Pouring a concrete slab is one of the first steps for a building project, and the way this task is performed can have far-reaching implications for the overall health of the structure down the road. The curing process must be carefully managed in order to prevent shrinkage, which can lead to cracking and may diminish structural integrity. In fact, improper curing can leave concrete slabs with half the compressive strength of their adequately cured counterparts. If you’re planning a construction project or considering the purchase of an existing property, evaluating concrete slabs should be near the top of your priority list.
How Shrinkage Occurs in Concrete Slabs
When concrete slabs are poured, they begin to harden into a solid structure which will eventually form the foundation of a building. Steps must be taken during this time to control the rate at which concrete is allowed to dry in order to prevent shrinkage and attendant damages. Depending upon the climate where a concrete slab is being poured, these measures may include the addition of plastic sheeting or the use of chemical products. In some cases, a concrete slab may simply be left undisturbed for several days after pouring.
The rate at which moisture evaporates from freshly poured concrete slabs determines whether or not shrinkage will occur. Rapid evaporation is a serious risk factor for shrinkage, which can later contribute to cracks and structural damage.
Ensuring Healthy Concrete Slabs
If you’re in the process of having your property constructed, you’re able to actively work to prevent damage related to shrinkage of concrete slabs by working closely with a professional building inspector to obtain stage construction inspections. At each phase of construction, your property will be evaluated by a neutral, professional inspector who’s looking for adequate curing of concrete slabs, in addition to other signs of quality workmanship. If shrinkage is detected, your inspector can make sure you’re aware of this fact long before you assume ownership of the property and responsibility for any building defects.
Purchasing an existing property is a bit different. You won’t be able to do anything about how concrete slabs were poured or cured years before you expressed interest in a property, but you can apprise yourself of any existing shrinkage with the help of a professional inspector. Pre-purchase inspections may come too late to address shrinkage, but can help you to make more informed purchasing decision and perhaps give you more negotiating power, should you choose to purchase property where a concrete slab shows signs of shrinkage.
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