Reinforced concrete might sound like an oxymoron. As one of the most durable, strongest building materials in the world, why would concrete ever need reinforcement?
Surprisingly enough, your own concrete patio, driveway or pool deck is likely reinforced by steel bars, fiber or wire mesh. Reinforced concrete can support much more weight than just a plain concrete slab.
Why Does it Need Reinforcement?
There’s a difference between compressive and tensile strength. Compressive strength refers to the ability to withstand being pushed together. Tensile strength means the material can withstand being pulled or bent apart.
Concrete has both, but its compressive strength is much higher than its tensile strength. It can handle heavy weight. In fact, most residential concrete can handle loads between 2,900 and 4,600 pounds per square inch. But when it is subjected to a high level of stress, its tensile strength doesn’t match its compressive strength capabilities.
When materials known for their tensile strength are built into the structure, this weakness diminishes. Three of the main types of reinforcement materials used are steel bars, synthetic fiber mesh or steel wire mesh. Sometimes both steel bars and mesh are used.
Together, the reinforcement materials and the concrete are able to withstand even higher levels of stress without showing any signs of degradation.
Does Reinforced Concrete Crack?
Reinforced concrete is durable and resilient, but just like any building material that loses its stability, it can still crack. The reinforcing frame itself doesn’t prevent cracking, but it does help to hold the structure in place so that cracks don’t automatically lead to sinking.
While steel and mesh help your concrete stay strong for decades, it may corrode over time if exposed to moisture or chloride (such as rock salt.) Best case scenario: You have some rust stains that are easily removed. Worst case scenario: You need repair from a concrete specialist. In both scenarios, this is a problem with a typically straightforward solution.
When You Need Repairs
Despite the sturdy construction of reinforced concrete, there are still cases where slabjacking is necessary to restore it to its previous even, level surface. For example, these two issues can severely damage the structure, regardless of the level of reinforcement:
- Improper drainage
Without a proper water drainage system in place around the slab, rain and melting snow leads to soil erosion. No matter the strength of the material, without a solid foundation, it can crack and sink.
- Insufficient soil compaction
If your reinforced concrete was poured and formed on soil that wasn’t fully compacted, the entire slab may settle more than anticipated. This can also lead to cracking and sinking.
Having an issue with your reinforced concrete? The team at Lift-Up Concrete will quickly assess the problem and offer a free quote for an affordable, effective solution.