Blog / Articles

Distinguishing Between Concrete Spalling And Scaling


Difference Between Concrete Spalling And Scaling

Concrete, as durable as it may seem, is susceptible to various forms of damage over time. Two common problems that afflict concrete surfaces are spalling and scaling. While they may appear similar to the untrained eye, understanding the difference between concrete spalling and scaling is vital for appropriate maintenance and repair.

Safe Thaw - Best Ice Melt For Concrete

Safe Thaw

Safe Thaw was created as the ice management solution for tough winter environments. Ideal in commercial and industrial properties, shops, government agencies, bridges, and construction.

Defining Concrete Spalling

Spalling is a phenomenon where chunks or layers of concrete break away from the main surface. This condition is often characterized by:

  • Large, uneven pits or holes on the surface.
  • Visible exposure of the aggregate (the mixture of sand, gravel, or crushed stone) eneath the top layer of the concrete.
  • A general deterioration that progresses deeper into the concrete structure over time.

Causes Of Concrete Spalling

Several Factors Can Lead To Spalling:

  • Water infiltration: Concrete is porous. When water penetrates and then freezes, it expands, causing pressure that can force the concrete to flake or spall.
  • Corrosion of reinforcing steel: Often, concrete has steel bars or mesh for added strength. If this steel corrodes, it expands and can push out sections of the concrete.
  • Improper concrete mix: If the mix used to lay the concrete contains too much water or is cured too quickly, it may be more prone to spalling.

Defining Concrete Scaling

Scaling, on the other hand, refers to the flaking or peeling away of the surface layer of the concrete. Characteristics include:

  • A generally rough texture on the surface.
  • Smaller, more uniform patches compared to spalling.
  • Often limited to the surface layer, without exposing the aggregate.

Causes Of Concrete Scaling

Concrete Scaling Often Results From:

  • Freeze-thaw cycles: Just as with spalling, water penetration followed by freezing can lead to scaling. However, in scaling, the damage remains mostly on the surface.
  • Use of de-icing salts: Herein lies a significant issue. Salts used to melt ice can exacerbate the freeze-thaw damage, leading to accelerated scaling.
  • Insufficient curing: If concrete doesn’t cure long enough, it might not achieve the strength required to resist environmental stressors, leading to scaling.

Why Using Salt Is Detrimental

While salt is a commonly used solution for melting ice on driveways and sidewalks, its impact on concrete is notably negative. When salt is applied, it lowers the freezing point of water. While this effectively melts ice, the meltwater easily seeps into the porous concrete. As temperatures fluctuate, this water freezes and expands, intensifying the freeze-thaw cycles and accelerating both scaling and spalling.

Moreover, salt can be corrosive, promoting the corrosion of any internal steel reinforcements. This not only weakens the structural integrity of the concrete but can lead to further spalling as the expanding corroded steel pushes against the concrete.

Protecting Your Concrete

Given the damaging effects of salt, it’s essential to find alternatives that are both effective and less harmful. One such solution is Safe Thaw. This granular ice melt is designed to efficiently melt ice without the detrimental impacts associated with traditional salts. Being chemical and toxin-free, Safe Thaw ensures that your concrete surfaces remain in prime condition while reducing the risks associated with spalling and scaling.

100% salt & chloride-free, fast acting Ice Management Solution


Understanding the difference between concrete spalling and scaling is more than a matter of terminology. It informs the methods we use for repair, maintenance, and protection against further damage. By steering clear of harmful de-icing salts and opting for safer alternatives like Safe Thaw, homeowners and property managers can ensure the longevity and structural integrity of their concrete installations.

Try Also Our Other Winter Safety Products:

Safe Paw

The Original and #1 Selling Pet and Child Safe Ice Melt for over 20 years. Guaranteed environmentally safe –It won’t harm animals or children, and it won’t damage your property. That’s Safe Paw.  Safe Paw can change how winter affects our planet.

Safe Paw Ice Melt - 8 Lb Jug

Walk On Ice

The handy disposable canister can be taken everywhere, with the same 100% naturally occurring minerals that provide instant traction on ice or snow. Use it on sidewalks, steps, or as an instant traction agent for your car.

Walk On Ice - Traction Agent
Buy Now On Amazon