One of concrete’s strongest selling points is its durability. Concrete is very resistant to the elements, including fire, so the risk of damage sustained by a concrete structure during a fire is often minimal. However, this does not mean that some concrete repair isn’t necessary after the flames have been extinguished and the smoke has cleared.
What Damage Could Make Concrete Repair Necessary After a Fire?
Cracking and spalling of the concrete surface are the two most common telltale signs that the concrete surface has sustained significant enough damage to warrant the attention of a concrete contractor. Expansion may occur within the layers of the concrete, causing any moisture that’s trapped within it to turn into heated steam. This expansion causes damage like cracking and swelling that need to be repaired to restore the structure’s appearance and functionality.
The presence of these two visible problems within the concrete could be indicative of a greater need for concrete repair. There are other indicators as well, though they may not be as apparent, like color changes beneath the surface of the concrete.
How a Concrete Contractor Assesses Fire Damage
After a fire has occurred within your concrete structure, it is advisable to bring a contractor onto the scene to evaluate the extent of the damage. Each concrete professional has their own way of doing this, but the basics of this assessment include:
- A visual inspection for cracks, spalling, discoloration and other abnormalities.
- Non-destructive testing to get a deeper look into the damage, beyond what is seen directly on the surface. A framing hammer can be used to “sound” the concrete, enabling the contractor to identify internal damage.
- Lab testing of concrete samples to evaluate the concrete’s integrity and confirm how far down into the concrete the fire affected the structure. The contractor may compare a sample of the damaged concrete to a sample of undamaged concrete for the sake of comparison.
- Discussion of repair options
What concrete repair options that are made available to you depend on the nature and extent of the damage sustained. Temperature profiles and the remaining strength of the concrete will play a large part in determining what method of repair is necessary in each individual case.
Repairing Fire-Damaged Concrete
A quick and minor repair might be all that is needed if the damage is minimal or localized. However, some particularly nasty fires have resulted in entire slabs of concrete needing to be entirely replaced. Soot removal and resealing of the concrete will likely be a part of any concrete repair process, no matter how big or small the damage actually is.
Many homeowners will try their hand at repairing the concrete themselves, but this is rarely a wise idea. Testing needs to be done to determine the remaining strength and integrity of the concrete before any repairs can be safely made. Concrete repair should be left to the professionals, who can diagnose and treat the problem at its source. Treating only the visible surface could leave your structure vulnerable to further, unseen damage that will cause you problems in the future.