How to Improve the Durability of Concrete

Why is concrete such a popular construction material? To put it simply it offers a lot of strength and durability and it is versatile enough that it can made into pretty much any shape required. That’s not to say that concrete doesn’t have any flaws at all; it does. In fact, concrete’s greatest weakness is water. In fact, everything bad that can happen to it is pretty much a result of water (or the contaminants that is carried with water) which can lead to harmful chemical reactions or promote the growth of mould.

Design a Proper Mix

The exact concrete mix should vary depend on the environmental conditions. Standard mixes don’t cut it when the concrete is going to be up against particularly extreme conditions. For instance if slabs are going to be in constant contact with soil that’s contaminated with a high amount of sulphate, you should ideally include sulphate-resistant cement in the mix.

If the concrete structure has to endure constant freeze-thaw cycles, then it’s best to add air-entraining admixture to protect the slabs against premature cracking.

Plan Your Joints

With most construction designs, it’s hard to avoid joints altogether. They may give off an appealing aesthetic but they’re highly detrimental to the integrity of the slabs in the long run. This is because water can easily flow inside the joints and act to deteriorate the concrete structure from the inside. This way, water can also get into contact with rebar and corrode them.

Hence, it’s always best to plan out the construction joints properly beforehand. Try to limit their number or at least implement joint waterproof systems in each and every one.

Seal the Surfaces

Concrete is a porous material, which is why water is able to easily penetrate surfaces. Fortunately we can use concrete sealers to cover up these pores and thereby block the entry of water and harmful chemicals. There are three main types of sealers to choose from:

  • Integral – which are added during the mixing process
  • Penetrating – these penetrate into the pores and create an impassable chemical barrier
  • Decorative – these aren’t as strong as penetrating sealants but they do give the surfaces either a nice satin or glossy finish.

If you’re thinking hiring professionals for the task, we highly recommend Kenex Stencils Concrete Sealing, based in Sydney.

Reduce the Permeability of the Mix

While individual circumstances dictate the type and ratio of contents in the mix, one thing that should always remain unchanged is how permeable the concrete is going to be. In order for concrete to be highly durable, it should have low permeability. This can be achieved by adding water-reducing admixtures or plasticizers. In addition, you can add integral concrete sealers as well which results in the entire surface being sealed off automatically by the time the slab hardens.

While concrete is a pretty durable material by itself, it needs some additional help fighting off its kryptonite: excess water. There are several ways to prevent the harmful effects of water on concrete, including the use of sealant, altering the mix and waterproofing joints.

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