What is Spalling

Most people have not heard of spalling. It’s a potentially serious situation that occurs when water enters brick, natural stone, or concrete, and causes peeling, chipping, flaking or crumbling. Very often the steel rebar begins to oxide and pushes on the concrete.  It’s important to know that spalling is not a cosmetic issue.

If an inspection reveals spalling in a concrete foundation wall, it should be remedied immediately because once water and/or salt has entered a foundation wall, it can continue seeping in, causing more and more damage. Spalling will cause the concrete to crumble, and left unchecked, overtime it will no longer be a sound foundation for the home.

Older homes, particularly those in areas with a high salt content in the soil, are most likely to be affected by spalling since older exterior foundation walls may not have waterproofing applied. However, new homes can fall victim to spalling too.

A home inspector will see evidence of spalling by noticing efflorescence, or chalky/crystalline deposits on the walls; or in cases, visibly crumbling or flaking concrete, and/or cracking.

Fixing spalling can be accomplished in several ways.

If the concrete is wet to the touch but not exhibiting signs of spalling:

  • Install a French drain to direct water away from the foundation
  • Install gutters and downspouts to direct water away from the foundation
  • Ensure that the basement or crawlspace is well-ventilated
  • Install sump pumps in the basement to remove moisture
  • Attach heavy duty waterproofing sheets (vapor barriers) to the foundation walls

If the concrete is already spalling:

  • Inject polyurethane foam or epoxy resin into any cracks in the concrete to strengthen it
  • In severe cases, removal and re-installation of the damaged section of the foundation may be required

Never assume that cracking, chipping, flaking or crumbling of a concrete foundation is a cosmetic issue. If you’re in doubt, consult a professional to have the foundation evaluated.

Video on Spalling

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