Carrying out a successful visual inspection of concrete

Concrete is a highly specialised field, with much of the advice and guidelines for inspecting the quality of concrete written in highly technical terms. Inspecting concrete can be carried out at an invasive level that is really only appropriate for professionals; however, there are also more accessible standards for inspecting concrete visually.

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Global guidelines

Home inspectors and commercial concrete inspectors can consult the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties, which provides useful information for visual inspection. From a chemical viewpoint, concrete is a complex substance and knowledge of how it ages – including weathering, how it was installed and the effects of different mixes – will be an asset.

When inspecting concrete visually, not all problems, or factors relating to problems that may develop in the future, may be clearly evident. Many factors may be involved in the preservation or disintegration of concrete. Scientists have discovered a number of reasons why concrete structures from the Roman Empire are still standing strong, including the use of seawater and volcanic ash. The more knowledge that inspectors have, the more informed their deductions and eventual recommendations will be.

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Elements to look for

When inspecting concrete, items to bear in mind include the type of water used, the type of binders used and the proportions of the concrete mix, as these will all affect the quality of the concrete. Aggregates used, and their local characteristics, will also have an effect on concrete. The skill and level of workmanship involved in creating and applying the concrete will also markedly affect the end result and how it wears. An inspector should take note of cracks, whether coverage of reinforcement steel is adequate, and whether any concrete layers were vibrated properly to ensure complete consolidation without any honeycomb patterns. Also look for cold joints, which are weaker due to concrete having been poured against concrete that is partially hardened.

If you want to find out more about the applications of commercial concrete, an expert in this area such as can provide advice and options.

Being methodical and observant will help in any concrete inspection. If concrete is in poor condition, this will be indicated on the surface; for example, phenomena such as flaking and shrinkage will provide vital clues.

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