one of the most durable building materials, but it does require
occasional repair and maintenance.
Problems can be caused by
outside forces such as freezing water, structural problems or
surface damage, which is usually caused by improper finishing
methods or poorly mixed concrete.
Whatever the cause, it's best
to tackle concrete problems as soon as you discover them. Repair
projects can span a wide range, from sealing a surface to replacing
an entire structure. The most common repairs are filling cracks and
repairing surface damage. Another solution is resurfacing-covering
an old surface with fresh concrete. A good surface repair can last
for many years, but if there is underlying structural damage, it is
only a temporary solution.
Common Concrete Problems
Problem: Dirty or stained
Splotches or stains on concrete surfaces can usually be removed by a
professional powerwasher. Sealing the surface against spills can
Problem: Cracked or chipped
Often fissure openings in the surface or small pieces breaking away
are signs of future problems. Take these tiny signals seriously and
have a contractor check out the problems and make repairs.
Problem: Concrete edge is
cracked or broken
Unfortunately, any hard surface can chip or break away at the edges.
Commonly caused by impact or erosion, cracks can be fixed if the
problem is small.
Problem: Flaking concrete
If you see the surface breaking away, this may signal that the
concrete mixture may be flawed. Concrete's unique blend of elements
gives it strength and durability. Flaking is not a common
Flaking can also be a sign
that the concrete was poured during cold weather. A strong freeze
will cause the new surface to become brittle and can make the
surface prone to flaking. Some surfaces can be repaired by a
professional, however, if damage is deeper, the pad will need
Settling is a common cause of damage as soils shift up and down over
time. Concrete is designed for strength, but not necessarily for
extreme flexibility. Small shifts are okay, but larger shifts will
damage concrete. Settling is often a serious and expensive problem.
In most cases, repair is not an option.
Concrete Surfaces and Uses
There are several different
types of concrete surfaces and which type you install depends on the
area it will be installed. Here are where the most common types of
concrete are typically used.
Garage or basement
concrete surfaces work well in garages and basements because they
are structural floorings and can take heavy use with little
maintenance. Cleaning concrete is also easier than other,
Driveway and parking
parking areas are either concrete or asphalt. Brick or stone
masonry is an
expensive alternative. These areas need to handle heavy use and be
easy to maintain. With concrete, you will need to finish the surface
with a "brush-textured finish," a rougher surface that helps with
Concrete or stone masonry are popular options for exterior
Stone masonry will be more decorative, however, concrete will be
less expensive and requires less maintenance. A concrete walkway
should also have a "brush-textured finish."
Like walkways, concrete or stone masonry are popular options for a
patio. Concrete will be less expensive and quicker to custom make
and should have a "brush-textured finish" like all exterior concrete
sheds and porches
a concrete base
support and structure.
Concrete steps are commonly installed at the same time as concrete
walkways, patios and porches and the same factors should be
Concrete is often one of the very base foundations of any structure.
However, good site preparation, including proper excavation and
grading, is necessary to insure a good foundation.
Concrete form work
Concrete can either be flat or shaped into three-dimensional
objects. If you need steps, curbs or other form work, discuss your
options with your contractor.
In some cases it is necessary to install steel rebar within the
concrete, as this makes the concrete structure stronger.
Removing old concrete
Removing concrete or paving material is difficult work. Often it's
best to leave this to a contractor, who will have proper equipment
and training to handle the removal.
Concrete surfaces come in
three different finishes. The most common for interiors has a smooth
finish created by running a flat trowel over the top. This can be
quite smooth, almost like glass.
Smooth surfaces don't work
well outside. A little water can turn a smooth concrete surface into
a slip hazard. Contractors should texture exterior surfaces with a
brush-textured finish, a rougher surface that wicks away water and
Exposed aggregate finish is a
rougher finish and less common. The gravel that makes up the
concrete is exposed to the surface and good for traction.
Concrete color additives
Concrete can come in a wide variety of colors created by adding dyes
to the liquid mixture.
Fixing damage to colored
concrete is tricky. Getting the right blend of colors is not an
exact science. Don't expect a repair person to create the perfect
If a perfect match is
critical, consider removing and replacing the area with new