Water repellent surface impregnation for extension of service life of reinforced concrete structures in marine environments: The role of cracks

The enhancement of long-term durability of marine structures is a matter of interest to many researchers. The study presented in this paper examines the effectiveness of a water reducer and chloride barrier surface impregnation of the concrete cover of reinforced concrete (RC) structures, exposed to a marine environment. Specific focuses is on how surface cracks created (1) before impregnation and (2) after impregnation, affect the effectiveness of the surface treatment. The experiments are conducted in an environment which is as close as possible to the real humid subtropical marine environment.A series of reinforced concrete (RC) prisms and concrete cylinders, each treated with various commercial surface impregnation agents, were exposed to cyclic sea water shower under an outdoor environment to accelerate the dry/wet cycles for 1 year. Six types of surface impregnation agents, including four types of silane-based water repellent agents and two types of sodium silicate-based pore blockers (water–glass) were applied. Three types of RC prisms were prepared to simulate the different cracking possibilities, which may occur in surface impregnated concrete structures, during their service life. No cracks were introduced in the first prism group, while cracks were introduced before and after surface impregnation, in the second and third groups, respectively. The time-dependent water absorption of all specimens was monitored during exposure to the dry/wet cycles. Finally the specimens were split open to measure the penetration depths of the surface impregnation agents and the chloride penetration profiles. The areas with corrosion evident in the steel reinforcement in the RC prisms were also measured.Sodium silicate-based pore blockers were found to be inefficient in preventing chloride penetration of concrete under simulated marine exposures. The long-term efficiency of water repellent agents used for surface impregnation was found to be highly dependent on the type of agent and whether impregnation was carried out before or after crack formation.