Over time, concrete has proven itself an exceptionally durable material and is used to build driveways, sidewalks, porch steps, and many other aspects of a home. Like many other aspects of a home, no matter how durable, concrete slabs break down over time. Different problems arise, such as cracks, shifts, or sinking, which make the space not only unappealing but hazardous as well.
That’s where concrete lifting comes in. When can you tell if your patios, driveways, or concrete foundations need it? What are you missing, as a homeowner, that’s causing this problem? Let’s explore the main problem signs of cracked concrete and what causes it so you can act in time.
Causes of Cracked Concrete
Since concrete is so versatile, builders commonly use it for different structures in and around the home. The right (or wrong) conditions help facilitate the breakdown of concrete even still.
Keeping a property in good working order means learning the reasons behind cracked concrete. This will help you stop damage before it begins:
Warmer climates or seasons might feel nice, but they have an impact on concrete. The warmer it gets, the more each concrete slab expands and pushes against anything that’s in its way. Concrete slabs will usually encounter something heavy along the way, such as other concrete slabs, and since neither is capable of bending, the force of the push will cause cracks.
Freezing temperatures will also have a negative impact on concrete slabs. As the ground freezes, it lifts a couple of inches and then eventually settles back down as it thaws. This movement of freezing and thawing causes cracks in concrete slabs since they cannot stretch or move with the ground. This is most seen in driveways or patios.
Concrete may crack from settling because there is a void under the slab. This type of void appears when the soil surrounding the concrete slab begins to move. Concrete needs a solid base below it, such as evenly packed dirt, because it cannot support itself without cracking. If the soil doesn’t move back, then the concrete will break under its own weight. This can happen on the slab’s flanks or beneath it, and it’s normally a common phenomenon.
Settling concrete can also happen as a result of incorrectly poured concrete. If the soil beneath the concrete slab wasn’t packed correctly but remained loose after the concrete was poured, it will begin to shift with time. Moisture and excess water force soil to shift away from the slab it was originally meant to hold. Concrete slabs that end up moving in many different directions will end up cracking.
- Plastic Shrinkage
Before concrete forms into a solid substance, it’s in a plastic state. This means it’s full of water that later must find somewhere to go. Normally, water starts to escape during the hardening process, but if it’s badly mixed or poorly cured, it will leave tiny pockets within the slabs. The more spaces there are inside a concrete slab, the weaker it becomes.
The cracks from plastic shrinkage happen anywhere and at any time. Whether it’s a slab on the floor or it’s a full wall, nothing is safe. Areas most prone to these types of cracks are slabs with circular objects inside them, such as pipes, drains, or other plumbing fixtures. These types of cracks usually require the opinion of a professional, since they are hard to see and tend to extend throughout the entire slab, rather than remaining on the surface.
Though concrete is historically a strong and versatile material, it has its limits. Excessive amounts of weight might be more than the concrete can handle. For example, you might park a large container on the driveway, which is then filled to the brim. Even before it moves, the concrete will begin to strain. Residential overloading is rather rare since nothing excessively heavy is left on such properties, but it does affect the ground below.
As mentioned above, shifting soil will have a strong impact on the concrete slabs. If they’re overloaded and the soil beneath starts to shift, then the concrete is vulnerable to cracks. Concrete with no direct support loses a portion of its integrity and may start to crumble.
- Premature Drying
Premature drying causes two types of cracks to form: crazing and crusting. Crazing cracks are fine cracks that form on the surface of the concrete slab and resemble broken glass. Since these form only at the top of the concrete slab as it dries out too quickly, they normally do not pose a structural problem, but just look unappealing.
Crusting cracks occur during the stamping process, which is how texture is added. On sunny or windy days, concrete dries quicker at the top than it does on the bottom, and this can give it a crusty appearance. If a stamp is added to the concrete in order to form a pattern, the stamp can cause small cracks around the drying concrete.
These types of cracks, whether crazing or crusting, are a direct result of concrete drying too fast for one reason or another. It could be that the mixture doesn’t have enough moisture, or that the day was too hot.
Signs Concrete Slabs Need Concrete Lifting
Vigilant homeowners will begin to see signs that point toward concrete in need of help. Some of these red flags will help alert you of a larger problem before it leads to a full replacement.
There are six types of cracks that affect concrete for different reasons. They’re also a little different in appearance, so take a close look:
- Vertical: Depending on the size of these cracks, they may either impact the home’s foundation or allow water through.
- Hairline: The width of a single hair, these are very small and hard to see. They may not cause any stability problems but can allow water through.
- Diagonal: These look like a random crack above where the soil meets the foundation. These cracks are long, and there are usually multiples.
- Horizontal: These typically form right in the center. They result from many structural problems, such as settling or a heavy load. These will have an impact on the overall integrity of the foundation or the slab.
- Structural: Usually a result of loading or settlement, they are a sign of an issue with the integrity of the foundation.
Whether the cracks are due to the weather, settling, or even plastic shrinkage, they will cause structural damage and aesthetic damage. They can even chip paint, especially if in a finished basement.
A DIY fix for cracks might sound like a handy solution, especially with all of the products out there on the market. Unfortunately, most are only temporary, fixing the aesthetics rather than the actual problem. A professional who has worked with concrete for many years will have the best solutions available to ensure cracks don’t continue to form or pose a huge threat to the home.
- Uneven Concrete
Apart from cracks running up and down the concrete slabs, one noticeable problem is how uneven they become. Once concrete begins to crack, it can break away from itself and jut up (or sink down) at different levels. This can leave the foundation of your home unsupported. Though uneven concrete can be a sign of setting slabs as the soil around them changes, a professional can help determine if that is true.
Concrete lifting one solution a professional may recommend for your uneven concrete. Fixing concrete slabs in this way helps to strengthen the foundation of the home and safeguard anyone who walks over the slabs. This is especially true in garages, driveways, walkways, or sidewalks, where tripping is a massive hazard.
Puddles can be dangerous in the long run. As installers pour concrete, they grade it so that water runs away from the center, draining off the edges of the slabs. This prevents water from pooling at the top, which can lead to staining, deterioration in the concrete, and more cracks.
When concrete begins to shift, crack, and settle, it will start to allow water to pool on top. This type of pooling is a good signifier that something around the concrete and the home is shifting and creating conditions for concrete that will start to move, crack, and become unusable.
Usually seen in sidewalks, streets, and driveways, potholes are a good indicator that something is not right. When concrete begins to crack and settle, it won’t do this in full slabs, but rather in chunks that start to pull away and fall off. As the soil further deteriorates, the broken concrete may sink down, and then it creates a noticeable pothole.
- Shifting Walls
Similar to concrete slabs that make up your floor or walkway, those which make up the foundation can also settle or shift, causing uneven parts of the home. More specifically, such a problem becomes visible as walls and floors start to settle and become uneven. Doors and windows become harder to close, bowing walls start to lean in your basement, crawl space, and other parts of your home.
Depending on what caused the fissures to develop in your concrete, it may be possible to halt the damage and begin repairing it with concrete lifting. This is a process best done by professionals who have years of experience and the right equipment. A local expert can inspect your home, determine the factors that caused the issue, and then apply one of two solutions:
A rather invasive process, mudjacking requires drilling holes into the concrete that are roughly over an inch in diameter. Once the process is completed, the expert will then inject a concrete slurry that will begin to set up underneath your concrete. In a few days, once it’s hardened, it will provide your concrete with the support it needs to bear heavy loads and stop collapsing under its own weight. Of course, this does not resolve issues in the soil, and that can make it non-viable for some homeowners.
Aside from the defacement of the concrete being fixed, mudjacking is also a lengthy process. The material used to inject at the bottom of the concrete slabs can take up to days to fully cure, leaving homeowners in a tight spot. If the fix is being applied to the driveway or walkway, those areas may be avoided for some time, which isn’t always doable.
- Polyurethane Foam
Ohio Basement Systems uses an innovative PolyRenewal injection to bring life back into sinking concrete slabs. An immediate benefit to this type of injection is the small sites needed to inject the foam, making it a less invasive solution. The polyurethane foam works to stabilize the concrete slabs and lift them up into their original position. As a plus, it’s extremely lightweight, so it’s unlikely to make soil issues worse.
PolyRenewal also comes with waterproof properties, allowing it to withstand many more years of wear and tear. It can repel water rather than absorbing it, unlike concrete, and it cures in as little as 15 minutes. This allows homeowners to use it right away, without the need to put their driveways, sidewalks, or basements out of commission for long stretches of time.
Though most homeowners don’t dwell on the state of the concrete slabs that are in and around the home, once a problem sign is spotted, it’s easy to panic. Some homeowners might feel the need to go with an overall replacement for their concrete driveway, sidewalk, or floors, but that might not always be helpful.
- Concrete Lifting
Concrete lifting is a relatively easy and safe process, which can be completed within a short period of time. The PolyRenewal system used by Ohio Basement Systems takes 15 minutes to cure, allowing the concrete slab to be used almost immediately. It’s also less invasive, so you don’t have to tear up landscaping or endanger nearby structures just to get your concrete slabs back in working order.
On top of the ease and effectiveness, concrete lifting is also more cost-effective. Replacing full slabs can run you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Meanwhile, concrete lifting may be a fraction of that, even if you choose the more expensive PolyRenewal option. If you pair that to the fast set-up time of concrete lifting, the cost of labor drops by an impressive margin.
- Concrete Replacement
Some homeowners believe a full replacement is the key to getting the job done right, and in some instances, that’s correct. It’s possible that your concrete slabs are damaged or cracked beyond repair. Trying to patch or lift these would only lead to reoccurring issues and an aesthetic nightmare.
A professional will be able to assess the state of your concrete and give you recommendations accordingly. Ohio Basement Systems will even provide you with a free quote so you can understand the cost of replacement up front. Depending on the amount of damage present, you may be able to find additional funding through homeowner’s insurance.
However, the process of fully replacing any concrete slabs is highly invasive. It will take several days to break up the remaining concrete, haul it out, dispose of it, and prepare the area for a new pour. Once that’s established, new concrete will be mixed, poured, and then undergo a curing process. It can take several days for the concrete to fully set up. All in all, replacement takes more labor, equipment, and invasive gear, which may become damaging to your landscape or a risk to surrounding structures. In some cases, it will be necessary, but it will also be a last resort.
We understand that most people are on a budget, and home improvement can quickly take a bite out of your allotted funds. That’s why we prioritize free inspections and no-obligation quotes to ensure you completely understand what lies ahead in your repairs. An inspector will always be able to give you a more accurate figure, based on your unique home, but a few things remain consistent:
The cost of concrete lifting is much less when compared to a full replacement. Full replacement costs have to cover not only the removal of the concrete, but the labor, the cleanup, and the material costs for pouring new concrete. Depending on where the slabs are located, and how difficult it is to replace them, this may cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Concrete lifting is about labor and materials, without the removal and as much of the cleanup. This means the expense of concrete lifting is about half the amount of a full replacement. You can also benefit from a warranty on all the work we perform, so if any mistakes or issues arise, you can trust skilled professionals to come and put everything right.
The positive results of concrete lifting have an impressively long lifespan. If there is an excellent drainage system and proper sealing, a concrete lift can go on forever. The materials used within a concrete lift, especially using the PolyRenewal system, are strong and durable. They can hold up a substantial amount of weight, minimizing the potential for any future problem to arise. When exposed to average wear and tear, most don’t require any updates or maintenance for decades at a time.
Of course, there are factors that can shorten how long the repair job holds up. Concrete lifting is not alone in this, as it can happen to a full concrete replacement as well. Factors such as weather, use, soil issues, drainage, and materials can impact how long concrete lifting endures. Once the process is complete, you can always schedule a yearly inspection to have a professional look over your concrete, foundation, and other areas of your home to make sure they last even longer.
Concrete Lifting with Ohio Basement Systems
Concrete lifting is a heavy-duty job, but a much needed one to ensure the structural integrity of any home where concrete plays a vital role. At Ohio Basement Systems, we’re happy to lend our services to anyone in Cleveland, Ohio, who needs their concrete inspected, repaired, or made brand new.
Providing innovative solutions such as the PolyRenewal system, we can help you identify the problem signs, figure out the causes, and apply the right solutions for your cracked concrete. Just reach out for a free quote and a no-obligation inspection.