for cracks and ensure there are no weak spots. Remember that there are cracks that are non-structural in nature, but this does not mean that any external cracks are not connected to problems in your building’s structural integrity.

You will know that the cracks are evidence of a serious structural issue — concrete spalling — when orange-yellowish rust is present or if the cracks have the same pattern.

Carparks and Planterboxes

These areas rarely get considered when it comes to maintenance, but the truth is, they often show the first signs of serious underlying issues. Rust stains on the soffit of the car park, or efflorescence stains on the soffit, can be a sign of water leaking issues above. But because these problems are found in a garage, people often discount what that means.

Similarly, in planter boxes, cracking walls or efflorescence here too can indicate weak spots in the concrete which could allow moisture that can do more damage.

We Help Fix Concrete Spalling Issues in Structures

If you have inspected the spots mentioned above and found that they are not in great shape, you can call on experts to assess the damage and the possible structural issues associated with it. You can call on us for problems including concrete spalling, waterproof membrane installation, and structural repairs. If you need help, call us today.