Generally speaking, concrete structures around industrial and commercial facilities go largely ignored. Parking garages, concrete floors, sidewalks and parking lots are a significant part of every facility, yet too often little attention is paid to proper maintenance. The nature of concrete is that you pour it, cure it, and forget it because it is so durable. That approach works until there is a major problem which forces managers to pay attention. These problems can often be avoided by implementing intentional inspection and maintenance programs for your concrete structures.
As in all effective maintenance programs specific guidelines and schedules for inspection need to be developed. Inspection results and maintenance procedures need to be documented and kept on file. By implementing such a program, small cracks and other issues can be noted, addressed, and followed over time. In addition, budgeting can take place for major maintenance projects such as when coatings need to be renewed. An effective inspection program will note ongoing degradation of surfaces, and give insight into when it is time to re-coat and/or repair concrete surfaces.
While concrete is extraordinarily durable, it is not infallible. Its chief enemy is water. When water freezes it can expand up to 9 percent. This leads to expansion in cracks which have enormous force potential. What was a small crack, over time in winter, can become a much larger problem as moisture invades, freezes, expands and then invades again. Proper inspection and early maintenance could prevent a small crack from becoming a larger headache.
Another potential issue is the chemicals used for de-icing procedures. These chemicals can lead to weakness, not so much in the concrete itself, but rather in the steel used as reinforcement within the concrete structure (such as rebar).
There are many tools to help in concrete inspections. The most obvious and inexpensive is simply paying attention with close visual inspections done on a regular basis. When cracks are observed, you may need further expertise in the form of a concrete engineer to determine whether the cracks are superficial or more serious structural issues. They may use tools such as ground penetrating radar and x-rays. Their expertise is especially important when issues are noted with support columns and structural elements.
The best preventative maintenance for concrete elements is the application and maintenance of the proper concrete coatings. In older facilities, particular attention must be given to preparation of the surfaces. They must be cleaned thoroughly, and the substrate must be in good condition. Quality commercial painting contractors can give you valuable advice with respect to finishing or re-coating concrete floors, walls, or any other concrete structures. The cost of re-coating your concrete elements will be far less than ignoring them and allowing serious problems to develop.
When is the last time you conducted a comprehensive inspection of your facility’s concrete floors and walls? Perhaps it’s time.