You might think small cracks on your driveway, patio, or foundation aren’t a big deal, so you ignore them. But if you leave them alone, they can become bigger cracks that require expensive repairs. Replacing a deteriorating driveway or foundation can cost around $8,000 – $10,000 on average. Fortunately, you can repair these cracks with a few basic tools and materials. Here’s how to repair cracks in concrete and keep the exterior of your home in good shape for many years.
Steps on How to Repair Cracks in Concrete
Before you start, it’s essential to understand your abilities when it comes to fixing cracks on a concrete patio, driveway, or foundation. The DIY crack filler is meant for cracks that are up to 1/2 inch wide.
Step 1. Choose the Best Concrete Repair Product
You can’t use regular concrete to fix concrete surfaces. Instead, you’ll find concrete repair mixes at home centers or online. You have a few choices, like epoxy compounds, latex-based patching materials, or mortar mixes. Mortar mixes work best for filling in big cracks or repairing chipped edges, while the other options are great for cracks that are 1/8-inch wide or smaller.
Step 2. Prepare the Area to Be Patched
Grab a small hammer and a chisel to get rid of any loose, cracked, or crumbling concrete. Chip away the concrete until you’re about an inch below the surface. Afterward, give the area a good rinse and scrub with a wire brush to get rid of any loose bits.
Keep in mind that this job can be quite dusty. So, it’s a good idea to lay down a tarp under the work area to make cleanup simpler.
Step 3. Repair the Concrete Crack Using Your Preferred Repair Product
Epoxy or Latex
For cracks that are 1/8-inch or smaller, use either epoxy or latex patching products following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. You can apply these materials with a mason’s trowel or a putty blade. Make sure to push the product into the crack and then sand it down to match the level of the surrounding concrete. Refer to the product instructions for more details.
When dealing with larger imperfections, go for mortar mix. Mixing your own mortar is straightforward. Just mix 1 part Portland cement with 3 parts masonry sand and add enough water to create a thick paste. You can also purchase pre-made repair mortar mixes locally or online. Apply the mortar mixture using a mason’s trowel or putty knife. While working, press down firmly on the product.
Here’s the final step: smooth out the patch so it’s level with the surrounding concrete. Cover the area with plastic to keep it moist. Let it dry for 2 hours. Sprinkle some water under the plastic every day for a couple of days or until it has hardened.
Step 4: Allow Time for Curing
To make sure your concrete repair lasts, it’s crucial to let it dry completely before subjecting it to water or traffic. The time it takes to cure can vary depending on the type of material you use. For instance, mortar repair can take a long time, around 28 days or even more, to become fully hard. You can find the specific curing times for your crack filler on the product label.
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How to Prevent Cracks in Concrete
While many strategies to prevent concrete cracks are typically applied during the initial installation of a concrete slab, you can also take steps to stop cracks from forming in existing foundations, patios, or driveways.
Seal the concrete: Water is the main culprit behind concrete cracks. To prevent moisture from seeping into porous concrete and causing cracks, apply a concrete sealer every 3 to 5 years.
Avoid planting trees nearby: Planting trees close to driveways, patios, and foundations is a no-no. Over time, tree roots can apply pressure on concrete slabs, leading to cracks. So, steer clear of planting trees in these areas.
Watch where you water: Be mindful of where you direct your sprinklers. Avoid saturating concrete surfaces, as this can lead to more water being absorbed. Plus, it helps conserve water.
Improve drainage: Standing water or water flowing toward your foundation can trigger cracks in concrete surfaces. To prevent this, keep your gutters and downspouts clean, and make sure the land around your home slopes away from the foundation. If there are low spots on your driveway, consider installing drains to prevent water from collecting there.
By following these steps, you can help keep your existing concrete surfaces crack-free.
When to Worry About Cracks in Concrete
If you’re facing larger cracks or significant damage on your driveway or patio, it might be time to bring in a professional. Here are some signs to watch for when deciding what to do:
- Wide Cracks: Cracks that are bigger than 1/2 inch indicate more serious issues with the concrete slab.
- Multiple Cracks: If you see many cracks all over your concrete surfaces, it’s a sign that the concrete needs more extensive repairs.
- Basement Water Seepage: When you notice water seeping through a crack in your basement, it’s a clear signal to hire a professional. They can figure out the source and fix the crack before it causes more problems.
- Failed DIY Repairs: If you’ve tried the DIY methods mentioned earlier, but the crack keeps coming back after a few weeks or months, you’re likely dealing with an active crack that needs professional attention.
- Extensive Damage: Concrete that’s not just cracked but also heaving (meaning one side is pushing up or outward) suggests more significant problems that can’t be fixed with crack filler alone.
Keep an eye out for these signs to determine when it’s time to call in a pro for your concrete repairs.
You have the power to stop bigger cracks from emerging in your concrete with the methods we’ve discussed and some basic tools. However, if you’re not sure about your skills or if the cracks seem too big, don’t hesitate to reach out to a concrete professional. Most pros can fix minor cracks for a few hundred dollars. Whether you tackle it on your own or hire help, addressing this issue is vital. Otherwise, those cracks will keep growing, making repairs even costlier down the line.