Last edited 24 Mar 2021

Degradation of construction materials


[edit] Introduction

Construction materials can be very durable but there are many cases of building materials failing prematurely. All building materials can suffer from deterioration and decay if they are not protected and maintained correctly. Common reasons for the degradation of construction materials include:

[edit] Natural agents

Some materials can decay due to natural processes including:

[edit] Moisture

Moisture penetration can cause damage to wood fibres and materials such as plaster, brickwork, concrete and stonework. Capillary action causes water to move through materials and this can result in deterioration.

[edit] Shrinkage

Shrinkage generally occurs in timber. Freshly felled timber will contain significant amounts of moisture, but when used in construction it is likely to dry and shrink, causing cracks and gaps in the timber itself, especially in very dry areas.

Conversely, kiln-dried timber can expand when used in areas with high humidity. The best method to avoid the size changes in timber is to allow it to acclimatise to the conditions in which it will be used, before installation.

[edit] Exposure conditions

Exposure conditions might include:

[edit] Corrosion in metals

Corrosion in metals is the result of chemical processes, typically when the metal is exposed to liquid. The most common occurrence of corrosion in metals is oxidation, which causes rust in iron.

[edit] Loading

Loading conditions causing degradation can be classified as:

[edit] Chemical

All materials are generally susceptible to chemical degradation. This can be caused by:

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External references

BTEC National Construction Student Book, Pearson


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