New Concrete Foundation or Slab Freeze Damage
How to Identify & Evaluate Freezing, Water & Other Damage to New Concrete Slabs or Foundations
FREEZING & WATER DAMAGED SLABS - CONTENTS: How to Identify & Evaluate Freezing Water & Other Damage to New Concrete Slabs or Foundations. What are the trouble signs of freezing damage: flaking, cracking, heaving, in new concrete foundation walls, floors, slabs, footings? When is concrete foundation damage severe enough to need repairs?
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Frost or freezing or water damage to new or recently-placed concrete foundations, slabs, or floors: How to Identify & Evaluate Freezing & Water Damage to New Concrete Slabs or Foundations.
This article series describes how to recognize and diagnose various types of foundation failure or damage, such as
foundation cracks, masonry foundation crack patterns, and moving, leaning, bulging, or bowing building foundation walls.
Types of foundation cracks, crack patterns, differences in the meaning of cracks in different foundation materials, site conditions, building history,
and other evidence of building movement and damage are described to
assist in recognizing foundation defects and to help the inspector separate cosmetic or low-risk conditions from
those likely to be important and potentially costly to repair.
Freezing or Water Damage in Poured Concrete Slabs or Foundations
Foundation question about winter exposure: we have a new home being built and so far only the foundation has been poured and the bottom floor has been laid down. we are from Ontario Canada and it has been a bad winter with a lot of snow and ice.
Our floor has been exposed to an abundance of snow, ice and rain for at least 3 months.
The snow and ice has melted and then re froze. Our builder says that this is ok and it will cause no damage.
Is this true? Is it ok to have the floor exposed for the whole winter?
If the concrete was mixed and handled properly for a cold weather pour (some suppliers use special additives to prevent
freezing damage during concrete curing) and if the site was prepared and protected properly during the critical early
period of curing of the concrete (protect from rain, flooding, freezing), your new foundation is probably just fine.
However since things can and do go wrong in construction and in life, below we describe how to take a look at your
new foundation to see if there are any early signs of trouble. Certainly if there were serious damage to a new foundation, it would be
far less costly to repair it before, rather than after, framing and other subsequent steps in building construction.
While concrete continues to cure and harden for weeks or months after it has been poured, the new pour is most vulnerable to rain, frost, or water damage when the pour is very new - from the time right after the pour has been completed, for perhaps 24 to 48 hours. After that time, rain and water themselves are unlikely to damage the exposed concerete. Flaking and spalling are the two most common freezing or concrete mix (or finishing process) problems likely when a concrete poured wall or floor are brand new.
However both new or even older concrete in a poured building foundation slab or foundation walls might be damaged by water and frost from other mechanisms such as frost heaves caused by freezing wet soils which can push or even adhere-to and lift below-ground and on-ground structural components, and also settlement caused by soil subsidence due to compression (water causes compression of inadequately-compacted soil below a concrete footing or slab) or erosion (loss of soil washed out from below a concrete wall or floor).
Signs of trouble in a newly poured foundation wall, slab, or floor in cold, wet, or freezing weather
Concrete surface flaking - is a most common visible sign of inadequate cold-weather protection of concrete during a pour. If the surface of the new pour freezes, flakes of water/concrete may pop off; if the flaking is severe, repair or replacement may be needed. If flaking is trivial/superficial only, then this is probably only a cosmetic item.
Frost Heaves in Concrete Footings, Slabs, Floors, or Walls - cracks and/or movement in the foundation can occur due to failure to protect the new pour from freezing, combined with poor site drainage or incomplete site preparation. Either frost heave (frozen water expanding and pushing on the foundation) or settlement can occur in a new foundation, exacerbated if these conditions occur during particularly wet conditions followed by freezing weather.
Shrinkage Cracks in Concrete Walls, Floors, Slabs - some shrinkage cracks are typical in concrete regardless of the time of year of the concrete pour, especially if control joints were omitted, but large cracks (more than 1/8" wide) or cracks which include dislocation of the concrete (one side of the crack is more than 1/8" "out" or "above" the other in a wall or floor) may deserve further evaluation.
If there are many and severe shrinkage cracks in poured concrete we suspect that either the mix was improperly prepared or the pour was
improperly cured. Too-rapid "drying" of concrete can increase the risk of shrinkage cracks occurring as there may be insufficient water
to support the chemical curing process, hydration. So shrinkage cracks are not specifically a winter, cold weather, or rain-exposure
problem in concrete.
Concrete Surface Spalling - at any time of year, but perhaps worse when exposed to rain, if the concrete were poorly mixed in general, or lacked proper additives for cold weather use, you may see spalling (chipping off of surface areas, or soft crumbly surface areas) - spalling and bad mix can occur in any weather
Cold pour joints in concrete walls - these are not usually a problem but might, in extreme cases, result in foundation wall leaks
In sum, if a month or two after a new concrete slab or wall has been poured, you don't see flaking, shrinkage cracks or movement-related cracking, then the new pour has not been damaged by freezing or wet condition. But remember that other defects: cracks, settlement, spalling, can occur later in the life of the building.
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Diagnosing & Repairing House Structure Problems, Edgar O. Seaquist, McGraw Hill, 1980 ISBN 0-07-056013-7 (obsolete, incomplete, missing most diagnosis steps, but very good reading; out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com, and reprints are available from some inspection tool suppliers). Ed Seaquist was among the first speakers invited to a series of educational conferences organized by D Friedman for ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, where the topic of inspecting the in-service condition of building structures was first addressed.
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Defects and Deterioration in Buildings: A Practical Guide to the Science and Technology of Material Failure, Barry Richardson, Spon Press; 2d Ed (2001), ISBN-10: 041925210X, ISBN-13: 978-0419252108. Quoting: A professional reference designed to assist surveyors, engineers, architects and contractors in diagnosing existing problems and avoiding them in new buildings. Fully revised and updated, this edition, in new clearer format, covers developments in building defects, and problems such as sick building syndrome. Well liked for its mixture of theory and practice the new edition will complement Hinks and Cook's student textbook on defects at the practitioner level.
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