Understanding Concrete Spalling and its Effects



What is concrete cancer? Concrete spalling, also known as concrete cancer, is a prevalent and concerning issue that can affect various buildings, especially those with a long-standing history. This phenomenon occurs when the outermost layer of concrete begins to flake, peel, or chip away, gradually exposing the underlying structure. While the visual impact of concrete spalling is evident, its consequences extend beyond aesthetics. If left unaddressed, concrete cancer can lead to severe structural problems, compromising the safety and longevity of the building. 

To preserve the structural integrity of properties and ensure the safety of occupants, it is crucial to promptly address concrete spalling through effective remedial repairs by trusted professionals, such as MJ Engineering, specializing in concrete repair, concrete spalling repairs, and providing remedial waterproofing services in Sydney.

What is Concrete Spalling and its Causes?

Concrete spalling, or concrete degradation, is a gradual deterioration process where the surface of concrete starts to degrade, resulting in flaking, chipping, or peeling. Various factors contribute to the onset of concrete spalling, making it an issue that requires careful consideration. Some of the main causes include:

✔️ Freeze-Thaw Cycles: 

In regions with fluctuating temperatures, moisture can seep into concrete. When temperatures drop and the moisture freezes, it expands, creating internal pressure. As the temperature rises, the ice melts, leaving voids in the concrete that eventually lead to surface deterioration.

✔️ Chemical Exposure: 

Exposure to chemicals, particularly chlorides, can accelerate the breakdown of concrete, causing it to lose its structural integrity over time.

✔️ Saltwater Intrusion: 

Coastal properties are especially susceptible to concrete spalling due to saltwater intrusion, as the salts can penetrate the concrete and trigger deterioration.

✔️ Reinforcement Corrosion:

If steel reinforcements within the concrete corrode, they can expand, causing concrete to crack and spall.

Identifying Signs of Concrete Spalling:

Recognizing the early signs of concrete spalling is essential to addressing the issue promptly. Building owners and managers should be vigilant in spotting the following indicators:

✔️ Flaking or Chipping: 

The concrete surface begins to show signs of flaking or chipping, with small pieces detaching from the structure.

✔️ Cracks or Holes: 

The development of cracks or holes on the concrete surface is a clear indication of spalling.

✔️ Rust Stains:

 Rust stains on the concrete surface may signal underlying reinforcement corrosion, contributing to concrete degradation.

✔️ Reduced Structural Integrity:

 As the concrete spalling progresses, the building’s structural integrity may be compromised, posing risks to occupants’ safety.

The Effects of Concrete Cancer:

Concrete spalling, if left unaddressed, can lead to several detrimental effects on a building:

✔️ Compromised Structural Integrity: 

As the concrete deteriorates, it loses its ability to bear loads effectively, compromising the building’s structural stability. Additionally, the deterioration of concrete can lead to widespread corrosion of the steel reinforcement within the structure, further exacerbating the weakening of the building’s overall structural integrity.

✔️ Safety Hazards: 

Falling concrete debris can pose significant safety risks to occupants and pedestrians, making it imperative to address concrete spalling promptly. Moreover, as concrete spalling progresses, it can create hazardous conditions not only within the building but also in its surrounding areas, posing risks to passersby and neighboring properties.

✔️ Increased Repair Costs: 

Delayed repairs can lead to more extensive damage, resulting in higher repair costs and longer construction timelines. Timely remedial repairs are essential as delayed action may allow concrete spalling to worsen, potentially necessitating more extensive and costly repair work, along with prolonged construction timelines, causing further inconvenience and disruption.

✔️ Aesthetics and Property Value: 

The visual impact of concrete spalling can detract from the building’s aesthetics and potentially lower its market value. In addition, the visible effects of concrete spalling, with chipped and deteriorating surfaces, can significantly diminish the building’s curb appeal and overall aesthetics, potentially leading to decreased market value and reduced appeal to prospective buyers or tenants.

✔️ Water Ingress: 

Spalled concrete creates pathways for water to penetrate the structure, leading to potential water damage and mold growth. Moreover, spalled concrete creates vulnerable entry points for water infiltration, paving the way for potential water damage, seepage, and the growth of harmful mold, which can pose health risks and further compromise the building’s structural integrity if not addressed promptly.

Remedial Repairs for Concrete Spalling:

Addressing concrete cancer requires professional expertise and specialized remedial repair solutions. MJ Engineering offers comprehensive remedial repairs for concrete spalling, tailored to the specific needs of each building. The remedial repair process includes the following steps:

✔️ Initial Site Inspection: 

MJ Engineering’s professional engineers conduct a thorough visual inspection, utilizing specialized tools to assess the extent of the damage and diagnose the underlying causes of the concrete spalling.

✔️ Developing a Comprehensive Repair Plan: 

Following the inspection, the engineers develop a detailed repair plan, outlining the scope of work, materials, and methodologies required to rectify the concrete spalling effectively.

✔️ Conducting the Tender Process: 

Selective specialist remedial contractors are invited to provide their pricing based on the requirements outlined in the repair plan. MJ Engineering ensures that the selected contractor aligns with high standards of workmanship and adheres to the specified repair guidelines.

✔️ Efficient Project Management: 

Throughout the repair process, MJ Engineering conducts regular quality assurance checks to ensure that the work progresses according to schedule, budget, and the requirements outlined in the repair plan. This meticulous project management ensures the effective and timely completion of the concrete spalling repairs.


Concrete spalling, commonly known as concrete cancer, is a critical issue that demands immediate attention and professional remedial repairs. Understanding the causes and early signs of concrete spalling is crucial in safeguarding the structural integrity and safety of buildings. Engaging specialized concrete repair consultants, such as MJ Engineering, ensures that the remedial repair process is comprehensive and tailored to the specific needs of each building.

By promptly addressing concrete spalling through effective remedial repairs, property owners can mitigate safety risks, preserve property value, and extend the longevity of their valuable assets. With a commitment to excellence in concrete repair, concrete spalling repairs, and remedial waterproofing services in Sydney, MJ Engineering stands as a trusted partner in safeguarding buildings and promoting safe and sustainable construction practices across the city.