The first step in any concrete repair and rehabilitation project is to determine the current condition of the structure. Sometimes a simple visual examination is all that’s needed. Usually, though, you’ll have to go a little deeper than that to evaluate hidden conditions before providing the owner with a plan of action and an estimate of the cost.

1) First, review the original plans for the structure, including design drawings, specs, shop drawings, as-built drawings, and construction photos. For historical structures, check local rules and determine what the design and construction practices were at the time of original construction.


2) Visit the owner to learn the building’s history, the scope of the project, the owner’s objectives, and what access you will have to the building or facility for your evaluation. Is the repair due to changes in the building’s intended use? Or is it deterioration? You’ll want a written agreement to conduct the evaluation.

3) Get into the building to visually verify what you think you already know from the plan review: dimensions, geometry, and structural materials. Look for changes to the building and loading; determine the severity of the distress; document everything with field notes, photos, and video.

4) If necessary, do some nondestructive evaluation to determine what’s impossible to see directly. Start with simple tools like chain drags and chipping hammers and move up to pachometers, rebound hammers, and ground penetrating radar. If necessary, take samples to the lab for evaluation.

5) Now it’s back to the drawing board! Use all of the information collected to evaluate the structure’s condition and to write your report. Is immediate action needed to prevent collapse or further damage? Is a more detailed investigation needed? Can the structure carry the anticipated loads? Is repair/rehab necessary at all? If so, what are the options? How much is the repair likely to cost?

Graphics credit: Curt Spannraft