One of the most important things you can do as a homeowner is care for your concrete steps. They provide easy access to certain parts of your house, so making sure they’re functional is a small but necessary part of maintaining the structural integrity of your home. Cracks can be expected after a few years of wear and tear, but the concrete should never be uneven. It should also never wobble when you step on it.
Fixing up uneven steps, cracked steps, or sinking steps keeps you and your home safe. Stairs can be a little difficult to use sometimes, but uneven stairs are a safety hazard. Cracked steps will only degrade more over time, and sinking steps will eventually become useless. Luckily, there are different ways of going about it. Here’s what professionals can do to fix up concrete steps.
Solutions for Concrete Steps
How you go about repairing concrete steps is a decision you shouldn’t take lightly. Although there’s more than one solution you can choose from, they won’t all yield the same results in the long run.
If you want to know which solution works best for you, consult with a professional. They’ll recommend one of these options, based on your exact situation.
Mudjacking or Slabjacking
Mudjacking (also known as slabjacking) is one of the oldest and most common forms of concrete lifting. It involves strategically drilling one or more holes near the sunken concrete and then pumping a mixture of cement, sand, and mud through it. The mixture fills the gap between the soil and the concrete. Once it’s all done, the holes are covered up. It’s a process that can take a few hours to a day, depending on how much concrete is affected and how long the mixture takes to cure.
It’s a method many contractors swear by since it is the traditional way of doing things. However, just because mudjacking has been used for years doesn’t mean it’s the best form of concrete lifting. Depending on the amount of damage you have, and the soil your concrete sits on, one of the other solutions may fit you better.
Choosing Mudjacking or Slabjacking for Concrete Step Repair
When talking about repairing uneven concrete steps, most contractors will suggest mudjacking. However, this is an outdated method of concrete lifting and can cause many problems. The reason they might suggest mudjacking despite not being the best solution is that many contractors don’t know how to execute other concrete lifting methods or simply don’t have the tools for it.
Mudjacking is a slow, time-consuming process. Once the slurry has lifted the steps, you need to wait hours before you can put any pressure on the steps again so the mixture can finish drying properly. Not only that, but with mudjacking, there’s a high probability your steps will sink once more.
The reason the steps sunk in the first place is because of soil shrinkage and compaction. As the soil shrinks, the surface volume decreases and leaves a gap. No longer supported by the soil underneath, the concrete sinks and settles into the soil, which now sits lower than it was before.
The problem with mudjacking is that, due to the rough texture of the cement mix, it doesn’t fully fill the gap. There can still be areas under the steps with unfilled spaces. This means that any kind of pressure on those areas will eventually cause the concrete to sink once more, possibly even worse than before. In order to get the mixture everywhere, contractors would have to drill multiple holes in the concrete, which can damage it if they’re not careful. The hardened cement mixture can also cause further soil compaction, which only speeds up the settling process.
Mudjacking as a concrete lifting method only lasts five to 10 years. The gaps in the mixture along with the soil compaction from the heavy cement mixture are the result of a very short-lived fix. If the concrete steps sink again, the same concrete lifting process cannot be done because the old cement mixture is in the way. The concrete slab or piece would have to be replaced, which is a lot more expensive than any concrete lifting job.
Using polyurethane foam is a newer, state-of-the-art method of concrete lifting. Known as PolyRenewal™ to some, it’s just like mudjacking since it involves drilling a hole and injecting polyurethane foam to fill the gap between the concrete and the soil. The foam is creamy when mixed and injected, but then dries up after a while. When the polyurethane foam is injected, the hole or holes drilled are covered up.
Many think of polyurethane foam and picture a soft sponge. How can such a material hold up heavy concrete steps? Despite both being made from polyurethane, the structure of a dish sponge and polyurethane meant for construction are very dissimilar.
There’s a difference between closed-cell and open-cell polyurethane foam. Open-cell polyurethane is a lot softer and flexible. The kind of foam solution used for concrete lifting is a closed-cell polyurethane that’s a lot firmer than any dish sponge.
Choosing Polyurethane Injections for Concrete Step Repair
Polyurethane injection for concrete lifting is the best option you can go for if you want to see lasting results on your repaired concrete. It’s a method that has many benefits over any other solution, especially the older mudjacking solution.
The holes that need to be drilled into the concrete are a lot smaller than those drilled for mudjacking, which means there’s less of a difference in aesthetics once the job is done. This is important if you’re fixing up the house to sell or if you simply don’t want any noticeable changes in your concrete. Polyurethane injections take less time to complete than mudjacking, and once the foam has been injected, you can use your steps like you normally do in just 15-30 minutes.
Polyurethane injections are also convenient if you need to install or alter anything on and around the steps as well. After a mudjacking job, if you want to install handrails, you’ll need to wait a few days because of the cement mixture. With polyurethane injections, you can install them after a few hours.
Mudjacking relies on the pressure of the cement mixture to lift the concrete. However, this creates pressure on the soil and further compacts it. Polyurethane foam is incredibly light, and because of its sponginess, it evenly spreads out underneath the concrete. Because it spreads out so well, it leaves no gaps, which means you won’t have to worry much about settling anymore.
Concrete lifting that utilizes polyurethane foam lasts a lifetime and is a one-time long-term fix for sunken concrete steps. Unfortunately, not many contractors know how to use this method because it requires special tools. However, if you care about the integrity of your concrete steps, you’d be wise to look for a local contractor that uses polyurethane injections for concrete lifting. The investment is certainly worth it.
Concrete Step Repair
Uneven concrete is a completely unavoidable occurrence. Many believe it has to do with the way the concrete was set or built, but it usually has to do with the soil under the concrete. All structures have foundations built on top of soil. The soil is strategically placed so it can properly and evenly hold the structure up. When the soil fails to support the structure, the building sinks. These are the reasons this happens.
- Soil Shrinkage
Soil shrinkage occurs when the moisture in soil dries up. When clay-rich soil gets wet, it swells up three-dimensionally (up and out) as the water fills the space between the soil particles. When that water dries up, the soil comes together and shrinks, becoming denser and tougher the less water it holds. When soil shrinking occurs, the soil loses a lot of surface volume, meaning that there is a space between the soil and the concrete it’s supposed to support. It’s a slow process that takes place over many years.
Once there is a gap and the concrete isn’t supported, it can’t withstand the heavy weight placed on it, so it breaks off and settles onto the shrunken soil. It’s very difficult to predict how much soil will shrink since it’s all dependent on how much moisture it absorbs and how much of it dries out. There are preventative measures you can take to slow down the process, but overall, it’s something homeowners are not able to control. You will just need an expert’s help to mitigate the damage and how quickly it progresses.
- Poorly Compacted Soil
As mentioned previously, soil is used under foundation to hold up structures. Before building anything, construction workers place soil in layers and compact it. Compaction includes applying a heavy weight or pressure on soil so that the air between each soil particle becomes displaced. By displacing the air in the soil, it sticks closer together and becomes denser. Dense soil works much better under a foundation than loose soil because it is tougher and less likely to move around.
If the soil was poorly compacted before the foundation was constructed, it is a lot more likely to fail. Because the soil is looser, it shifts around easily. It is also more susceptible to erosion, which is when a flow of water washes away the soil. Once the soil is gone, it’s only a matter of time before the concrete settles.
Concrete does not remain perfect forever. It’s bound to crack in a few places and deteriorate after some time. That said, not all cracks in concrete should be dismissed. Some are indicative of a bigger problem at hand, and you should be on the lookout.
Concrete steps are such an incredibly important part of a home. They are small, but you don’t realize how crucial they are to everyday living until you have to make an extra effort to get inside your house because your steps are uneven and functionless. To make sure it’s the right time to fix your concrete steps, you should take notice of:
- Cracks and Uneven Steps
If your steps have any significant cracks, they should be fixed immediately. How do you know if the crack is significant? Well, if it’s bigger than the width of a credit card, it is a big deal. It may not look like much, but a crack that wide can turn into a serious problem later. Luckily, cracks can be easily fixed with a sealant, though if it continues cracking significantly, there might be a problem with the soil the steps rest upon.
If parts of the steps are uneven or sunken in any way, you need to level them out quickly too. Using uneven steps is very dangerous and puts you and your loved ones at risk. The problem only gets worse over time. Before you know it, the steps will be so uneven, a big chunk will break off. To avoid having to replace the entirety of the steps, contact an expert that can help you with your concrete lifting needs.
When you walk down your steps, if you feel them to be flimsy and unstable, you need to have them checked. Even if the outer appearance of the steps is fine, the fact that they are flimsy indicates there’s a problem with the foundation. Soil never shrinks evenly, so while one side of the steps may feel solid and secure, if the other side shifts under pressure, you are most likely dealing with compacted soil issues.
Flimsy steps are even more perilous to use than uneven ones due to their instability. Because of the settling, they can give way at any moment and injure the person stepping on them. Homeowners should be able to go up and down their steps without a wobble or fear of falling. If you don’t feel safe when using your concrete steps, a contractor can help you with repairs.
Uneven concrete is caused by soil shrinkage and compaction. It is impossible to stop this from happening, as it’s something that is out of a homeowner’s control. However, there are a few measures that can be taken to deter the effects of soil shrinkage and keep your steps healthy and strong for years to come.
- Cover the Steps
A big part of soil shrinkage has to do with the weather. The constant change of moisture content in the soil plays a massive role, so it’s best to keep the steps covered. This prevents the concrete (and thus, the soil underneath) from getting wet when it rains, drying out when it’s hot, or holding up a ton of extra weight when it snows.
Anything that gets constant exposure to the elements deteriorates fast. That even includes things made out of tough material like concrete. If you plan on living in your home for a long time, investing in a little roof or porch over the steps goes a long way in making sure your steps stay functional.
- Extend Downspouts
To avoid shrinkage and erosion, extend your downspouts so that they release water as far from the steps as possible. The downspouts should release water at least five feet away from the concrete steps. Anything closer than five feet, and the water will reach the soil under the steps.
Apart from extending downspouts, any kind of drainage problem that releases water outside should be addressed quickly. Even if the problem does not affect you too much because the water leaks outside, it will affect the concrete if the leaking is happening close enough to the steps.
In the age of the internet, many homeowners’ first thought when looking to repair something is looking up how to do it themselves. If you look online, there are many resources that explain how to repair sunken concrete steps. However, most of these resources don’t offer you the amount of experience you’ll need to pull off a DIY job. Likewise, you won’t have the right tools or the ability to spot warning signs that might escalate.
Most of all, it’s important to know why your steps need repairing. What caused the damage? Is it still present? Were there several causes? Are there hidden warning signs of the root issue? Are you mistaking those signs for secondary or unrelated issues?
Those are all questions a professional can answer. They can also provide you with high-grade solutions, peace of mind, and a quality guarantee.
Choosing DIY Methods for Concrete Step Repair
From a DIY approach, concrete step repair usually involves concrete patches. Sure, these are easy to obtain at local hardware stores. However, concrete patches do not repair the internal structure of the steps and are not a valid replacement for concrete lifting methods. That’s because concrete steps become unleveled due to settling. Soil shrinkage, compaction, and erosion continue after settling, and applying cement patches to even out the steps will not solve the true problem.
A simple patch job can actually be dangerous. By not addressing the real issue, the settling and soil compaction, you never truly fix the functionality of the steps. Sunken concrete steps are dangerous to use, and those patched up with what is essentially a bandage may cause future injuries.
Likewise, patching cracks may not actually seal them, or resolve the issues that made them crack to begin with. In the following weeks or months, the cracks may begin to spread and get worse.
Even if you did buy a polyurethane sealant at the store to lift the cement yourself, you could end up further damaging your steps. Concrete lifting requires precision and knowledge. It’s not an easy job. You have to know where exactly you need to drill the holes and know how much polyurethane you need to inject.
Drilling too many holes in the wrong parts of the concrete can crack it further and break it apart. Too little polyurethane foam will render the project useless, but too much will leave the steps uneven again, so you’ll be right back where you started. If you end up messing up your concrete too much, you might need to have it completely replaced instead of repaired, which will be a lot more costly. Overall, DIY methods may work for other household repairs, but when it comes to concrete lifting, you need to call an expert.
Who Should I Call for Concrete Step Repairs?
Regardless of whether you think you need mudjacking or polyurethane injections to repair your concrete steps, you need an expert’s help to get the job done right. If you try to do it yourself, not only will the repair last a short amount of time. You might also end up severely damaging your steps. The best, most cost-effective solution would be to find the right professional to fix the steps for you.
The most important choice you can make when thinking about repairing your concrete steps is choosing who to call. A poor concrete lifting job can be a big headache as well as a safety hazard. Colorado has varied weather. Not only that, but Colorado’s soil tends to be rich in clay. These two factors combined mean that sunken concrete is a common occurrence in the state. You need to get in contact with a local expert who knows the area and knows what they’re doing.
Call Complete Basement Systems for All Your Concrete Lifting Needs
Since 1999, Complete Basement Systems has been there for the homeowners of Colorado Springs and Denver, CO. We have the expertise to fix sunken concrete in and around your property. Contact us to schedule a free inspection and repair estimate detailing all costs of recommended repairs.
Complete Basement Systems uses PolyRenewal™, a new high-tech method of concrete lifting. It’s the most reliable way of getting your concrete leveled. Because we care about customer satisfaction, we only offer the best solutions for all home repair services.
So, if you think that your property might be struggling with concrete step repair, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We are always on hand to help.