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What Is Foundation Spalling & When Should You Be Concerned?

Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant

Foundation spalling is the crumbling of the surface concrete

Looking for accurate cost information related to foundation spalling?

Perfect, you’re in the right spot. In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What is spalling?
  • How can you tell if your foundation is spalling?
  • What causes concrete to spall?
  • How is spalling fixed?
  • How can you save money when fixing foundation spalling?

There are many different kinds of foundation damage that can occur, one of the most common of which is “spalling.”

Spalling is a particularly dangerous kind of foundation problem because most homeowners don’t recognize that it’s not the cosmetic issue it appears to be.

The physical damage that occurs during spalling is relatively insignificant, but it’s a sign of much more severe problems that need to be addressed immediately. Ignoring the signs of spalling can lead to flooding and loss of structural integrity.

Below, I’m going to go over precisely what spalling is, how to identify if your foundation is spalling, and what the underlying problem is. We’ll also discuss how to fix the problem while saving money on the solution.

What Is Foundation Spalling?

Foundation spalling is the crumbling of the surface concrete that usually occurs on your crawl space or basement walls, but it can also happen on your concrete slab.

Spalling concrete often looks like crumbling or flaking on your foundation’s surface and is most apparent on the interior of your foundation walls or floor.

What Are The Signs Your Foundation Is Spalling?

Foundation spalling is usually most easily detectable with a visual inspection of your foundation because it happens at the surface of the concrete.

You may notice flaking, chipping, or crumbling sections of your foundation, and a web of hairline cracks in your foundation may occur around the problem area.

Efflorescence, which is white staining on your concrete walls, is also a good indication that spalling has happened or will occur.

However, the results of spalling might be evident elsewhere in your home. Spalling is ultimately caused by moisture problems that can also create damp basements or promote mold growth. Mold growth or high humidity in your basement may be signs of spalling.

Moisture problems related to spalling can also cause problems in your living areas. Floor joists can warp or bend in response to high moisture in the air, so the floors on your first story may become unlevel or wavy.

Spalling is often caused by hydrostatic pressure in the soil around your foundation, so issues related to excess water in your soil can be signs of spalling too.

These indications include bowing foundation or first-story walls, cracks forming in your drywall, and multiple windows and doors getting stuck and not opening or closing freely. You may also notice cabinets or countertops pulling away from your walls.

There might be some signs of hydrostatic pressure and spalling evident on the outside of your property. A wavy roofline or a chimney pulling away from your home can indicate water problems that can also lead to spalling, so they can be used as warning signs too.

How Does Foundation Spalling Form?

Foundation spalling is a result of water wicking through concrete. The water can bring salts that contribute to efflorescence on your walls, and the salts damage the concrete and create weaknesses that lead to crumbling and flaking.

Even without salt damage, changing moisture levels in your concrete can be detrimental and lead to spalling.

As concrete gets saturated following heavy rain and then dries, it expands and contracts slightly. Even minimal movement of your concrete can be detrimental over time and can lead to damage that is evident on the surface.

Lastly, water that seeps into your foundation can freeze depending on your climate and the time of year.

If water that has wicked into your foundation freezes, it expands even more than it usually would and causes damage from the inside. This damage usually causes spalling on the surface of your basement walls or concrete slab once thawing occurs.

Spalling in Concrete

Spalling can occur in any area of concrete, including concrete driveways, patios, garage slabs, and walkways. Spalling in horizontal sections of concrete will appear as extensive cracking, crumbling, or flaking on the surface.

Concrete spalling in horizontal slabs can be caused by improper mixing of concrete during construction, but more often than not, it’s due to drainage issues on your property.

Repairing concrete spalling can be as simple as fixing the underlying problem, removing damaged material from the surface, and re-pouring a portion of the slab.

Spalling in Foundations

Spalling in foundations is often more severe than on a driveway or patio because your home relies on the concrete foundation for structural integrity and a level base.

Foundation spalling is almost always caused by age or drainage issues and not by improper construction practices. However, the rapid setting of the concrete can cause some topical damage that may appear to be spalling.

Treating foundation spalling is a bit more involved because it could indicate structural damage. Treating the underlying issue is a necessary first step, after which a structural engineer should inspect for severe damages.

How Can You Fix Foundation Spalling?

Once a professional has confirmed that your foundation is structurally sound and no reinforcement to your basement walls or concrete slab is needed, the repair is relatively straightforward.

Loose concrete, efflorescence, and debris should first be removed with a wire brush. Next, rebar should be treated to prevent rusting.

Lastly, a resurfacing application – which is a concrete mix – should be applied over all affected areas with a putty knife or trowel. The solution should be kept moist while it sets to ensure the strongest bond possible with the existing concrete.

Polyurethane sealant or epoxy sealers can also be used to repair small areas of spalled concrete.

How To Save Money on Fixing Foundation Spalling?

The best way to save money when fixing foundation spalling is to have your foundation inspected by a structural engineer or one of our foundation repair specialists.

A professional inspection will cost you more upfront but can save you from costly repairs and expensive and dangerous structural problems down the road. We recommend spending the money upfront to ensure your spalling issue is genuinely only a surface issue.

Additionally, treating the underlying problem that is causing the spalling can save you quite a bit of time and money in the future too.

Installing gutters and downspouts, putting in a French drain, and adequately grading your soil are all waterproofing methods that can solve the real issue.

These can prevent spalling from recurring or getting worse, ultimately saving you money on future repairs.

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Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant
SHORT BIO: Hey, I'm Sam Smith. I'm one of our service techs here at Regional Foundation Repair. I'm here to help you learn more about your home's foundation. I've been doing this for a while, so I have a few insider tips and tricks to share!

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