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Understanding Concrete Flaking and Its Similarities with Spalling

Understanding Concrete Flaking and Its Similarities with Spalling

November 29, 2023

Concrete, which forms the integral structure of many modern buildings, is renowned for its durability and strength. However, despite its robust nature, it is susceptible to natural wear and tear, harsh environmental conditions, and poor construction techniques, all of which can result in damage over time. Two of the most common problems that afflict concrete structures are flaking and spalling. While they may seem similar, it's crucial to delve deeper into these conditions to understand their nuances. In this article, we will primarily focus on flaking, but oddly enough, you’ll discover that it has a striking resemblance to spalling.


Also known as scaling, flaking is a predominant issue affecting concrete surfaces. When concrete begins to flake, it means that its top layer is peeling away from the hardened, integral part of the material, exposing the underlying aggregate. This is not just an eyesore; it also compromises the integrity of the structure and can lead to broader issues if not promptly addressed.


Flaking is a common occurrence in freeze-thaw settings. In such climates, water penetrates the porous nature of the concrete and freezes. When water freezes, it expands, exerting pressure on the surrounding concrete. As the thaw returns, the water dissipates, leaving a void. This continuous cycle of freezing, expansion, and thawing causes the surface of the concrete to weaken, leading to peeling off, or as it's more commonly known, flaking.

Another common cause of flaking is the use of chemicals like deicers. Often, these chemicals can induce a similar freeze-thaw cycle, intensifying the process even more and leading to flaking. Inadequate concrete mix or improper application techniques can also be to blame for flaking.


Flaking and spalling often get confused, and reasonably so, given that these conditions portray similar symptoms. Much like flaking, spalling involves the degradation of concrete, causing it to chip or break off in fragments. The primary difference between the two stems from the degree of damage and the size of the affected area.

While flaking typically affects the thin top layer of the concrete, spalling extends deeper into the surface and affects larger areas. The surface degradation from spalling can reveal the aggregate and sometimes the reinforcing steel within the concrete, leading to severe structural deficiencies.

However, regardless of whether it's flaking or spalling, these issues need proper and immediate attention. They indicate an unresolved issue with water ingress or a potential structural problem that could escalate if left untreated.


The longevity of a concrete structure primarily depends on the quality of the pour, the climatic conditions of the area, and long-term maintenance. It is crucial to consider environmental factors and utilize durable building materials to minimize the risk of flaking and spalling, thereby ensuring the longevity of the structure.

If you notice signs of flaking or spalling on your concrete structures, it's advisable to consult with a professional as soon as possible. Remember, catching these issues early and addressing them promptly can prevent further damage, safeguarding the integrity and lifespan of the structure. Flaking might seem like a minor aesthetic issue, but it can be an indication of more serious underlying problems calling for your immediate attention.

So, understanding the complexities of concrete flaking, identifying its similarities and differences with spalling, and taking timely corrective action will go a long way in maintaining the health of your concrete structures."