Why Does Concrete Buckle In Heat?

Concrete Buckle

With summer in full swing, you may notice concrete buckle in some places. Concrete buckling is one of the biggest problems when it comes to concrete and with it being one of the most common building materials, understanding how to prevent it is imperative. Let’s get into the science of why this is happening and what can be done about it.

Why Does Concrete Buckle In Heat?

What causes concrete to buckle?

When there’s an extreme change in temperature, concrete will most likely respond to it. This extreme change will either cause the concrete to expand or contract. If the expansion occurs at a crack or joint, the pavement may buckle or warp. If water seeps into the pores of the concrete for a period of time, this insulated hydration will heat the concrete and cause it to grow. This is typically caused by sprinklers and rain or snow. When it comes to excessive heat, the culprits usually consist of water pipes, electrical wiring, the ground itself, vehicles, and even buildings.

When a structure heats and cools unevenly, buckling will occur wherever there are weak spots. Furthermore, larger structures are more commonly affected as the density allows for more heat to be stored. Some factors that may make certain concrete structures expand or contract more easily are their age and what kind of material it is (shale, limestone, or gravel). When it comes to roads, because they are built in segments and layers, there may not be enough room when the material wants to grow. This may result in little speed bumps on the highways.

Preventing buckling before it occurs

The good news is that all hope is not lost when it comes to concrete. There are preventative measures that can be taken to avoid this phenomenon. Planning properly with smart engineering practices will get you prepared. By incorporating expansion joints, being aware of weather patterns, and determining tensile strength, you can make sure that there won’t be problems down the line. Ever notice that soft glue-looking material in between slabs of concrete? This is an expansion joint. It’s a pliable material that allows the material to grow without it affecting nearby slabs. The concrete can move around freely without getting damaged.

Tensile strength showcases how much your structure can handle. It is how well a structure can avoid being elongated and compressed. Tests can be performed to measure things like movement, saturation, and compression.

Weather is huge when you’re working with concrete. How wet, dry, hot, or cold is the area you’re looking to build on? One thing you’ll want to make sure of is that you keep the structure out of direct sunlight. When a concrete structure is being built, it requires a curing process. This process can take up to 30 days. If the sun is shining directly on it during this time, water will evaporate prematurely and cause overall weakening. If you cannot avoid the sun entirely, you can water it and cover it to prevent buckling.

Preventing and fixing pre-existing structures

Fortunately, there are precautions that can be taken and fixes that can be made if the structure is already up and running. Some of these precautions include keeping the internal and external temperatures as close as possible, surrounding the structure with thermally insulating materials, or incorporating buttresses. Buttresses will essentially help lighten the load.

When it comes to repairing, one of the simplest ways is to just remove what is no longer in place. Taking these pieces out and applying adhesive caulk to fill them in is more than possible. It’s important to note that the structure most likely won’t be as strong as it was initially. This is essentially just a band-aid fix. If the structure has been altered significantly, it would be best to remove the whole section and pour in the brand new slab. Make sure you bear in mind the preventative measures of buckling this time around.

Concrete in the heat

Now that we’re aware of how and why concrete buckles in the heat, we can do what we can to prevent it. Whether it’s checking weather patterns, adding expansion joints, or calculating the tensile strength, don’t let your concrete buckle and suffer in the heat.

Additional Reading: Placing Joints in Concrete Flatwork: Why, How, and When

TR Concrete Construction in Omaha, NE

This industry takes a lot of heavy machinery and tough labor, but it also requires as much or more planning, critical thinking, and fine touch to get a quality finished product. It is a very rewarding career and keeps you constantly on your toes being that 2 days are never the same. It is a profession that has been around for a long time and is ever-evolving and still remains a very vital staple in today’s economy.

As a reputable business with over 25 years of concrete construction experience, TR Construction has expertise with projects large and small to include:

  • commercial building concrete
  • footings
  • paving
  • remove, and replacement of concrete
  • industrial projects
  • special projects for clients

TR Construction can deliver Concrete Excellence on your next project. Contact us today by filling out the form or give us a call at (402) 238-2599.