How to Hire the Best Concrete Crack Repair Service Near You
A crack in the front walkway might not seem like a big deal, but small cracks can spread quickly and foundation cracks can spell trouble. Searching ‘concrete crack near me’ can help homeowners find professional help quickly.
Walking down a sidewalk without stepping on a crack is still a popular playground game, but it’s much less fun when it’s a game that can be played at home. Cracks in concrete can let water get in underneath or behind the slab, further weakening the structure of the concrete and resulting in more severe cracking or collapse, so cracks in concrete need prompt attention. The aisles at home improvement stores offer up a wealth of the best concrete crack fillers and repair kits, but how is a homeowner to know the best way to repair concrete?
The first step many take is to check the internet for help—after all, searching doesn’t cost anything and can provide some great background information. Searches such as “concrete contractors near me,” “concrete companies near me,” and “concrete workers near me” will likely result in a collection of local companies who do concrete work. But not all concrete companies do the same type of work—some specialize in driveways and sidewalks, others in building products, and still others in commercial work. Therefore, a search for “residential concrete contractors near me” is more likely to provide suggestions for the right kind of business to assist with home concrete repair and repouring. Still, there’s work and research to be done before making calls and hiring contractors to repair cracked concrete to ensure the best professional for the job is hired. Understanding the components that make up the cost of concrete repair can make the selection easier.
The Cost to Hire a Concrete Crack Repair Service
The total cost of concrete repair will depend on several things: the severity of the crack, the function of the concrete piece that is damaged, and to a certain extent, the geographic location. According to Angi, the national average cost of concrete driveway repair is $1,715, but if the crack is severe enough to warrant replacement, the average concrete driveway cost rises to $3,000. Foundation crack repair costs between $250 and $800, but if the damage is bad enough, a new concrete slab costs between $3,600 and $7,200 to pour. A concrete patio costs $2,942 on average to rebuild. These are national averages, which must be adjusted regionally based on labor costs and material costs; concrete costs more per square yard in colder climates because it costs more to keep the concrete warm enough to flow, and it may cost more in remote areas that are difficult to access. The best way for a homeowner to pin down the cost of a concrete repair is to identify several repair complies and request comprehensive estimates from each one, then compare the quotes. Many contractors will quote concrete cost per yard, which can include delivery.
Common Issues a Concrete Crack Repair Service Can Fix
Those who aren’t intimately familiar with how concrete work is done may look at a huge crack and think it means the whole structure will need to be replaced, or ignore a small one that’s actually a far greater danger. The type of crack is as important as the size, if not more so. Before assuming that a repair will be catastrophically expensive, homeowners will want to investigate the type of damage that is present. Some of these cracks can be easily repaired, while others require a more significant repouring or rebuilding.
Plastic Shrinkage Cracks
Many people are surprised to learn that until concrete dries, it is often referred to as “plastic,” because the precured stage is when it is most vulnerable to developing cracks and imperfections. If the concrete dries out very quickly, it can develop what is called plastic shrinkage, which means that the mass of the concrete shrinks suddenly because the swift moisture loss leaves space between the cement particles. When this happens, a network of tiny hairline cracks can occur, as can shrinkage cracks that develop when the body of the concrete pulls together too quickly. They occur most often at corners and around components such as pipes or posts that are located in the middle of a slab. These cracks can often be repaired with filler or a skim coat, which is a layer of coating that gives the concrete a new finish.
Concrete is pretty solid once it dries, but the ground beneath it is less so. A properly prepared base underneath will help, but sometimes the ground unavoidably shifts. When this happens, the structure of the concrete can be compromised and pulled apart at the surface as it’s stressed from underneath. These cracks are wider at the surface than they are at the bottom. The type and cost of repair will depend on the degree to which the ground beneath has been compromised.
Concrete is strong, but it has limits just like any other surface; the type, strength, and depth of concrete that is poured for different applications is geared toward making sure the concrete’s strength is appropriate for the load it is expected to bear. When that load exceeds the strength of the concrete, the concrete will crack under the pressure. For example, a concrete driveway is designed to hold the weight of a vehicle, but a poured concrete patio may not be—so if a car is parked on the patio, the patio may develop overloading cracks. This type of crack can also appear if the ground beneath the concrete is unexpectedly soft, as the concrete may begin to sink into the soft earth and lose its own weight-bearing capacity. This can happen after a significant flood.
Structural cracks are dangerous—dangerous enough that if one is spotted, it’s critical that a concrete expert be consulted immediately. Structural cracks indicate that the concrete has failed in some way: These cracks can be the result of poor quality concrete mixture, overloading, uneven footing (the attachment point between a home’s foundation and the soil), or a combination. These cracks are fairly noticeable and wide, and they stretch horizontally across concrete walls or foundations.
Ever wondered why concrete slabs often have joints or intentional gaps left between panels? As with any other somewhat porous material, concrete absorbs water, freezes, thaws, and expands and contracts accordingly. If concrete is trapped between other solid surfaces and experiences changes in temperature, it will expand and have no place to go—which can lead to cracking and breakage. When appropriate, concrete installers will add expansion joints into the poured concrete to give expanding concrete a place to go to avoid breakage, but sometimes expansion happens unexpectedly or the joint isn’t large enough and the concrete will break.
Heaving Concrete Cracks
Just as concrete can sink if the ground beneath it shifts, it will rise and fall when the ground beneath it freezes. Frozen earth, especially if it’s moist, “heaves,” or lifts up, sometimes by several inches. This is why there are guidelines for how deep foundations must be dug and poured, and why slab foundations must be a certain depth—the goal is to make them either deeper than the frost or strong enough to withstand the ground heaves. When the concrete isn’t thick or deep enough, it can develop heaving cracks as the ground beneath rises and falls with freezing temperatures.
Premature Drying Cracks
When it’s very warm or windy, or when freshly mixed concrete is directly in the sun, the top layer of the mixture can lose moisture too quickly, leaving the concrete and aggregate too dry to cure properly. When this occurs, small hairline cracks can develop, as can crazing (explained below). These cracks may alter the appearance of the concrete in a way that displeases the customer, but they don’t indicate structural problems.
Crazing is a type of cracking related to premature drying. As the top layer dries too quickly, the top of the concrete can develop a web of fine, tiny lines. In pottery, crazing requires a special skill and glaze to grow—on concrete, it indicates uneven drying of the top and bottom layers. It’s not dangerous, but the look may not be what was intended.
Tree roots are some of concrete’s greatest enemies. They spread beneath the surface, often unbeknownst to a homeowner, until they decide they want some light and water and head toward the surface. When they encounter resistance, such as the underside of a foundation or concrete slab, they keep pushing until they break through by cracking the concrete. Repairs of this type of damage can be expensive, as the damaged concrete must be excised, and then the roots must be removed before fresh concrete can be added to the gap. Plus, if the tree is still living, more roots may be looking to follow.
Sometimes as the layers of concrete are poured, there is a discrepancy between both the moisture content and temperature of the top and bottom of the slab. When they dry unevenly, the base of the slab doesn’t develop in a way that appropriately supports the surface layer, and there’s separation and pulling between the two layers that creates instability. This can usually be avoided by using proper techniques when the concrete is installed in an area where curling is likely, such as including extra joints, using concrete with a lower moisture content, and taking extra care when applying thinner top layers. Once curling has occurred, the surface will need to be removed or ground down, then repaired or replaced using better installation techniques.
Do I Need Concrete Crack Repair?
Some cracks in concrete don’t need to be repaired. They can be unsightly, but if they’re not indicative of a structural problem and they’re not a danger (such as having sharp edges or being a tripping hazard), they might not require any repair. Cracks can detract from the appearance of the home, however, and if the home is going to be put on the market, it’s important to note that cracks can make home buyers nervous—they may assume that structural problems are present when they are not. Other simple cracks can be fixed using the best concrete patch options or filled to prevent water from causing further damage or pests from getting in. Other types of cracks do require repair, either immediately or within a reasonable period of time.
Some types of concrete cracks need immediate attention from a professional; with some cracks, attempting a DIY fix can mask the severity of the actual problem and prevent a proper repair from being completed.
- Structural cracks in a wall or foundation: These wide horizontal cracks indicate that the structure of the concrete isn’t supported well enough or is failing, especially if accompanied by a bulge in the concrete. Don’t cover or patch these: Get an expert opinion on them right away, as repairing a foundation crack too late can result in collapse or increased likelihood of structural damage to the rest of the home.
- Foundation cracks that suddenly change direction: These cracks (or ones that move in a stair-step pattern with mortar joints) suggest that there’s an immediate need to assess the soil beneath the home. This type of crack occurs when the house settles with shifting substrate. They can be the result of simple settling, but it’s impossible for a layperson to know whether or not this is the case. An engineer can assess and take samples of the soil and determine the cause and the best plan of action.
- Cracks that are more than ¼-inch wide: Cracks that are this large aren’t just cracks; they’re signs of a larger problem. While it may be possible to seal them closed with crack filler or patch them temporarily, cracks that have grown that large have probably let in a significant amount of water or debris that will continue to damage the structure, so it’s important to have a pro in as soon as possible to correct the root problem.
- Buckling and heaving in concrete: These can create dangerous situations when they occur in driveways or garage or basement floors. Homeowners will want to consult a professional immediately to assess the situation; it’s likely that a portion of the slab will need to be cut out, the root cause addressed, and a large patch applied. There’s no way to “glue” back together a crack that’s caused by buckling or heaving, as the source of the problem will continue to push back.
For some concrete-cracking problems, there’s no need to call in the cavalry right away, but homeowners can consider minor or short-term fixes until they are able to hire a qualified professional for a more permanent correction.
- Discoloration: This can result from poor installation or staining from chemicals, rust, or standing water. The discoloration won’t damage the strength or structure of the concrete, but it can be unsightly, and it can spread across the whole surface. If it’s left in place too long, it may be impossible to remove. Cleaning it as soon as it’s noticed with a scrub brush and a vinegar-and-water solution can arrest the spread and weaken the discoloration, but it’s likely that eventually a stronger chemical will be necessary to fully remove the staining. The chemicals used to remove the discoloration can damage the concrete if used improperly, so it’s a good idea to seek professional assistance with this task.
- Salt-damaged concrete: Many people use salt products to melt the ice on their walkways, driveways, and stairs in the winter. This is a great option for safely traversing across icy surfaces, but it’s not good for the long-term health of the concrete. De-icing salts erode the top layer of the concrete, causing pitting and scaling as the top layer peels away. There’s no way to stop this process once it begins, even if the homeowner stops using the salts: The surface material loss and damage allows water and other chemicals to seep beneath the top layers of the concrete and continue to damage the bond. The only solution for this type of damage is to rough up or etch the surface of the concrete (this can be done chemically or mechanically) and apply a fresh, tightly bonded topcoat of concrete, and then apply a waterproofing sealant once the concrete has cured. When homeowners first notice scaling or pitting and realize it’s a result of salt use, it’s helpful to do a quick rinse and clean of the surface to remove any residual salts and then refrain from adding more salt to the surface. When the icy weather gives way to warmer days, call in a pro to take care of the etching, top coat, and water seal.
There are some steps homeowners can take to prevent cracks in concrete from forming. Some types of cracking aren’t preventable, but there are some problems that can be addressed to stop cracks before they start.
- Act quickly: Address small cracks immediately, either with a crack filler or patch. If the crack is small, keeping it small while waiting for professional advice can prevent further damage from occurring.
- Work with a professional: If water is ponding or sitting in pools on a concrete surface, consult a professional to see if the situation can be addressed by adding control joints or leveling up the surface.
- Be proactive: Repair broken or chipped edges of pavers or stairs before the structure is so weakened that cracks set in. This can be a DIY job using appropriate concrete repair products and a little artistry, or a professional can be hired.
‘Concrete Crack Repair Near Me’: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Filling cracks in concrete can be a DIY job for homeowners who have a good idea of how to fix cracks in concrete; some small cracks can be managed with a good crack sealer or repair kit. Hairline cracks or cracks between ⅛ and ¼ inch that don’t increase in size over the course of several months can be patched or filled. Broken or chipped edges of slabs, pavers, and steps can also be fixed by a handy homeowner. Beyond that, however, the risk is too great—if a homeowner incorrectly guesses that a crack is benign, the result can be structural collapse of a concrete slab or wall, or the undermining of a home’s foundation. Not only can this outcome result in extraordinarily expensive engineering work, but it can also lead to the destruction or condemnation of the house. It’s too important to guess at; a professional will be able to recognize the most common concrete problems and solutions they need to implement to repair them.
Once the severity of the crack is understood, then there are certainly some cracks a homeowner may be able to repair on their own. For larger or more significant damage, the repair will likely involve tools and chemicals that most homeowners don’t have access to, as well as careful calibration of cement/aggregate/water ratios to ensure the correct concrete mixture for the job. This is a specialist’s job.
Finally, hiring a reputable professional will likely result in a smoother, more durable finish that doesn’t detract from the concrete’s appearance. This increases the curb appeal of the home and also allows the homeowner to include documentation of the professional repair of the problem with home sale documents.This can help alleviate any concerns potential buyers might have about a patch or problem with the concrete.
How to Find a Reputable Concrete Crack Repair Service
Hiring a contractor involves some legwork on the part of the homeowner because it’s absolutely a “buyer beware” situation. This is the case with all contractor or service hires, but when the work involves a specialty field such as concrete, it’s especially important to choose the right service. A shoddy job isn’t just a nuisance or eyesore; poor quality work can endanger the stability of the home and outdoor surfaces. Because of this, it’s particularly important to have a plan for how to approach the hiring process.
- Familiarize yourself with the problem: Assess the significance of the damage, research local costs for the type of work at hand, and understand whether it’s likely to be a small repair or a large rebuilding project.
- Seek out referrals: Ask friends and neighbors, and check online search tools for recommendations and reviews of local concrete contractors.
- Consult the Better Business Bureau: Read the contractor’s BBB listing for reports of problems, and check with the state’s licensing and insurance boards to make sure the business is properly credentialed.
- Interview three to five potential contractors: It’s important to choose a contractor, not default to the first one you call—even if they seem like a great match.
- Ask for references: The contractor may be able to provide references from previous customers. Ask the references specific questions about the contractor’s workmanship and timeliness, as well as how easy the contractor was to work with.
- Request detailed, itemized estimates: This can help eliminate too many surprises down the road.
- Ask questions: Consider asking the contractor direct questions about payment, schedules, and how they handle problems or delays.
- Follow your instincts: Choose a contractor whose ratings and references are solid and with whom you feel comfortable.
How to Save Money on Hiring a Concrete Crack Repair Service
While small repairs may not be terribly expensive, significant repairs and rebuilds can be. It’s always a good idea to look for opportunities to save money without risking the quality of the workmanship.
- Request multiple estimates and choose the best one, not the cheapest. If the contractor with the best references and ratings also happens to be the least expensive, that’s great. However, choosing a less costly contractor with known problems can leave customers paying for work, then paying again to have shoddy work redone.
- Avoid a DIY fix to save money. Don’t attempt to DIY a repair unless it’s certain that the problem isn’t a larger structural issue, because it will cost more to undo an ineffective correction, and a DIY repair could make the problem worse.
- Have cracks and problems evaluated promptly. It doesn’t take long for a small, easy-to-fix crack to become something large and far more costly to fix.
Questions to Ask Your Local Concrete Crack Repair Service
As with any contractor, it’s important to ask the right questions and get as many of the answers as possible in writing. Basic questions about the contractor’s licensing, bonding, and insurance should be part of the initial screening process. Once the search is narrowed to a few selected companies, more detailed questions are necessary. If there’s something that isn’t clear or that you don’t understand, continue asking questions until you feel satisfied with the answer—don’t worry about looking silly because you don’t know everything about concrete repair. The experts are experts because they have years of experience, and that’s why they’re being hired to do the work.
- Can you provide photos of your past work?
- What is your availability? How soon can you fit this job in, and what potential delays do you foresee?
- Will you acquire the necessary permits, or is that my responsibility?
- What materials will the repair involve? Will you be using rebar? What type of product will you choose for this repair, and why?
- Does your written contract include guarantees of workmanship for you and anyone else working on the project?
- Will you manage the job directly? If not, who is the primary contact person, and who is responsible for other workers on the project?
- What protections will your workers use on the job?
- How will you protect the surrounding property while the work is completed? Who is responsible for repairing any damage done?
Most people aren’t concrete experts, so wading into repairs or choosing someone else to complete them can feel like a sea of uncertainty. The following are some of the most common questions from those who need to hire a concrete repair company, along with the answers needed to help get started.
Q. Does cracked concrete mean foundation problems?
Not necessarily. Small hairline cracks caused by minor shifting or shrinkage are to be expected and aren’t a significant concern. On the other hand, cracks that are large and horizontal, break off in different directions, or are accompanied by a bulge in the concrete may be structural, and those are an immediate problem. If a homeowner is concerned, they’ll want to call an expert to come check out the crack; often assessments are free or low cost, and the peace of mind the homeowner gets will be worth it.
Q. Is it normal for concrete to crack within a year?
It can be. Concrete is strong, but it does have limits, and it’s subject to many variables: the stability of the base beneath it; the makeup of the concrete mixture that’s used; the workmanship in the preparation; and always, always water and weather. It’s not unusual for small hairline cracks to appear, but if the cracks are large or the slabs are no longer level with one another, it’s worth calling the company that did the work to come assess the situation. Many contractors choose to use control joints in larger slabs to offer the concrete a “safe” place to crack when it needs to, which makes larger cracks less likely. If a homeowner feels that the cracks in their concrete are larger than seems reasonable, they’ll want to consider calling a second company to do an assessment.
Q. Can I pour concrete over cracked concrete?
Can you? Yes. Should you? Maybe. Concrete that is chipped, pitted, or cracked must be fully repaired before any additional concrete is added on top; remember that concrete is fluid, so it will settle into any existing imperfections. If the concrete is in good repair, a homeowner can choose to prep the surface to ensure a good bond with the new surface, then pour a layer that is at least 2 inches thick on top of the existing concrete. After curing, the new layer may be more vulnerable to temperature shifts because it’s thinner than the larger slab. Since it’s important to get the appropriate adhesion and depth, it’s a good idea to have a professional do this job: A search for “concrete pour near me” or “concrete contractors in my area” will help homeowners find pros who specialize in this type of work.
Performing concrete slab repair by adding concrete on top of it also adds height, so it’s important for a contractor to check carefully for clearance where doors and windows open and close, and to make sure that adding height won’t make stairs too steep to be safe or railings too low to be helpful. If these issues are a concern, a contractor may suggest resurfacing rather than repouring—a quick search for “concrete finishers near me” will help homeowners find local experts. Contractors can use a coating specifically formulated for resurfacing that reduces the need for a thick layer and will be more durable than other options.
Q. What is the best repair for concrete cracks?
If a homeowner is certain a crack is safe to fix with a DIY crack repair, they’ll need to assess the situation. Narrow cracks (less than ¼ inch wide, or as noted on the repair product) can be filled with an elastomeric masonry crack filler. This product comes in tubes to be used with caulk guns or in smaller single-use tubes. If the narrow crack is quite deep, the homeowner will need to use a backer rod (a flexible foam product that fills the gap in the crack prior to applying caulk), which results in a stronger repair and saves on caulk use and dry time.
Wider cracks are more complicated. Again, if the crack is safe to fix with a DIY repair, the best approach is for a homeowner to chisel out the underside of the crack so the opening is narrower than the bottom. This may require some careful detail work with a chisel and hammer; the goal is for the wider bottom to give the concrete filler a place to settle, and for the narrower top to lock the patch into place. Once the chiseling is finished, the homeowner will want to sweep out crumbs and bits of concrete, then clean it carefully so there’s no loose debris or pools of water. Using a compound designed for patching concrete (this may need to be mixed prior to use), the homeowner will then carefully fill the crack, poking through the wet compound with the tip of a trowel or a skewer to break up any air pockets. They will then need to smooth the top and feather it out into the existing surface, using a dry brush to texture the surface if desired. Homeowners will want to allow the compound to cure as noted on the packaging, and then seal or stain to match the surrounding area if appropriate.
Q. How long does concrete crack repair last?
In general, a properly applied concrete crack repair will last for about 10 years, and sometimes longer. The adhesion of the repair to the surfaces of the crack, the proper curing of the compound, and water sealing (if appropriate) and maintenance will make all the difference in the longevity of the repair. If these steps are not correctly executed when the repair is completed, the lifespan of the repair will be shorter.
Q. How big of a crack is acceptable in concrete?
The size isn’t quite as indicative of a problem as the behavior of the crack. In general, cracks that are less than ¼ inch are not a problem, as long as they stay that size. Cracks that grow, widen, and spread, regardless of their size, should be evaluated; the movement of the crack indicates that something in either the concrete itself or the ground below it is on the move, which is a problem that requires immediate investigation. In general, any crack in a foundation that’s larger than ½ inch will need to be assessed by a professional, as larger cracks can destabilize the home. Any crack that allows water or pests into the home or collects dirt and other debris should also be addressed immediately.