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A concrete surface can bring a certain degree of appeal to any property. A concrete driveway, patio, or stamped concrete can give any residence a premium look. However, concrete surfaces can falter if not properly installed or placed near large trees. The result is a surface that can experience rising or falling which creates an uneven exterior. There are some solutions you can attempt if you have the right tools and experience. However, for a smooth repair or replacement, a professional concrete contractor may be the best alternative.

Causes of concrete rising or failing

Poor soil compaction

When construction begins, soil compaction is vital for successful concrete installation. A plate compactor is typically used to compact soil before pouring concrete on top. However, deeper layers of soil may not be completely compacted as a result of this process. When the deep soil settles, it takes the topsoil with it. Loose, loamy soil is especially vulnerable to this issue. As a result, the concrete can begin to sink over time. In addition, during the concrete installation, the ground is also leveled and filled. However, if the fill material is not sufficiently compacted, it opens the door to slab settlement later on. Ultimately to avoid your concrete surface from sinking it is important that a skilled concrete contractor properly lays the foundation to ensure adequate soil compaction.

Soil expansion, contraction, and erosion

Specific soil that is clay-rich tends to absorb water more quickly. This results in the overall volume of the soil changing as it expands and contracts. Concrete can be strained by dramatic changes in soil volume with the high clay content or extreme changes in soil moisture, this can cause damage to your concrete surface.

Along with the type of soil that the concrete surface is placed on, a surplus of water can heavily degrade soil integrity by causing erosion. This is especially true following flooding and heavy storms, or as a result of a leaking water line. Another issue that may arise is poor drainage. When a surface slopes towards the slab rather than away from it, this causes voids in the soil to form, causing the soil and slab to settle and sink. Slab settlement, in turn, can alter drainage patterns, encouraging more void formation and worsening the issue.

Sprawling tree roots

In addition to the type of soil having effects on the expansion and contraction of the foundation underneath the concrete, growing trees and vegetation have an impact on soil shrinking and swelling as well. Ideally, tree roots displace soil and drain moisture naturally but trees growing near your driveway may spread their roots beneath the concrete, causing problems such as an uneven concrete surface or slab foundation cracks. All of these are concerning issues because if left untreated, they will only become worse.

Concrete maintenance solutions

Replace the slab

When a slab is damaged one course of action is to remove the damaged slab entirely or partially. However, before pouring new concrete, you will need to thoroughly compact and fill the underlying soil to avoid any issues that arise from improper soil compaction. It is paramount that installation only begins when appropriate compaction has been done. Replacing damaged concrete without addressing the underlying soil will only cause the previous issues to return. It is also vital to take the time to ensure that the surrounding land has adequate drainage. This can help with preventing soil expansion, contraction, and erosion. Furthermore, pouring concrete takes time, and this solution may be excessive if the slab is mostly intact. Thoroughly investigate the surface to note if it may be potentially salvageable.

Repair the slab

If the slab can be repaired without replacing the entire surface there are techniques for lifting a concrete slab without removing it. Mudjacking or slab jacking is the most common method. Drilling one or more holes and pumping filler material through them to push the slab up from below is necessary. The filler is typically a mixture of sand, local soil, fly ash, and Portland cement. Other lifting materials that could be used include limestone grout, pure sand or gravel, and expanding polyurethane foam. The majority of these materials, particularly the soil slurry, are easily accessible to DIYers. This can be a relatively simple and inexpensive option if you choose the right filler. Although foam filler has the advantage of being lightweight and providing extra lift, mixing and pumping require specialized equipment that may not be easily accessible. In these cases, a professional concrete contractor may be needed. They can provide the necessary expertise to properly fix your concrete surface and the appropriate equipment.

Remove or maintain any surrounding trees

In the case that your concrete surface is being lifted due to tree roots, one solution is to remove the tree entirely. This is undoubtedly the most dramatic solution, but it also has the best chance of succeeding. If you completely remove the tree, you will no longer have problems with the tree roots. That means that removing the tree wholly may be the most beneficial step if the tree in your yard is causing serious problems. However, this is an option that many people simply do not want to pursue because of the appeal of having a large natural presence on or around your property. If you have spent years caring for a tree in front of your residence, for example, you do not want to waste all of your time and effort. If this is the case a potential workaround is to ensure that the tree receives adequate water. If the tree does not have enough water, its roots will typically reach out and cause problems with the concrete around your home. Watering the tree on a regular basis can help you avoid foundation problems.

When you need the assistance of a professional concrete contractor

Lifting a heavily sunk slab can be difficult, if not impossible, for those without the proper equipment and expertise. This is especially true if the underlying issues are widespread. Furthermore, slabjacking equipment is not easily accessible to all. Moreover, if these repairs are performed incorrectly, the process can cause additional damage and even ruin the appearance of the surrounding area. Fortunately, concrete contractors have the necessary tools and supplies. If you have issues with rising or falling concrete, seek the assistance of a professional who can remedy your concrete troubles.