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Efflorescence and the Discoloration of Concrete (1983)

Efflorescence and the Discoloration of Concrete (1983)

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Published by: Aurelian Musat on Jan 13, 2011
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Peter Russell BSc FICE FIStructE FIHE FIOB formerly Chief Engineer in Scotland of the Advisory Division of the Cement and Concrete Association


VIEWPOINT PUBLICATIONS Books published in the Viewpoint Publications series deal with all practical aspects of concrete, concrete technology and allied subjects in relation to civil and structural engineering, building and architecture. 13.026 First published 1983 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to www.eBookstore.tandf.co.uk.” ISBN 0-203-97502-2 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0 86310 011 2 (Print Edition) Viewpoint Publications are designed and published by EYRE & SPOTTISWOODE PUBLICATIONS LTD Swan House, 32 Swan Court, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8AH © Eyre & Spottiswoode Publications Ltd Any recommendations made and opinions expressed in this book are the author’s, based on his own personal experience. No liability or responsibility of any kind (including liability for negligence) is accepted by the Publisher, its servants or agents.


Peter Russell was Chief Engineer in Scotland for the Cement & Concrete Association from 1948 to 1978. He is now engaged in the preparation of advisory documents for the building industry and is writing a book covering those thirty productive years from hydro-electric schemes to oil platforms, for which he received the Silver Jubilee Medal. He has contributed to professional journals and is currently talking at some universities on the theme of construction and the environment. Peter Russell has been Chairman of the Institutions of Civil, Structural and Highway Engineers, and of the Concrete Society, serving also on the Board of the Edinburgh College of Art. He played a part in the attainment of aesthetic as well as structural quality over the past generation in a northern climate which lent itself to a special study of the subject now under review. His thanks are due to the Cement & Concrete Association of whose excellent work he has intimate knowledge, and valuable assistance was further given by the staff of the Building Research Establishment.


Disfigurement of any concrete surface is at least a source of annoyance, and this publication attempts to mitigate the problem in its chemical and physical aspects. It deals with the broad scope of elemental attack by the vagaries of weather and by salts as they move to the face of a building to result in discoloration and, at times, disruption. Much research has in particular been devoted to the cause and nature of efflorescence, an expressive yet ambiguous word which suggests flowering and fruition but describes an effect that almost vies with vandalism. While elusive, however, it is not an intractable phenomenon and can be cured in more senses than one. Its stalactites or bloom can be alleviated by common sense and scientific forethought, given all the rules of quality control. This largely aesthetic problem is conditioned by factors such as temperature, absorption and lack of imagination, with cement and aggregates of lesser importance. The text covers staining of many kinds, superficial but unsightly, and due to faulty workmanship or detailing. Concrete is too readily assumed to have strength and durability only, with an acceptable countenance underestimated or ignored. This work should help towards an appreciation of its potential in visual as well as structural terms. Peter Russell September 1982

v Plate 1: A retaining wall of engineering brickwork with disfigurement at the mortar joints as the result of salts finding their way from the soil behind. and it is possible that the mortar was too rich. These should have been isolated by a waterproofing barrier over the full height of the wall. with consequent shrinkage and fine cracking. .

1 4.CONTENTS THE AUTHOR PREFACE CONTENTS 1 2 2.5 INTRODUCTION CAUSES Basic factors Mechanism Hydration Formwork Rainwater Weathering Blockwork Brickwork Mortar SOLUBLE SALTS Carbonation Contamination PREVENTION Concrete quality Admixtures Blockwork Cladding Mortar iii iv vi 1 3 3 5 6 6 7 7 8 9 9 13 14 15 17 18 18 19 19 20 .2 4.3 2.4 2.4 4.1.3 4.4 3 3.5 2.1 2.1 2.1.1 2.3 2.2 4 4.2 2.1.

8 4.1 5.13 5 5.2 6 7 8 Joints Pigments Detailing Damp-proofing Formwork Rendering Urban environments Surface treatment REMOVAL Washing and brushing Acids CONCLUSION BIBLIOGRAPHY APPENDIX: CHECKLIST TABLE 21 22 22 23 23 24 24 25 29 29 30 33 35 41 .9 4.7 4.11 4.10 4.12 4.vii 4.6 4.

viii .

The resulting quantity and effect of leaching of the concentration depends on its composition and solubility.1 INTRODUCTION Efflorescence is a white coating appearing on the external face of a wall as a result of the migration of salts in solution to the surface where they crystallize unevenly. and whose irregular configuration may persist for a number of years. Chemistry plays an important part in that calcium hydroxide. initiates evaporation or hydrostatic pressure causing movement of the solution to the exterior. which is caused by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reacting with free lime produced during the setting of cement and forming insoluble calcium carbonate deposits. with attendant moisture. Discoloration of concrete has many manifestations and the common cause is excessive ingress of rainwater due to faulty detailing. so that encrustation may be a . Materials with an open texture allow air to penetrate some distance below the surface. The presence of even small amounts of salt. These blemishes may be derived either from the constituents of building materials based on Portland cement or from alkalis in the ground. is carried in solution to the surface of concrete or mortar where carbonation takes place. superficial and often temporary discoloration which is nevertheless disturbing. The location and extent of this relatively insoluble substance is largely dependent on the porosity of the external layers. Disruptive spalling of the surface can result if the salts are deep seated. Sometimes this is of appreciable thickness. and a saturated solution moving from the interior can be carbonated before it reaches the outer skin. but this pattern is generally more extensive and is dependent on the extent of glazed areas and projections on the face. liberated by the hydration of cement. Efflorescence is the result of a combination of events occurring inside and outside a wall. The extent of efflorescence is also determined by temperature and humidity. and it is more likely to occur in seasons with a slower rate of drying. and are salt deposits caused by the evaporation of their saturated solution. Concrete of intermediate porosity having a close texture. An effect similar to efflorescence may be caused by rain cleaning part of the wall. In normal atmospheric conditions they leave a harmless. permeable to salt solutions but not permitting air to enter. may suffer a visible deposit on the outer surface. Bloom is another phenomenon. similar in appearance to efflorescence.

and by climatic conditions in the long term. it suffers by man’s inability to forestall elemental attack. therefore. and in anticipating the effects of weather every opening must be considered suspect. It is an indispensable medium. he does not make the same allowance for discoloration as he would with other materials long subject to the most blatant of blemishes. some knowledge is required of the nature of soluble salts and their aesthetic and physical results. It is naturally more noticeable on a dark surface than light. More attention must be given to arresting or redirecting moisture by effective barriers. . whether glazed or not. Uninterrupted areas are especially vulnerable. Because concrete as a structural medium is relatively new. and exemplified by streaking down the face of engineering bricks from the mortar joint or a paint-like deposit on concrete.2 INTRODUCTION better description. While the causes of efflorescence are relatively easy to explain without the complexity of chemical equations. Another source is from the earth behind retaining walls or under solid floors. it is barely noticeable on concrete made with white cement and in some cases can be advantageous in reducing porosity. Concrete has indeed prospered in an infinite range of function and form. but each may react differently with atmospheric gases which are themselves variable. Almost any salt can appear. be a clear understanding not only of the properties of the constituent parts of the structure but also of the factors which influence their performance both integrally and superficially. Above all. but while the layer is annoying and generally unacceptable. so that this should be carefully isolated. All building materials have to meet a number of requirements when exposed to a variety of polluting and destructive elements which stem from the atmosphere. but in its wake has come the problem of lack of attention to the facade and ignorance of the effects of salts and their deposits. although remedial conditions are less severe during this season and showery weather is likely to aid the washing process. At best. and sealing fine cracks or crazing on the surface. Sporadic cracking and faulty jointing are of importance. efflorescence is an irritation and at worst an agent of disruption. Efflorescence is more apparent in the spring. but suffers variability at the hands of planner and builder. and to forestalling cracking by due provision for expansion and contraction. imaginative detailing of a structure is essential to shed water from the face or to dissipate its flow. There must. the soil or the materials themselves.

The location of a building relative to its neighbours is a crucial factor in the planning analysis and in predicting the intensity of wind and rain. The essential requirements of good concrete are impermeability. is less than durable. Today’s pollution. Larger quantities of lime than usual need not cause a serious problem.1 BASIC FACTORS Portland cement combines with water in concrete mixes to produce highly alkaline products and this chemical reaction is known as hydration. All faces exposed to sea-spray are vulnerable and many industrial processes disgorge salts which are transferred to porous materials by the polluted atmosphere. the action of weather can be complimentary or otherwise. albeit linked with technical progress. on evaporation. The nature of stored materials such as fertilizers must be taken into account. but it is axiomatic that the denser the concrete the less chance there will be for extraneous water to be absorbed into it and. Organic impurities in loam and clay may lower the strength. made more prominent by its contrast with the normal colour of concrete. continuity of placing and uniformity of quality. The make and content of cement has little effect on efflorescence. Uniformity of concrete quality is . When all the accepted rules of mixing and placing are strictly obeyed. to bring out the defiling chemicals. Dry air can increase the risk of blemish whereas humid air reduces it. A low temperature retards the build-up of a protective carbonate layer. Although concrete is versatile with a wide range of functions. except that a very rich mix lends itself to crazing and. with any protective coatings firmly bonded. as should the likelihood of leakage from sinks and services in general. if too weak. but it is always desirable to use minimum free water consistent with full compaction. Documentation abounds in printed and photographic form on the general theme of discoloration. discoloration is still possible. but efflorescence as the end-product of climate and chemistry is rarely discussed. and estuarine aggregates should be well washed. enhances discoloration by its contribution to amorphous staining.2 CAUSES 2. depending on presentation to the environment and the experience of the designer.

above all. Admix tures do not adversely affect staining. and longer periods may reduce the extent to which water and cement separate. are prone to the migration of groundwater into them. the rich laitance is etched to change its colour towards that of the fine aggregate. release of water to the surface during placing and compaction. Weather patterns are so often determined by the configuration and efficiency of movement joints. Efflorescence can be confused with streaking caused by rainwater which cleans along irregular lines. Consideration of appearance and of overall durability impose even stricter limits on workmanship. and here again experience will indicate profiling or at least diffusion. .4 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE crucial and the constituents should if possible be taken from constant sources. as may extended vibration. What is unforgiveable is the recurrent blemishing of an otherwise welldesigned structure simply because of a careless attitude to long term performance. but this to some extent protects reinforcement. becomes dirty. The atmosphere may also contribute industrial effluents and traffic fumes to produce chaotic patterns around corbels and ledges. minimize surface variations and aid workability. and the use of integral pigments may give better colour control. as free water can carry a concentration of salts along myriad paths. Painting may have to be considered but this should always be seen as a second line of defence. Efflorescence is liable to occur on hardened concrete if. Appearance is largely determined by the properties of the cement paste. Apart from isolated areas of formwork leakage or irregular absorption by the lining. takes the full force of attack and must of necessity be durable. and with tall buildings care must be taken to counteract the effects of wind turbulence. As the grime builds up it will give a measure of protection against further etching. in the same way as any other material. such as the abutments of bridges. Daywork joints must also be positioned economically and intelligently. Structural elements. The outer skin of concrete. which in any case concentrate rainwater. however skilfully moulded. so that their location must be carefully established. Concrete. casting in excessively thick layers and. Cracking of in situ walls or across a building unit allows moisture to concentrate along channels which feed the fissures and highlight those already evident at the end of sills and at badly formed joints between precast units. the joint is not perfectly sealed. other causes of discoloration include concreting in cold weather. but may show more contrasting efflorescence if the salt source is still operative. whilst curing. during the pouring of successive lifts. as later amplified. Another factor is mixing time. which in practice is regularly wetted so that dirt lodges in its pores. whether airentrained or otherwise. and retaining walls are targets for outpourings from mortar. A more encrusted growth is produced by water percolating through cracks in a wall bringing lime to the surface. is of paramount importance.

after precautions such as covering the works have been taken. Efflorescence is more likely to occur if the building is erected during winter and if drying through the external wall is rapid in the early part of the year. scouring and scaling. When salts disappear from a surface. Once a solution has become saturated. many of which have a common cause. The unpredictable festoon can be seen in buildings soon after completion but will gradually fade away with the aid of wind and rain if its source has been stemmed. Local conditions dictate how these evolve. they have not necessarily been washed away. to study the origin and nature of the salts. As concrete is a mixture of natural constituents. compaction and curing. mottling. attention must be paid to selection of raw materials and their proportioning. and to have prior knowledge of spillage or defects in drainage. The containing shutter must itself be treated with due deference. so that the deposits can be unpredictable in extent and location. blowholes. then excessive water is entering the wall through faulty detailing or waterproofing. With an open-textured surface.1. Other forms are sand discoloration. cooling will cause most salts to separate out in solid form. The last of these does not imply a remedial process but ensures adequate hydration of the immediate surface for consistency in colour and durability. striking time and release agent. Water in the concrete mix is normally distributed across the wall and can be adversely augmented if protective measures are not taken against absorption from the ground or rainfall.CAUSES 5 2. with the catalyst so often the entry of soluble salts. Salt-laden moisture may leave precipitations taking the form of localized striation corresponding with joints or architectural features. but have sometimes been absorbed back into the wall and will reappear at progressively lower concentrations. It has been said that there are nearly a hundred kinds of concrete blemish. It is essential to keep track of such movement and its degree of replenishment. . There may be a time lapse between the completion of a building and the appearance of the effects of salts. If. even without change in temperature. but loss of water by evaporation will also result in deposition.1 Mechanism The formation of efflorescence depends upon a number of chemical and physical processes involving the nature and solubility of salts and their transfer through porous concrete. but simply a convenient drying surface. The structure of concrete will dictate its drying rate and the place of disfiguration. possibly causing disruption. and their immediate location is no certain guide to provenance. crystals will appear on the exposed face and variable porosity will result in sporadic staining. capillary forces will draw free water through the wall. such as variable shrinkage and absorption. aggregate transparency. water will evaporate short of the face and the salts remain just within the wall. as should rigidity. With a fine-pored surface. they recur on drying.

Careful selection of form face can inhibit most types of staining although some linings are unsuitable and easily damaged. although not penetrating too deeply. but blemishes may be caused by warping or deflection of the form which leave an air gap allowing rapid localized drying and a finish inconsistent with the rest of the surface. Efflorescence is not so likely to occur on surfaces cast against absorptive forms. this generally emanating from soil in contact with it.1.3 Formwork The time of stripping formwork is not necessarily significant. the carbonate will be deposited below the surface with possible disruption. Cracking through which salts find ingress can also arise from differential settlement. There is also an intermediate state causing localized effect by gross variations in porosity due to poor compaction and . so restricting the migration of lime and reducing carbonation. distinguishable from that caused by drying shrinkage in that it takes longer to develop.1. the quantity of salt in that unit will also be increased. After a few hours the sulphate is fixed insolubly. Impervious forms.6 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE 2. Aggregates near the surface which are not well graded may also cause cracking. Variable surface appearance is a difficult problem.2 Hydration The whole subject of salts is discussed later but it is worth noting that in addition to the alkalis of potash and soda. leaving the alkalis as hydroxides which are gradually converted into carbonates by the atmosphere to leave a surface deposit. In some cases light coloured areas tend to occur near the top of a lift and not lower down where the pressure of the plastic concrete brings a relatively greater flow of water into the receptive lining. Only in very porous concrete is there a problem. Exposure of concrete to the air leads to evaporation of the pore water. but in broad terms quality depends on good placing and an evenly applied release agent. In other cases staining is caused by the movement of soluble calcium sulphate to the concrete surface. on the other hand. trap excess water at the face. The reaction of hydrating cement with carbon dioxide in the air reduces alkalinity. 2. If the sulphate is transferred with the mixing water by capillary action to an adjoining building unit. cements contain sulphate as gypsum added at grinding to control the set and on mixing with water these go into solution. and if this is rapid with only vapour reaching the surface. which encourage the water in the mix to carry cement particles to the surface where they are deposited as dense skin of low permeability. and here an assurance of adequate cover to reinforcement is essential. A dark coloration is common if casting temperatures are low but this can be offset by insulation. Such carbonation also increases shrinkage of the concrete and can lead to cracking.

1. cracks or the unit itself. a comparison should. high buildings which stand above their surroundings or on hilltops should be regarded as being one grade more exposed than indicated. The nature of concrete itself plays a large part in determining loss of water from a surface and it is difficult to measure the overall affect with such a variety of influences. The surface obviously changes from its initial freshness. Experience of the behaviour of concrete in any situation is of critical value. Although incidence of rain conforms to a rough pattern for any given locality. as is guidance from the Meteorological Office. be made of the design of similar projects with a vew to controlled variation and intentional highlighting of detailing to distract the eye. but while helpful in gauging the likely frequency and intensity. growth of algae and efflorescence. but the very lightness in tone of concrete in plain walling . with properties that alter in porosity and frost susceptibility. the significant factors being solar radiation.1.CAUSES 7 segregation. in areas of moderate exposure. This outside layer varies. 2. It exhibits its age by symptoms such as dirt accumulation. so that exposure may be uniform but the result patchy. provided the quality of materials and workmanship is equally high.4 Rainwater Rainwater absorbed into any porous material is released by natural drying.5 Weathering Concrete does not normally weather well over long periods in terms of discoloration. therefore. is less useful in assessing run-off from surfaces or entry through joints. some being superficial but others deep seated. Sites may be graded between sheltered and severe but. The annual mean index gives a fair indication of the total amount to be expected. atmospheric humidity and the aspect of a building. The resistance of a solid wall is appreciably increased by the application of rendering in accordance with BS 5262. Walls with a cavity afford a more effective barrier than a single leaf. short intense periods may be experienced from any direction and much of the penetration of walls occurs during a few prolonged storms accompanied by strong wind. 2. In this case water reaches the surface through relatively large channels and leaves an erratic deposit. while blockwork may also benefit in areas of severe exposure by the prevention of ingress through joints. Weathering should ideally enhance the appearance of a building if only by traditional mellowing. The criterion by which the degree of exposure can be judged is described in BRE Digest 127. absorption determining the ability to hold the grime or resist aggression from the air. although much less common on precast elements. Penetration is obviously greater in regions where the rain index is high and the walls have less chance of drying out between downpours. wind speed.

these sulphates may still be transferred to the units if an unfinished wall is not covered in heavy rain. Each is derived from corresponding free hydroxides brought to the surface during hardening. while the modular patterns of precast units should render these less prominent. Mortar is another matter in that clay brickwork. Efflorescence on precast products in general may appear as white patches or as an overall lightening of colour. by water spray or otherwise.8 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE is a disadvantage in combatting darker stains. Where the units are exposed. Masonry can bring together a wet mortar and a block containing variable moisture such that the water content of the wall is relatively high and deposit more likely to form on completion of the work. lightweight or otherwise. can be disfigured to almost paint-pot degree if a balance is not reached as to its constituents. Curing is the final act of surface attention. whereas a weaker mix yields enough to accept small movements in a wall. to ensure that the susceptible external layer is not dried too quickly. The answer lies in matching the qualities of blocks and mortar by using cement/lime/sand or masonry mixes which are not stronger than necessary. Calcium carbonate is not so common and its harder crust is more difficult to remove. abrasion by foot traffic will remove it more rapidly. It is worthy of note that a technical survey was undertaken by the International Concrete Block Commission to collect data on the improvement of long term colour integrity of masonry. . Sodium and potassium carbonates appear as a soft deposit which is easily washed or brushed off. and hairline cracking will be distributed or less permeable. Strong cement/sand mixes are appropriate for heavy engineering works in units of comparable strength or in foundations and below damp-proof courses. In the same way a white deposit round the edges of blocks suggests that the units have absorbed water from a mortar containing alkaline sulphates. and in the case of paving slabs. Concrete blocks. 2.2 BLOCKWORK Two forms of efflorescence may be found on concrete blocks—sodium/ potassium carbonates and calcium carbonate. but may display more efflorescence than a mix containing lime. particularly if the unit has been exposed to soaking and slow drying in a stockyard. acidic rainwater will slowly dissolve the film. Even if there was no absorption from the joints during laying. and even blockwork. While the latter contributes more salt. by hydrating the cement particles at the surface and minimizing vulnerable laitance. should never be set in unnecessarily strong mortar as this can lead to cracking in or near the joints. the denser joints offer more resistance to the passage of moisture and the precipitate sometimes spreads over the blockwork on evaporation from the wall as a whole.

Magnesium sulphate is particularly disruptive and its deposition not readily washed from either the whole face or under copings from which lime has leached. partly covering and penetrating the face. superficial but spoiling.3 BRICKWORK Efflorescence on brickwork can appear as a loose white powder or a hard glossy substance. some of these already being present in the clay or formed at firing. Certain brickwork has very low porosity and little sulphate content. sucking salts into its external face either through the joints or the units depending on relative percolation. in the main. The most common effect of soluble salts is to produce a deposit which. with deposits more prominent on their relatively dark surface and exhibiting the same crystallization of salts which have percolated in solution to the face. with calcium sulphate of low solubility constituting the major source. and within themselves may result in salts appearing on the surface over a wide area of the wall. but often affects retaining and freestanding walls and is removed only slowly by rain. The only satisfactory treatment may be to render the wall after removing all loose material and raking out the mortar which may itself be impregnated. while a lower porportion of sodium or magnesium sulphate can give rise to heavy impregnation at the end of a long wet spell. It can be a seasonal occurrence and become less marked in ensuing years. Flettons may be highly absorptive with appreciable sulphates. is usually temporary and harmless. sodium and potassium are. The onset is gradual and only occurs when the brickwork is consistently damp. cause spalling of the face similar to frost attack. Again the extent depends on the attendant amounts of both salt and water. A white deposit is brought to the surface by the dry winds of April. Salts in brickwork can have an influence on adjacent concrete in transferring from one material to another. Clay products are prone to a legacy of lime. and on their chemical nature. whereas a highly porous mortar will allow even a minute quantity of salt diffused along its courses to be shown clearly against the background. 2. While keeping winter working in mind. The greatest risk is from wind-blown rain finding its way through cracks in joints which are as strong as the bricks but on shrinking permit water movement. however. Crystallization of the salts within the brickwork may. Salts of calcium. although unsightly.4 MORTAR Cement-based mortars may be attacked by sulphates derived from clay bricks as well as from external sources such as flue gases. it must never be assumed .CAUSES 9 2. Many tarnished multi-storey buildings are victims of this lack of knowledge as to the interaction of various parts of a wall at different shrinkage and drying rates. A high percentage of calcium sulphate may cause little efflorescence.

It is quite possible for a wall which is initially free of salts to be contaminated by their movement from the mortar. The use of low alkali masonry cement will reduce the staining capacity of mortar but the overall design of a building must ensure that the walls are kept as dry as possible by. because when it is too strong it simply concentrates movement into fewer but wider cracks. . care should be taken to prevent migration of mixing water from mortar to bricks or blocks before the cement has hardened. as indicated by the predominance of sodium or potassium compounds at the surface. as salts in solution switch easily from one part to another by capillary action. There is little evidence to suggest that mortar plasticizers contribute significantly to efflorescence because they are added in such small amounts. say. an overhanging roof and the shielding of surfaces from rainwater generally. Drains should be of ample capacity and maintained in serviceable condition. Guidance is given in BS 3921 as to discoloration of brickwork. Present day mortars are fortunately much more durable and likely to resist erosion in highly contaminated air. Although cement contains less salts than hydraulic lime.10 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE that the higher the strength of the mortar the better.

.CAUSES 11 Plate 2: A marked contrast between the upper vertically diverting fluting and the plain rendered base which should have been similarly treated. the lower wall might have been covered with exposed aggregate panels. Alternatively.

12 .

The two main constituents of cement are dicalcium and tricalcium silicates. All these salts. together with calcium oxide. or moving from one part of a wall to another. Chlorides may also come from rubble fill and polluted atmospheres. and efflorescence can be caused by very small concentrations.3 SOLUBLE SALTS Salt is defined as a compound of molecules which in the solid state are geometrically packed as crystals. In the initial stage. lime remains in solution until the concrete hardens. which react with water in concrete to give products which are highly alkaline. Salts derived from external sources. further crystals may surmount these. As carbonation proceeds in the normal course of weathering. replenished from inside the wall and found also within the pores in company with excess water. calcium hydroxide or free lime is released from the cement during the setting process and migrates to the surface where it is converted into calcium carbonate or chalk which is not readily removed because of its low solubility. Portland cement and hydraulic lime in mortars provide the sulphates and carbonates of sodium and potassium. the remaining . This often intractable film is the result of the crystallization or precipitation of salts in solution. but less so if it is well cured. are of fundamental importance. industrial waste and some clay soils although the top few feet are generally free. The resulting deposit is the product of their migration through concrete of poor quality. and even calcium sulphate dissolves to some extent. Carbon dioxide in the air reacts with the surface layer of the concrete to reduce alkalinity in the process known as carbonation. and of subsequent evaporation which can build up an appreciable crust on or within the surface. are very soluble in water. Sulphates are found in building materials. whereas the presence of nitrates or chlorides points to groundwater as the source. In the early stages of hydration. The chemical action takes place more rapidly when the concrete is at an intermediate stage between saturated and completely dry. but which lead an independent existence in aqueous solution. The action of salts is in part associated with cement-based materials as the source of alkalis according to the location and porosity of the medium. and if the first fine crystals in the pores are such that still smaller capillary passages are left. and their composition is to a great extent determined by their origin. The readiness with which this forms depends on the nature of the salts.

The source and solubility of salts vary. there are always localized effects caused by variations in . (d) crystallization within the surface pores resulting in pitting and disruption and known as crypto-efflorescence. This is normally limited to the exposed surface and. Potassium sulphate forms a hard film. curing and exposure. and solar heat may convert these to a form occupying several times the earlier volume. although it is not present in great quantities and is readily washed away except in sheltered parts. their path is devious and their movement dictated by moisture and humidity. but may be influenced by pollution. Magnesium sulphate is responsible for many of the failures resulting from soluble salts. Normal mixing water has only a small percentage of carbonic acid dissolved in it and has little aggressive effect. as the sulphate acts as a binder and.1 CARBONATION Air in permeating concrete decomposes the accessible hydrated compounds to reduce alkalinity in the process known as carbonation. whereas sodium sulphate produces a fluffy deposit when it crystallizes. leading to calcium sulphate. including calcium silicates and aluminates. (b) a glossy skin that causes blistering of the surface.14 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE hydration products. salts may result in the following effects: (a) temporary but unsightly fluffy encrustation. and calcium hydroxide is among the few salts which act more freely with cold water than hot. On the other hand a degree of carbonation and corresponding reduction in alkalinity has a bearing on the corrosion of reinforcement. if the concrete is well compacted and of low permeability. 3. Although there is minimal transfer of calcium hydroxide from the interior of a wellbuilt concrete wall. while retaining dirt in sheltered places. In good quality concrete this produces little change in appearance. are slowly decomposed by sulphur dioxide from industrial airborne sources. nature. Surface failure is often most severe when the salts are in more than one state of hydration. Depending on their origin. Since partly hydrated cement paste is more permeable. (c) a reaction with certain compounds in the cement which gives rise to softening and possible sulphate attack. Its occurrence also depends on the aggregates. distribution and quantity. Ability to dissolve increases with temperature. helps to keep washed areas clean because of its slight solubility. with excessive pore pressure and powdering. The proportion of carbon dioxide in the air is not usually significant. factors which delay hydration such as cold working conditions may increase the surface deposit. the resulting white deposit is built up very slowly in the presence of moisture. cement and admixture content. water/cement ratio.

rain can dissolve calcium carbonate or calcium sulphate from concrete copings to leave salts lower down if the wall is not designed to eject rainwater clear of the surface or at least dissipate it. gravel and sand from well-established quarries are normally free of deleterious chemicals. 3. in which case water is channelled into the surface. The facade is eyecatching. Unwashed sea-sand should not be used.2 CONTAMINATION Concrete can be contaminated by colliery shale used as hardcore in foundations and under floor slabs. Precast products are only prone to attack from outside sources.SOLUBLE SALTS 15 porosity. with efflorescence submerged with the fluting and masked by the bold exposure of the aggregate between the windows. bringing with it dissolved hydroxide and leading to heavy isolated excrescence. for apart from its salt content. Some aggregates may contain sulphur compounds and soluble alkalis. it will absorb moisture from the air to aggravate the situation. while the soil itself provides a possible reservoir which is continually renewed. but crushed stone. . Moreover. Plate 3: A good example of striated walling bush-hammered to expose aggregate and diverting the flow of rainwater within its channels. Trouble is not usually experienced with cladding unless it is located against salt-bearing brickwork and it should in any case be fixed when both surfaces are dry.

The edge beam could have been effectively covered by exposed aggregate panels or fluted to mask the junction between road slab and supporting cantilevered beam. An uncontrolled flow of water is finding a ready exit for salts in solution within the concrete or from outside. .16 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE Plate 4: This fault is common in structures such as car parks where the joint detail is badly designed and the workmanship poor.

The water course must be predicted to its ultimate destination.4 PREVENTION Designer. Long term appearance can be improved by exposing new rough-textured surfaces containing a high proportion of inert particles. but too little sand will allow segregation. while a system of concealed flow may be successfully conceived by the use of neoprene tubing. while diagrams include details of copings to cavity walls and recommendations for bonding. . Precautions should be taken at all times against the transfer of soluble chemicals into the fabric of a building. methods of reducing cracking. even in temperamental weather. and the head of concrete should normally be less than 300 mm above the level of vibration. and his aim should be to let each section of the building be cleaned by rain along lines which may actually improve its appearance. The designer must attempt to predict weather conditions over many years. jointing and pointing. These are the enemies of visual acceptance and conservation. operative and occupier all have a part to play in avoiding disfigurement which may become evident sooner or later. Control of migrating salts is essential and water must be denied entry to a wall. and the most vulnerable parts are those with laitance on the surface. and a finish can profitably be specified by reference to an existing structure in similar location and time. the minimum of run-off from flat roofs should be ensured by upstands at least 200 mm high. and it must be remembered that atmospheric gases adversely affect calcerous materials. CP 121 for walling provides a driving rain index for each of eight wind directions at 20 stations. Vertical ribbing and fluting will control the flow and discourage concentration. Tables offer suggestions for mortar mixes. and the alternative approach is to constrain the flow along pre-determined paths which will be visually rewarding. This channelling will accumulate dirt in sheltered unwashed positions. Rainwater must be evenly organized with attention to string course and cope. The effect of weather on concrete may take the form of crazing or frost scaling. but more evenly. When deciding on mix proportions it may be better to have a slightly lower fines content and a richer mix. Placing should be as rapid as possible consistent with full compaction. exclusion of rain and damp-proof courses. and strategies should include intense modelling to overwhelm staining. but can be subdued by imaginative direction of rain. Below windows it may be expedient to inisist on hidden gutters behind panels so that these weather evenly.

good mix design and constant care are the basic guarantees against such contingencies. narrow feature at returns or corners near the top of a building. as the material is vulnerable when still green. the accent must be on pattern and profile to control rain dispersal and hide its hallmarks. bearing in mind the consequential loss of face in more senses than one if salts are allowed to have their way.18 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE Concrete is unpredictable in surface coloration even when every care is taken in its casting. while rain and the natural ingredients of the ground as the arch enemies must be sensibly directed. for concrete so afflicted is natures own vandalism. its graceless outcome must be sidetracked. the age at which it is put into use is another factor. fortunately it can yield to scientific if not to psychological treatment.2 ADMIXTURES Well-dispensed admixtures can reduce permeability with increased durability so that rain penetration is reduced and colour retention achieved. 4. It must be remembered that concrete is quantifiable on paper but not on site. An understanding of the value of curing is essential in preventing too rapid drying which can lead to dusting and a friable finish. One approach is certainly the provision of vertical fluting at constant or variable spacings. Weather in such cases is not the discourse of fools. one side of which will be washed relative to the other depending on the prevailing wind. Efflorescence is the end product of design and execution which are less than adequate. particular care is required from the very beginning. and external protective measures may be required in exceptional cases. Key words are detailing and diffusion. A new understanding of concrete rheology is needed for a reduction in segregation and bleeding during placing and in its defacement from whatever cause. with boldly expressed panels separated by distinct joints. Our graffitic generation should at least try to eliminate it.1 CONCRETE QUALITY It is crucial that the concrete should be as dense and impenetrable as possible as the rate of salt attack is dependent upon the ease with which water can enter its surface or move within its mass. durable surface. To ensure minimum porosity and a hard. 4. It is sometimes beneficial to provide a separate. Airentraining or water-reducing admixtures and plasticizers will improve resistance to frost and to sulphates. proportioning of aggregates and workability consistent with full compaction. Particular attention should be given to optimum cement content. workability aids assist in compaction and allow . but eye-catching by its contrast with the adjoining main walls. Quality control begins with the selection of its constituents and ends with thorough external treatment. but can be controlled if not altogether prevented.

permit inspection and sampling. faulty lintel bearings and blocks built into a wall when excessively wet. and slip-planes inserted between the wall and a concrete roof.3 BLOCKWORK A building should be dimensioned to suit the precast module aesthetically and practically. The units must be kept dry to minimize shrinkage quite apart from discoloration. Movement joints should be provided at changes of height and wall thickness to anticipate expansion of floor slabs. economic and aesthetic factors. while integral waterproofers can inhibit the migration of salts and lessen the need for cleaning. and covers should not restrict the circulation of air. and protected from damage by squashing. and have joints of appropriate strength. and different kinds should be kept apart. and all units laid on a full bed of mortar with joints adequately finished. Even units designed for facing work can be penetrated by driving rain. and must be protected from sulphatebearing ground to avoid chemicals being drawn into them. while those cast in situ should be propped and allowed time to develop strength before carrying a load. Flexible damp-proof materials should be stored away from heat.PREVENTION 19 lower water/cement ratios. 4. The blocks should be used in order of delivery. Repellents reduce the passage of moisture by countering capillary action. Blocks should be carefully unloaded before laying. Precast elements may be contaminated on site or in the makers yard. preferably above 4° C. It is wise to stack them on a platform above the ground and to guard against corrosion of metals. Long units should be supported on damp-proof courses to permit movement. Blockwork should be divided into rectangular panels. Common defects include unfilled perpends. Concrete can vary considerably in its weathering . The subject is further covered in the section on mortar. bonding patterns not maintained. and at all openings. bed-joint reinforcement inserted in courses above and below windows. but effective membranes and cavities deal satisfactorily with excessive surface flow. Care should be taken in the accurate setting out of the first course to avoid subsequent inaccuracy of the superstructure. frost action and change in moisture content. A careful study should be made of overall design concepts and the effective damp-proofing of walls subject to excessive surface flow and rain ingress. 4.4 CLADDING The choice of cladding will be dictated by a combination of practical. Lintels should have matured and dried before being built into the wall to prevent cracking at the ends due to shrinkage. as otherwise condensation may form. butyl stearate permits it to be better distributed through the matrix as an emulsion.

release stresses that might otherwise crack the wall and control alignment. Cladding should normally be left to weather naturally. BS 3826 recommends that waterrepellents should be applied to completed walls rather than to individual building units to avoid inadvertent treatment of beds which will affect mortar bonding. The migration of salts may be prevented by coating adjoining brickwork with a waterproofing agent before the cladding is fixed. and it should be anticipated that there will be some rain penetration and condensation within the cavity. Masonry cements consist of Portland clinker and a small proportion of airentraining agent. and to ensure that the faces of joints are also treated.20 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE characteristics and the designer should be aware of the likely changes in colour of both the units and their jointing. and there is evidence that it may initially be reduced or eliminated by the application of a silicone-based waterproofer. A mix which is too rich may result in porosity of the jointing by hairline cracks which encourage penetration. bringing salts with it. The surface of precast units covered with silicone will give protection for some years. Most plasticizers contain an additive which improves the bond to high suction blocks. particularly in association with glazed areas. whilst one which is too wet may soak the building units. further reduced by the use of air-entraining plasticizers. be ensured. Other properties such as workability and rate of hardening are also important. therefore. unnecessarily promoting efflorescence by increasing moisture movement and dangerous if frost is expected. Adequate provision for drainage and damp-proofing over openings should.5 MORTAR The main functions of mortar are to provide even load distribution. A mortar should be no stronger than necessary for structural and durability purposes. In certain cases efflorescence can be removed by a dilute acid followed by copious washing. as any trapped water will find a way out. providing a cavity of width recommended in CP 297 and CP 298. 4. together with a mineral filler which increases cohesion without undue water demand. These cements are usually lighter in colour than normal and have lower shrinkage and a better resistance to freeze/thaw conditions. although mortar need only support the given load and have adequate weather resistance. as cleaning systems sometimes adversely affect appearance. Movements during construction can be taken up by a slow-setting mortar with the minimum of cracking and drying shrinkage. resist external forces. Movement of excess sulphate-laden water from the mortar into blocks or bricks will occur if the units are very dry at the time of laying. the best compromise is 1/1/6 of cement/lime/sand. but on the other hand . although a 1/2/9 mix may be used for lower strength lightweight blocks when there is no risk of freezing during construction. Conspicuous staining can be caused by uneven rain washing. Without admixtures.

When precast panels are being fixed. The chief danger to brickwork from the presence of salts is that of sulphate attack. By this means re-wetting of the mortar to keep it workable is unnecessary. evaporation at the joints will be restricted. showing itself as expansion of the mortar or horizontal cracking of the rendering which becomes hollow and falls away. but in exposed conditions the cement content should be increased by richening to 4½ parts sand. Some admixtures are supplied in liquid form ready for use. Wall thickness no longer overcomes the natural absorbency of the material or its constituent parts. Pointing is also significant as a drying surface. Even when no moisture has been absorbed from mortar during laying. plus a plasticizer. but the basic aim is to prevent further attack by the provision of a damp-proof course at all levels. assist in pigmented colour retention and have a water-retaining capacity which provides a tighter bond and prevents passage of moisture. the more the need to consider the dangers of water ingress.PREVENTION 21 prior soaking may lead to loss of adhesion. so that the right balance must be sought. A similar effect is seen if the unit itself is impermeable but the mortar is less so. accurate alignment to agreed tolerance is essential so that . no difference in colour and the absence of chemical action. the mortar should be made with sulphate-resisting cement. Mortars containing admixtures can be more durable. but always consistent with overall durability. with distribution into cracking which is less permeable. and greater plasticity allows a longer spread. resulting in the formation of white bands. Calcium chloride is not effective in protecting from frost by heat evolution. or if by hand in small quantities on watertight platforms. There must be a happy balance between the porosities. Efflorescence forming round the edges of building units suggests that these have absorbed water from the mortar before it hardened and that its constituents have been converted into alkaline sulphates. Mortar made on site should preferably be mixed by a machine which is regularly cleaned to avoid contamination. while a weaker but still durable mix yields sufficiently to accommodate small movements in a wall. Unnecessarily strong mortars can lead to wide cracks. the division of large areas into panels of appropriate size will distract sufficiently by their composite appeal. will improve resistance to rain penetration and frost attack.6 JOINTS The greater use of thin easily assembled concrete units. although grooves may give rise to streaking. 4. for when it is denser than the mortar. so that jointing needs very special attention. If the wall has to be rebuilt and salts are likely to persist. Ideally a feature should be made of all joints and. these compounds may still be transferred to the blocks if the partly finished wall is left unprotected during rain. with less water needed for gauging. and may lead to dampness and corrosion of wall ties. A mix of 1 part cement to 6 parts sand.

as sea salts play a role in the disfiguration of darker surfaces. can divert the flow of water to result in undesirable staining. texture and three-dimensional features capable of dictating water paths. In coastal areas it may be advisable to specify a shade lighter than would otherwise be chosen. it will at least be scattered and less pronounced. to which efflorescence will make its own contribution if the surface is ill-conceived. be secondary to form. 4. before deciding on suitable protective measures. while each element varied slightly. Sometimes a small lip is left which. Traditional units were smaller than the present day concrete monoliths and. rendering and backings. Consideration must be given to the relationship of all the materials and features making up the structure. air pollution and the general susceptibility of wallings. 4.8 DETAILING New concrete has a lightness of tone which emphasizes differential grime. their individual treatment is crucial. with particular emphasis on openings and projections. Lack of attention to the disciplines of practical construction . Detailing cannot be dismissed as irrelevant and there has justifiably been a longstanding practice of capping which. gives a strong outline.7 PIGMENTS Pigments minimize surface differences.22 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE there is minimum interruption to the flow of rainwater. If. therefore. Sufficient intensity of colour is obtainable by a small addition. as even a small crack can cause discoloration if it is fed by rain on a large area of glazing. there is obviously faulty damp-proofing or drainage. although consistency can be affected by differing vibration. Adequate throating will throw the water clear and although it will probably blow back at a lower level. The modern preference for cement in mortar has also upset this balance. The performance of sealants is important. Care must also be taken to anticipate the impact of contaminated salts. and this is best attained by casting against a slightly roughened face which is dry and not treated with a priming layer of mortar. although forming a pattern themselves. Contraction joints may also present a visual problem in that they will appear as strongly marked lines and must be regularly spaced and bear some relation to aspects of the elevation such as sills and lintels. Moreover. the overall effect was often strong enough to subdue weather marking. for good measure. it will in time be masked by soot deposits and should. contribute visual interest and should be regarded as inert fines. if not buffed off. leading to local concentration. a light deposit does appear. No remedial action will hide a poorly made junction between lifts. as the failure of mastics in expansion joints by loss of adhesion or by restraint must be avoided. in spite of precautions.

a mastic joint would allow for slight movement to prevent ingress and it may be advisable to specify sulphate-resisting cement where chemically vulnerable in wetter districts. The surface of structures to be backfilled should. salt-laden or otherwise. and to foresee all points of ingress. well-dripped and prevented from displacement. therefore. After striking.9 DAMP-PROOFING Damp-proof courses should be inserted just above ground level and below overhangs. 4. Free water on a newly cast. For example. previous experience of any locality is invaluable and salutary. There is often a finely balanced combination of direction and duration of rain with variable evaporation and in all prior assessment of this movement. Copings should be specified for walls to throw rainwater clear of the faces.PREVENTION 23 using sensitive detailing has led to some criticism of concrete. 4. while reveals may be recessed and sills inclined to grooves discharging into a drainage pipe. lack of ability is sometimes evident along bridge parapets where a regular pattern coincides with vertical supports. BS 4315 lists methods of measuring resistance to rain penetration by recording the increase in area of dampness and amount of leakage.10 FORMWORK The performance of a concrete face is largely conditioned by formwork. especially in the current quest for new shapes and finishes which are not always proof against the rigours of weathering. The form should be well supported to ensure rigidity in countering excessive vibration. with flashings of impervious sheeting firmly bedded and provided with adequate lapping to cover any intersection or vulnerable joint. quite apart from mechanical damage caused by premature removal. Transfer of dirt from a horizontal to a vertical surface can be avoided by raking backwards. be left for a few days to develop this protective skin. Its effect on discoloration arises from variations such as lining absorption. and this can be aggravated by carelessness at the erection and removal stages. a carbonation layer is established on exposure to air. Recommendations as to winter concreting . displacement of release agent and workmanship during and after compaction. and there is a case for polished granite in this situation. The aim is to keep any form of moisture out of the structure and to reduce concrete shrinkage. it is necessary to recognize the effect of leakage other than that due to cracking. Such a study should be implemented by a consideration of all surface projections and by the provision of membranes below ground floors and around foundations. the more porous the concrete the thicker the layer will be. Rain splashings from pavements can often contribute to the disruption of plinths. non-carbonated surface is undesirable and it is often a disadvantage to strip the shutter at an early age.

Dense coatings such as 1/3 cement/sand should not be applied to walls with appreciable sulphate content and in danger of shrinkage cracking.11 RENDERING Rendering mixes should be weaker than the surfaces to which they are applied and each successive coat no stronger nor thicker than its predecessor. if by so doing the other parts are kept cleaner. While one approach may lie in cleaning the building regularly. The art of concealment and prevention should be practised. of course. aspect. The extent of sulphur dioxide in the air can be regrettably high and to offset this. The number of uses should be restricted. 4. New work should be kept damp for the first three days and the second coat delayed until the first has hardened. while forward slopes may collect silt at their bases. all fixings applied from behind and the holes set out to an agreeable design. coloured concrete or exposed aggregates should be specified. however much these openings divert from its overall pattern. while release agents should be carefully selected and consistently applied. Backward sloping surfaces have a tendency to streak because of partial water flow. free moisture should never be left on the surface. Ideally the elevation should be modelled to attract this in areas of greater shadow.24 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE are given in CP 110 where a strength of 5 N/mm2 is suggested at a concrete temperature not less than 5°C. Although slight watering may be necessary to reduced suction. The cement content of all facings must. For high quality fairfaced concrete the goal is a surface as struck without the need to make good.12 URBAN ENVIRONMENTS The designer in an urban area should regard pollution as inevitable. so that it may be better to specify a coarse-textured dissipating surface. . A hopeful maxim is that the rougher a wall the less the signs of staining. Joints in the shutter should be well taped to avoid grout runs spoiling the lift below. the facing should be stripped off and the brickwork allowed to dry before re-application with a more porous mix of 1/1/6 cement/lime/sand which permits readier evaporation. Discoloration of concrete can be caused by chemical changes in adjacent materials or emerging deposits washed by rainwater from windows above. and using a sulphate-resisting cement for both rendering and jointing mortar. this will accentuate the dirt but mask a light deposit. The other key factors in assessment of any kind are location. be consistent with durability. and striking times are tabulated in CIRIA Report 36. with attention given to extreme weather attack on exposed faces or relatively unwashed alcoves and returns. 4. and suitable admixtures may be used to reduce loss of water and improve workability. severity of climatic conditions and the effects of aggressive salts. If so damaged.

but its absorbency is not uniform and it colours unevenly. but must be offset against the cost of cleaning or repair. while cement paste between fine aggregate particles will also absorb unless conscientiously cured. . for example. All walls containing cementitious products are vulnerable to alkali attack and either non-saponifiable paints or alkali-resistant agents may be employed. Painting may be considered for aesthetic reasons or for easier run-off. where discoloration is offensive even at speed. The effect of disfiguration can also be reduced by planning contrast between adjacent faces using panels alternating in colour and profile. A soluble silicate in powder form may give reduced permeability and protection against the creation of further crystals in the pores. on the soffit of bridges. Such coatings should not be used to improve the durability of the concrete if already suspect by virtue of salt action. It may be advisable to emphasize shadow effects and even the lifts themselves without excessive obtrusion. and when the edges are hammered off they assume the appearance of hewn rock. Efflorescence is only one form of tarnish in a range from scaffolding rust to grout spillage but. is often an in-built irritation. Streaking may only occasionally be acceptable as. The remedy is to influence this movement by regulating its sequence or to scatter by the use of say abrasive blasting. The colour scheme should be wellbalanced using the many shades available. No building is self-cleansing and smooth surfaces tend to weather in the manner dictated by rainfall along random paths. When considering surface permeability it should be remembered that calcined flints are themselves minutely crazed in baking and absorb water in hairline cracks. A good concrete can be marred by dark patches with a lower water/cement ratio than the body of the wall.PREVENTION 25 Concrete is generally less permeable than traditional materials. but their number kept to a minimum for any given project. but even this can be objectionable where it is obviously the result of poor design. It may be necessary to paint the surface after careful preparation. as has profitably been done on motorways. but concrete can be restored to something approaching its original appearance. well-bonded and flexible enough to inhibit cracks or faulty joints through which salts might filter.13 SURFACE TREATMENT The specified requirements for concrete surfaces to suit extreme weathering are stringent. unlike others. but this assumes good mix design and quality control. If the concrete is at risk from chemical or corrosive attack at the rear face it would be sensible to coat with a waterproof backing. 4. Another approach is to use transparent coatings such as silicones which fill the pores as water-repellents but can result in subdued evaporation and the possible build-up of disruptive crystalline growth under the surface. and it is difficult to ensure complete uniformity over large smooth areas. The striations of a ribbed profile hide imperfections.

and to prevent ingress of water. Another approach would have been vertical fluting instead of concrete off a plain shutter. . There has been failure to ensure a satisfactory bond between slab and beam. Emulsions are also valuable in that they are formulated with polymers of similar properties. when used for rendering they should be applied thinly and should penetrate the surface rather than create a glossy film to which paint may not adhere. Efflorescence in the lower part has been dissipated by the bold rounded aggregate. but can be covered over if a suitable primer is applied. Efflorescence can be difficult to scrape off and may disrupt an impervious decorative layer.26 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE Plate 5: The result of not extending the exposed aggregate panels to cover the edge beam.

.PREVENTION 27 Plate 6: This illustrates the failure to prevent efflorescence at the junction of otherwise attractive panels by a suitable mortar mix. with the resulting entry of water from the deck.

28 .

but if it is too tenacious and the time factor important.5 REMOVAL 5. If in doubt it is better to use hand tools.1 WASHING AND BRUSHING Feathery or fluffy efflorescence should be allowed to dry out before removal with a bristle brush. the same techniques should be adopted until their movement ceases or they at least become acceptable. first softening the deposits and then discarding them before washing the surface with water. entrapment in the pores and spalling. any treatment aimed at suppressing evaporation may lead to crystallization below the surface. say. This should preferably be carried out by men skilled in the procedure and with a knowledge of local conditions. deposits not reached by rain can sometimes be removed by repeated washing. Particular care should be taken with structures of architectural or historical importance when cleaning by mechanical means such as grit-blasting and grinding or buffing discs. While efflorescence can often be removed by water only. vigorous or otherwise. even if glossy and encrusted it is often possible to eradicate by scraping when it is not strongly keyed. Wire brushing should only be applied in extreme cases and never to sand-faced surfaces . Continued physical treatment. All may be dissolved in due course by natural means. In sheltered spots. and restoration of important buildings should only be undertaken by specialist firms. it is advisable to consider the effect of cleaning a small section which may show up another. demands sensitive workmanship to avoid damage. It is better to leave certain areas until the concrete is. If some of the salts soak back into the wall and re-appear. a month old to let nature take its course. and possibly with jetting. Before dealing with an extensive outbreak of efflorescence. It is important to remember that dirt at any point not only affects appearance but acts as a reservoir for harmful chemicals and hides evidence of decay. always guarding against dust if the surface contains free silica. little can be done to remove hydration discoloration which is a more deep-seated contrast in shade. other remedies must be applied. In any case. non-ferrous brushes or abrasive blocks rather than rotary power unless the staining is deep-seated and widespread.

5. if necessary. Again the face should be dampened beforehand to prevent absorption of the acid. ensuring that conditions of heat and ventilation are good. while stains caused by leaching from fresh mortar or soaked blocks can also be removed by dilute acid. the area should be washed thoroughly. entire walls should. Also recommended for cement-based surfaces is the application of a 10% solution of phosphoric acid which converts lime to an insoluble compound before suitable priming and painting. applying the solution to areas about a 1 m2 or less. it may be . a disadvantage being possible leakage into the actual building. stored in plastic or rubber containers. treatment with a 5–10% solution of hydrochloric acid is normally effective.2 ACIDS If brushing is unsuccessful. is applied by brush and immediately washed. If the wall cannot be obtained in a dry condition it must be covered with a porous alkali-resistant coating. The surface would first be wetted down and the acid applied with a soft brush or broom. as attempts to fade out are rarely successful. It will also deal with algae growth and normal atmospheric staining. generally in a few minutes. Although proprietary materials are available for the removal of mortar stains. be treated to avoid aggravating the situation. even if the wall is sealed by silicone-based repellents. In the main operation. whatever the concentration. In all cases a trial should be carried out on an inconspicuous part. as soon as the deposit has dissolved and chemical action ceased. Among other forms of agent are those containing hydrofluoric acid. A typical cleaner. However.30 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE likely to be damaged by attention of this kind. it should be directed only in sufficient quantity to keep the deposits moist until they soften. although modern techniques have made this unlikely. in the first place the use of a softer brush and dilute solution over a restricted area is recommended and the surface should be quickly washed down. For integrally coloured concrete a more dilute 2% solution will prevent undue penetration which may otherwise expose the aggregate in places and radically change the texture. If cleaning by water spray working from the top of the building. They may be amenable to pressure hosing. but at the risk of blotching. leaving behind no soluble chemicals but running the risk of unsightly etching of windows. Operations should be restricted to those areas giving most offence. Coverage of this mild acid is about 20 m2 per 5 litres depending on surface porosity and the thickness and extent of deposits. there is no chemical which will completely inhibit the effects of a saturated salt solution. as indeed is good practice after every application of this kind. At joints. starting from above and ensuring that galvanized and aluminium metalwork is protected. waiting a few minutes before removing the salt with a stiff brush and cleansing copiously. Then. and there is no residual chemical reaction when it is used either neat or in equal parts with water. supplemented by careful and timely brushing.

and a study made of all available methods relative to the extent and origin of the stains. and goggles and other protective clothing worn. it is best to seek expert advice and to engage specialist operatives. as acids can permanently scarify and must be treated with respect.REMOVAL 31 advisable to paint the surface of rendering rather than attempt to clean it if the deposit is difficult to eradicate or likely to re-appear. The cleaning of a building should be sensibly planned. . Corrosive substances should be handled with rubber gloves. Care must also be taken to wipe splashes off the skin with bicarbonate of soda or at least soap and water. Above all. including safety measures.

32 .

Above all. can present a complex problem to designer and contractor alike in its cause and prevention. It is often difficult to prevent the movement of salts which pass into solution and on evaporation become more concentrated into solids which are superficial but unsightly. with attention given to grading of the mix. through which the alkaline solution may filter and leave its mark. too much sand or excessive trowelling should be avoided. while porous materials are more likely to bring these to the surface. . Unduly strong jointing mortar can lead to fine cracks. there can be disruption if evaporation is inhibited. Many blemishes arise from defective detailing. The degree of disfigurement is determined by vagaries in weather and workmanship but initially results from lack of knowledge on how best to disperse rainwater over a structure. and saturation prevented by sensible stacking and protection of work as it proceeds. care should be taken to ensure that the concrete is of high quality and reliable durability.6 CONCLUSION Discoloration of concrete surfaces. The answer also lies in breaking up the surface by attractive profiling or the imaginative use of panels and exposed aggregate. When rendering a wall. damp-proofing and construction joints as the crucial factors. optimum cement content and effective curing. whilst localized staining can be caused by variation in porosity. however transient. All elements of a building should be selected as to minimum salt content.

. but the feature has not been taken down to the foot of the wall and has failed to prevent corresponding stains on the lowest quarter of the face.34 EFFLORESCENCE AND THE DISCOLORATION OF CONCRETE Plate 7: A close-up view of a parapet where fluting has certainly helped to break up the surface and direct the flow of rainwater down the grooves at varied centres.

Formwork notebook. Order No: 12. 42. 1982. Cement & Concrete Association. Littlehampton. Arndale Road. 138 pages.493 42.380 42. TATTERSHALL. 1974. 120 pages.480 42. J. 275 pages. Wexham Springs.G. Berkshire. Concrete notebook. J. Wick. G. A4. Order No: 12. Order No: 13. A5.414 42.H. Slough SL3 6PL. George Philip Services Limited. 1977.007 45.G.G.063 RICHARDSON.313 42.384 42. J. Order No: 11.467 42. 92 pages. A4.019 RICHARDSON. A4.008 RICHARDSON.082 CEMENT & CONCRETE ASSOCIATION The following are available from the Publications Sales Unit. Distribution Centre. 2nd edition.7 BIBLIOGRAPHY VIEWPOINT PUBLICATIONS The following are available from Eyre & Spottiswoode Publications Limited.505 45. The workability of concrete.012 The effect of weather on the formation of efflorescence Concrete surface blemishes The influence of concrete mix proportions and type of form face on the appearance of concrete Construction joints in concrete A survey of literature relating to the properties and use of concrete blocks The crazing of concrete An investigation into the incidence of colour variation in formed concrete surfaces Mechanical damage to concrete by early removal of formwork Winter concreting The determination of proportions of aggregates . West Sussex BN17 7EN. Formwork construction and practice. 1976.

105 45.103 45.022 Air-entrained concrete 45.112 45.019 46.36 BIBLIOGRAPHY 45.116 45.108 45.013 Concreting in hot weather 45.103 Cements Aggregates—delivery and storage Testing aggregates Concrete admixtures Reinforcement Batching and mixing concrete on site Transporting and pumping concrete Placing and compacting concrete Curing concrete Making good and finishing Tooling concrete Testing for workability Concrete test cubes Construction joints Formwork Ready-mixed concrete Dry lean concrete Concreting in cold weather Concrete finishes for highway structures The appearance of concrete highway structures Watertight concrete construction Abrasive blasting of concrete surfaces Specification for high quality finishes Striated finishes for in situ concrete The curing of concrete Visual concrete—design and production External rendering The control of blemishes in concrete .114 45.107 45.020 Controlling algae and other growths on concrete 45.117 45.030 Superplasticizing admixtures in concrete 45.034 Concrete in sulphate-bearing ground Man on the job leaflets 45.110 45.102 47.101 45.104 45.111 45.031 Concrete mixes for general purposes 45.016 Impurities in aggregates for concrete 45.102 45.504 47.001 46.010 47.008 47.020 47.015 Chemical methods of removing stains from concrete 45.101 47.109 45.113 45.106 45.118 46.115 45.018 47.

037 Concrete practice 48.041 Precast concrete cladding 48. development and technical reports BUILDING RESEARCH ESTABLISHMENT The following are produced by the Building Research Establishment of the Department of the Environment.104 Efflorescence on concrete 48.BIBLIOGRAPHY 37 47.010 White concrete 48.017 The brighter face of concrete REPRINT 1/80 Structural concrete finishes: A guide to selection and production CATALOGUE 1982: Part 1—Publications. slide sets and films Part 2—Research. and are published by H M Stationery Office. BRE Digest No 45: Design and appearance—1 No 46: Design and appearance—2 No 54: Damp-proofing solid floors No 77: Damp-proof courses No 85: Joints between concrete wall panels: open-drained joints No 113: Cleaning external surfaces of buildings No 125: Colourless treatments for masonry No 127: An index of exposure to driving rain No 137: Principles of joint design No 160: Mortars for bricklaying No 176: Failure patterns and implications No 177: Decay and conservation of stone masonry No 196: External rendered finishes No 237: Materials for concrete No 244: Concrete mixes No 245: Rising damp in walls No 250: Concrete in sulphate-bearing soils No 255: Index of digests Current Paper 23/77: Chemical resistance of concrete Information Paper 6/81: Carbonation of concrete made with natural aggregates BRE Information Directory 1982 HMSO Sectional list No 61: Construction 1982 .043 Model specification for concrete blockwork 94.

1980 WILSON. 1364: 1968 BS 3826: 1969 BS 3921: 1974 BS 4315: Part 2: 1970 BS 4551: 1980 BS 4887: 1973 BS 5075: 1982 BS 5262: 1976 CP 110: 1972 CP 111: 1970 CP 121: Part 1: 1973 CP 297: 1972 CP 298: 1972 YEARBOOK 1983 Ordinary and rapid-hardening Portland cement Materials for damp-proof courses Aggregates from natural sources for concrete Building limes Pigments for Portland cement and Portland cement products Concrete bricks and fixing bricks Building sands from natural sources Sands for external renderings Sands for mortars Precast concrete blocks Silicone-based water repellents for masonry Clay bricks and blocks Methods of test for resistance to air and water penetration Methods of testing mortars and specification for mortar sand Mortar plasticizers Concrete admixtures Code of practice for external rendered finishes The structural use of concrete Structural recommendations for loadbearing walls Brick and block masonry Precast concrete cladding (non-loadbearing) Natural stone cladding (non-loadbearing) Summaries of British Standards ADDITIONAL BIBLIOGRAPHY PERKINS. Design in blockwork. G R Books Ltd. London.and CHATTERTON.. London. Guide to exposed concrete finishes. London N1 9ND.38 BIBLIOGRAPHY BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION The following British Standards and Codes of Practice are published by the British Standards Institution. . M. waterproofing and protection. London. 1970 NEVILLE. GAGE..G... P. A. 1962. 101 Pentonville Road. BS 12: 1978 BS 743: 1970 BS 882: 1975 BS 890: 1972 BS 1014: 1975 BS 1180: 1972 BS 1198: 1976 BS 1199: 1976 BS 1200: 1976 BS 2028. Exposed concrete finishes. Architectural Press Ltd. & KIRKBRIDE. 1979. New concrete technologies and building design. 1977. GAGE. T. London. Applied Science Publishers Ltd. Pitman Publishing Ltd..M. Architectural Press Ltd. Concrete structures: repair. M. London. J. M.H. Vol 1—Finishes in in situ concrete and Vol 2— Finishes to precast concrete.

. Building materials and products. P.. 1975 and Vol 2—Floors and roofs.BIBLIOGRAPHY 39 ADDLESON. L.. Air and rain penetration of buildings. SPECIFICATION. CONCRETE SOCIETY. Principles of modern building. 1977. Iliffe. Manual of good sealant practice. 1972. Materials for building. London. 1977. SEALANT MANUFACTURERS CONFERENCE. Lancaster. London. MARSH. Vol 3—Water and effects. 1980. CONCRETE SOCIETY. Construction Press Ltd. BUILDING RESEARCH ESTABLISHMENT. London. The weathering of concrete. HMSO. Vol 1—The building and the wall. Guide to chemical admixtures. London. 1977. London. 1982. London. Architectural Press Ltd. Symposium. 1976.

.40 BIBLIOGRAPHY Plate 8: Good example of fluting and tiling on a self-cleansing facade.








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