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Last updated: April 23, 2024 • Home Improvement

Concrete Lifting: Recognizing Signs That Your Concrete Needs Repair

Concrete is a uniquely versatile and incredibly durable material that we rely on for many home structures, such as driveways, garage floors, and patios. However, no matter how tough concrete is, it can still suffer damage and deterioration over time, especially when exposed to the elements outdoors. As a homeowner, looking for signs that your concrete surfaces may need repairs is essential. Concrete lifting or leveling is one solution when concrete has settled or become uneven. You can contact local real estate agents for more advice, tips, and tricks! 

Table of Contents

What Is Concrete Lifting?

construction worker engineer

Concrete lifting involves raising sunken or slanted concrete slabs back into their proper level position without having to demolish and replace the existing concrete entirely. This repair technique works on the concrete you already have, making it a cost-effective way to fix uneven surfaces. Rather than going through the expense and hassle of breaking up damaged concrete and pouring new slabs, lifting can restore the concrete to its original smooth and level state.

Understanding the Common Causes of Concrete Damage

Concrete can be damaged by several factors, including:

  1. Chemical Exposure: Concrete is generally resistant to many chemicals, but strong acids, sulfates, alkalis, and salts can be highly damaging. Acids, in particular, rapidly react with the cement, dissolving calcium compounds and causing deterioration. Ammonium compounds are among the most damaging alkalis.
  2. Corrosion of Embedded Metals: When steel reinforcements or other embedded metals corrode and expand, it creates internal stresses that can lead to cracking, spalling, and delamination of the concrete over time. Steel is unstable and naturally reverts to iron oxide (rust) through corrosion.
  3. High Temperatures/Fire: While concrete does not burn, exposure to very high temperatures or fire causes the material to lose strength and elasticity. Simultaneously, it can lead to spalling as moisture escapes. Low cement ratio concretes and those with specific aggregates like sandstone perform worse at elevated temperatures.

Signs That Your Concrete Needs Repair

concrete wall cracked need

There are several indicators that you may need to take action to lift or repair concrete elements around your home or property. Even if you don’t have extensive knowledge about concrete lifting or settling, these warning signs are generally quite noticeable to homeowners. If you want to go for a quick home inspection, you need to consider checking the following;

1.Cracking

Cracks in concrete surfaces are among the most common and noticeable signs of needed repairs that, if unaddressed, can prevent a house from selling. Not all cracks cause primary concern. Hairline cracks from curing or small cracks from minor settling may just need to be sealed. 

However, larger cracks, especially those that stem from one slab section sinking lower than the rest, indicate more significant settling issues. Cracks wider than 1/4 inch, those that continue to grow larger over time, or those with visible vertical or horizontal displacement between the slab sections all point to the concrete needing to be lifted and repaired professionally.

2.Uneven Surfaces 

When concrete used to be level starts becoming uneven and sloped, it’s a surefire sign that settling has occurred below. As soil erodes or compacts unevenly underneath, it causes sections of the slab to sink lower, throwing off the level. You may notice one end of a driveway or patio slab sloping noticeably, creating an uneven surface and potential tripping hazard. The greater the slope or variance in elevation across the slab, the more settling has occurred. Under such circumstances, mud jacking or concrete lifting is required.

3.Shifting Joints 

The joints or seams between adjacent concrete sections are designed to be tightly aligned and flush. Suppose the joints start to separate, with the slabs pulling apart or no longer meeting evenly. This event indicates those pieces have shifted positions. This shifting and misalignment gets progressively worse as settling continues beneath. Severely misaligned joints mean extensive subsoil erosion has likely taken place.

4.Foundation Problems 

Since a home’s foundation and surrounding concrete flatwork, like driveways and sidewalks, rest on the same subsoil base, issues with one can signal problems with the other. Suppose you’re experiencing cracking, settling, or instability in your home’s foundation walls or basement floor. This means that the soil underneath does not provide proper support. This loss of subsoil integrity will eventually impact nearby concrete surfaces as well if not mitigated.

5.Water Erosion 

Heavy rains, floods, or poor drainage can literally erode soil from underneath concrete over time. As voids and areas of subsoil washout develop beneath slabs, crucial support is removed, causing concrete sections to sag, sink, and collapse into those voids. Areas where water tends to pool or drain, are often susceptible spots to check for this type of erosion damage.

6.Sunken Sections 

Sometimes, rather than sloping evenly, areas of a concrete slab sink straight down, creating a noticeable drop or depressed section compared to the surrounding slab. This uneven, unbalanced weight distribution often leads to additional cracking radiating outwards from the recessed section as the slab is stressed and breaks. Larger sinking areas signify more severe erosion or loss of subsoil density below that requires lifting.

Importance of Concrete Repair

hand worker working

For homeowners trying to take up any DIY projects in their house, foremost properly maintaining and lifting concrete surfaces is crucial for several important reasons:

Preserving Structural Integrity

Concrete may seem indestructible, but cracks, chips, and other damage can undermine its strength and durability over time. Addressing issues promptly through repair prevents minor problems from worsening and maintains the concrete’s load-bearing capabilities and longevity.

Ensuring Safety

Damaged concrete poses potential hazards, such as tripping hazards from uneven surfaces or cracks. In industrial settings, compromised floors can lead to equipment malfunctions or vehicle accidents. Lifting concrete eliminates these safety risks and helps provide a secure environment. 

Maintaining Professional Appearance 

Whether for a business, public space, or personal property, allowing concrete to remain damaged and deteriorated looks unsightly and poorly maintained. Repairing issues like cracks, spalling, and stains helps preserve an attractive, well-kept appearance that projects a professional image.

Preventing Sunken Concrete

concrete driveaway cracked

Sunken or settled concrete can be a significant issue. It can result in uneven surfaces, lead to tripping hazards, and even structural problems. To avoid these problems, it’s essential to take preventive measures during the construction and installation of concrete slabs or surfaces. By addressing potential causes upfront, you can minimize the risk of future settlement and ensure the longevity of your concrete structures. The primary preventive measures include:

  1. Proper Site Preparation: Make sure the area is adequately prepared by removing any loose or unstable soil and thoroughly complying with the base soil layer. This creates a solid foundation for the concrete, reducing the chances of future settlement.
  2. Adequate Drainage: Install a comprehensive drainage system to channel water away from the concrete surface and prevent water accumulation around or beneath the slab. This helps prevent soil erosion and settlement caused by excess moisture.
  3. Vegetation Control: Manage the growth of tree roots and other vegetation near the concrete by installing root barriers or choosing landscaping options with shallow, non-invasive root systems. This prevents root-related disturbance of the soil beneath the concrete.
  4. Regular Inspections: Conduct routine inspections of the concrete surfaces to identify any early signs of cracking, sinking, or other issues that may indicate potential settlement problems. Early detection allows for timely repairs and prevention of further damage.
  5. Proactive Stabilization: Consider proactive stabilization techniques like polyurethane foam injection in areas with unstable soil conditions. This involves injecting expanding foam beneath the concrete slab to fill voids and provide additional support, reducing the risk of future settlement.

Conclusion

Concrete lifting is a profitable solution for repairing uneven, sunken, or cracked concrete surfaces without requiring complete replacement. Homeowners can identify when the procedure is necessary by looking for signs such as cracking, uneven surfaces, shifting joints, or foundation issues. Addressing concrete damage through elevation preserves structural integrity and ensures safety while maintaining a professional appearance. 

Preventive measures like proper site preparation, satisfactory drainage, vegetation control, and proactive stabilization can minimize the risk of future settlement and reduce the need for this process. Concrete lifting is valuable for restoring and maintaining surfaces around your home or property.

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