“Concrete can be intimidating,” says Bob Schmidt, national product manager for Sakrete, which makes concrete repair products. “There’s an unfair stigma that repairing concrete is a lot of work, but it’s actually not difficult. In many cases, if you can use a caulk gun, you can repair your cracked concrete.”
As with other home maintenance tasks, making your own repairs to minor concrete damage yourself can prevent problems from becoming worse – and turning into something that requires costly replacement by professionals. Here are some concrete repair tasks that you can do yourself, and helpful tips for doing the jobs right:
Repairing cracks in sidewalks and concrete driveways
Even properly poured concrete can crack over time. Cracks that appear over time can be caused by tree roots pushing under the slab or a shift in the ground under the slab. As cracks develop moisture works its way into minute fissures in the concrete which eventually leads to larger, visible cracks. This is especially severe in winter when the water turns to ice, the ice expands and the cracking process accelerates. Left unaddressed, cracks will worsen, ultimately leading to crumbling and the breakdown of the slab. Repairing small cracks can prevent them from becoming larger.
For cracks between one-eighth to three-eighths of an inch wide, use a product like Sakrete’s Concrete and Mortar Repair, which comes in an easy-to-use caulk tube. Slightly larger cracks can be repaired with Sakrete Concrete Crack Filler, a one-quart pre-mixed concrete repair material in a sqeezable container. Cracks should be wide enough to accept the tip of a caulk gun. Larger cracks may require a concrete repair product similar to the one you would use to repair broken or uneven concrete.
For any size crack, begin by cleaning the crack and the concrete around it. Use a wire brush or screwdriver to remove loose chips and dust from the crack. Then, using a garden hose, squirt water directly into the crack to force out all loose material. Allow standing water to drain before filling the crack.
Once the surface is ready, apply your crack-filling product per the manufacturer’s directions.
Restoring worn concrete surfaces
While concrete is one of the most durable surfaces in your outdoor environment, like any other material that’s exposed to the elements and vigorous use, it can start to look worn. Pitting and cracking not only look bad, they can ultimately lead to severe breakdown of the surface.
Before you pay a professional to perform the labor-intensive task of ripping up the old concrete and pouring new, consider resurfacing your worn concrete driveway, sidewalk or pathway. While resurfacing is a little more work than simply patching cracks, it’s still well within the abilities of most DIYers.
Products like Sakrete’s Flo-Coat Resurfacer pour over the existing concrete and, when properly applied, create a durable, visually appealing new surface. Be sure to clean the concrete first – especially if there are oil stains – and follow the manufacturer’s directions for application to ensure the best possible results.
Leveling uneven concrete
Concrete slabs that have separated at the joint, leaving one higher than the other are not only unslightly, but can pose a tripping hazard. Rather than tearing up and repouring the uneven area, consider using concrete repair patching material to level the area.
A concrete repair material like Sakrete’s Top ‘n Bond can be applied in layers, using a trowel. It allows you to not only fill in cracks, but also level out uneven concrete.
“Many common concrete problems can be easily and quickly addressed by the average homeowner, using the right products and a little bit of elbow grease,” Schmidt says. “Tackling concrete repairs on your own can save you time and money – and leave you with a great-looking end result, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you did it yourself.”