What you Need to Know About Concrete in your Home

Home School Care & Maintenance

Concrete slab foundations have become the main building block on which homes are built and for very good reason. There is no other material that can do the job like concrete. When it is being poured, it is versatile, flexible and easy to work with and once it hardens, it forms a solid strong base that will stand the test of time.

Concrete is essentially a mixture of 4 different components: cement, a coarse aggregate such as stone or gravel, a fine aggregate like sand, and water. The main components are the two aggregates. The fine aggregate fills void spaces between the coarse aggregates, while cement acts as the glue holding them together. Water is the key element that helps harden the concrete and helps the cement bind the aggregates. When it comes to quality concrete in your home, it’s a balancing act between cement and water as too much water reduces the concrete’s strength, while not enough water makes the concrete unworkable.

Concrete Concerns

Cracking Concrete

Sometimes once concrete sets, small cracks can begin to appear on the surface of the concrete in garages or basements. This often a serious concern to new homeowners as they just built their dream home, and now they’re fearful that it’s already breaking down. It may surprise you, but these cracks are actually nothing to worry about! These small cracks are often a result of the concrete settling and the variance of seasonal temperatures in Alberta. In most cases, the cracks are merely on the surface and don’t go deep into the concrete. Though there may be a crack, it’s simply cosmetic and your home’s foundation is still as strong as ever!

Spalling Concrete

Cracks aren’t the only concern when it comes to concrete. A second common concern over concrete is called spalling. Spalling occurs when the top layer begins to break away from your concrete, creating round or ovular flakes of concrete to break off.

Spalling occurs mostly due to surface impact, weathering and seasonal freezing/thawing cycles. Salt and deicing materials can also cause spalling. As you would expect with these common causes, driveways and sidewalks are the most common culprit of concrete spalling. Much like cracking, spalling isn’t an immediate sign that your driveway is falling apart.

Pitting Concrete

Pitting concrete is very similar to spalling concrete. This occurs when the separation occurs when small holes begin to develop in the concrete from larger round pieces above the aggregate.

For the most part, both spalling and pitting concrete is an aesthetic concern that can be mitigated by sealing your driveway annually, avoiding salts and other deicing agents and avoiding the long-term presence of heavy trucks or machinery on it.

Concrete Care & Protection

Concrete is a very durable compound, but over time it will slowly break down. To mitigate the wear and tear on the concrete in and around your home, there are a number of things you can do to increase its longevity.

Exterior Concrete

Concrete outside your home includes sidewalks and driveways. There surfaces are not only important to maintain for visual purposes, but also for the safety of your family. The best way to maintain your exterior concrete is by sealing it annually. These sealers have the ability to penetrate as deep as 3 millimeters into your home’s concrete while still allowing the surface to breathe. Because the sealer actually penetrates the concrete instead of just covering the top, it is far more durable to abrasive forces and UV deterioration.

Basement Concrete

Basement concrete is another story. The concrete in your basement is subject to many different stresses including temperature variations and significant moisture. Builders take extra measures to ensure that water does not accumulate against your foundation walls, but over time as the exterior landscape changes, it is important that you ensure that surface water is always flowing away from your home.

Often, if your basement concrete is newly poured, it will feel damp to the touch for quite some time. To best help your floor breathe and settle, be sure to avoid placing carpets, boxes or any other obstruction directly on the concrete floor for the first year. Before you apply any finish over your basement floor (paint, carpet or solid flooring) make sure the concrete is dry.