If you notice signs of unevenness, sinking, or cosmetic damage to your driveway or property sidewalk, it is natural to be concerned. After all, these are frequently used surfaces that also act as a part of your property’s public face. A good-looking driveway and sidewalk give your property curb appeal, which is important when you are thinking about selling your home.
Of course, even if you have no intentions to move, it is a good idea to keep on top of signs of damage and deterioration around your property. Being aware of damage as it arises will save you money in the long run, after all.
What Causes Driveways and Sidewalks to Become Uneven?
Concrete sidewalks and driveways are incredibly exposed parts of any property. In places like Kansas City, Moberly, St. Louis, and Springfield, the wet and blustery fall season that’s followed by the harsh, cold winter may cause driveways and sidewalks to suffer heavily from exposure to the elements. In these areas, there are four main things that are likely to contribute to unevenness and damage in a driveway or sidewalk:
Soil that is fundamentally weak or unstable can cause a lot of problems for your driveway, sidewalks, and even your property as a whole. Weak soils can be defined as soils that shift easily when faced with strong weather or pressure. Soils that are most likely to be weak in the face of strong pressure, high winds, or flooding are sand-based soils and marshy soils.
Soils like this are also more prone to erosion or washout during periods of extreme weather. This can lead to gaps forming underneath the driveway or sidewalk, giving them space to sink into.
Expansive soils are those that are highly absorbent and reactive to water. These soils are far more common in and around Missouri than weak, loose, or sandy soils. Expansive soil can damage your soil in two main ways: expansion or shrinking. When saturated or affected by snap freezes, expansive soils swell dramatically. This can force your driveway or sidewalk to buckle upward and cause serious damage.
When this kind of soil is dehydrated, however, it shrinks noticeably and can even crack and form large chasms. This will leave any structure above it with sporadic support and can lead to a process called settlement.
The cause of uneven or damaged driveways and sidewalks is not always found outside of the structures themselves. Defects in the concrete used to create the driveway or sidewalk can also cause damage, both cosmetic and structural, to form. Climate changes and extreme weather can exacerbate this, of course, but they are not the true causes of the damage.
The most common concrete defect is an issue within the mix itself. Concrete is, after all, just a mix of water, cement, and sand. When there is too much water in the mix, for example, this can make the concrete weak or brittle.
One potential cause of damage that is not overly common or widely discussed is an issue with weight distribution or load-bearing capabilities. If the construction workers did not plan well enough for the weight of vehicles on your driveway, for example, you could well end up with an uneven or sinking driveway because of the weight of vehicles.
This can be a problem if you leave one or more vehicles parked for a long period of time. This could lead to areas of your driveway sinking while the rest of the driveway stays in place.
Of course, knowing what has caused an uneven driveway or sidewalk is only really useful to professionals who are looking to repair them. For the average homeowner, it is far more useful to know what the problem signs of damage are.
Problem Signs of an Uneven Driveway or Sidewalk
Some problem signs of driveway and sidewalk damage are very obvious and specific while others are more subtle and ambiguous. Many of them are also warning signs for issues that could have a more widespread effect on your home. This is why it is important to call in a professional as soon as possible to investigate and analyze the situation.
Spreading cracks are some of the strongest signs of damage in any concrete structure. Whether you see them in a basement wall, on your driveway, or even in exterior steps and sidewalks, spreading cracks are a sign that ongoing pressures or a lack of support are impacting the structure in question.
Spreading cracks, for those not in the know, are cracks that are actively growing. Static cracks, by contrast, tend to be historic markers of damage or, in some cases, the result of the natural settling process that every structure goes through after construction.
Cracks like this can be caused by many things, from active subsidence to defects in the concrete itself.
If certain slabs on a sidewalk or certain chunks of your driveway have separated from the surface as a whole, this is a huge red flag. Parts of a structure breaking away and sinking into the ground can be caused by a few different things, but whatever the reason, it is likely that more sections of your driveway or sidewalk will eventually break away and sink themselves. This will gradually undermine the stability of the structure as a whole.
The most likely causes of this are improper weight distribution, concrete defects, and weak or marshy soil that fails to provide adequate support.
Cosmetic damage to a driveway or property sidewalk may not seem like a big issue, but it can make a huge difference to the health of a surface over time. Cosmetic damage is an umbrella term that covers issues like flaking, pitting, staining, scaling, spalling, and crazing, among other things. These issues tend to be benign. However, some, like spalling, can systematically undermine the structural integrity of a surface, making it gradually more susceptible to more serious damage over time.
Cosmetic damage is most often caused by defects in the concrete mixing or laying process, but can also be caused by repeated freezes and thaws.
Sinking and subsiding are issues that can take many different forms. Small chunks separating and subsiding, however, tend to be the result of different factors than a driveway or sidewalk that is simply sinking or subsiding as a whole. If your whole driveway is starting to sink, or there is a decided tilt to your driveway, this is most likely a result of issues underneath the surface.
Expansive, marshy, or loose and unstable soil is the most likely cause of total sinking or subsidence across your driveway or sidewalks.
Perimeter saturation is a somewhat general warning sign, but that doesn’t mean it is not serious. In fact, it is quite the contrary; seeing flooding or standing water around your property perimeter is something you should be very concerned about. It is directly connected to many different problems in a property. From unlevel steps and uneven driveways to foundation damage and bowing walls, perimeter saturation is a serious issue.
The most common cause of perimeter saturation is a lack of appropriate drainage solutions around your home.
If you see any of these signs around your property, it is time to get a professional involved. If your sidewalks and driveway are not yet showing signs of damage, it is only a matter of time
Why Worry About Driveway and Sidewalk Damage?
Many homeowners think that damage to the driveway and property sidewalk is not a huge issue. After all, these are exterior surfaces that have little impact on your property’s health or the quality of your life on the property. This is true to a point, of course, but there are many reasons why you should worry about an uneven driveway or sidewalk around your home.
An Uneven Driveway Can Damage Your Car
Driving and parking on an uneven driveway on a daily basis can lead to car troubles. The most common way this causes vehicle damage is when the driveway meets with another concrete slab that no longer integrates with the driveway properly. For example, if the sunken edge of a driveway no longer meets properly with the street, your car has to bump over it every day. This actually causes serious damage.
For example, it can lead to suspension problems, tire troubles, and many other issues. As well as the slightly smaller chance that you will experience serious vehicle issues, there is a much higher chance that this kind of issue will simply increase your maintenance and repair costs in the long run.
An Uneven Driveway or Sidewalk Can be Dangerous
An uneven, tilted, or damaged driveway and sidewalk can present an accident and injury risk to you and anyone who visits your property. When a surface is uneven, cracked, and starting to sink, it becomes harder to traverse, especially in bad weather. Rain, ice, and snow can all make this already unreliable surface more treacherous for anyone who steps foot on it.
Of course, there are people who are far more at risk than others. Very young children, for example, and the elderly are more likely to slip and fall. Likewise, people with mobility issues and physical disabilities are more at risk of accidents and serious injuries.
Uneven Exterior Surfaces Can Signal Foundation Danger or Damage
Finally, sidewalks and driveways act as a canary in the coal mine when it comes to foundation damage. You see, the same forces that are most likely to cause damage to your foundation are those that are most likely to cause your driveway to sink or become uneven over time. By investigating damage to your driveway and sidewalk early on, you could catch issues with your foundation before they snowball.
Expansive soil, marshy soil, weak soil, and erosion can all contribute to these issues.
If you have a professional investigate (and address) your uneven driveway and sidewalk problems before they grow and spread, you could save yourself a lot of time, frustration, and money. An expert will be able to assess and address the issues at work on your property, both efficiently and quickly.
Uneven Driveway and Sidewalk
Having an uneven driveway or sidewalk on your property can feel like a very small issue in comparison to some of the things that you need to deal with as a homeowner. Nonetheless, these are serious issues that can be caused by problems within the soil and the concrete itself.
When an otherwise healthy structure starts to sink, sag, or otherwise deteriorate without an obvious explanation, it is almost certain that the cause will be in the soil beneath it. There is no such thing as perfect soil, of course, but there is ideal soil. The ideal soil is stable, not too loose, and has good drainage capabilities. This kind of soil is well suited to supporting even heavy structures like large homes and commercial buildings.
Expansive or marshy soil, however, is not likely to bear heavy weight as well. The changeable nature of this soil makes it unstable, and the marshy texture when it is saturated often leads to sinking and subsidence. Loose, weak soil, or heavily sandy soil, by contrast, is prone to erosion and washout and will leave voids under a structure when this happens. This can cause damage known as settlement. Either way, your driveway or sidewalk will become uneven and depressed when these issues take hold.
Concrete is really just a mix of cement, water, and sand that is malleable when wet but hard and brittle when dry. If there is an issue in the mix, or it is improperly laid, damage and cosmetic deformation are very common. Defects in the concrete itself can display themselves in a number of ways: spalling, flaking, pitting, cracking, and staining are all common.
The most likely causes of an uneven driveway or sidewalk are a concrete mix that has too much water or sand (making it weaker and more prone to breakage) or improper deployment. If the concrete is disturbed once it has started to set, a process known as hard troweling, it can leave seams in the surface that are prone to breakage in certain places. If it is improperly cured, however, the driveway or sidewalk as a whole will be weak.
There are, broadly speaking, two main solutions for an uneven, sinking, or damaged driveway that focus on repairing the existing surface rather than replacing it entirely. They are mudjacking and polyurethane foam injection.
Polyurethane Foam Injection
If the soil under your driveway or sidewalk is already struggling to deal with the weight being placed on it, or it is prone to shifting and moving when weather is bad, PolyRenewal foam injection is one of the best possible solutions. PolyRenewal polyurethane foam will be the best solution for your property and situation for a number of reasons. You see, unlike concrete slurry, this foam is incredibly lightweight, water-resistant, and quick setting.
Despite this, PolyRenewal foam is incredibly effective! The expansive force created by the two-part foam is remarkably strong and will lift the concrete slabs or surface back into place with relative ease. Once in place, the stable, water-proof, and inert foam will prevent the damage from recurring in future. This makes PolyRenewal far preferable to concrete replacement.
Before PolyRenewal can be installed holes will be drilled into the damaged concrete surface to allow for foam insertion. These holes will then be fitted with injection ports to create a seal during installation. This will prevent foam from escaping and causing a mess. The polyurethane foam itself will then be mixed from two parts. This allows us to tailor the expansive force and the level of expansion to your needs.
The foam is then injected into the cavity where it will quickly expand, lift the surface of the driveway or sidewalk, and set to 90% of its full hardness within an hour. This makes the process far less disruptive and far more accessible. The cost of this process is slightly higher, but we feel that it is well worth the investment.
No. To put it simply, this is a complex process that requires professional-grade tools and products. When you choose an expert’s help, you can get a high-quality finish and long-lasting solution without the chance of recurrence.
DIY Can be Dangerous
DIY repairs and modifications can be a great thing, but when it comes to structural issues like this, it really is best to leave the job to those who have the skills, tools, and experience to get it right the first time. First and foremost, professionals are trained to fully assess the situation. If you miss an underlying cause or co-occurring issue, you could be stirring up a whole heap of trouble for yourself in the long run. After all, foundation damage and driveway damage often go hand in hand!
Secondly, the tools and products used to repair and lift damaged and sinking driveways and sidewalks are specialist in nature. If you use the equipment incorrectly, you could cause serious damage to your property or even injury to yourself. Polyurethane foam, for example, is easy to use when you know how, but if you make a mistake, it could wreak havoc on your driveway.
You Get What You Pay For
Professional help may seem more costly than DIY at first, and while it’s true that the up-front costs may seem to support that statement, the true cost of professional help is much lower. You get what you pay for when it comes to home repair, and DIY solutions are really just a way of buying time. Even the best DIY solution is unlikely to give you a lasting solution, and every time you revisit an issue, the actual cost of the repair rises.
When you invest in professional help, however, you are paying for a permanent, comprehensive solution to the problem. When you choose a reputable professional, this is exactly what you get. An expert won’t just fix the evidence of damage; they will address the causes of your uneven driveway or sidewalk to ensure that you don’t have to call them out time and time again. As a result, you will get a high-quality solution and the real cost of your repair will be much lower than a DIY job.
High-Quality Concrete Lifting with Foundation Recovery Systems
Foundation Recovery Systems has been offering concrete lifting and repair services across Missouri since 1992, and we have built our excellent reputation by providing consistent results. We pride ourselves on making every single client feel like they are a part of our family.
If you have noticed damage to your exterior sidewalks or driveway, it’s time to call in the experts. Contact us today to schedule a free inspection and repair quote. All of these appointments are entirely free from obligation. Book with confidence!