The national average to install a new concrete driveway ranges between $3,200 and $11,500. Needless to say, concrete is a big investment.
Over time, however, the new, bright (and very expensive!) concrete surfaces 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 like concrete leveling, sealing, and caulking means there are easy, cost-effective, and durable ways to save the concrete you have.
Here at A-1 Concrete Leveling, we’ve been in the concrete repair and maintenance business for over 30 years, so we’ve seen just how much time, money, and hassle you can save by repairing your concrete rather than replacing it.
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 some of the most commonly seen concrete problems and their repair options.
When it comes to maintaining your concrete surfaces, knowing which issues can be repaired and which ones require complete replacement can save you lots of money in the long run.
Raised or Sinking Slabs
Summary: You can repair in most cases.
Raised or sinking concrete slabs are often caused by natural soil settlement, compaction, or erosion from water or animals.
Related Resource: Why Does Concrete Settle?
In most cases, both interior and exterior sunken concrete slabs can be lifted back up to the original position with professional concrete leveling services, without the need for replacement.
Stone slurry grout leveling, mudjacking, and poly jacking are three concrete leveling methods used by professionals to lift settled concrete. These methods involve injecting a stabilizing material beneath the slab to raise and level it.
Breakage, Missing Chunks, or Chipping
Summary: You can try to repair, but replacement will be a longer-term solution.
Breakage, missing chunks, or chipping on concrete surfaces can occur due to heavy impact, freeze-thaw cycles, or age-related deterioration.
Small missing chunks or chips can generally be repaired using correctly installed concrete patching compounds, but due to fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels, the expansion and contraction of the concrete could cause them to break off.
If the damage is extensive or affects the structural integrity of the concrete, replacement will likely be a better option.
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.
Uneven Surface Texture
Summary: You can repair interior slabs, but not exterior slabs.
Exterior Concrete Slabs
Unfortunately, there is no long-lasting way to repair uneven surface texture on exterior slabs. However, thoroughly cleaning and then sealing the concrete with a high-quality penetrating sealer can slow down the progression of the damage.
Adding overlays or more concrete on top of the damaged surface (a common DIY approach) may even out the surface temporarily, but this is not a good idea in exterior applications because the constant moisture and temperature fluctuations will cause it to chip away.
Related Resource: Concrete Freeze-Thaw Cycles & Their Effects
Surface dips, texture, and pits can usually be repaired by resurfacing the concrete with a thin layer of self-leveling concrete, or by grinding and polishing the surface to achieve a smoother texture.
These are great options for evening out rough surface texture or dips in a concrete floor to prepare it for hard floorings, like tile and hardwood.
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.
Discoloration or Oil Stains
Summary: You can repair by removing stains and cleaning concrete.
Oil stains, mold, and other discoloration can build up over time if you don’t clean and seal the concrete’s surface.
Luckily, surface stains and mold can often be removed or reduced by applying stain-fighting products and pressure washing. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) works well for removing heavy oil or grease stains, but be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and all safety warnings.
To prevent future discoloration, be sure to seal your concrete with a high-quality sealer after you’re finished cleaning and removing stains.
Summary: You can usually repair, as long as the concrete isn’t crumbling.
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.
The severity and quantity of the cracks determine whether repair or replacement is necessary.
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.
The flexible concrete caulk moves with the concrete’s expansion and contraction and will not break off or chip away, unlike rigid patching compounds.
Extensive cracking that affects the concrete's stability and causes it to crumble will likely require complete replacement.
In many cases, repair is a cost-effective and practical solution for addressing concrete issues. 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.
- The issue can be effectively resolved long-term by leveling/lifting, caulking, patching, applying an overlay (interior), or cleaning and sealing.
When to Replace Your Concrete
While repairs are often the preferred choice, certain situations are better suited for concrete replacement. You should consider replacing your concrete when:
- The damage is extensive, affecting a large portion of the surface or compromising structural integrity.
- You want to add a new feature or functionality, such as a concrete ramp in place of the existing steps.
- The concrete is severely deteriorated, with multiple deep cracks, extensive spalling, or widespread discoloration.
- The existing concrete has undergone multiple unsuccessful repairs and the underlying issues persist.
- The cost of repairs exceeds the cost of replacement.
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.
If you’re interested in learning more about concrete repair, maintenance, or replacement, check out the following topics from our online resource library, Concrete Academy:
- Is It Cheaper to Level Concrete or Replace It?
- Concrete Leveling vs. Replacement: Which Is Right for You?
- 13 Questions to Ask During Your Concrete Replacement Estimate
- The Risks Involved With Pouring New Concrete
Ready to see what concrete repair can do for you? Click the link below to schedule a free onsite evaluation and cost estimate with an A-1 expert!