That's How The Concrete Crumbles: When Ice Melt Causes Concrete Repair

Author: Sara Peters | July 2, 2015 | Category: Case Studies, Corrosion Resistance

Steps_BeforeThe back steps at a Wisconsin wastewater treatment facility had become a hazard. During the winter, the stairs were salted to help prevent ice build-up and keep workers safe. However, years of salting the steps caused the concrete to weaken, crack, and crumble, posing a new slip and fall hazard to workers.

Salt is mildly acidic and attacks the bonds that hold concrete together. As it does, it enlarges the concrete’s pores, allowing more water to seep inside. This effect is exacerbated by the fact that salt attracts and retains water, holding the fluids inside the concrete. When the temperature drops, and the water freezes and expands, the surface of the concrete will chip or flake. After years of salting and freezing, concrete begins to really show deterioration.


Not only did the salt play a major role in the steps' demise, the metal treads installed were also partially to blame. The anchors used to install the treads were buried deep in the concrete, clearing the way for water and salt to easily find their way inside. 

The Wastewater Superintendent recognized that employee safety was at risk and decided to do something about the treacherous stairs. He worked with Crane Engineering’s Corrosion Resistance division on other concrete related projects, and decided to reach out to his Account Manager, Keith Den Ruyter, to see what it takes to repair concrete steps.


First, when it comes to concrete repair, all the deteriorated concrete, as well as concrete contaminated with salt, must be removed. If the contaminattion is not removed, the salt will continue to draw in moisture through the concrete coating, freezing in the winter, and triggering premature failure of the coating.

Once the deteriorated and contaminated concrete was removed at the wastewater treatment plant, the steps had to be re-formed back to their original dimensions using an epoxy.

Lastly, the stairs were coated with a salt and UV resistant coating to protect the concrete underneath. A slip resistant surface was added to increase worker safety.

The Wastewater Superintendent acted just in time. Had he waited another year or two, the steps may have needed a complete replacement. The cost to replace the steps would have been almost twice the cost of the coating and repair.

Got pitted or deteriorating concrete? Ask us about it! We gladly provide technical assistance to businesses and municipalities in Wisconsin or upper Michigan.

Crumbling or Cracking Concrete?  Request a Consultation!

Sara Peters

Sara Peters

Sara leads Crane Engineering's blogging team, coming up with fresh stories and insights for our readers to apply to their every day work.

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