Concrete can crack for numerous reasons. Some can be linked back to an oversight by the contractor or homeowner. Some are environmental. Either way, it’s frustrating and unsightly.
There’s an old saying among contractors: There’s two types of concrete: Concrete that is cracked, and concrete that will crack. To an extent, that’s true, although experienced contractors know how to prevent these major issues and reduce the likelihood that concrete will crack excessively.
We’ve put together an overview of the most common concrete problems and reasons concrete cracks — and how you can prevent or fix the issue.
#1. SALT & CHEMICALS
If concrete is new, we advise not putting salt on it for the first few years — use sand instead. The salt will eat away at the concrete causing it to pit, which looks awful. Pitting can also be caused by improper finishing, old age or poorly mixing the concrete, but salt will make the problem worse.
Pitting isn’t hard to repair and can be done with products from your local hardware store. An epoxy or polymer-modified cement will do the job.
Concrete has a maximum weight that it can safely bear. Your driveway and sidewalk are designed to be able to support your car or small truck.
Parking a large truck (such as a commercial construction truck) on your driveway for an extended time could cause cracking.
#3. SETTLEMENT CRACKS
When the ground under your concrete moves, you’ll get a settlement crack. A good contractor will know how to prevent these settlement cracks by properly compacting the soil and checking for tree roots. In addition to checking for existing tree roots, don’t plan new trees by your concrete. It’ll take time, but it’s inevitable that the roots will eventually get big enough to crack the concrete.
Rule of thumb? Keep concrete and trees 20 feet apart from each other, but remember, bigger trees can have roots that are around 40 feet long.
When concrete that contains steel wire mesh or rebar gets wet and then rusts, corrosion will occur. It’s not a particularly common concrete issue, as it only happens when small cracks develop in the concrete for another reason. As the steel rusts, it will cause more cracking.
You can prevent corrosion by fixing small cracks before they get bigger.
#5. PLASTIC SHRINKAGE
When the surface of the concrete dries more quickly than the bottom, they can pull apart. This happens most often in summer, when it’s hot and dry. Your contractor should know exactly how to prevent this — by keeping the concrete moist, either by putting a sprinkler close to it, covering it with moist cloth bags (usually burlap) or using a chemical to slow the water evaporation.
If it’s particularly hot outside, you’ll need to take these precautions for the first few days.
These aren’t the only reasons that concrete can crack. But in Morgantown, West Virginia and the surrounding area, they are the most common. Some of these issues you can fix yourself with a quality product and some patience. For example, minor pitting issues can be fixed quite easily, but we don’t recommend trying to fix settlement cracks by yourself.
While you can aesthetically fix a settlement crack, you can’t correct the underlying issue, which is that the ground wasn’t correctly leveled. If you live in areas of North Central West Virginia like Bridgeport or Clarksburg, these issues are especially common as naturally flat land is rare.
To maintain the appearance of a new concrete driveway or sidewalk, it’s important to establish a regular care schedule.
CLEAN the concrete at least once a year using a pressure washer to remove dirt build up and staining.
REPAIR minor surface cracks in the concrete to minimize water intrusion. Contact a professional if the cracks seem to be more severe to ensure the concrete is safe and will continue to last for years to come.
SEAL the concrete to repel water, make the surface resistant to dirt and keep the concrete looking fresh.
AVOID storing bags of mulch, sand, soil etc. on concrete without putting a tarp underneath it. This will prevent staining and excessive moisture sitting on one section of the driveway or sidewalk.
You can add concrete maintenance to our seasonal home maintenance checklist to ensure it’s done regularly.
Interior concrete can generally be treated the same way as exterior concrete in regard to how cracks and surface issues are treated. However, when it comes to maintenance, it often needs a little more TLC.
If the concrete hasn’t been sealed, it’s porous — and that means every spec of dirt and every spill will absorb into the surface. For that reason, we recommend sealing interior concrete.
Make sure dirt and stains are promptly removed from the surface. Don’t use an abrasive sponge or mop if the concrete has a special finish.
Minor cracks in the surface of interior concrete aren’t a big deal — fix them as you would exterior concrete, making sure you use a product specifically designed for the job. If you get a severe crack in your concrete that is noticeably worsening over time, it’s worth getting a professional opinion to ensure everything is okay with the foundation of your home.
Elite Custom Builders | Residential Contractor | Bridgeport, WV | Surrounding Areas
ECB work throughout North Central West Virginia, have a combined 70+ years of experience and serve the North Central West Virginia area including:
- Cheat Lake
- Preston County
- We also work in the Pittsburgh, Pa., area.
Elite Custom Builders have been working with concrete for years. We can help you assess issues with existing concrete and are currently taking on summer projects like patios and driveways.
We’ve been pouring concrete for years, so if you’ve got a question or a project, contact us today.