You’ve noticed those little cracks and chips in your concrete driveway or patio – yep, that’s called concrete spalling. It makes you wonder what’s going on and what you can do about it. Well, breathe easy; you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll dig into the causes of concrete spalling, talk about how it impacts your concrete, and explore some ways to stop it in its tracks. We’ll keep things conversational and straightforward – no need to be a concrete expert to follow along. Whether you’re just curious or looking for real solutions, you’ll get the down-low on concrete spalling and walk away knowing exactly how to keep your concrete in tip-top shape. So kick back and get ready to soak up some seriously helpful concrete know-how. This is the truth about concrete spalling.

What Is Concrete Spalling?

Concrete spalling refers to the breaking away of concrete from a structure’s surface. It typically starts as small cracks and chips but can worsen over time if left unaddressed.

Causes of Spalling

There are several reasons why concrete may start to spill. The most common causes are:

Effects and Prevention

If left unaddressed, concrete spalling can worsen and lead to costly repairs or replacement. To prevent spalling, it’s best to:

Taking steps to prevent and mitigate concrete spalling will help ensure the long term durability and integrity of structures. With regular maintenance and proactive measures, concrete can provide many years of service.

Common Causes of Concrete Spalling

Exposure to Water

One of the most common causes of concrete spalling is exposure to water. When water seeps into the concrete, it can damage the reinforcing steel bars inside, causing them to rust and expand. This expansion creates pressure within the concrete, eventually causing it to crack and break off.

Freeze-Thaw Cycles

In areas with cold winters, concrete is subjected to freeze-thaw cycles as temperatures fluctuate around the freezing point. When the water inside the concrete freezes, it expands. This constant expansion and contracting causes the concrete to weaken and spall over time. Using concrete with air entrainment and applying a water-resistant sealant can help prevent damage from freeze-thaw cycles.

Improper Curing

If concrete is not cured properly after pouring, it won’t reach its maximum strength. Curing concrete by keeping it moist for the first seven days is critical. When concrete isn’t cured, the chemical reaction between the cement and water stops too soon. The surface of the concrete dries out and hardens before the inner parts, making the surface brittle and prone to spalling. Proper curing, especially in hot or windy weather, helps concrete gain strength evenly throughout.

High Heat

Exposure to high heat, especially over a long time, leads to concrete spalling. When temperatures reach extreme highs, the water inside the concrete expands, creating internal pressure. This makes the concrete crack and break away from the surface. Using heat-resistant concrete, insulation, and protective sealants can help limit damage from high temperatures.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to harsh chemicals can degrade concrete, causing the surface to weaken and spall. Chemicals like chlorides (found in salts), sulfates, and acids chemically react with the concrete, interfering with the hydration process and damaging the internal structure. Choosing a concrete mix that is resistant to the specific chemicals in the environment and limiting exposure can help prevent chemical spalling.

The Effects of Concrete Spalling

Spalling concrete can have some problematic effects if left unaddressed.

Structural Damage

As concrete spalls, it loses integral strength and stability. Severe spalling can compromise the structural integrity of foundations, walls, and pillars. Concrete is strong in compression but weak in tension—as surface layers break off, the remaining concrete has to withstand more tension. At a certain point, the remaining concrete can no longer support the load, leading to cracks, breaks, and even collapse.

Water Intrusion

The exposed, porous layers left behind after spalling allow water and moisture to penetrate into the concrete. This further accelerates deterioration as the water expands during freeze-thaw cycles or corrodes reinforcing steel. Left unsealed, spalling concrete is an open invitation to water damage, mold growth, and costly repairs.

Safety Hazards

Loose pieces of spalled concrete can pose risks like tripping hazards, falling debris, and sharp edges. As the surface deteriorates, the aggregate rocks and stones become exposed, creating an uneven and jagged texture. For high-traffic areas like walkways, stairs, and building entrances, spalling concrete should be repaired or replaced to avoid potential injury.

Appearance Issues

No one wants spalling concrete marring the appearance of their home, building, or infrastructure. Exposed aggregate, cracks, stains, and an overall unkempt look reflect poorly and reduce curb appeal. Correcting spalling concrete helps maintain an attractive and professional image, especially for commercial properties. Property owners and managers should regularly inspect concrete surfaces and address any signs of deterioration to avoid cosmetic damage.

While the effects of concrete spalling can be problematic, the good news is that this type of damage is often repairable. By identifying and eliminating the source of deterioration, cleaning and sealing exposed areas, and patching or resurfacing damaged concrete, the effects can be reversed and the overall lifespan of the concrete extended. With regular maintenance and protective treatments, concrete can provide durable and long-lasting service.

How to Prevent Concrete Spalling

The best way to prevent concrete spalling is to protect your concrete from the elements that cause damage in the first place. Here are some of the most effective methods for preventing spalling:

Waterproof Your Concrete

One of the leading causes of spalling is water damage and moisture exposure. Applying a waterproof concrete sealer can help create an effective barrier against water absorption and damage. Look for a sealer specifically intended for concrete that is rated for exterior use. Apply 2-3 coats, waiting for each coat to dry completely in between applications. Reapply the sealer every 2-5 years to maintain protection.

Control Moisture Exposure

In addition to sealing your concrete, you’ll also want to minimize excess moisture exposure. This includes diverting drainage away from concrete surfaces, fixing any leaks that allow water into contact with concrete, and avoiding over-watering any plants or lawns near concrete. Make sure sprinklers are not spraying water directly onto concrete.

Protect From Salt Exposure

For concrete in areas exposed to salts (like driveways and walkways), use a concrete sealer and apply a concrete protectant or guard. These help prevent salt and deicers from penetrating into the concrete. Reapply as directed to maintain protection. You should also sweep away any excess salt after application to minimize damage.

Avoid Mechanical Damage

Chipping, scratching, and impact damage to concrete can also lead to spalling over time. Be very careful when using sharp tools, blades, or equipment around concrete. Avoid dropping heavy objects on concrete. Use padding like rubber mats in high-traffic areas. Fix any existing cracks or damage to eliminate access points for water and salts.

Maintain Proper Curing

When concrete is first poured, it needs to cure properly. Curing helps concrete gain strength by controlling temperature and moisture. Make sure new concrete is kept damp for at least 7 days. Covering concrete with plastic sheeting or spraying it with a curing compound helps retain moisture. Proper curing results in a stronger, more durable concrete surface that is less prone to damage and spalling.

Following these preventative measures can significantly reduce your risks of concrete spalling. Be diligent and consistent in protecting your concrete, and it should remain in great shape for many years to come.


Are you dealing with concrete spalling issues? At Rhino Builders, we’re here to help. Not only do we offer expert concrete services, but we also provide valuable tips and guides on our blog to help you learn more about concrete maintenance and repair. Concrete spalling can cause significant damage to your property, but now that you know its causes and how to prevent it, you’re well-equipped to stop it in its tracks. To keep your concrete in top shape, make sure to stay on top of sealing and maintenance. If you notice spalling, act quickly to repair it before it spreads. Your concrete will thank you, and so will your home’s curb appeal. By taking these preventative steps now, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle down the road. With a little care and attention, you can keep your concrete strong, stable, and spall-free for years to come. So, breathe easy knowing you’ve got the expertise and guidance you need to tackle any concrete issues that come your way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common cause of spalling?

The most common causes of spalling in concrete include:

How do you fix spalling in concrete?

To fix spalling in concrete, follow these steps:

Is concrete spalling serious?

Yes, concrete spalling is a serious issue. It can compromise the structural integrity of a building, leading to safety hazards and potential structural failures. If left unchecked, spalling can accelerate and spread, causing further damage.

How to prevent concrete from spalling?

To prevent concrete spalling:

How do you minimize spalling?

To minimize spalling:

What are signs of poor-quality concrete?

Signs of poor quality concrete include:

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