Concrete is pretty amazing stuff. It can be poured, shaped and made into just about anything you like. But even though it’s incredibly strong, it’s not indestructible. So, when you see cracked concrete or a driveway or patio that has sunken or broken slabs or is pitted, flaked and stained, there are reasons why these things happen.
What Lies Beneath
When your home was built, the contractor likely moved the soil around the building site resulting in poorly compacted soil. And even when it is compacted well, it’s never as stable as the original soil. Over time, this can cause voids to form and slabs to settle.
Another cause of soil failure is drought. During dry conditions or even just during periods of warm weather and low precipitation, the soil under your concrete will dry out and shrink, creating voids. The concrete above eventually cracks and sinks into these empty spaces; especially if any weight is placed on it.
When the rains return, the water has an even easier pathway under the slab due to cracks and crevices left over from the dry period. And this wet, soft soil is just too weak to support the concrete above it. In the worst case, the soil erodes and washes away completely, leaving behind large voids that cannot support the weight of the concrete above.
Pitting, Flaking, Staining
Moisture is concrete’s strongest enemy. It seeps into the pores of untreated concrete, and when temperatures drop, especially during freeze-thaw cycles, that trapped moisture expands as it turns to ice. This expansion destroys the pores and weakens the concrete. This results in concrete slabs that can pit and flake. Concrete’s porous nature also makes it susceptible to staining when left untreated.
Why Concrete Fails
The concrete structures around your home can prove to be especially sensitive to water damage. That means that you’re not just watching out for the structural integrity of your foundation when the rain and snow start to come down. You’ll also want to keep an eye on your patio, walkway, driveway, and concrete steps.
These structures are just as vulnerable to cracks as the rest of your home, if not more so. While your foundation has a layer of dirt around it to generally cushion it from hydrostatic pressure and similar forces, most of the aforementioned structures come into direct contact with sitting water or moisture. If you’re not keeping a close eye on them, they may begin to slip or otherwise show signs of damage before you’ve noticed that something’s amiss. Slipping or cracked concrete structures are more than just inconvenient—they actively devalue your home and put your family at risk for accidents.
The good news is that you can not only repair the damage done to the concrete structures around your home but you can also waterproof them to prevent that kind of damage from appearing in the first place. The professional contractors in your area can inspect your concrete slabs on a regular basis or after signs of damage appear to better help you understand what kind of problems to watch for and how best you can go about repairing any structural lapses that may have already set in.
The concrete around your home can fail for a myriad of reasons. Some of the most common include:
More often than not, high levels of humidity and heavy rain can cause the concrete slabs around your home to slip. Homes on lower grades or that aren’t appropriately waterproofed, for example, can see their porches start to sink into the ground as those porches crack from the stress hydrostatic pressure puts them under.
More specifically, hydrostatic pressure, using humidity and heavy rain as its mediums, can cause the cement around your home to change size on a molecular level. As your concrete expands and contracts, it can push up against the borders of your home, engaging in what is known as concrete crawl. Those same structures can develop stress cracks over time as they try to compensate for their many changes in size and shape. Water, in turn, can make its way into those cracks and increase the amount of hydrostatic pressure that your structures have to contend with. In this way, hydrostatic pressure tends to beget itself, making it all the more difficult for you to repair the damage that’s popped up around your home.
Other Causes of Concrete Failure
That said, animals and tree roots can also do significant damage to the concrete structures you have around your home. If, for example, you have trees with invasive root systems planted within 20 feet of a concrete structure, the soil beneath your structures can shift unevenly, causing your structures to sink. Burrowing animals can leave behind similar gaps.
You’ll never know which of these forces is causing problems for your property, though, if you don’t know what signs of damage to look for. If you think something may be going amiss out in your yard, you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
- Unusual animal behavior around your property
- Gaps in the foundation line near your home
- Pooling water or unusually damp soil near your porch, patio, driveway, or other concrete structures
It is in your best interest to try and figure out why the concrete structures around your home may be failing. With that in mind, if you’re not able to identify any immediate causes, you can reach out to area professionals to schedule a property inspection.
There’s a difference between destroyed concrete and concrete that’s suffered from damage. Telling the difference can not only help you better assess the conditions of your property but can also guide you as you’re trying to determine how best to conduct repairs around your home.
Destroyed Versus Damaged
As mentioned, destroyed concrete and damaged concrete are not the same things. Damaged concrete likely has cracks in it or may have started to sink by half an inch or so. However, professional contractors should be able to lift these shifting structures back into their original positions, provided that no moisture has made it beneath those structures and compromised the integrity of the dirt.
Destroyed concrete, comparatively, has been impacted by both moisture and ice to the point where it is no longer stable to walk on. Concrete is a surprisingly porous material and can, in turn, absorb a considerable amount of moisture over a short period of time. If you’re not able to attend to that moisture problem, then you may find yourself not only contending with concrete cracks but also damage wrought by ice as well. As temperatures drop around your home, after all, any moisture that your concrete has absorbed can freeze within the concrete itself. Because water can expand by up to nine percent when it freezes, ice can rapidly tear apart the concrete structures you have in place around your home.
Contending with Destroyed Concrete
If it turns out that professional contractors may not be able to repair the concrete around your home, you’ll need to explore your replacement options. If you’d like to restore a destroyed patio or front walk, you can continue to work with area professionals to see that job done.
In the same breath, you can also explore what kinds of concrete waterproofing measures may be available to you upon pouring these new structures. Piers and other underpinnings, for example, can help prevent concrete sinkage, whereas mudjacking and other types of ground injections can solidify the earth around your home to better prevent it from shifting and promoting concrete cracks.
The impact of damaged concrete on your home varies depending on the extent to which the structures in question have suffered damage. That said, you’ll never want to let suspected concrete damage sit, lest it has a chance to worsen. Instead, you can reach out to area professionals for guidance before your property starts to lose value or your loved ones’ well-being begins to suffer.
Water Damage and Your Home’s Market Value
As mentioned, concrete that expands and contracts in response to the presence of water falls victim to concrete creep and crawl. This kind of pressure, when forced up against your home, can cause your walls to bow and then to cave once the weather starts to cool again.
That isn’t the only threat your home may face, though, if you let damaged concrete go untreated. If you don’t make a point of repairing damaged concrete structures around your property, you risk losing up to 30 percent of your home’s resale value should you ever wish to put it on the market. Damaged concrete structures that have settled in plain sight often indicate some manner of foundation instability across your property. A realtor will have to make this threat known to potential buyers, who may be less interested in your property if they think they’ll have to put work into restoring it.
Water Damaged Concrete and Your Family’s Health
Damaged concrete puts your family at risk in one of two ways. First off, the cracks and sinkage that pose the biggest threat to the concrete accessories around your home pose immediate tripping and health hazards to your loved ones. If someone falls or doesn’t notice a crack in the cement, they may find themselves contending with injuries ranging from a twisted ankle to a broken leg.
Furthermore, damaged concrete is a haven for mold. There is no type of mold that you want to be in the same home as for long. If the concrete structures around your property start to develop mold clusters, you’ll want to reach out to area professionals as soon as possible to invest in mold removal and concrete waterproofing.
There are a few different ways for professional contractors to help you repair the concrete structures around your home. These can include:
- Installing overlays. If you’re seeing minor cracks throughout your concrete structures but are still worried about those structures’ overall integrity, then it may be in your best interest to invest in an overlay. Some contractors can apply concrete overlays to damaged concrete to better fill the developed cracks and create a smoother finish for the structure in question. While this process is largely superficial, it can still give your concrete structures the support they need to limit additional damage in the months to come.
- Filling cracks. If you’re seeing more substantial cracks in your concrete—between half an inch and an inch deep, for example—contractors can employ a similar repair method to overlaying to bring your structure back up to snuff. These parties can apply additional concrete or caulk to the cracks to weld them together and lessen the chance that the cracks will continue to spread.
- Patching cracks. In a similar vein, there may be cracks that have expanded to the point where they pose an active threat to your family’s health as a tripping hazard or other menace. In that case, professionals can use similar compounds to fill the gaps.
- Replacing the structure in question. If it seems that the concrete structure in question is too unstable to repair using alternative means, you may need to have it removed and replaced in its entirety. While this process can be expensive, it is often better for your home in the long run, as it allows you the opportunity to waterproof the new structure before it can take on any wear.
You also have the option, however, to mudjack a slipping structure. Mudjacking describes the process through which professions use mortar-based ground injections to lift concrete slabs that have started to slip due to the influence of hydrostatic pressure. The aforementioned injections are invasive and not something we’d recommend.
A better alternative that will help stabilize the soil beneath your concrete slabs, preventing the bulk of slippage in the months and years to come, is PolyRenewal™ polyurethane injection. This is similar to mudjacking, but much less invasive and time-consuming, and it offers better results to lift and stabilize uneven concrete.
DIY Concrete Repair
Most homeowners start to explore DIY concrete repair solutions because they’re concerned about the cost of professional assistance. While it’s never a bad idea to try and save money, DIY concrete repair projects often backfire.
Professional contractors serving your area can provide you with the tools, materials, and expertise you need to safely restore cracked or failing concrete structures in and around your home. If you try to take on these types of tasks without help, you may rapidly find yourself blowing your repair budget or even doing further damage to the same structures you wanted to repair. Comparatively, area professionals can walk you through what repairs you might need and can take advantage of a full staff of employees to make sure your repairs and waterproofing installations go as smoothly as possible.
Reach Out to Professionals for Guidance
You’re not the first homeowner to contend with damaged or destroyed concrete, and you won’t be the last.
If you find yourself forced to contend with splitting, cracking, or sinking concrete, you can reach out to the team of experts working with Foundation Recovery Systems to discuss what action plans will help you restore your damaged concrete. These experts can not only fit you with repairs but can also sit you down for a discussion about what kinds of waterproofing measures may prevent newly poured concrete structures from taking on the same damage that the previous ones did.
Reach out ASAP to schedule a home inspection and to get a free quote on any repair, replacement, or waterproofing services your concrete or home in general may need.
As a homeowner, you don’t just have to worry about your own concrete slabs; you should be concerned with the slabs that make up the street that goes past your house.
During colder months, your street’s slabs contract, opening up the joints between them. Those joints then become filled with pebbles and other debris. Then, when the warm weather returns, the slabs expand again — only the joints that were designed to absorb this expansion are now filled with material that won’t compress. This leaves the expansion pressure nowhere to go except up your driveway. This “street creep,” as it is known, exerts incredible pressure on your home and can cause all sorts of problems.
Cracked and sunken concrete isn’t the end of the world, however. With the right technology and the right know-how, it can be lifted and leveled, so that it can be enjoyed as it was meant to be.