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Foundation Repair:

How to Handle Chipping Concrete in Your Home

If you start seeing chipping in your concrete, whether inside or outside, you may worry about your concrete’s stability. It’s normal to worry about chipping concrete, especially because this chipping can showcase an underlying problem.

However, some people wonder whether these chips are just cosmetic. After all, many of them happen on exterior concrete, which means you may think of the concrete chips as being an obvious reaction of the weather.

Foundation Repair in Virginia, Maryland, DC

Concrete is a strong material, which is why it’s so popular in building, but it needs maintenance to retain its strength. If you’re dealing with a chipping concrete slab, you need to pay attention to it before it becomes worse. Read on to learn how you can do just that.

 

What Is Chipping Concrete?
The first thing to learn about is what chipping concrete means. Concrete chipping, also called “spalling” or “scaling,” is what happens when the top layer of concrete starts to flake off, revealing the concrete underneath.

This can be either cosmetic or structural. It’s important to know the difference between the two. When looking at chipping concrete, you must know whether it’s a cosmetic or structural problem. A cosmetic problem doesn’t really have an impact while a structural problem is something you need to address immediately.

The Reasons for a Chipping Concrete Wall or Foundation

One way you can discover whether your chipping concrete is cosmetic or structural is to uncover why it’s happening. There are many reasons that contribute to chipping concrete. Understanding the right reason will help you understand what you need to do to fix it.

Do you have any of these potential reasons that may be leading to a chipping concrete wall?

  • Low-Quality Concrete

This is the least likely reason you may be having chipping concrete, but it’s still possible. If the concrete was mixed poorly or the construction crew didn’t pour the concrete properly, it’s possible for you to have concrete chipping problems.

If you have low-quality concrete, you’ll probably note these problems much further than just one or two walls. You may have concrete chipping across many walls, or very serious chipping in some areas and less in others.

Although this isn’t especially probable, it is important to note that it’s possible. When discussing foundation spalling repair, make sure you investigate the possibility that the concrete simply had a poor start. 

  • Freeze-Thaw Cycling

This is a much more common problem that causes concrete chipping. It’s especially common when it comes to driveways and other external concrete because the freeze-thaw cycle tends to disproportionately affect external concrete.

Here’s how freeze-thaw cycling can impact you. If you have water in or around your concrete, that water can freeze as the area around the concrete freezes. When it freezes, it expands, thereby putting pressure on the concrete and chipping off pieces.

Whether you’re experiencing foundation chipping, chipping in concrete on your driveway, or concrete chipping on your home walls, freeze-thaw cycling may be the cause. If it is, you might be able to maintain your concrete simply by offsetting the freeze-thaw chipping in the concrete. 

  • Excess Water

Of course, the freeze-thaw cycling problem is exacerbated by excess water in the concrete. If your concrete is full of water, more water will start freezing, making it more likely that you’ll experience extreme cracks and chips.

Excess water doesn’t have to just refer to standing water, either. If you have excess moisture in your crawl space or basement, that moisture can start condensing and forming water on the walls. If you have cracks in your foundation, that can also allow water to seep in.

The best way to avoid future foundation chipping from excess water is to avoid that excess water in the first place. In fact, removing water should be one of your top priorities overall. JES has specific systems that target excess water and move it away from your home.

Is Your Spalling Concrete Foundation Serious? Essential Questions to Ask

It’s true that concrete chipping can be either cosmetic or structural. If it’s cosmetic, you can probably fix it easily; if it’s structural, the fix could be much more difficult. The ability to tell the two apart is crucial for your concrete.

These are the questions you should ask to determine significance when it comes to concrete chipping and foundation spalling. 

  • What Type of Foundation Do You Have?

If you’re looking at a chipping foundation, it’s extremely important to note what type of foundation you have. The process of foundation spalling repair can differ based on your specific foundation type.

The two types of concrete foundations are typically a poured foundation or a concrete block. While a poured foundation can handle much more spalling before it becomes a serious issue, a concrete block can’t really handle that problem.

Anyone who has a concrete block foundation that’s experiencing spalling should contact a JES expert as soon as possible. If left unattended, this can easily develop into a structural problem even if it didn’t start as one. 

  • How Long Have You Been Dealing with a Chipping Foundation?

You should contact an expert early if you’re experiencing serious chipping problems. Unfortunately, some people don’t tackle it early and instead just wait until the damage gets too severe to ignore.

This is especially important if you were first handling a small amount of chipping, but it’s since expanded. Just like any problem that is ignored, a problem that started out small and manageable may have developed into a serious structural problem.

Especially if this is something that’s been happening for a long time, it’s a good idea to pay attention to concrete chipping and its significance. Don’t wait until the concrete is completely destroyed. Instead, talk to a JES expert. 

  • Are There Cracks Around the Foundation Spalling?

The foundation spalling itself may simply be a cosmetic issue, but it can also provide a hold for other structural problems to start. If you’re starting to see cracks around the spalling, that showcases a serious problem.

The freeze-thaw cycling doesn’t just cause spalling and minor issues. If it takes hold deep inside the concrete, that freezing and thawing can start to create and increase actual cracks inside your foundation, which you’ll see reflected around the spalling.

In general, regardless of the reason for the cracks, you should get in contact with a concrete foundation repair expert from JES as soon as you start to see cracks more than about an eighth of an inch in width. Foundation cracks may need attention as soon as they’re wider than a sixteenth of an inch. 

  • Where Is the Concrete Chipping?

As previously mentioned, chipping outside is much more common than chipping inside. It’s more likely that you have structural problems if you’re experiencing internal chipping rather than external chipping because the problems are more likely to run deeper and be in your foundation.

However, even inside, the area of your foundation in which you’re experiencing spalling matters. Is it at ground level? Is it near the middle of the wall or toward a gutter? Poor drainage can cause excess water, which can cause more foundation spalling.

In these cases, especially if there are no serious cracks, you may simply need to extend the downspouts and pay attention to the drainage. Of course, if you do start noting serious cracks, or if this doesn’t fix the problem, talk to an expert. 

  • How Deep Is the Spalling in the Foundation?

This is one of the most important questions to ask. Shallow patches of foundation chipping are more likely to be just cosmetic. That’s because these patches don’t reach deep enough into the foundation to affect the actual foundation. Spalling can be compared to getting a skinned knee or scratch. If only the top skin layer is affected, it is mostly cosmetic. However, if the scratch is deeper, it bleeds more and can be dangerous or even fatal.

How deep does it need to be before you should contact an expert? That can vary depending on the actual concrete. However, surface issues typically only impact a very shallow and short-reaching area of the concrete, which means you won’t usually see cosmetic problems all the way across the foundation.

A good rule of thumb is to talk to an expert when you start seeing cracks or chips in the foundation that are an eighth of an inch or larger. For foundations at higher risk, get in contact if the area is one-sixteenth of an inch or larger. 

  • Can You See Stains Surrounding the Foundation Chipping?

This is most typical for foundation spalling that happens inside. When you start seeing the spalling, look around it. Do you see any white chalky powder or brown stains inside or on the edges of the foundation chipping?

The white chalky powder is efflorescence, and the brown staining is acid damage. If you see either of these, it means the area is letting in water from the outside due to hydrostatic pressure. That means it’s time to talk to a waterproofing expert.

How to Repair Spalling in Concrete Block Basement Walls and Other Areas

If you have spalling, you don’t just have to handle the problem. In fact, spalling has a few different repair options available. The option that works best for you can vary depending on a variety of factors, including how bad the damage is and how early you catch it.

Typically, you’ll run into similar solutions for these spalling problems. These are the most common ones. 

  • Concrete Resurfacing

If your concrete spalling is only on the surface and isn’t caused by any underlying problems, you may be able to invest in concrete resurfacing. That means adding additional concrete to the top of the current concrete, usually a small patch, that will maintain the concrete’s strength.

How much can concrete resurfacing help? The typical rule is that you can usually perform a surface repair if the spalling damage is shallower than 1/3 of the concrete’s thickness. Of course, this also means you must attack it early.

Your best bet at concrete resurfacing is in handling the problem early. As soon as you start to see foundation chipping that’s larger than a very small and shallow area, contact a JES expert. You may be able to get a simple fix. 

  • Full Replacement or Restoration

Unfortunately, if you leave the problem until it becomes too deeply embedded, you may need to completely replace or restore the concrete. This is much more difficult and expensive, but it may be the only option for a deeply flawed concrete surface.

If this does end up being your solution, rest assured a talented expert can still typically handle the issue. It’s better to contact an expert early, but if you haven’t had the ability to do so, your home isn’t lost because of it. The problem can still be resolved.

Has foundation spalling started to eat away more deeply at your foundation? Foundation spalling repair is all about making sure you’re attacking the problem early. Contacting a JES expert allows you to gain the knowledge of how bad the issue is and what the solution is. 

  • Secondary Problems

Some foundation spalling problems happen because of secondary problems. For example, the excess water typically comes from somewhere, and that means you need to cut off the source.

These secondary problems need fixes if you’re going to fix the problem overall. Just resurfacing the concrete or even fully restoring it might not fix the problem in general if you don’t attack the true problem. It’ll just come back.

Instead of just putting a bandage over the problems, it’s important that you fix it at the root so you don’t experience it again. A JES expert can give you more information about why the problem is happening so you can make the right choice.

Let a JES Expert Help You With Spalling Concrete Foundation Repair

Spalling concrete foundation problems can cause a variety of issues. Although it may seem like just a cosmetic problem, concrete chipping can showcase a serious foundational problem. You need to tackle it like you would any other foundation problem.

The best way to make sure you’re not having lasting issues with your concrete foundation is to talk to a JES expert. Even if it does end up being a cosmetic issue, wouldn’t you rather get an expert’s input?


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