Understanding Concrete Cancer

Of all the problems that can affect concrete, few are worse than concrete cancer. Most of the critical structure problems that occur in concrete buildings occur because of concrete cancer and often, the only solution is demolition. This week, we take a look at exactly what concrete cancer is, and how it can be avoided.

What is it?

Concrete cancer is a serious form of concrete degradation known as the alkali-silica reaction or ASR. The reaction occurs between two common aggregate ingredients when they are exposed to moisture and results in an expansion of the aggregate which causes pressure in the material and causes spalling, cracking problems, a loss of strength, and ultimately, failure.

What are the signs of concrete cancer?

Tell-tale signs of concrete cancer include spalling, bubbling of the concrete render, rust stains that seem to come from within the concrete and internal leaks. If you see these problems, then you need to call in a professional to assess the situation as soon as if there are visible symptoms, there is a good chance that it has already compromised the structural integrity of the building.

What causes it?

Concrete cancer can be caused by any number of factors, most of which are the result of human error. Poor workmanship, insufficient concrete covering a reinforcement, concrete carbonation from carbon dioxide being introduced to the rebar level, or reinforcement corrosion as a result of chloride are just some of the things which can cause this type of degradation.

 How can it be prevented?

Many of the factors that cause concrete cancer come down to improper construction techniques, so preventing concrete cancer really comes down to being careful who you hire for major concrete construction projects. Always make sure that the company you hire has at least five years or more experience in the industry and has all the relevant licenses, insurance, and qualifications. Whilst it’s tempting to cut costs on construction with a budget contractor, in the long run it could end up costing you substantially more if you choose to go with someone who does not have the skills required to properly manage and execute a concrete construction project.


When it comes to concrete construction, it pays to invest in quality professional services of a contractor who has the skills and expertise to ensure the concrete is mixed and laid properly. As established concrete contractors based in Melbourne, Prestige Concrete is able to manage even the most complex concrete construction projects and ensure that the finished product is sound and durable. To learn more about our capabilities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 0411 440 157.