Concrete cancer is a destructive process. Over a period of time, it eats away at the concrete of a building and will slowly get worse if it remains untreated. It has been labelled a ‘ticking time bomb’ and an ‘epidemic’ in recent years as the extent of concrete cancer in Australian buildings becomes more evident.
Concrete cancer occurs when the steel reinforcing inside the concrete is exposed to moisture and rust. As the steel reinforcing rusts, it expands, causing the concrete around the steel to be displaced, which leads to cracking and will eventually break away.
While the cosmetic damage caused by concrete cancer can be unsightly and have a negative impact on a buildings’ reputation and overall value, it is the potential structural damage which is of greatest concern to body corporates.
How to identify concrete cancer
Signs that concrete cancer is occurring in a building include cracks in the concrete, rust stains emanating from the concrete, bubbling of concrete render and leaks which may appear in the roof or internal walls. The majority of damage occurs on the inside, and unless you are a structural engineer or have seen it before, these signs will often be mistaken for general weathering and dilapidation.
Which properties are most at risk from concrete cancer?
While there has been a gradual increase in requirements and specifications for concrete strength and concrete coverage over reinforcing steel, newer buildings are still susceptible to concrete cancer. However, it is many older buildings (built before standards changed in 1997) that are much more likely to suffer.
Properties located near bodies of salt water can experience accelerated growth of cancer due to exposure to increased amounts of salt spray and moisture. With 85% of the population living near the coast, this has made Australian properties one of the most vulnerable to concrete cancer.
What can be done about it?
The monitoring and treatment of concrete cancer should be a part of a body corporates’ maintenance plan. As with most building issues which occur over time, the earlier it is identified the easier it will be to treat.
Programmed Property Services offers strata maintenance services which include the regular maintenance and testing of properties for concrete cancer. If identified, Programmed can carry out repairs to the property, detailing a work plan and keeping client well informed of the progress.