Diagnosing the cracking truth about a failing building

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When cracks start to appear, it stands to reason that panic usually sets in within building owners.

Fortunately, it’s not always a huge reason for concern, although it should probably go without saying that an established engineer such as Reddy Kancharla should be turned to in a bid to set any worries at rest.

If the worst is confirmed, there are umpteen reasons behind the cracks. If you happen to be the owner of a building constructed out of concrete, here are some of the most common ones to give you an idea of what causes this material to falter the most.

The face of the concrete disintegrating

This first type of damage might not appear as a crack as such, but it should most certainly be treated as one.

If you happen to own a building that is relatively old, there’s a chance that it might come susceptible to the concrete disintegrating. Generally, this is put down to the freeze/thaw process – whereby water is allowed to enter the material before expanding if the temperature drops and it freezes.

The reason that it only usually occurs in old buildings is because new methods of construction dictate that a layer of protection should be added to the face of concrete to prevent this problem happening.

Overloading cracks

In truth, one could probably pen a whole essay on overloading cracks as there are plenty of stories to be told in relation to this topic. When we talk about stories; we’re referring to the type and direction of the cracks which are evident as a brief analysis can quickly identify the problems.

Let’s take one example; vertical cracks situated at the bottom of a beam and centrally suggest that too much load has been placed at the top in the same position. Of course, there are plenty of other avenues for exploration here – but engineers can quickly decipher a problem just by looking at the direction of these cracks.

Plastic cracks

If the concrete is ablaze with thin cracks, there’s a very good chance that these are of the plastic variety.

These usually occur before the concrete has hardened, with the material losing too much water before it has properly set.

Even though a lot of these cracks are hairline in size, they can expand right through the concrete and this means that they should be investigated as a matter of urgency. This problem usually affects concrete which has a large surface area (at least in comparison to the overall volume of it), which means that a lot of water can seep through.

Hardened cracks

On the opposite end of the scale we have hardened cracks, with these, as the name suggests, occurring after the material has hardened. This usually occurs because of drying shrinkage.

Again, this problem can escalate and the cracks can go through the full depth of the material. As such, a full investigation is required upon discovering the problem.

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