Spring Cleaning Time—Spalling May Cause You Squalling If You Don't Take Care of Your Concrete and Brick Surfaces

Posted on: 22 February 2016


The winter months can be very harsh on the exterior surfaces of your home. Freezing and thawing can be especially brutal on your concrete sidewalks, pool and patio decks, and driveways. Then there are the de-icing chemicals, which can potentially save your bones from a nasty fall but also wreak havoc on concrete. Severe winter weather can also take its toll on your brick surfaces, including your chimney. Unfortunately, ignoring damage caused during the winter months could end up costing you a lot of money in expensive repairs down the road. This is why an inspection of the exterior surfaces of your home should be on your annual spring-cleaning checklist.  

About Spalling 

That weathered, chipped look you see on your concrete and brick surfaces is called spalling or scaling and is most common in areas of the country that experience freezing temperatures during the winter. Why? Because if rain or melting snow gets into your bricks or the capillaries of your concrete surfaces and then freezes, it causes them to expand and then contract again when they thaw. Eventually, this freezing and refreezing process can cause these surfaces to weaken and to crumble away, especially if they were not properly sealed or—in the case of concrete—not properly installed. 

 In regions of the country where heavy-duty de-icing chemicals and salt are used on the roads, spalling will be most noticeable in the areas of your driveway where your cars are typically parked. When these chemicals drip off of your car, they can cause the snow or ice on your driveway to melt and enter into your concrete surface. And salt actually attracts water, which means that by spreading it on the concrete surfaces around your home, they may actually become extra saturated with water. 

The Inspection

When the weather finally cooperates, start by taking a long, slow walk around your home. Run your eyes over the concrete and brick exterior surfaces of your home, from the top of the chimney to the foundation, and check for the following signs, which could indicate that you have a spalling problem:

  • Cracks
  • Large chunks crumbling away
  • Pitting
  • Flaking

Note that not all cracks in brickwork in particular are related solely to spalling. For example, if during your inspection you notice that your brick chimney has cracks on the masonry and the rain cap appears discolored or distorted, you may have had a chimney fire. This is potentially a very dangerous situation, and you should call a professional sweep to inspect your chimney before you use it again. 

What You Should Do about Spalling in Concrete

If your concrete surfaces are showing signs of spalling but are not seriously deteriorated, it may be time to have them resurfaced. This will cost you a lot less money than having your driveways, sidewalks, or decks completely replaced. In resurfacing, an experienced contractor basically removes the top layer of the concrete and replaces it, leaving you with what appears to be a brand-new driveway. If you do decide to resurface, you may also want to upgrade the look of your concrete by adding a decorative overlay or by adding color. Some popular overlay options include stamping your concrete to make it appear as if it is actually made of bricks or stones. 

What You Should Do about Spalling in Bricks

If you notice that the brick surfaces on and around your home are crumbling or cracking, you may need to call in a professional masonry contractor to repair or replace the affected bricks. Once the repairs are made, the contractor should apply a sealant to prevent future damage. 

While most people think about the interiors of their home when spring cleaning, the exterior deserves just as much, if not more, love. So make sure to add a walk around your house to your checklist each and every year. Get in touch with a representative from a company like Mara Restoration, Inc. for a professional inspection or repair of your concrete or brick.