Concrete driveways are not only water-durable and long-lasting, but thanks to a selection of decorative techniques, they can also be aesthetically appealing. Cracks can occur due to a number of factors, but they are primarily caused by weather changes, ice and general settling. Sometimes these are minor repairs, but major cracks may make the whole piece structurally unsound, requiring more in-depth fixes.
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Depending on the amount of damage, an overlay can be applied. If the cracks are minor and do not create structural problems, the overlay is a relatively inexpensive option. It requires a good cleaning of the surface; then a thin layer of cement is applied. Once the new cement has dried, a clear sealing coat may be applied to prevent water damage or staining. The sealing process should be repeated every 2 to 3 years depending on the manufacturer's instructions.
Fill or Patch
Patching or filling concrete can be done when the damage is too severe for an overlay. These cracks are often the result of normal shifting or extreme weather conditions. Fillers are a waterproof epoxy that is available from most home improvement and hardware stores. The mixture is best on cracks that are at least a quarter-inch deep; for smaller cracks, a router can be used to create more space. The process is simple and requires filling cracks with the epoxy and allowing it to dry. The material is strong, with enough flexibility to prevent further cracking, and it is also waterproof. Patching is similar, but works for large areas with moderate cracking or chips. The process requires a vinyl patching compound be spread evenly with a steel trowel inside the hole and its surrounding area. This can be done all at once or layered to create a level surface. The patch should be given plenty of time to dry and then sealed to prevent water absorption and stains.
Resurfacing is a way to rehabilitate existing concrete to make it look like new. A resurfacing is a more practical alternative to removing damaged pieces, and is often less expensive and time consuming than an overlay. It requires a good cleaning of the concrete before an all purpose concrete resurfacer is applied. These resurfacing products can be found at most home improvement stores and come from several manufacturers. Resurfacers are usually a combination of Portland cement and high grade polymers that will hold well to the existing piece. This mix is combined with water and applied using a trowel, squeegee or broom, and needs to be about one sixteenth of an inch thick. This process will make cosmetically damaged cement look like new for very little money. This Old House suggests that work be done in low humidity with no rain and temperatures between 21.1 and 23.8 degrees C for best results.
Replacing concrete can be a long and physically difficult process, though if the piece is structurally unstable, it is probably the best option. Some circumstances, such as frost heave--when cold weather forces the concrete out--spalling or pitting, are usually too severe for minor fixes. When it comes to replacement, there are a number of tools that may make the job easier. Consider renting a pneumatic or hydraulic breaker to demolish the concrete, or the combination of chemical and mechanical processes known as pressure bursting. This is best in areas that are closed off or small, as it creates the smallest amount of dust. For inexperienced homeowners, consulting a professional may be required.
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