The cracking of your concrete driveway is just a natural part of the cycle of life. You’d start to crack too if you were exposed to constant cycles of freezing and thawing, heavy loads, tree roots, and, yes, even tectonic shifts in the Earth’s crust! In learning to make repairs to concrete, you’ll be unlocking a life hack so profound that you won’t know what to do with yourself. In repairing these little concrete cracks early, you’ll be able to stop them from leading to even bigger cracks. The bigger the crack, the more damage is done to your slab of concrete, and the more damage is done, the more money it’s going to cost you later.
Don’t fret—it’s not as difficult as it might sound! It’s a simple, relatively cheap do-it-yourself project that you can use to impress your family, neighbors, and give you something to talk about at dinner parties. While it is indeed a multi-step process with a lot of little varying intricacies involved, the amount of work you’ll be doing to fix a smaller crack beats the headache fixing a larger issue down the road. You’re welcome! In repairing your concrete, you instantly level up your curb appeal, which will come in handy if you’re looking to sell. If your driveway is all cracked up, this might deter potential buyers. Who likes to look at an unsightly driveway?
Preparing Your Tools
Of course, with any job involving concrete fillers, mixers, and resurfacers, you’ll want to wear rubber gloves, safety glasses to protect your eyes, and choose an outfit that has a full coverage of the skin! Take care of yourself—it’s the only body you have at the present!
To tackle a job of this particular caliber, you’ll need the following tools:
- Shop vacuums
- Leaf blowers
- Pressure washers
- Brick trowels
- Garden hoses
- Caulk or caulking guns
- Long-handled squeegee
- Concrete backer rod
- Chisel or hammer
Now, the materials:
- Concrete sealers and repair kits
- Ready-mix concrete
- Cement and concrete aggregates
- Concrete sealing solution
- Concrete cleaning solution
In case you don’t have the time or materials to properly repair your driveway, consider hiring a repair company instead to save yourself time, money, and effort in the long run.
Terms To Remember
Before beginning, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with a couple of concrete buzzwords that’ll appear later in this how-to.
Concrete joints are installed so that one concrete element can move separately from other parts of the concrete structure. When joints are integrated, they allow the elements of the concrete to move independently from the building/structure. These joints let the concrete shrink as its drying, therefore preventing internal restraint.
Concrete Contraction Joints
A contraction joint is a delegated groove in a concrete slab, usually either sawed, tooled, or formed there. It’s designed to regulate the location of cracking usually caused by significant dimensional shifts in the concrete slab. The purpose is to specifically create a weaker area in the slab, which then helps regulate where cracks in the concrete will uniformly occur, as it usually happens in a somewhat straight line.
Concrete Expansion Joint
These are used to then separate slabs and concrete from different parts of a structure. Each expansion joint, therefore, allows independent movement between the structural member, then minimizing cracking when said movements are thereby restrained. These joints allow for both thermal expansion and thermal contraction without any added stress on the concrete.
Doing Driveway Repairs
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, repairs can begin! The following cracks have been separated into three categories: Simple Surface, 1/4 And Under, and Large Cracks. You’ll learn how to delegate each job depending on the size, severity, and location of your concrete crack.
Simple Surface Cracks
If your driveway dried too fast during initial driveway construction, surface cracks being to appear. These cracks, also called crazing, and can appear right after the concrete is poured, or they can begin to appear over time. Usually, these cracks don’t necessarily mean structural damage, so don’t fret! They can simply be cosmetic. However, if they get larger over time, you’ll want to take direct action. More on that later. If the cracks are relatively minimal and the rest of the concrete appears sound, you’ll just need to fix the surface cracks. You can do this by applying a simple resurfacing product, available at any depot, hardware, or big box store. The resurfacing product works to repair the cracking damage by layering a thin layer of resurfacer.
For specific instructions on application, verify with the label. While most products may offer the same application, that isn’t always the case. Before applying, be sure to wash your driveway with a high-powered pressure washer. Ensuring the surface is clean is going to eliminate the driveway of any outstanding debris, but will also ensure the integrity of the concrete after you’ve sealed the surface crack. Apply the resurfacer to the squeegee and spread it over the crack. When spreading, be sure to work on one small area at a time because the product usually dries quickly. With special attention to the instructions, let the product dry completely before using your driveway.
Cracks At Or Under 1/4-Inch Wide
Once your local forecast calls for cool, dry weather and the surface of your driveway is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you can then begin making your concrete repairs. Most concrete fillers, also known as masonry fillers, are specifically designed for cracks up to 1/4 inch wide. You’ll want to select a product that will position itself with the old concrete, so it won’t pull away during the winter or spring, as the concrete freezes and thaws. A concrete backer rod is usually recommended for cracks wider than 1/4 inch, as these cracks are pretty deep. The rod is inserted into the crack, therefore minimizing the amount of filler you’ll need, making it a more uniform repair.
Before applying, you’ll want to chisel away any old concrete patches with a hammer or chisel. You can remove the broken concrete debris, pieces, or any old caulking work with a slotted screwdriver. Take the time to pull any weeds or grass that might be growing in the cracks. You’ll also want to remove all debris from the driveway itself. Then, begin pressure washing with a concrete cleaning solution of your preference. Avoid using high pressure around stains, dirt, or any mold that might have formed in the crack. Once you’ve removed these, switch to the high-pressure nozzle and finish the rest of the driveway. Let the concrete dry fully before beginning.
For Larger Cracks
Any cement cracking under 1/4-inch wide may not mean there’s any serious damage. However, normal driveway wear and tear can affect them much later. If you live in an area with particularly harsh winters, then the constant freezing/thawing is going to expand the cracks significantly. Those cracks that expand over 1/4-inch-wide signal more serious structural issues. They can be filled, but usually, it’s a temporary fix and won’t hold over time. Be sure to keep an eye out for cracking that is more an inch wide and particularly uneven, meaning that one side of the crack is higher than the other. These cracks aren’t located in the control joint but in the concrete plane of the driveway. This signifies a structural issue.
Any uneven cement cracking more than an inch wide usually occurs in much older driveways When dealing with large structural damage, you might want to consider calling a professional, especially if there are a lot of deep breaks, jagged ends, or you can see any loose gravel. Said professional will likely advise removing and replacing the driveway entirely. If you’re interested in braving the project, replacing a portion of the concrete slab yourself is an achievable task, especially if the damage is confined to only a small section of the driveway. Of course, pouring a concrete slab yourself does require a lot of manual labor. Not only will you have to destroy the damaged concrete, but also construct new forms for the slab, as well as adding compacted gravel prior to the slab installation. You might want to round up a crew with a promise of pizza and beer.
Commonly Asked Question Concerning Cracking Cement
When big concrete slabs are initially poured, the joints are formed or cut every 8 to 10 feet by the contractor. This is to prevent any future shrinkage with the slab’s movement as it ages, or cracking associated with the curing process. The cracking here is deeply hidden in the joints, thus maintaining the surface of your driveway. Don’t worry about any cracking along the control joint as its simply fulfilling its purpose. Do be wary, though. A control joint can both separate and widen separate over time, thus creating a large gap that’ll affect the appearance of your driveway. If left untreated, it can start filling with debris, and various vegetation can grow. Here, you can lessen the gap created by the separated control joints by filling in the widening joints, therefore keeping out all of that debris.
Types Of Concrete Fillers And Mixes
- Most concrete fillers come in pourable bottles that are designed to be utilized in tandem with a concrete caulk gun. Some fillers have nozzles that let you squeeze said filler right into the crack! Easy-peasy.
- If you’ve got more than a few cracks, it’ll be wiser to use a dry concrete mix or a concrete patching compound. If you’ve got significantly deeper cracks, you’ll want to use either a concrete mix that contains gravel.
- Stir up the mix in a large bucket with water, or as directed specifically on the label. Not a necessity, but attaching a paddle to your drill makes your life a whole lot easier.
- Go ahead and pour the wet mix into the cracks and use the trowel to even it out, using the flat part to blend the new concrete with the old. Use the flat end to scrape off the excess.
- Pour the wet mix into the cracks and level it with the rest of the driveway using the pointed end of a trowel. Use the flat part of the trowel to blend the new and existing materials together. So that the patch won’t be noticeable, scrape off any excess.
- Before driving or walking on the driveway, let the new concrete dry as indicated on the label.
Various Tips And Tricks
- You’ll definitely want to wear some kneepads to provide yourself with some cushion. Concreting days can get long, and you’ll want to take care of those knees you’ve got. They’re you’re only set!
- If you’re a speed demon, consider choosing either a rapidly setting or fast-set crack filler. This will save you some time in the long run!
- Though some patching compounds can harden in only a few hours, some take days, or even a week to fully cure. This all depends on the temperature and humidity of the area you’re living in.
- Most crack fillers you’ll find are self-leveling. You’ll want to verify with the label if the product intends this issue. If you’ve managed to not get self-leveling filler, use your putty knife to smooth over the crack, then clean the excess. Easy.
- Any textured and/or concrete-colored products are available if you’re looking to blend in smoothly with the existing slab color or texture.
- Again, consider calling a professional to repair inch-wide jagged cracks, especially if sinking or heaving has taken place, causing one side to be higher than the other. A single section or multiple sections of the driveway may need breaking up, removing, and re-pouring.
See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The work you’ll end up doing really just depends on the size and severity of the crack in your pavement. Once you’ve got an idea on how to tackle the cracks, it should really only occupy a weekend or so, nothing more. Ultimately, understanding how concrete is poured, delegated, and built is going to help you understand how to keep the integrity of the concrete structure longer and help avoid any further cracking in the future.