DIAGNOSING CONCRETE CRACKS Tell-tale signs
your building is “cracking up”
DREW ROBB IS A
JPM®. IF YOU
OR YOU ARE AN
CONCRETE CRACKS ARE A FACT OF
LIFE. WHILE SOME CRACKS MIGHT NOT
NEED ATTENTION, OTHERS HAVE THE
CAPABILITY OF CREATING SERIOUS
COMPROMISING THE SAFETY OF OCCUPANTS
RESIDING IN THE BUILDINGS YOU MANAGE. CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE
WITHOUT EXPERT ADVICE?
“It is important to accurately assess structural cracks to determine what is significant and
what is not,” said John Duntemann, a principal
at consulting engineering firm Wiss, Janney,
Elstner Associates (WJE).
“You have to properly identify the extent and
cause of cracking before you can implement the
right repair solution,” he added.
performance epoxy manufactured for structural concrete bonding and crack repair is used
to remedy concrete cracks.
Duntemann gives an example of cracking
that developed at the ends of pre-stressed
concrete beams in a cooling tower being constructed at a synthetic fuel plant. Demolishing
the structure and starting over was not considered an option.
“The beams were injected with epoxy and
load-tested to verify their structural capacity.”
“You often run into challenging environments such as cracks full of water, cold temperatures or exceedingly wide cracks that require
a customized solution,” said Duntemann.
One size does not fit all. Diagnosing and
treating concrete cracks requires the right combination of materials, chemistry and expertise.
WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
Cracks in concrete are typically caused by a
number of factors, such as thermal expansion
and contraction, sub-grade settlement, application of heavy loads and even earthquakes. All of
these internal and external stressors manifest
as large and small cracks.
In many cases, uncertainty surrounds the
presence of concrete cracks. Pete Barlow, a
principal at Contech Services Inc., a company
that repairs, strengthens and waterproofs concrete structures, said his company is constantly
being contacted by anxious building managers
“Many times a week, people send us photos of
cracking at their facilities [and ask] for advice,”
EPOXY IN CONCRETE REPAIR
In many cases, epoxy injection by a high-
WHEN IN DOUBT, FOREGO
“DO IT YOURSELF”
Leaving concrete cracks unrepaired not only
poses a risk to the structure of the build-
ings you manage but also threatens the safety
of occupants. If you notice cracks, contact a
structural engineer to assess the extent of the
damage, if any. Duntemann also advises against
a “do-it-yourself” approach for all but the most
minor problems. In his view, there are too many
factors involved in the engineering and chemi-
cal formulation side of concrete cracking to
leave anything to chance. By learning to spot
the difference between structural and non-
structural cracks, and by seeking advice from
a contractor, engineer or epoxy manufacturing
company, you can fix concrete damage and
even make the structure stronger and less apt
to crack again.