Concrete is one of the sturdiest building materials available and can last for decades, if not centuries. However, concrete is not indestructible and will eventually need to be replaced due to normal wear and tear or extreme weather conditions.
It has some limitations and at one point, it needs to be replaced. Exposure to chemicals, harsh environments, and heavy equipment traffic may lead concrete to deteriorate with time.
In general, concrete can be repaired – however, Concrete should be replaced when the damage appears to be beyond compare. However, when taken care of properly, concrete may last anywhere between 20-30 years.
To help you determine if your concrete needs to be replaced, there are a few signs to look out for. If there is cracking, crumbling, or flaking in the concrete; large potholes, spalling edges, or a surface that is not level – these are all indicators that it may be time to replace your concrete.
Repairing will only fix the problem temporarily and won’t completely eliminate the issue.
As mentioned earlier, there are various situations where repairing may work pretty well, but there are some cases where replacement is the better option.
For instance, if you’ve found that your concrete has sunk but is only 8 inches or below the original level, then you should consider repairing it. But if the sunken area is more than 8 inches, then a replacement is the only way to fix it.
Questions to Ask Before Concrete Replacement
Before proceeding with the repair, or replacement, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
How Old is the Concrete?
Concrete is more resilient compared to other surfaces, but it also has its expiry. If you see that your surface has been used for 20 to 25 years, it does call for a replacement.
Sometimes, exterior concrete goes through more elements in comparison to the interior. Therefore, adjusting, maintaining, or repairing your concrete as per its age will be a wise decision.
What Is The Role/Purpose Of Your Concrete (Is It A Foundation For Different Floors)?
The surface must be on level whenever you install tile or hardwood floors on top of your concrete. Some products can help to level floors up to 1.5 inches, but they do not repair structural problems.
How Deep Is The Crack?
Small surface cracks are repairable with small patches. But if you find a long crack affecting the subgrade, replacement is the perfect solution.
The gap will allow water to get in, and as water melts or freezes, it will deteriorate the concrete foundation. If your driveway experiences a crack and is less than 0.25 inches wide, you need to utilize a liquid crack filler.
Is Your Slab Sinking?
Usually, driveways and pathways are installed in huge slabs. When you observe the sinking of any slab part, the installation of the subgrade may have gone wrong. You need not replace all concrete, but that particular slab part needs replacement.
Based on the questions above, you can determine whether or not your concrete needs to be replaced. If you suspect that the damage is too extensive for repair, then it’s best to contact a professional who can assess the situation and provide you with the most suitable solution.
While a concrete repair might seem cheaper than a replacement in general, you may also have to assess whether this is a good decision for the long term. Sure, for the short-term or as a temporary solution this might work. However, you might end up spending more in the long run if you don’t replace it when necessary.
With that being said, not all concrete damages need instant replacement, but not all of them can get by with repairs as well. Go back to the questions above and if you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to any of them, then it’s time for a replacement.
What Are the Signs of Concrete Problems You Should Not Ignore?
Have you found cracks, missing pieces, or chipping on concrete? Don’t ignore these signs, as they are a sure indication that your concrete needs repair or replacement. Deterioration in the surface of your concrete can be caused by many factors like weathering, harsh chemicals, and heavy vehicles.
What you need to do about your concrete problem will significantly depend on the problem. Here are some signs to watch out for:
The Overall Condition of the Concrete
Analyzing the concrete condition is the most important step to decide whether concrete installation needs repairing or replacing. The concrete slab needs to be structurally good to go should you decide to go for a resurfacing option.
When chipped or hairline cracked concrete shows intense wear and tear, and large and deep cracks, it indicates that salvaging is not an option and you need to replace the entire concrete.
Additionally, you should remove the scaling and soft surfaces of concrete, and in that case, concrete replacement remains the only solution.
For those people living in cities and states where ice, snow, or heavy rain can occur, the age of concrete should be checked as well. Salts get absorbed into concrete with time. They sit on the surface and cause discoloration, chemical damage, and even scaling. Salt results in internal damage and is detrimental to concrete and other masonry works. Therefore, do not ignore any signs of salt damage in your concrete.
Cause Of Failure
Once you see the extent of the damage, you need to find and confirm the source of failure before replacing or adding a new slab. If there is a compromise in the compact base, patching or resurfacing also will fail. Soil washout or erosion problems due to water runoff are the severe and common sources of concrete damage. It needs immediate repair to the affected area.
Apart from this, the roots of trees can also wreak havoc on concrete. So remove roots wherever you find them near the concrete structure. This prevents further damage to the concrete and future maintenance costs.
Some slabs are susceptible to high wear and tear because of their purpose or location, where excessive point loads can lead to intense issues. If any area has a routine of heavy traffic from heavy equipment or commercial vehicles like a roll-off dumpster, it is acceptable that the area beneath it may not be sound enough. Those areas need frequent maintenance services.
Nature Of The Problem
Explore the concrete surface and be alert to all the concerns or problems it raises for you. There are some common issues you need to notice and determine whether it makes sense to do the concrete replacement or resurfacing.
Areas such as patios have concrete steps, and it is common for edges to get broken off or chipped away by pressure, weather, and other elements of damage. It is pretty easy to repair with concrete patching work.
It can occur when the ground shifts because of soil contraction and expansion. This is also possible to occur when the tree’s roots take growth under the concrete and disturb it.
If there is a slightly uneven or confinement to one area, repairing is possible. And if you find the entire surface affected or severe unevenness of the slab, replacement of the concrete is the best option.
Discoloring Of Surface
Another surface problem that makes your concrete look dull or less than ideal is discoloration due to stains or exposure to sunlight. And if your slab is in good shape, all you require is to repair the appearance of the surface. You can use a stain remover, mainly available for concrete.
Wear And Tear
Mostly, patio paths or concrete driveways will begin to show you some signs of their aging, like chipping or small cracks. However, if the slab installation is done correctly and has good integrity, there are solutions to cover topical problems by repairing that also improve the appearance of the surface.
Driveways can suffer due to potholes resulting from shifting soils, moisture freeze, and thaw, leading to minor cracks. The general rule is to do patchwork or repair small holes.
If there are large holes or several of them, patchwork may not be an appropriate solution, and in that case, concrete replacement remains the only viable solution.
Small and thin cracks present on the top concrete surface may seem unattractive, but they are unlikely to warrant concrete replacement. However, if you notice a lot of breaks, remember that the more repairs you require to make, the more costly the project will become.
In the event that there are significant-sized breaks, or there’s a web of cracks that seems to extend throughout the slab, considering a replacement is better, especially for the long-term integrity of the structure.
Check How Much Has Concrete Sunken?
If you find that the concrete has sunken or settled in a portion of the slab, your next step is to determine if it’s minor or major.
There are various ways to figure out how much concrete has settled. If it’s very slight, then resurfacing or a repair may be suitable. But if it’s to the point where it’s misaligning other sections of the concrete, or if it has sunken too much and is no longer level, then replacing that single section should be your priority.
In some cases, some homeowners (or even contractors) may consider injecting a foam material to lift the concrete, but be aware that sometimes these kinds of repairs don’t hold for a long time. Depending on the area, it is a better idea to replace the concrete with new and stronger material.
Repairing Or Replacing Concrete – What Should You Do?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to make a decision, especially when you’re not sure whether or not a repair will hold. Before making any decision here are some important things to remember:
When To Choose Concrete Repair?
Repairing is the better option when the problem is not too big and there is no issue with the integrity of the slab. The repair option is excellent for damages such as:
- Small holes
- Small cracks
- Broken steps
When To Go For Concrete Replacement?
It is better to choose a concrete replacement option for the patio, flooring, or driveway when the problems are challenging to repair and are causing harm to the integrity of the concrete. Replacement option will be the perfect solution for damages such as:
- Many large potholes
- It shows some signs that concrete does not bear the weight load efficiently
- Many large cracks
- Uneven surface
- Any proof of improper concrete slab installation
Considering these points, you can make the right decision between repairing or replacing your concrete slab. If you’re still unsure which option best suits your needs, contact a professional contractor for advice on what steps to take. They will be able to suggest the best solution after assessing the damage and analyzing your property’s condition.
Needless to say, the best way to save yourself from the hassle of repairs and replacements is regular maintenance of your concrete flooring or driveway, depending on its usage.
Make sure to inspect it regularly and take precautionary measures to keep your flooring in top condition. And if you do need professional help, make sure to hire a reliable contractor with quality services.
Additional Concrete Problems That Call for a Replacement
We all know by now that not all kinds of concrete damage are repairable – and not recommended. There are certain cases and damage examples that your concrete that is not curable and needs replacement. Some of these may include but are not limited to:
- Exposure To Aggregate: If flakes or chips are deep to expose aggregate and the damage is severe, this is not solvable by repairing, replacing is the final call.
- Base Deterioration: You may observe the base deteriorating or getting compromised.
- Needs more than two inches of materials.
- Old Age: If the slab is over 30 years, it may be better to replace it with new material. It has reached the end of its life and it’s not worth the risk.
How Often Does Concrete Need to be Replaced: Final Thoughts
Various factors should be taken into account while deciding whether to repair or replace your concrete.
The age of the concrete, the extent of damage, and the purpose of the area all have an impact on what type of treatment will be best in any given situation. On average, 30 years is a good benchmark for how often you should think about replacing your concrete.
If you are worried that your concrete might not last this long, regular inspections and maintenance can help keep it in top condition and extend its life significantly.