Repair Concrete Cracks in Walkway
Lee Kuenning - St. Henry, OH

Hardwarian Lee Kuenning

Western Ohio True Value

St. Henry, OH

Repair Concrete Cracks in Walkway

Level: Experienced

Walkways and sidewalks get walked all over all the time. Eventually, the wear and tear from foot traffic and the elements takes its toll and concrete can start to crack and crumble, looking unsightly as well as presenting a potential tripping hazard.

Repair cracks in your concrete walkways this weekend and give them a new lease on life.

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    • Step 1: Assess Damage
       

      Take a few minutes to carefully examine the structural conditions of your walkway. Depending on what kind of damage there is, you may have to do a few different types of repair. In most cases, any damage you can see goes deeper than the surface.

    • Step 2: Prepare Concrete Cracks for Repair
       
      Mason’s chisel

      Thin cracks can be easily patched. Hairline cracks cannot be filled. Wider cracks require that you prepare them for repair. Use a hammer and mason's chisel to chip away at any soft or crumbling concrete in and around cracks or crumbling areas. The goal is to undercut the edges of the crack at an angle to make it wider inside than it is at the surface. This helps make the patch more secure so that it lasts longer.

      Clean the surface and inside the crack with a stiff brush to remove all loose particles. You can also try an air compressor or a can of compressed air to blow out particles and dust. Then rinse the concrete well, making sure the surface is damp but free of any standing water.

      Helpful Tips

      Use gloves, goggles and a dust mask when chipping away damaged concrete.

      Don't use a wire brush when cleaning off your concrete. Any broken bits of wire left behind can cause rust stains.

    • Step 3: Apply Patching Compound
       
      Masonic crack filler

      If you have thin cracks, you can usually use a patching compound or masonry crack filler to make the repair. Masonry crack fillers are often in tubes for use with a caulking gun; some are provided in squeeze tubes. Apply the crack filler as you would apply caulk, moving along the length of the crack. You may use a putty knife or trowel to apply vinyl concrete patching compound, as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions. Press it firmly in to the crack to force the initial layer into all nooks and crannies and allow drying time between layers.

      You can also make your own patching material, by whipping up a cement mixture. In a small bucket, mix one part cement and three parts fine sand with enough water to make a stiff paste. In a separate container, mix a small amount of cement with more water — enough to make a cement ''primer.'' If you can, ''paint'' the inside of the crack with the thinner cement mixture. This will act like a primer or bonding additive. Then take the paste mixture and pack it firmly into the crack with a putty knife or trowel. Level the mixture with a straight-edged concrete-finishing trowel. Let the patch sit undisturbed for about an hour, then go over the entire surface with a float or trowel in a circular motion, blending it well with the surrounding surface.

      Helpful Tips

      The primer will stain, so avoid getting it on any adjacent surfaces. Wash it off promptly if it does get on any other surfaces.

      When applying the patch, make sure you cut deeply into the mixture with your trowel to remove any air pockets.

      Concrete can appear in many colors. There will almost always be differences in color between the existing concrete and the patch.

    • Step 4: Patch Large Concrete Cracks
       
      Putty Knife

      If the cracks in your walkway are larger than 1/4'' wide and 1/2'' deep), repair the crack in stages. Depending on the concrete patching compound being used, it can take several applications.

      Use a putty knife or trowel to apply concrete patching compound, pressing it firmly in to the crack. After smoothing the patch with a trowel, let it set for a couple of hours. Then cover it with a sheet of plastic, weighing the plastic down at the edges with bricks or rocks. Keep the area covered for an entire week, making sure to give it a little water each day to keep it moist. The patch will set during that time and be ready for resumed traffic.

    • Step 5: Repair Crumbling Edges
       

      Walkways that are in exceptionally bad shape often have sections with crumbling edges. A patch won’t work on edges. You'll need something that will support a patch on an edge. You must build a "form" to hold the patch in place. Find a piece of scrap lumber that is just long enough to span the size of the crumbling area and tall enough that its top edge is flush with the walkway’s surface. Set the board lengthwise against the edge of the walkway and stack several bricks against it at each end, holding the board firmly in place.

      As you would with some cracks, remove broken concrete and debris from the damaged area with a chisel and hammer and then a brush before attempting repairs. Pre-dampen the area, but don’t leave any standing water. Apply vinyl patching compound with a trowel. Tamp the compound down to remove air pockets. Then smooth out the compound with the trowel, using the top of the form as a guide.

      Cover the patch with plastic to slow down evaporation. This process, known as slow curing, prevents the patched edge from prematurely cracking. Dampen the surface a couple of times a day and recover with plastic for the next two to three days. When the patch has finally set for the time recommended by the manufacturer, remove the form.

      Good work! You’ve repaired concrete cracks in your walkway and are back on the right path.

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