Spalling Concrete: Spalling Concrete Causes ,prevention and Repair

Ripon Chandra Malo  - Founder & Editor
8 Min Read


What is spalling concrete ?

The word Spalling comes from spall means flakes of the material that are wrecked off of a larger solid body. When a source of the mixture, water enters into the solid structure at the foundation of concrete structure, it starts leaching deeper and deeper, causes the formation of cracks in the structure. The idea of spalling can be explained by the well-known phenomenon known as rusting. In rusting, there is oxidation reaction between air and the surface of the metal. Due to the presence of moisture in the air, the metal starts rusting. In the same way different atmospheric conditions like moisture content, increase in temperature, corrosion involves in the formation of the spalling of concrete.

spalling concrete
spalling concrete

There are different misconceptions in people regarding spalling of concrete- water could be the main culprit of spalling concrete. As concrete has three basic components: cement, aggregate, and water. The third ingredient, water sometimes added too much during the preparation of concrete which can cause spalling  .

Likewise, Corrosion of the reinforcement steel is the most common cause of spalling and excruciating in big concrete constructions. Steel reinforcement is castoff in concrete to provide strength to a material. The process known as the carbonation-natural deterioration process causes the reinforcement steel bars present in the concrete structure to corrode, which ultimately produces the flakes-spalling.

Spalling Concrete Causes

Before knowing about causes of spalling concrete, one should know that Spalling is disruption of the concrete exterior which frequently spreads to the top coatings of reinforcing steel. Spalls might be 150 mm in diameter and 25mm in depth. Here are some leading causes of spalling Concrete :

spalling concrete


As described earlier, steel uses for the reinforcement, so the corrosion of the steel and other embedded material cause the deterioration of the concrete. When steel rusts, the resultant corrosion occupies a larger volume than the steel. This expansion makes tensile stresses in the concrete, which can ultimately cause cracking.

2-    Exposure of reinforced concrete to chloride ions:

Exposure of reinforced concrete to chloride ions is another primary reason for the spalling deterioration of the concrete. The chances of spalling increase as the number of chlorine increases. If moisture is present at the threshold limit of chlorine, it causes series spalling-deterioration. The invasion of chloride ions into reinforced concrete can cause steel corrosion if oxygen and moisture are also available to sustain the reaction. Chlorides melted in water can infuse over complete concrete or spread the steel through cracks.

3-    Natural deterioration- Carbonation:

A slow process which occurs when carbon dioxide from the air enters the concrete and counters with hydroxides, such as calcium hydroxide, to form carbonates. So, spalling after a period of more than fifty years is due to the carbonation process.


Water being the important constituent of the concrete plays a very curious role in the spalling also. If water freezes, it can expand by about 9%. As the water in humid concrete freezes, it yields pressure in the capillaries and pores of the concrete. If the pressure surpasses the tensile power of the concrete, the cavity will dilate and break.

5-    Expansion of the aggregates:

Expansion of the aggregate happens when it absorbs too much water. In this condition aggregates cannot accommodate in the prevailing weather conditions. As every material have its own water absorbing capacity, if it exceeds a certain limit it can be hazardous. So far, in all cases the main cause or leading cause of the deterioration and spalling is the water content.

6-    Chemical Attack:

Chemical attack can also deteriorate the concrete, the exposure of concrete to different environmental conditions like acid rain have series effects on the concrete. Acids in the acidic rain react with the surface of the structure and can produce spalling to high quality concrete. Apart from this Sulfate attack have also devastating impacts. Thaumasite may form in the sulfate outbreak in humid circumstances at temperatures typically between 0°C and 10°C (32°F to 50°F).

7-    Exposure to heat and fire:

Concrete can withstand every atmospheric condition but when it exposed to high heat and fire, sometimes, it can cause spalling. Scientists are now working to minimize the effects of heat and fire on the concrete. Here again, the role of admixture is very important. The admixture should be chosen with high resistant to heat and fire.

Disadvantage of spalling concrete

Spalling of concrete can be a series headache for the building owner. It takes years to collect money for some people to prepare homes, but this spalling can have diverse effects on the structure of the building, the structure can fall down- create a serious economic burden. If the average life of the concrete is 80-100 years, then due to spalling it can reduce to 50 years. So spalling concrete can decrease the half-life of the structure.


How to prevent spalling concrete

1-    Ingredients should be properly mixed.

2-    Selection of aggregate should be optimized.

3-    Can be escaped if the concrete is managed wisely.

4-    Give distinct care to the ends and corners of bare concrete.

5-    Spalling, judges earlier can tackle easily.

6-    Corrosion of fixed metals in concrete can be significantly minimized by placing crack-free concrete with low absorptivity and adequate concrete cove.

Spalling concrete repairs

spalling concrete repairs

As this article describes the causes of spalling of concrete, here we will tail about the repair steps. As thumb rule is to do remedy steps as one notice the spalling. To convey the fruitful repair, confirm that you eliminate the concrete about 1.5 inches profound. You should then fresh and eliminate the wreckage earlier the repair begins. The embedded steel, if suffering from corrosion should also be cleaned by different chemicals. One should ensure that new binding material should possess the same properties as of existing concrete. Apply of cement overly is also the best idea if spalling is on the horizontal surface.

Spalling concrete repairs Video






Spalling no doubt is an eye irritating process, but by applying some common rules and knowing the facts and causes of spalling, it can effectively reduce. Spalling can be natural and man-made; there are the prevention and repair steps which should be followed.

Reference :

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Cite This Article :

Malo,R.C.(September 25, 2023) Spalling Concrete: Spalling Concrete Causes ,prevention and Repair.Howtocivil. Retrieved from
Ripon Chandra Malo "Spalling Concrete: Spalling Concrete Causes ,prevention and Repair." Howtocivil - September 25, 2023,
Malo,R.C.(June 30, 2019) Spalling Concrete: Spalling Concrete Causes ,prevention and Repair. Howtocivil,Available at: September 25, 2023).
Malo,R.C. Spalling Concrete: Spalling Concrete Causes ,prevention and Repair. [Internet]. [Accessed September 25, 2023]. Available from:
Ripon Chandra Malo "Spalling Concrete: Spalling Concrete Causes ,prevention and Repair." Howtocivil - Accessed September 25, 2023.
Malo,R.C. "Spalling Concrete: Spalling Concrete Causes ,prevention and Repair." Howtocivil [Online]. Available: [Accessed: September 25, 2023]

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By Ripon Chandra Malo Founder & Editor
Hi there! My name is Ripon Chandra Malo. I am a Civil(Geotechnical) Engineer. I always love to learn new things and want to share what I learned. Also , I am a part-time blogger and freelancer. I will try to share my knowledge in the different fields of civil engineering. If you have any questions to ask then please contact with me.
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