Concrete Repair 101: Common Issues and Solutions

I've seen my fair share of concrete problems working in our construction company with 35 years of experience. Whether it's driveways, sidewalks, pool decks, or garages, concrete issues can pop up anywhere. I've teamed up with industry leaders to give you valuable insights on common concrete woes and how to tackle them. I hope to answer your question: "Why did my concrete settle or crack, and how do I fix it?" So, let's dive right in!


Why Does Concrete Act Up?

First things first, concrete isn't invincible. Over time, soil consolidates, leading to voids under concrete slabs. Soil consolidation refers to the phenomenon in which the volume of soil already saturated with water decreases when stress is applied to it, becoming more compressed. Events like weather changes lead to erosion or shrinking of dry soils, and even heavy loads and tree roots can mess with its integrity. Understanding the underlying causes help us apply the proper fix; the soil or fill below is the problem in most cases. Thankfully, there are ways we can repair these issues without replacing your concrete and also prevent them from occurring in the future. Sealing joints is similar to sealing open cracks as it prevents water from reaching the soil under concrete. Doing this with new concrete can ensure it won't have long-term issues.


Spotting the Usual Suspects

Here's a quick rundown of the typical problems I encounter:

  •  Cracks: From hairline ones to more significant splits, cracks are a concrete staple. They can be due to settlement, temperature changes, or just plain old age. All concrete expands and contracts with temperature changes. Cracks grow in width over time due to all that movement.

  • Settlement: When concrete becomes uneven and creates tripping hazards, it is called settlement. Settlement happens when the heavy concrete sinks into the voids underneath. It can happen gradually or rather quickly. When the settlement process begins to cause erosion at a particular site, it often leads to further deterioration at the same location, making it worse and worse.

  • Joint Issues: If you're seeing gaps, worn-out sealants, or rotting wood in your expansion or control joints, you've got a problem. Failing joints can lead to water getting in and causing more significant erosion and soil consolidation issues.

  • Spalling: Have you ever noticed parts of your concrete surface chipping off? That's spalling for you. Water infiltration and freeze-thaw cycles are usually the culprits. It starts with tons of tiny cracks and ends with gradually reducing concrete to rubble after each cycle through the seasons. It's essential to address any type of surface damage immediately to prevent further deterioration.

Fixing It Right: Tried-and-Tested Solutions

1.  NexusPro Caulking for Cracks

When it comes to cracks, flexibility is critical. The common practice of filling cracks with hard materials like grout, concrete, or epoxy is not recommended as these materials do not move with the slabs and cause re-cracking within a year. The other repair we often see is caulking smeared across the crack, which also looks terrible and hard to remove. In addition to not looking good, it does not bond well, resulting in the crack persisting. The correct repair method is to grind a small pathway for a flexible caulking to sit in the crack. While this can widen the crack slightly, it gives the caulking a seat to expand in (up to 100%) and contract (50%) with temperature changes. NexusPro caulking is designed explicitly for this concrete application and can last 20-25 years.

2. PolyLevel - Polyurethane Foam Injection

Got a moving crack or settled slab? PolyLevel, a hydrophobic polyurethane foam, can be injected to raise slabs back to the right level. The foam expands as it cures, filling spaces and providing a flexible seal. It's like magic for your concrete! PolyLevel compresses the soil or fills under the concrete to make it solid. According to the engineers, the material won't wash out or become brittle and should last 1000 years. Talk about peace of mind. An experienced crew of installers can lift concrete despite its age. This means that the slab you think needs to be replaced might be better off being repaired. Amazingly, this product is also environmentally friendly and recyclable if taken to a facility.


3. Sealing Joints

Sealing joints is paramount for preserving the longevity and integrity of concrete, and NexusPro caulking emerges as a premier solution in this domain. Unlike conventional caulks, NexusPro is meticulously formulated to combat UV rays, extreme temperatures, and moisture, ensuring a watertight seal that resists wear and tear. Beyond its functional benefits, it enhances the aesthetic appeal of concrete surfaces with its clean finish. The application process involves thorough cleaning of joints followed by even application and tooling for a seamless finish. Like sealing open cracks, sealing joints prevent water from getting to the soil beneath the concrete. Doing this with new concrete is one way to ensure that concrete doesn't have long-term issues with settlement.


4. Sealing The Concrete's Surface

Sealing the surface of concrete is crucial for a myriad of reasons, primarily to enhance its durability and aesthetic appeal while offering protection against external elements. For broom-finished concrete, often chosen for its slip-resistant surface ideal for driveways and walkways, sealing becomes imperative to safeguard against stains, moisture penetration, the emergence of spider cracks due to environmental stresses, and the gradual wear from vehicular movement or regular foot traffic. We recommend SealantPro for broom-finished concrete, a permanent penetrating sealer that never has to be reapplied. For stamped concrete, which boasts intricate patterns and designs, sealing accentuates its visual intricacies and guards against color-fading and wear from traffic. In the case of exposed aggregate concrete, which reveals the natural beauty of stones and pebbles, sealing provides a protective barrier against erosion, ensuring that the aggregate remains intact and the surface retains its textured charm over time.

Driveway Concrete Repair Example
Driveway Concrete Repair Example

A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

Look, prevention is always better than the cure. Here are a few tips from a contractor's playbook:

  • Keep an eye on your concrete. Regular inspections can catch minor issues before they become big headaches. Calling an expert for a free inspection will help you understand what is causing the problem.

  • Pay attention to the signs. Whether it's a small crack in your walkway or a slight drop in your driveway, address it sooner rather than later. These things do not get better with time.

  • Good drainage is critical. Maintaining soil grade around your concrete so water runs away will help tremendously. Anywhere that water can get trapped under your slabs will cause the soil to weaken, leading to erosion and soil consolidation.

Impact on Lives

Vicki watched her mother carefully navigate the uneven front walkway and porch with her walker. The cracked and uneven concrete slabs were a constant source of concern, posing a tripping hazard that made it difficult for her elderly mother to access the front entrance of their home. Frustration lingered on her mother's face as she struggled with each step. She started having her mother use the side entrance, walking through the yard. Entering through the side was safer, but the constant tracking of mud and grass into the house drove Vicki crazy.


Realizing this walkway's impact on her mother's daily life and her own, Vicki decided it was time to take action. After researching solutions, she came across Ogburn Construction, our company specializing in repairing and renovating concrete. Our team promptly arrived at Vicki's home to assess the situation. We examined the front walk and identified the areas in need of repair. Our design technician suggested a comprehensive solution to fix the tripping hazards and protect the concrete from future damage.


Excited about improving her mother's daily life, Vicki agreed to proceed with the recommended repairs. We carefully lifted and leveled the uneven slabs, filled in cracks and joints with sealant, and applied a permanent sealant to the surface for lasting protection. In the meantime, Vicki took her mother out for a day of errands, relieved that they would soon have a safer and more convenient entrance to their home. When they returned, Vicki and her mother were amazed at the transformation. The tripping hazards were gone, now a smooth and even surface that made it easy for the walker to glide across.


Concrete Repair 101: Common Issues and Solutions - Image 2
Vicki's front walkway and porch repair.

No longer forced to use the side entrance and trudge through the grass, Vicki's mother beamed joyfully as she navigated the repaired walkway and porch. The mess that used to accompany every trip home was now a thing of the past. Thanks to Ogburn Construction, Vicki's mother could now enter her home with ease and dignity. Our company aims to enrich lives; this is precisely the kind of job that illustrates that best!


Wrapping It Up

Concrete issues might seem daunting, but they're entirely manageable with the proper knowledge and solutions. Remember, always consult with professionals before attempting a repair. The wrong repair can make for a more costly repair or replacement of concrete down the line. Keep those concrete surfaces in check, folks! Many of the services we offer in the Richmond and Central Virginia area can be installed all year long, it is advisable to deal with issues before a harsh winter makes them worse.


Until next time, stay safe and remember knowledge is power!

About the author

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Stephen Ogburn
Life-long learner and reader. My biggest ambitions are to stay curious and always be kind.

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