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When to Replace Concrete vs. Repair It

May 23rd, 2024 | 4 min. read

By Sarah Etler

Find out when it makes more sense to replace or repair your concrete.

Over time concrete can develop issues like cracks, settling, chipping, discoloration, and a whole slew of other pesky problems that need your attention. 

Historically, repairing damaged concrete often meant costly replacement. But nowadays, modern concrete repair techniques mean you have easy, cost-effective, and durable options to save the concrete you have. 

But, deciding whether or not to repair your concrete vs. replace it is not always a straightforward process.

To help, we’ve created this guide to walk you through a list of things to consider when deciding whether replacement or repair is the right move, then share some of the most commonly seen concrete problems and their repair options.

When to Replace vs. Repair Your Concrete

In many cases, repair is a more cost-effective and practical solution for addressing concrete issues, but sometimes it makes more sense to completely replace.

You should consider replacing your concrete when:

  • The damage is extensive and/or compromises structural integrity.
  • You want to add a new feature or functionality (e.g. a concrete ramp in place of existing steps).
  • You want or expect existing imperfections or breaks to fully disappear.
  • The existing concrete has undergone multiple unsuccessful repairs and the underlying issues persist.
  • The cost of repairs exceeds the cost of replacement.

You should consider repairing your concrete when:

  • The damage does not compromise the overall structural integrity.
  • The repair cost is significantly lower than replacement.
  • The concrete is in relatively good condition, apart from the specific problem area.
  • You need time to plan and budget for replacement.

Related Resource: Driveway Repair Cost Guide

Uneven front walkway slabs leading to front porch

Raised or Sinking Slabs

Quick answer: You can repair raised or sinking slabs in most cases.

What Causes Uneven Slabs?

Raised or sinking concrete slabs are often caused by natural soil settlement, compaction, or erosion from water or animals. 

How To Fix Uneven Slabs

The uneven slabs can be lifted up with concrete leveling, ground down, or evened out with mortar or patching compounds.

Read Next: Uneven Slabs? Here’s What To Do

When To Replace Uneven Slabs

If the concrete is crumbling, has an excessive amount of cracks, or is lifted too far out of place by tree roots, concrete replacement is a better bet.


Breakage, Missing Chunks, or Chipping

Quick answer: You can try to repair chipping or missing concrete chunks, but replacement will be a longer-term solution.

What Causes Concrete Breakage?

Breakage, missing chunks, or chipping on concrete surfaces can occur due to heavy impact, freeze-thaw cycles, or age-related deterioration.

How To Fix Broken Concrete

Small missing chunks or chips can generally be repaired using concrete patching compounds, but due to fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels, the expansion and contraction of the concrete could cause the patches to break off or separate.

Patching chipped-out or missing chunks can be a helpful method if you need a repair while you wait for a replacement, or if you’re okay with needing to re-patch it again every year.

Pro Tip: It’s best to avoid concrete patch kits if the broken or chipped area has to support weight, like a concrete step or curb, as the patch can potentially break off when supporting weight.

When To Replace Chipped, Broken, or Missing Concrete

If the damage is extensive or affects the structural integrity of the concrete, replacement will likely be a better option.

Driveway slabs with uneven surface texture due to spalling

Uneven Surface Texture

Quick answer: You can repair uneven surface texture on interior slabs, but not on exterior slabs.

Exterior Concrete Slabs

What Causes Uneven Surface Texture?

Rough, spalled, or uneven surface texture on exterior concrete is often caused by exposure to deicing salt, freeze-thaw cycles, and even poorly installed concrete.

Can You Fix Uneven Surface Texture?

Unfortunately, there is no long-lasting way to repair rough, spalled, or chipping texture on exterior slabs.

Adding overlays or more concrete on top of the damaged surface is a common DIY approach and even a service provided by some professionals, but constant moisture and temperature fluctuations will cause it to chip away relatively quickly.

Thoroughly cleaning and then sealing the concrete with a high-quality penetrating sealer can slow down the progression of the damage if you need or want to buy more time before replacing it.

When To Replace Spalled or Rough Exterior Concrete

If you want a smooth concrete surface long-term, replacement is your best bet.

Interior Concrete Slabs

What Causes Dipped or Uneven Surfaces on Interior Concrete?

Dips in interior slabs are usually seen when the concrete was originally poured and finished with high and low spots.

How To Fix Uneven Interior Concrete Surfaces

Surface dips, texture, and pits can usually be fixed by applying a thin layer of self-leveling concrete, or by grinding and polishing the surface to achieve a smoother texture.

Self-leveling concrete is great for evening out rough surface texture or dips in a concrete floor to prepare it for hard floorings, like tile and hardwood.

Pro Tip: Adding an overlay to interior slabs is okay (unlike exterior slabs) because they are subjected to fewer temperature and moisture fluctuations. These fluctuations are what cause concrete to expand and contract, and ultimately lead to chipping or flaking.

Aggregate concrete crack filled with concrete caulk and blended in to surrounding concrete

Cracks or Gaps

Quick answer: You can usually repair gaps and cracks in concrete as long as the concrete isn’t crumbling.

Why Does Concrete Crack?

Concrete cracking is a common problem that can occur due to freeze-thaw cycle damage, strain from the slab settling, or trauma from heavy equipment or vehicles. 

How To Repair Concrete Cracks

Hairline cracks, minor surface cracks, or instances where the cracks aren’t causing the concrete to crumble can usually be sealed with a flexible concrete caulk to prevent them from worsening.

Flexible concrete caulk moves with the concrete’s expansion and contraction and will not break off or chip away, unlike rigid patching compounds.

Read Next: How To Fix Cracks in Concrete

When To Replace Cracking Concrete

How many cracks your concrete has and how severe they are will determine whether replacement is necessary, or if you’re better off repairing. 

Extensive cracking that affects the concrete's overall stability and causes it to crumble will likely require complete replacement.

Should You Repair or Replace Your Concrete?

Determining whether to repair or replace your concrete can be tricky at first, as it requires careful evaluation of the specific problem, the extent of damage, and the overall condition of the surface. 

However, now that you’ve learned which common concrete problems can and can’t be repaired, as well as some general guidelines as to when you should go about repairing vs. replacing, you’re one step closer to getting the safe, protected, and great-looking concrete you deserve=.

Here at A-1 Concrete Leveling, we’ve been repairing and maintaining concrete nationwide for over 30 years. Find your nearest location to request a free onsite cost estimate for repair and maintenance services with a member of the A-1 team.

Related Resource: Driveway Repair Cost Guide

Sarah Etler

Sarah Etler joined A-1 Concrete Leveling after receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Kentucky University. As A-1's Content Marketing Manager, she works closely with industry experts to produce content that will best answer questions related to concrete repair and maintenance practices. Sarah loves living a life full of discovery and is excited every day to see what new things she can learn and share with those around her.