Your CONCRETE LEVELING Experts!

Can You DIY Concrete Leveling?

By Sarah Etler - 12/30/22, 12:32 PM
Long front walkway with lots of settled and uneven concrete slabs

With today’s resources and limitless access to information, it can be tempting to try all sorts of DIY projects. YouTube can make anyone a handyman, and Google searches can solve most of the troubleshooting queries along the way.

Here at A-1 Concrete Leveling, we’ve been professionally lifting concrete back up into its level position for over thirty years. With all of this experience and training, we’ve been able to develop a process that works in almost all cases. 

Throughout this time, though, we’ve seen a lot of people attempting to level their concrete on their own, without the years of experience and training necessary to create a durable and safe outcome.

This is almost always a bad idea. In this article, we will walk you through some of these DIY solutions that didn’t work out, and explain why exactly it’s better to just go with a professional rather than risk your concrete for a do-it-yourself alternative.

Most Common DIY Concrete Leveling Solutions

Concrete leveling is truly a delicate process, and it can be just as much an art as it is a science. In order to achieve the desired results, it takes quite a bit of experience, skill, and know-how.

Most of the time a do-it-yourself attempt at concrete leveling can be far more complicated than scheduling a repair with a professional. If the concrete gets damaged in the process, it can be far more expensive to fix in the long run, as it can make it even more difficult for a professional to fix the issue properly.

With that being said, some people would still rather take the risk and try lifting their concrete on their own. Listed below are some of the most common ways we’ve seen DIY concrete leveling attempted over the course of our 30 years lifting concrete professionally:

  • Bottle Jacks 

Here at A-1 Concrete Leveling, we’ve seen people place bottle jacks, which are used for lifting cars and other heavy objects, under their concrete slabs in order to lift them up.

To do this, they dug a hole under the slab, put the bottle jack in, and then covered it with dirt once it was in position.

Why is this a bad idea?

A bottle jack is definitely not meant for this application, which creates a dangerous potential liability. Because the slab is supported by a single point, which is not totally stable, it could rock back and forth, sink in a different direction, or most likely, crack. 

  • Filling Voids With Dirt

We have also seen homeowners attempting to fill empty spaces or the voids under their concrete slabs with dirt to lift and stabilize it.

While filling the exposed sides of a concrete slab with extra soil can help prevent erosion and future settling, simply adding dirt to an already-settled slab will not lift it back up or make it stable again as you can’t get even back pressure.

Why is this a bad idea?

Lifting the slab in order to add soil underneath it is risky, as it can crack or break in the process. Also, concrete slabs are lifted with pressure pushing them up, which isn’t achieved by adding soil to the underside. 

  • Self-leveling Concrete

People often get self-leveling concrete compounds confused with concrete lifting. Rather than lifting the slabs with pressure coming from underneath, self-leveling concrete sits on top of the slab. This layer settles out in order to create a leveled effect.

Why is this a bad idea?

Self-leveling concrete compounds can be added on top of existing concrete slabs, but it’s only recommended that they’re used indoors. It’s very likely that they will chip off if used in exterior applications due to freeze-thaw cycles and excess moisture. 

There are also many problems that come with using self-leveling concrete, like cracking and short working windows. In addition, it doesn’t actually lift the concrete, but rather sits on top of the slab.

  • Expanding Can Foam 

Many people have also tried lifting their concrete using expanding foam from cans, like Great Stuff Gaps and Cracks.

Foam concrete leveling is a method professionals use to lift settled slabs, but the DIY version isn’t recommended.

Why is this a bad idea?

Rather than drilling holes down from the top of the slab and filling the voids underneath the concrete, DIY-ers often spray the foam in the side of the slab.

This is often not effective, as the pressure needed for a durable and successful lift can’t be achieved with spray foam. Also, the voids that are likely causing the settling won’t be filled this way, leaving the concrete with the potential for cracking or breaking.

  • Mortar Added to Steps

Instead of choosing to level their concrete steps, some people apply a layer of mortar to the gap created where the step has settled.

Why is this a bad idea?

Using mortar to patch unlevel areas in your steps can not only be dangerous if or when the mortar starts to crumble away unexpectedly, but can also cause issues in the future.

Applying mortar also does not solve the root cause of the settling, so the problem can continue to worsen over time.

Lastly, adding mortar doesn't lift the steps so that their heights are the same, or to code. This can be a huge liability and source of injuries, as people expect steps to have the same overall size and height. When they don’t, they can get thrown off, ultimately causing them to fall and get injured.

  • Blow-up Bags

Bags were placed under the concrete slab, then inflated to lift it. When A-1 was called to level the concrete professionally, after the inflatable bags didn’t work, we weren’t informed that the bags were there.

When drilling down into the concrete, we hit the bag, popping it. Almost immediately the slab started sinking, returning back to its settled position.

While this is not a commonly-seen DIY leveling method, it’s a very interesting attempt that’s worth mentioning here.

Why is this a bad idea?

Not only is it dangerous to have a slab of concrete held up by something that could break at any moment, but the bag also would not support the weight of the slab evenly. This could cause the slab to crack or break at its weak, unsupported points.

Doing it Right the First Time

Many times when a concrete leveling repair is attempted with a DIY method, it doesn’t work out the way it was intended to, leading to the eventual need for professional concrete leveling services. 

Unfortunately, many DIY attempts can actually damage the concrete. This makes it far harder to professionally level later, if not impossible, potentially leading to the need for total concrete replacement.

The reality is, doing it right the first time saves time, energy, and even money. Also, working with a reputable concrete leveling company will oftentimes come with a warranty.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide if you’re up for the challenge of leveling your concrete yourself, but keep in mind that leveling technicians have had years of experience and training to learn how to do it correctly.

Summary

There are ways to level concrete yourself, but a DIY solution is never recommended. 

There are so many variables and factors that go into successful concrete leveling, and doing it without the proper tools or skills can end up costing you more in the long run.

If you’ve decided against DIY concrete lifting and are looking for professional concrete leveling services, A-1 Concrete Leveling has been in the business for over 30 years and would be happy to take a look at your damaged or settling concrete.

We offer free onsite pricing estimates and transferable warranties. Click the link below to request an estimate for concrete leveling or any of our other concrete repair and maintenance services!

Want to know more? Our Concrete Academy is full of great resources on concrete leveling and other concrete topics. Check out some of these related topics:

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mmueller
Matthew Mueller - Mixer
Matthew has been with A-1 Cincinnati since 2020.
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A1 was the third company I called for an estimate but they were my first pick. The job was scheduled within a week of the estimate visit. The crew was prompt, they left my home and patio cleaner then it was when they arrived and the work made such a difference. The patio looks great. It is finally level, patched and caulked. I would hire them again without hesitation.

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A-1 Concrete Leveling, Inc.
(888) 675-3835
388 S. Main St. Suite 402b,
Akron, OH 44311