Are Your Concrete Structures Up To A Change In Temperature?

It’s winter, although you could be forgiven for forgetting what time of year it is given how mild the weather has been over the past couple of weeks. However, the Met Office’s warning that warm temperatures are likely to go by Christmas, with the potential for a considerably colder spell in the new year, appear to have come true.

The organisation predicted wet and windy weather over the Christmas period itself, with the longer range forecast for January indicating that we’ll experience longer dry spells, but also a fall in the temperature.

There is even an outside chance of truly chilly temperatures brought in across the Atlantic, with the Met Office forecast stating there is potential “that pressure may also build to the west of the UK across the Atlantic, and this would bring a high chance of seeing a colder interlude develop”.

However, the weather forecasters stressed there is little confidence to this particular forecast, implying that seriously cold weather is unlikely, at least in January.

But why does all of this matter for your concrete structures? The main reason is the potential for temperature fluctuations to cause damage to concrete.

Concrete expands as it heats and contracts as it cools, with the degree to which it changes depending on various factors, including aggregate type, concrete age, temperature variation and water cement ratio, among others.

Of course, older concrete structures that have withstood years of weather and temperature changes are the ones you need to inspect most closely, as their age will make them more prone to cracking and other potentially dangerous structural issues.

In many cases, concrete repairs can be carried out relatively easily, provided that they are identified early and a suitable plan is put in place quickly. This is why it’s so important to continually check concrete structures, such as bridges, to spot any signs of deterioration in the concrete as soon as possible.

Local authorities and other organisations, particularly in the north of the country where the cold weather is most likely to hit, should be conducting regular checks on all their concrete structures. If you notice any damage, it’s essential to call in a professional diagnostic team quickly, so they can assess the situation and make recommendations.

There are various concrete repair options, with the right one very much dependent on the type of structure, the extent of the damage and where it’s located.

With the busy festive period having just passed, now is an excellent time to go out and inspect key concrete structures for any signs of damage.

But while the Met Office’s outlook for the next month only gives minimal chances of a severe cold spell, you should still remember that long-range forecasting is notoriously difficult. In fact, the Met Office’s own winter outlook for December 2016 to February 2017, which was published in November, is a good example of such difficulties.

It predicted that the risk of cold conditions at the beginning of this winter was “greater than it has been in recent winters”, but after we reached the end of the month it became clear that we had one of the warmest Decembers on record.