Is it better to repair cracked and aging concrete or replace it?
If you have repaired cracks in your concrete time and time again, it may be time to replace it, or at least replace a partial area of your concrete. If your driveway is damaged, cracked or has shifted, or your garage floor is severely pitted from salt damage and water, it may be time to consult a professional.
Concrete is tough stuff, but concrete does crack and crumble over time. Moisture and temperature extremes, like we experience in the northeast, make their presence known through damage to our concrete floors, walks and structures. You can make simple concrete repairs yourself, but it will require some knowledge, a few tools and a strong back. Concrete is heavy, and mixing it is hard work.
The first question that needs to be answered is, will the repair restore the concrete to its original appearance and integrity? When asking this question, you must first consider how deteriorated the concrete actually is.
Loose pavers, concrete, sandstone, and other natural materials can be successfully repaired, but it requires proper timing, attention to detail and some sweat. Although you may think that the warm dry weather is a good time to repair concrete, cool, damp and overcast weather is the best.
Concrete needs to have the proper chemical reaction to enable cement crystals to bond and this requires moisture. If you mix up a batch of patching compound and install it on a hot breezy day, the water may leave the mix before enough crystals have grown. The patch will be super weak and it will crumble. That is why you place plastic tarps over newly poured cement and routinely spray water over it for a few days.
Manufacturers of products designed to repair concrete have kept pace with technology, allowing for faster drying, and stronger, more durable solutions. However, when it comes down to making a decision, the extent of the damage to your concrete will be the driving factor.
Is there spalling? Spalling is a result of water entering brick, concrete or natural stone and forcing the surface to peel, pop out or flake off. In basements, especially, moisture and often salt, too, pushes outward from the inside. Eventually, spalling can cause crumbling and destruction of a structure. If so the concrete will likely have to be replaced.
Concrete will eventually wear out over time. Natural elements cause concrete to break down, especially in the northeast where there is wide temperature swings. Pitting caused by salt is also prevalent in our area and can make concrete appear damaged.
When it comes down to it, how much spalling, chipping or structural break down is there? And how happy will you be with a repair, which may cause your concrete to appear uneven in color or have an uneven finish.
There are a number of products on the market designed to restore both the concrete's structural integrity and aesthetic appeal, so it is important to ask the right questions when considering a repair or replacement. Some of these materials can be added to pitted and spalled areas, and in both cases can be ready to walk on within a matter of hours.
Other options include repair materials that can be stenciled and stamped on to incorporate a wide variety of designs, ultimately making a repair project look like a new pour. These materials can be structural, as well. A load-bearing driveway, for example, can be repaired with cement-based material rated up to ,000 psi for residential application.
Concrete can deteriorate for any number of reasons; poor installation, with not enough attention given to the subbase; matching the right cement product for your application; or the location of expansion joints. Concrete expands in the heat and contracts in the cold. If the expansion joints are not spaced properly, the stress caused by the expansion and contraction will result in cracking.
There are times when a repair is definitely not an option. If the subbase is eroded, then the concrete section will have to be cut out and a new subbase installed and compacted. Large cracks are problematic too, especially when they extend all the way through, as this will eventually erode the subbase. Cracks let water in. The freezing and thawing cycles will shift the concrete, and find the weak points to create further deterioration.
If the subbase isn't an issue, then the decision to repair or replace may come down to expense. The cost of varies by the use of the area and the amount of preparation needed. It is important to identify your needs and make sure the right preparation and products are being used.
It's not just exterior surfaces that deteriorate over time. Interior floors can become uneven from settling, or just plain wear and tear, and replacing them can be more costly than replacing exterior surfaces.
For repairing uneven or worn interior concrete floors, contractors can use a self-leveling floor resurfacer. These products are effective at raising low areas that are up to 1 ½ inches lower than other areas of the surface. Many of the same products used to repair horizontal surfaces can also be effective with vertical surfaces, such as exterior retaining walls and interior load-bearing walls.
There's no question that contractors can offer customers more repair options than ever before. Although the makeup of concrete hasn't changed dramatically over the last 20 or so years, repair products have. Polymers help create a strong bond between new and old concrete, acrylics add strength, and attractive finishes disguise patching and other repairs. Concrete surfaces can not only be filled in, leveled, livened up and strengthened without expending the time and money to replace old concrete, surface treatment can actually make them look as good if not better than new.
When considering repairing or replacing your concrete, consider checking the work of the contractor on prior projects. Not all concrete, or workmanship is the same. It is a good idea to get a few estimates and choose the contractor that you feel most comfortable with, that is licensed and insured, and that comes recommended.
iuseppe Noto, President
tellar Home Improvement Inc. d/b/a Stellar Masonry