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Post Tension Repair: Common Concrete Problems & Myths of Post Tensioning Debunked

As early as the 1950s, a method of improving construction practices and reinforcing concrete emerged in the United States. The post-tensioning (or post-stressing) concrete method provides outstanding durability, increased design flexibility, and improved safety. This method also came the need for specialized concrete restoration and repair services. 

Many modern office buildings, commercial and residential towers, parking structures, and facilities rely on post-tensioned concrete. Keeping up with commercial building repair is critical as neglected upkeep leads to catastrophic building collapses, much like the Surfside Condo collapse in Florida in 2021- an event that claimed the lives of nearly 100 people. Due to the rising demand for post-tensioning, planning repair work on post-tension slabs and components is increasingly vital for commercial building maintenance. Commercial building managers and facility maintenance teams cannot afford to overlook understanding how to spot issues quickly and handle post-tension repair needs.

What is Post Tension Repair?

Post-tensioning is a highly specialized and advanced means for reinforcing concrete, making it more suitable for commercial applications, heavy load-bearing designs, and larger building structures. According to the Federal Highway Administration, “the tensile strength of concrete is only about 10% of its compressive strength.” As a result, plain concrete members are likely to crack when loaded. However, embedding reinforced steel into the concrete members helps them accept tensile stresses that plain concrete cannot. Reinforced steel is selected assuming that the tensile zone of the concrete carries no load and that tensile stresses are resisted only by tensile forces in the reinforcing bars. The resulting reinforced concrete members may crack but can effectively maintain the design loads.

The forces within post-tensioning tendons demand that owners, designers, and contractors who maintain these structures understand the dos and don’ts of repair and maintenance to keep their structures safe. 

Highly advanced design elements require specialized skills and a high level of technical knowledge to ensure the structure’s safety and that of individuals working around the structure. Properly implementing a post-tensioning system repair plan is vital to maximizing longevity and ensuring the structure remains safe and stable for as long as possible. Ultimately, post-tension repair work focuses on identifying and fixing issues involving concrete in slabs, support beams, columns, foundations, and more.

How Do You Know if Your Building Needs Post Tension Repair?

Post-tension concrete repair should begin as soon as issues become apparent. The longer the delay in repair, the more expensive the repairs will become. Concrete is popular because of its durability, but it’s also susceptible to cracks, chipping, and other issues. Routine checks and inspections are critical for building maintenance and upkeep if a commercial concrete structure utilizes post-tensioning.

Inspections of post-tensioned concrete structures should include the following regularly:

  • Visual inspection of facilities and critical problems areas – joints, support junctions, and large expanses
  • PT Corrosion Evaluation and regular moisture testing, especially in areas with high water intrusion risks
  • Chloride analysis of PT grout to avoid long-term exposure and corrosion of steel cables and casings
  • PH and chemical testing of structure to ensure no oxidation and to monitor accumulation on surfaces
  • Petrographic analysis, Scanning Electron Microscopy examination, and other tech-backed inspections
  • Cable Break Detection services to monitor tension support and durability on an ongoing basis
  • Regular feedback and communication between team members and staff about noted issues or concerns 

While it is a valuable material and commodity for commercial construction, post-tension concrete requires a more specialized approach to maintenance and upkeep. Working with post-tension repair contractors and finding a repair management company specializing in post-tension concrete services are critical to keeping buildings in good standing. Working with industry experts makes the process easier, whether it concerns repairing a post-tension slab or maintaining building components correctly.

Common Concrete Challenges Requiring Post-Tension Repair

All buildings degrade and break down over time, but there are a few potential issues that can affect post-tension concrete more than others. Using post-tension repair services can help reduce common concrete problems and make commercial building services easier to manage. Some common issue items include:

  • Cracks in the concrete foundation or support structures
  • Uneven floors and shifting concrete in large expanse areas
  • Cracking grout lines or signs of separating and peeling concrete
  • Leaning chimneys or other structures supported by the post-tensioned system
  • Loose or damaged components expose the tensioning system
  • Chipping of concrete in critical support and expanse areas
  • Signs of flaking, rusting or breaking down of concrete structures
  • Advanced age of the structure or long periods since the last inspection or repair work

Building owners should have these areas periodically examined periodically by a qualified structural engineer for post-tension repair. The condition survey will check for potential problem areas, note any procession of damage, make recommendations for repair and maintenance, and work with your team to start the necessary steps to address issues.

What Causes Degradation in Post-Tensioned Structures?

Maintenance and upkeep are vital for a post-tensioned structure’s continued service and longevity. Structural deterioration due to exposure to moisture, corrosive elements, and the simple passage of time can lead to a loss of structural integrity, causing issues with structural safety and stability.

Most instances of repair and maintenance work on post-tensioned structures come down to one of the following concerns, all of which a post-tension repair company can assist with:

  • Voids and air pockets within the concrete structures create weak points
  • Trapped moisture between strands and between wires within the structure
  • Water seeping into the structure through cracks in building envelope seals
  • Grout segregation, deterioration, or breakdown goes unchecked
  • Water penetration from anchorage pockets, joints, cracks, flashing, and seals
  • Water penetration due to floods, roof damage, plumbing issues, or leaky windows
  • Chloride-contaminated grout and exposure to other corrosive chemicals
  • Dissimilar grouts used in the same tendon create chemical reactions
  • Improper installation of post-tension cables and anchors during construction
  • Poor maintenance and upkeep early on in the lifespan of the structure
  • Damages and concerns left unchecked and unaddressed for too long

Like all building materials, post-tensions concrete offers advanced benefits and features, but it is not perfect and still requires routine checks and maintenance work. Keeping up with this is vital to commercial concrete building construction and upkeep.

Debunking Myths Around Post-Tensioning and Repair

Post-tension concrete’s popularity also comes with various myths that can cloud judgments and impact maintenance protocols. The following are some of the most common myths that repair experts encounter when working with commercial maintenance teams.

MYTH: It is difficult to cut holes and add features to post-tensions slabs and structures.

REALITY: Post-tensioned structures are just as doable and can be easily customized. In this regard, there is not much difference between typical concrete structures and post-tension concrete. Tendon layouts can allow for future aesthetics or building repair needs.

MYTH: Parking garages and structures are more expensive when made with post-tensioning.

REALITY: Keeping long-term budgets in mind when comparing material and construction costs is crucial. While upfront costs for a post-tensioned system might be more, it will require less maintenance and upkeep and save management money in the long run.

MYTH: Post-tensioned buildings experience more shortening than they would otherwise. 

REALITY: All concrete will experience some degree of shortening due to the nature of concrete building materials. It is inherent in the curing process as it will shrink, and there is no stopping it. Contractors control building geometry, and post-tensioning is no more prone to shrinking.

MYTH: Post-tensioning is not possible with below-grade applications.

REALITY: Below-grade applications are structures located below the main building. Post-tensioning concrete can be used in these cases quickly. Benefits of below-grade applications include less cracking, improved durability, thinner slabs, and easier excavation. 

MYTH: It is always better to use more post-tensioning.

REALITY: Post-Tensioning is no compensation for sloppy design and is no cure-all. Excessive use can lead to overbalancing effects -deflection problems, cracking, shifting, bowing, or severe blowouts, all of which can be costly to fix. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Why Working with A Commercial Building Services Provider for Post Tension Repair

Ensuring commercial building repair and proper maintenance of post-tension concrete structures remains an essential part of facility management. Building owners and managers cannot afford to overlook even minor issues with structural integrity. Failure can lead to catastrophic building collapse, loss of life, and severe property damage. With post-tensioned systems showing up everywhere, repair work on the systems has become increasingly vital for commercial building maintenance. Contact The A1orange Group today to learn more and find support with a leading post-tension company.

Why Should Buildings Use Post-Tensioning Systems?

Commercial concrete management, including post-tensioning systems, is critical to any residential or commercial high-rise and multi-level parking garage construction project. Post-tensioning involves placing prestressed steel “tendons” tightened once the concrete hardens. The additional stress of tightening compresses the concrete into its strongest state, ensuring it can support the external service loads (weight) once using the structure. 

Failing to factor in the load-bearing capability of a structure can lead to catastrophic events, such as the collapse of the Hotel New World in Singapore in 1986. The six-story building collapsed in 60 seconds, resulting in 33 deaths. More recently, investigators are still trying to determine the cause of a partial parking garage collapse in Baltimore in July 2022.

This article looks closer at post-tensioning systems, explaining what they are, how they work, and their benefits to construction and architecture. We’ll also present some practical applications of post-tensioning concrete, criteria to consider when evaluating such systems, and where to turn for post-tensioning repairs.

What is Post-Tensioning?

Post-tensioning is a unique design technique that reinforces concrete in commercial building construction. This process helps strengthen concrete, allowing it to hold up better post-construction, keeping structures secure and stable. Post-tensioning tendons generally consist of stainless steel and reinforced cable bundles. These run inside plastic coatings or sleeves, placed inside the casings where concrete is poured before filling. Afterward, the cables are tensioned and anchored against the other concrete edges. 

The post-tension acts much the same as support beams and improves the safety and stability of concrete pillars, foundations, columns, and other structures. Post-tensioning concrete is critical in the commercial building process, and proper execution gains maximum benefits.

How Does Post-Tensioning Work?

Post-tensioning works within commercial building structures as a form of prestressing. Steel is stressed and put under tension before the concrete has hardened to support the service loads and stress of the building. Most precast, prestressed concrete has this process done as well. Post-tensioned concrete means that the concrete gets poured, and then tension is applied—but there is stress before applying the loads, leaving it prestressed. It is a way of preparing the structure to support the loads and stress of large commercial systems adequately. 

Reasons concrete is popular in commercial buildings and commonly seen in post-tensioning construction include:

  • High durability and resiliency over long periods.
  • Relatively low maintenance and upkeeps are required.
  • Affordable and easy maintenance and repairs.
  • Affordable for mass projects and large-scale production.
  • The versatility of applications allows greater design creativity. 
  • Easy to source locally for more affordable rates.
  • It can be used in all climates and temperature extremes.
  • Highly resistant to rust and corrosion.
  • It is fire resistant and doesn’t burn easily.
  • Fewer issues with pests, mold, and other issues.

With so much in favor of concrete construction, the ability to improve the features of stability, durability, and longevity with post-tensioning only adds to the appeal of concrete usage in commercial structures.

Why Post Tensioning & What are the Benefits?

Concrete is the most popular construction material in the world, and for a good reason. It’s widespread in commercial buildings, not only for basements and foundations but also for exterior walls. And, of course, it’s used frequently for sidewalks, ramps, and parking garages. The concrete used in commercial buildings is often subject to more significant pressures and stressors than concrete for residential use. When used in massive commercial building projects, this requires additional support and design considerations.

Concrete may be among the most common construction materials, but it can still come with a high price tag. Industry estimates show that a concrete parking garage could range between $4 and $7 per square foot. This price typically includes the cost of materials and labor. A smaller structure may run $5,000 to $14,000, whereas a larger building could be as much as $174,000-$490,000. Larger commercial structures, whether office buildings or parking garages, require more structural performance, which may change how you need to utilize concrete. This is where post-tensioning makes its impact. 

Considering all these features and benefits, one critical aspect of commercial concrete management and upkeep regarding degradation makes all the difference post-tensioning. 

Post-tensioned concrete has a variety of benefits, including:

  • Allowing concrete to be used in higher and longer spans to create larger spaces
  • Providing increased strength and support for load-bearing areas of construction
  • Compensates for poor site conditions and improves structural stability
  • Installs and hardens faster than other conventionally reinforced concrete structures
  • It uses much less concrete, saving money and resources
  • Provides flexibility and options for primary formwork and final aesthetic touches
  • Increases the overall safety and durability of the structure
  • Provides a faster and more practical manufacturing option
  • Safe to use in nearly every building situation
  • Reliable structure strength with post-tensioning
  • Easily scalable for use in small, medium, and large commercial buildings

Finding the balance between affordable concrete usage and durable post-tension elements remains crucial in planning and maintaining commercial structures.

What Exactly is a Post-Tensioning System?

The post-tensioning concrete method was first developed in the early 1950s by industry specialists such as VSL in Switzerland. Post-tensioning is often a solution for addressing design and engineering issues. It enables the operational definition of the internal load path in concrete structures by superposing a favorable state for the internal stresses. This stress reduction minimizes deformations, reduces the thickness of concrete segments, reduces reinforcement congestion, joins components without relying on wet joints, and allows high-strength steel to reinforce structural components further. 

The post-tensioning system is a structural support mechanism essential to many commercial concrete structures built today. Experts who specialize in concrete repair and upkeep utilize this system for three main reasons:

  • Structure Strength with Post-tensioning

Post-tensioning lightens the structure’s weight, reduces load-bearing packages, and helps improve the overall aesthetic appearance.

  • Wide Application and Usage Area

It can be used in a wide variety of structures and often occurs in a wide range of systems that vary in size and usage.

  • Professional Touch and Service

Post-tensioned construction offers the most suitable solution for combining production and application to create a final uniform structure.

Common Applications for Post-Tensioning 

This act of prestressing has several advantages over standard rebars:

  • Significantly removes the risk of shrinkage cracks, so fewer joints are required. Shrinkage cracks occur naturally in poured concrete during the curing process as the concrete loses its moisture.
  • Cracks that do occur are held tightly together and do not grow and spread.
  • It allows structural concrete pieces to be thinner and lighter than they would normally.
  • Engineers and designers can build slabs over expansive areas or on softer soils.
  • Post-tensioning supports longer spans in elevated areas like floors, beans, and ceilings.

Criteria of a Post-Tensioning System to Evaluate

Building designers looking for a post-tensioning system should first consider three factors to avoid  costly damages and repairs down the road.

Type of structural element – the depth of the structural component plays a key role:

  • Use of slab tendons with flat designs for thin structural elements such as floor flaps and ceilings.
  • Multi-strand tendons can be used for any other application and are common in thicker heavy construction areas.

Structural design – taking into account specific structural design requirements:

  • Post-tensioning can be introduced and might utilize internal or external tendons or, in some cases, a combination.
  • Concrete slab post-tensioning tendons are bonded or unbonded based on the location, application, and desired results.

Protection against corrosion – Protection needed to safeguard cables against corrosion: 

  • The tendon encapsulation depends on the required protection level (PL) – PL1, PL2, PL3, typically subject to location and environmental exposures.
  • Corrosion protection is the application of anti-corrosion chemicals to prevent damage to equipment or facilities caused by corrosive processes.

Get Quality Building Repair and Management Services From Industry Experts Familiar With Post-Tensioning Systems

Finding the balance between affordable yet durable materials is vital in planning and maintaining commercial structures. Post-tensioning concrete systems allow the utilization of the durable and versatile nature of concrete, while the addition of steel cables and tension support add required structural stability. 

The post-tensioning system is the structural support working behind the scenes to provide long-lasting strength, durability, safety, and protection. Professional building management services are integral in maintaining post-tensioning systems to guard against building collapses. 

Make sure your team is ready to deal with the maintenance and upkeep of post-tensions systems. Contact A1orange Group today and work with industry experts who can keep your building in good working order.

Characteristics of Best in Class Rapid Commercial Building Leak Detection & Repair

Commercial leak detection and repair might seem farther down the to-do list with everything building managers have to track and monitor. However, knowing how to find and address a water leak in a commercial building is a significant point facility management teams cannot afford to overlook. A simple little water leak might seem like a minor issue, but in reality, must be addressed as soon as possible before it becomes a situation that needs emergency leak repair services

If a little leak is ignored, it can eventually lead to significant water damage and other issues, leading to thousands of dollars in repairs. Home Advisors offers the following estimates for home repairs, which can be much higher for commercial properties. They estimate the cost of a plumber averages from $175 to $450 for a typical job, and average hourly rates can be as high as $200. Depending on the job, some plumbers will also tack on a flat rate or service fee that could be hundreds of dollars as well. 

This is why commercial leaks and signs of water intrusion must be dealt with sooner rather than later. A water leak in a commercial building can be much more complicated and involved to fix, and the damage caused by delays in detection and repairs can be significant.

Common Areas For Water Leaks in Commercial Buildings

As a business owner, not much will frustrate and disrupt the way unexpected interruptions to daily operations and routines. These interruptions can pull attention away from vital services and processes or, even worse, directly cost the company time, money, and resources. Knowing and identifying degredation causes and signs is a vital part of building management. Leaks and water damages in commercial buildings are of major concern, especially as buildings age and begin to degrade and become more prone to breakdowns, system failures, and water intrusion.

According to FacilitiesNet Water damage causes billions of dollars in financial losses across the real estate industry, and these claims can get extremely costly for businesses. Direct costs for cleanup, repairs, replacements, and mold remediation, as well as indirect costs, such as legal fees, delayed projects, or business interruptions, can wreak havoc on an organization’s profit and loss statement.” These expensive costs can all arise from the common leak and water infiltration points within commercial buildings:

  • Roofing Leaks
  • Plumbing Leaks
  • Basement Leaks
  • External Leaks

There are countless ways that even a seemingly minor leak from one of these points can turn into a major headache. Here are a few examples commercial building managers should be aware of:

  • Suppose a pipe is allowed to leak for long periods of time, or suddenly bursts and goes undetected. In that case, it can cause significant damage to commercial building structures such as parking garages by the time visual signs identify it.
  • Commercial leaks often occur in walls, which also causes some of the costliest damage to commercial properties. A small leak could go undetected for months behind a wall or even longer, leading to devastating structural damage.
  • A source of water intrusion might not originate inside the building but rather seep in from outside. Poor roof and facade envelop maintenance, gaps in windows and doors, and degrading foundations allow water to seep in slowly.
  • Even a minor pipe leak can cause severe damage to ceilings, carpet, and hardwood flooring. Even without structural damage, replacing ceiling panels and carpets and cleaning up afterward can be costly.

Facility managers and maintenance teams can stay on top of all this with best-in-class commercial leak detection, repair, and waterproofing services.

What Best-In-Class Rapid Commercial Building Leak Detection & Repair Services Look Like 

Valcourt specializes in water leak detection services directed at commercial properties. Rapid leak detection and repair become accessible with a skilled and experienced team, state-of-the-art technology, and reliable services. A water leak pinpointed correctly saves companies time, money, and resources. Knowing how to avoid leaks and address problems sooner rather than later can also save companies a significant amount of time and money.

This accuracy helps to avoid unnecessary property damage that less experienced water leak detection methods can’t prevent. Ultimately, these best-in-service features make facility management more manageable and make property upkeep more affordable. Valcourt Building Services is the premier provider of all commercial property repair, inspection, and maintenance needs. With over 30 years of experience and tens of thousands of repairs and maintenance jobs completed,  our team can assist facility management personnel with all building maintenance and leak repair services. No matter what your building requires, we have the knowledge and expertise for all commercial exterior maintenance needs.

Valcourt’s high-quality and best-in-class leak services translate into quick, accurate, and affordable benefits when and where they are most needed. With the following best practices and services, commercial building maintenance and upkeep becomes much more streamlined and efficient:

Fast and Reliable Service From Industry Experts

Best-in-class leak-related service providers provide commercial property owners with the fastest and most reliable services. They utilize the latest and safest access equipment in the industry in the hands of trained and experienced professionals to find, address, and prevent leaks when possible.

Real-Time communication and On-Demand Data Access

The best service providers provide a customer-focused approach to each project and will communicate effectively with all involved parties throughout the process. Fast response, prompt work completion, detailed follow-ups, customized services, and on-demand support ensure quality service for facilities management

Professional Team of Local FM Providers

Best-in-class commercial facility managers and technical teams are trained and dedicated to providing quality service for all property owners. They know how to identify problem areas, implement appropriate solutions, document concerns, identify potential concerns, and communicate effectively.

Facility Protection and Security Options

Quality facility maintenance providers focus on keeping commercial buildings safe, secure, and operational by finding and repairing leaks that threaten daily functions and activities.  If a building is behind on maintenance or not up to code, they can offer facility protection and security options to address this issue.

Proactive Management to Reduce Disruptions

Routine building checks and inspections of common leak areas can help ensure that minor issues are detected and addressed effectively. Disruptions and downtime can be minimized, and bottom-line profits become easier to manage with a proactive approach to commercial leak detection and repairs.

Commercial building maintenance and upkeep can become less stressful for facility maintenance teams with these best practices and services. Small leaks can quickly grow and lead to costly damages. This is why finding the best in class rapid lead detection and repair services, such as ProExpress from Valcourt, are vital for any facility management and maintenance program.

The ProExpress Valcourt Difference for Commercial Building Leak Detection

ProXpress covers all best-in-class services as part of Valcourt Building Services’ premier services, including restoration, waterproofing, and building inspections. Partnering with property owners and property managers, their team works to service all aspects of a building’s exterior. 

The ultimate goal is improving facility management, monitoring building integrity, and unlocking the benefits of keeping buildings well maintained and in good condition. Benefits that include:

  • Leak investigation, water intrusion testing, waterproofing maintenance, and repairs for water infiltration and damages.
  • Minor exterior repairs for sealant, and waterproofing issues as well as concrete and facade repairs on commercial buildings and structures.
  • Emergency safety concerns related to water intrusion, building leaks, and related damages and structural issues.
  • Temporarily secure cracked or broken glass to avoid further damage while repair work begins in earnest.
  • Proactive planning, scheduling, and monitoring of potential problem areas during and after renovation and construction projects.
  • Prompt services to find, diagnose and address commercial leaks and offer quality assistance when needed the most.
  • Fast, reliable, and proficient communication with team repair teams and building staff before, during, and after repairs. 
  • Trained and professional staff are always available to answer any questions and address any concerns that arise.
  • Personalized protection of commercial properties focuses on individual needs and goals and offers best-in-class service.
  • Proactive planning and preventative maintenance to ensure issues are caught early and addressed promptly.

Dealing with water leaks and issues is not something building managers want to face. But it is, unfortunately, a common occurrence today. Knowing who to call for best-in-class services remains a critical first step. Valcourt Building Services’ premier ProExpress leak detection and repair services are the best in the industry.

Keep Buildings Safe and Dry With Quality Commercial Building Leak Detection Services From Valcourt

Commercial leak detection and repair might seem like a little thing in the grand scheme of commercial building management and upkeep. However, knowing how to find and address a water leak in a commercial building remains vital to ongoing operations and the safe management of commercial properties. 

Facility management teams cannot afford to overlook the warning signs of commercial building leaks and must ensure rapid leak detection and repair services are easily accessible. There are many ways that unaddressed leaks and water intrusion can turn into a major headache, all of which can be addressed with best-in-class services from Valcourt. Call today to get started.

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