What You Need To Know About Magnesite Floor
Magnesite Floor – If you have a home built around the 1920s to the 80s, there is a chance that the floors of your home are made from Magnesite. Magnesite Flooring is a form of cement, created through magnesium oxychloride. What makes Magnesite Floor different from normal cement is that fillers and aggregates such as wood chips or sawdust have been added into it sometimes it may also have asbestos.
Magnesite Floors were common in the 1920s – 80s, mainly in Sydney, as a slab topping or an underlay to carpet and other forms of floor covering.
Made from calcined (or burnt) magnesite and various organic and inorganic fillers such as wood, sawdust, ground silica and talc, mixed together with a solution of magnesium chloride, magnesite flooring is extremely rich in chlorides, resulting in problems of sweating, diffusion of chloride ions into the concrete substrate and metal corrosion, usually seen as lumps appearing below the carpet or cracks in the floor tiles.
There is many issues with having a Magnesite Floor which is why it is now recommended to remove it from your property.
As governments and the building industry focus on managing combustible cladding issues, another crisis is looming over the use of a flooring material known as Magnesite Flooring, experts warn. Potentially affecting tens of thousands of apartments built from 1960 through to the 1980s, the little-known Magnesite Floor-related defects are also more expensive and invasive to fix.
Magnesite Floor Has Effected Up To 90% Of Properties In 20 Years
Up to 90 percent of apartments built between 1960 and 1980 have Magnesite-related defects, according to experts. Louie Douvis.
Magnesite Floor, which was commonly used as a floor topping or leveling product, contains glue. When Magnesite Floor absorbs water, the glue can leach into concrete floors and corrode steel reinforcement bars, causing the concrete to expand.
The City Futures Research Centre at the University of NSW said that in NSW alone there were more than 14,000 strata schemes containing more than 186,000 lots or units registered between 1961 and 1979 which may contain a Magnesite Floor. Peter Johnsson, associate principal with engineering consultancy firm ACOR, said up to 90 percent of apartments built during that period had a Magnesite Floor, particularly those in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, northern beaches, and western suburbs.
“The cost to fix this issue can range from $30,000 for an apartment on the low side to over $100,000 today,” Mr. Johnsson said.
Marton Marosszeky, director at BCRC, a group of specialist consultants in materials for construction, said owners of older apartments needed to be aware of the problem. “It’s a looming problem that’s coming towards us at a fast rate the moment,” he said.
“There are thousands of buildings built in that era with Magnesite Floor. This could potentially eclipse the cladding issue.
But because it’s hidden and slow to manifest, it’s not getting a lot of attention.” Mr. Marosszeky said one of the Magnesite Floor-related jobs BCRC was working on in Sydney involved a 64-apartment building where all units were affected Signs of Magnesite Floor damage include cracked tiles and floors that bulge over rusting steel bars.
“The owners will have to spend up to $2 million to fix this problem,” he said.
“They’re spending millions of dollars rectifying a problem caused by a defective building material that is no longer in the market for the last 30-odd years.”
Unlike the cladding issue, which prompted government and insurance industry intervention because it involves newer buildings, owners of older apartments with legacy problems will have to shoulder the cost. “You could argue that Magnesite Floor is similar to the faulty materials like flammable cladding, but because it’s not a new building, it’s been built at a lower standard in the old days, there’s no current pressure for the government,” Mr. Johnsson said.
Magnesite Floor A Costly Legacy Issue
“In those days, apartments were built quickly and builders didn’t take time to make the floors perfectly flat with the concrete. “The Magnesite Floor used to make the floors nice and flat was filled with sawdust and cork held together by glue. Now the glue was the problem because it was made of magnesium oxychloride in the Magnesite Floor.”
Magnesite Floor absorbs water and dissolves the chloride in the topping. When the chloride leeches to the steel bars reinforcing the floor, it corrodes them.
Mr. Marosszeky said the corrosion causes the concrete to expand by as much as eight times the volume of the original steel.
These expansive forces rupture the concrete, lifting the concrete just as a tree root lifts a footpath as the roots expand, Which is why its best to remove your Magnesite Floor ASAP.
Magnesite Floors that are damage could show up as hollow sound on tiles, cracking of tiles and bulging of the carpet over the rusting steel bars.
Because of the slow corrosion, the symptoms aren’t visible until the damage is already widespread.
“Usually, when it’s discovered, the affected area that you can see is nowhere near the extent, because it’s a massive hidden problem in the concrete,” Mr. Johnsson said.
“So you’ll be looking at least two to three times the amount that is visible on the surface that will require repair. So when you see lumps on the floor, or corrosion rust stains on the concrete, the problem is already there.”
Because it is a structural issue, ignoring it is not an option.
“If you leave it for too long the bars simply get eaten away and then structural strengthening has to be undertaken, adding very significantly to the remedial cost,” Mr. Marosszeky said. “If you let it go, it can cost more than $1000 per square meter to remediate the problem, so stay alert and get help as soon as you detect any issues.”
“In the worst cases, the building will collapse. You have to fix it because it’s a structural problem.”
Why A Magnesite Floor Isn’t Safe
If your home was built in the 1920s-1980s, it is likely that your home has Magnesite Floor. Magnesite Flooring consists of Magnesium Oxychloride, which is a white asbestos material. Magnesite Flooring was applied to the top of concrete ground floors, Homes built all the way through the 1980s may also have Magnesite Floor as it was still sometimes used up until about the 1980s.
It is important to determine whether or not your home has Magnesite Floor because this type of flooring is unsafe and should be replaced. Floors that were made from Magnesite are prone to getting damp since they do not remain moisture proof.
When this occurs, the chlorides that are in the Magnesite Flooring end up seeping into the concrete that is beneath the topcoat. If it is bad enough, it can even corrode the reinforcements of the floor or corrode any water or gas pipes that may be present. Since Magnesite is water soluble, that means that it will always return to its previous state if it exposed to enough water. So what does this mean for homeowners
Magnesite Floors are tricky to work with especially if you are trying to refurbish or renovate your home. Since Magnesite is flexible, it is not a suitable material to simply be overlaid by a smoothing compound. It is also not a good material to be used with some types of floor coverings. Something flexible such as carpet can be successfully used but if a more resilient covering is used, then problems are likely to occur.
Due to the fact that Magnesite was used in old homes, it also means that by now, your Magnesite Floor might not be in the best of shape and is likely showing signs of wear and tear. If this is the case, the best solution is simply to dig out the old material and replace it with a more resilient product.
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