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UConn Updates CT Leaders on Concrete Research

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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Earlier this month, a team of scientists from the University of Connecticut met with local leaders to discuss research collected over the past year regarding the state’s crumbling concrete crisis.

Crisis History

In 2016, the Hartford Courant reported that some 400 homeowners scattered in 23 towns in eastern Connecticut filed complaints with a consumer protection agency after noticing premature deterioration in their concrete foundations.

Many of the failing foundations were poured between the early 1980s and late 1990s. Some lawmakers suggested the problem would continue to grow as more affected homeowners come forward. The governor requested federal aid in the matter at the time.

According to the Courant, bills to replace foundation are reported to be as much as $200,000, with most insurance companies denying homeowners’ claims.

UConn has been involved with researching the issue since 2015, as pat of a request from the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office to determine potential causes of the concrete problems that have plagued scores of homeowners.

Roughly a year later, in 2016, a research report produced by UConn engineers was released by the state’s Attorney General George Jepsen, stating that pyrrhotite—a naturally occurring mineral that reacts when exposed to oxygen and water—was a “necessary contributing factor” in the foundation issues that plagued more than 400 homeowners.

Pyrrhotite has also recently been blamed for widespread concrete cracking issues in Quebec, according to The Canadian Press.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the province is spending $30 million over three years to help homeowners whose properties are affected by the problem mineral. Officials estimate up to 4,000 homes throughout Quebec are affected.

Following the initial scientific analysis findings, officials announced that two eastern Connecticut companies voluntarily agreed to stop selling material or product containing aggregate from a quarry in Willington for residential applications until June 2017.

By 2018, UConn reported that it was seeking validated methods of testing pyrrhotite in concrete. The project was funded by the university’s internal resources, and would measure the amount of pyrrhotite in samples, with the intention of providing a technical framework so that standardized testing could be conducted.

The research aimed to create a uniform test method that could be used with a future rating system.

In March of this year, Congressman Joe Courtney met with UConn engineers to discuss the ongoing research efforts related to the crumbling concrete.

What’s Happening Now

Scientists from UConn have informed the Capital Region Council of Governments Ad Hoc Working Committee on Crumbling Foundations that a method has been determined to verify the amount of pyrrhotite that causes basement walls to crack.

Another team from Trinity College has also developed a method of measuring the mineral, according to NBC Connecticut.

Throughout the studies, UConn has discovered that basements will crack more rapidly when exposed to moisture. The team is also suggesting homeowners find a way to direct water away from their homes. Additionally, the team has added that they may be able to test the concrete using a handheld device, vs. obtaining more expensive core samples.

In the coming months, the UConn team plans to present a formal briefing on the research findings.


Tagged categories: Building materials; concrete; Concrete defects; Cracking; Cracks; Government; Maintenance + Renovation; Moisture Remediation - Commercial; NA; North America; Repair materials; Residential

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