What Can Concrete Scanning Locate?

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Evan Mowbray

What Can Concrete Scanning Locate?

Concrete is an incredibly useful material in the world of construction used in a variety of ways. It’s used in foundations, parking lots and garages, bridges and other superstructures. It’s also embedded with subsurface features, from structural support to utilities. Before sawcutting, coring or drilling into existing concrete, it’s important to determine where these subsurface features are, and one of the most common ways of determining this is through the use of ground penetrating radar concrete scanning. This technology provides a non-invasive look into what’s underneath the surface, reflecting a visualized signal off of subsurface features. What can concrete scanning locate? Why are these features important to the overall concrete structure?

First, embedded utilities and conduits. Ground penetrating radar is useful for both concrete scanning and non-slab related utility locating. While utility locating often involves scanning underground, utilities can also be found embedded in concrete floors, walls, beams, bridges, columns and ceilings. They’re important in delivering important services throughout any building. Hitting a utility can lead to a number of issues, including flooding, electrical outages, and gas leaks. These can lead to costly repairs to both the utility and the surrounding slab structure. Water damage in particular can lead to corrosion of structural elements. which we’ll discuss further below. Conduits are also locatable through a concrete scan. Hitting a conduit could potentially damage the outer casing, opening up electrical cables that could cause a shock if exposed to outside elements.

Let’s talk about one of the more common features of concrete: rebar. Rebar is a textured metal rod usually composed of steel that grips onto concrete to support reinforcement. The word rebar is short for “reinforced bar”. It strengthens concrete by reducing tension, supporting concrete’s already strong resistance against compression. This stronger reinforced concrete is used in a multitude of structures, with rebar usually in a grid-like pattern. Damaging rebar can lead to structural safety issues if struck with the wrong tool. A concrete scan can determine where these support features are, making sure any penetrations avoid compromising the overall structural integrity.

Post-tension cables are similar to rebar in that they act as a structural support that helps mitigate cracking, with an additional step. After concrete hardens, these cables are tightened to support tension over a long stretch of area. This allows for long, thin stretches of concrete to be held up with ease. Any damage or corrosion can be dangerous to a post-tension cable, however. Hitting a tightened post-tension cable can result in the release of the tension that holds up the slab. This unintended release of tension can lead to serious structural damage or collapse, with snapping forces capable of serious injury or death if not avoided. Ground penetrating radar scans can help locate the embedded cable, allowing for markouts of where to avoid hitting them.

Last but not least, voids. Voids are air pockets within a concrete slab. They may be caused by water seeping through the concrete slab through cracks and pores, eroding away at a small area within the structure. Hitting a void while drilling may not be as dangerous as hitting the previously mentioned structures, but that doesn’t mean locating voids isn’t important. Voids should be filled in to prevent further erosion that could weaken the structural integrity of the slab if left untreated. Thankfully, concrete scanning can determine where voids are within a slab, reflecting the data back as an open pocket of space on a ground penetrating radar scan.

If you need to scan your concrete to fully understand your structure, our experienced team at Trinity Subsurface can help determine this information through thorough scans and data reporting. Visit our page on concrete scanning and analysis for further information on how you can locate subsurface features within your slab.

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