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All About Concrete Surface Spalling

October 21st, 2022 | 3 min. read

By Sarah Etler

What is concrete spalling, and how does it affect your concrete surfaces?

If you’ve found your concrete is no longer in its prime condition, concrete spalling just may be the culprit.

A-1 Concrete Leveling deals with all kinds of concrete damage every day, and we’ve found that spalling is one of the common problems that many homeowners face with their concrete surfaces.

This article will discuss what concrete spalling is, what causes it, why it’s bad, and how you can help prevent it from happening.

What is concrete spalling?

Spalling is a type of concrete surface damage that usually appears as patches or sections of the concrete surface chipping, flaking, or peeling away. This deterioration can be localized to one small section of concrete, or it can take over an entire slab or area.  

Brushed concrete surface with large patch of spalling indents

What causes concrete spalling?

Concrete spalling can be caused by subpar-quality concrete, poor finishing techniques, deterioration from deicing salts, and corrosion from exposed rebar, but the most common cause we see here at A-1 Concrete is surface spalling due to freeze-thaw cycles.

Read more about the causes of surface spalling.

Concrete is porous, which allows it to easily absorb water. When temperatures drop below freezing, the water absorbed within the concrete expands, causing the concrete’s pores to pop and deteriorate the surface. This begins the cycle of what causes concrete spalling and other types of concrete damage over time.

Concrete in areas with multiple freeze-thaw cycles every winter is at a higher risk of spalling due to the constant expansion of absorbed water. In these areas, temperatures that constantly fluctuate above and below freezing cause continuous absorption and expansion of water, and thus, spalling.

Why is concrete spalling bad?

As the surface of the concrete deteriorates and spalls, it opens up more surface area and places for water and other deteriorating materials to get absorbed into the concrete. As more water is able to enter and expand when frozen, it causes more pores to pop and break down the concrete.

Concrete spalling damage compounds over time. Once the deterioration starts, it will worsen as constant freeze-thaw cycles occur.

How can you prevent spalling?

Good concrete maintenance from the beginning of your concrete’s life can help prevent concrete spalling and other surface damage, and making sure you keep up with good maintenance practices can help slow down surface deterioration if it does set in.

Concrete Cleaning and Sealing

Thoroughly cleaning concrete to remove stains, dirt, debris, and other grime, then sealing it with a high-quality penetrating sealer can help reduce the likelihood of concrete spalling and greatly increase the lifespan of your concrete, especially when done as soon as possible after getting new concrete installed. 

Penetrating sealers penetrate into the pores of the concrete and undergo a chemical reaction that creates a barrier against moisture absorption. If water can’t be absorbed into the concrete, it won’t expand when frozen, and concrete spalling and other surface damage won’t be able to take place.

Sealing your concrete at the beginning of its life is crucial, as once damage has the opportunity to set in, it can compound and become impossible to reverse.

Concrete Caulking

Caulking breaks and cracks in concrete also helps prevent water from entering the concrete’s exposed pores and causing damage during freeze-thaw cycles. As water has more surface area to absorb into the slab, it provides more opportunity to expand and chip away at both the surface and internal structure of the concrete.

Caulking concrete with a special polymer caulk can prevent water from flowing through and under the concrete slab. Not only will this help prevent damage to the slab itself, but can also help prevent erosion of the sub-material under the slab, which leads to unlevel concrete.

Now what?

Now that you know all about concrete spalling, you’re ready to take steps to protect your concrete from the deterioration and damage that comes with it.

A-1 Concrete Leveling has you covered for essential concrete maintenance, like concrete cleaning and sealing and concrete caulking. Click the link below to request a free consultation from one of our experts!

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Sarah Etler

Sarah Etler joined A-1 Concrete Leveling after receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Kentucky University. As A-1's Content Marketing Manager, she works closely with industry experts to produce content that will best answer questions related to concrete repair and maintenance practices. Sarah loves living a life full of discovery and is excited every day to see what new things she can learn and share with those around her.