Do you have a sidewalk leading up to your home that is uneven because one section has sunk or tilted down creating a tripping hazard? Maybe your patio slopes away from the house and looks kind of sloppy. Or perhaps you have a low spot on your driveway that always holds water after it rains.
Sounds like you have some sunken or settled concrete surfaces. These home problems are annoying, unsightly, and tripping hazards in particular can be a dangerous liability.
You’re thinking about getting these issues taken care of but don’t know where to start. What options are out there to fix sunken concrete surfaces? We can tell you some ways to handle them.
Who’s we? Oh right, we are Anchor Foundation Repair and have been serving the Bryan, College Station, and greater Brazos Valley areas for 35 years and counting. We raise and level home foundations but we also raise and level concrete surfaces as one of our primary services.
Just to be *level* with you, we use only one method for handling sunken concrete and it’s called mud jacking (don’t worry, you will learn more about it later). Although we only use this method, we recognize that there is not a one-size-fits-all way to take care of this problem. We want to help you find the option that best fits the goals you have for your home.
Some homeowners’ primary goal is the cheapest repair, some want the best-looking result, and others want cost-effectiveness or simply to restore safety. We will review 6 ways to deal with sunken concrete surfaces and their advantages and drawbacks so you can decide which one is right for your home.
- Remove and replace the sunken surfaces
- Layer leveled concrete on top
- Jack the settled sections back up
- Grind down the high spots
- DIY slab leveling
- Paint the trip hazard lines and wait it out
Let’s get cracking on how to handle sunken and uneven concrete around your home!
1. Removal and Full Replacement of Sunken Concrete Surfaces
Removing the problematic concrete and then fully replacing the surface or surfaces is certainly an option. You will have brand new, beautifully fresh concrete that will look very nice. Hazards would be gone and the surface would be restored to its proper pitch.
With full replacement, you can also change the size and shape of what is there and make it larger or more functional if desired. This option will have very long-lasting results.
Full replacement is also the loudest, most time-consuming, intrusive, and expensive option. Jackhammering is not really anyone’s favorite noise. It takes time to prepare the ground and pour new concrete, which can also be loud as well as messy. You typically cannot use the entrance or area for the time it is under construction and while the concrete is curing. Concrete replacement will have the highest price tag of all the options.
The new section of concrete will look nice but it will also look different in color and texture from the original sections that were not replaced. Keep that in mind as well if you are not replacing every concrete surface around your home and it’s just a few sections.
If you are not concerned about the cost or the inconsistent appearance and you have the commitment and constitution for a full replacement of the areas, then by all means move forward with this choice. But we have a feeling that you’re looking for something faster, easier, and less expensive so read on for alternatives.
2. Layering New Concrete on Top of Sunken or Uneven Concrete
In some cases, you may be able to even out concrete surfaces by layering and leveling more concrete on top of what is already there. This would work for a spot where two sidewalk pieces have gotten out of alignment and one has sunk lower than the other creating a tripping hazard.
You would fill in the wedge of the lower section by framing out borders along the edges of the original slab surface. Then you would overlay new concrete material to make it level again with the other piece of concrete. This could be done by DIY or hired out to a contractor.
There is a product called Fusion-Crete® that serves this exact purpose but it is not available as a retail product so you would have to find someone who can buy and apply this contractor-grade material.
Due to moisture and climate, this method might not be durable unless you are using the specialized material. Regular concrete poured on top of old concrete has problems adhering due to moisture variances. Concrete can also shrink as it dries which might create some imperfections or other problems.
If you are doing it DIY style, you would need to be very careful about the pitch and final slope of the concrete as well because most concrete is slightly angled to enable water drainage. This looks to be a lower-cost option but does need some know-how or a contractor that can access the specialized products to get it done right.
3. Jack the Sunken Concrete Up from Below
This method of repairing concrete is more like re-lifting the slab back to its proper elevation by pumping material below it and lifting it up from underneath. Mud jacking and polyjacking are two similar methods that use this concept. Both methods will drill holes all the way through the concrete and the lifting material is pumped into the holes.
Mud jacking uses a slurry mixture of soil, water, and Portland cement and it dries to a sandstone-like consistency. Polyjacking uses a high-density polyurethane foam that dries to something that feels like a rigid styrofoam material. Both materials are very strong and can carry significant lateral weight.
Both of these “jacking” methods are less costly than a full replacement, usually around ⅓ of the cost of pouring new concrete. They are also much quicker, only taking hours or a day to repair and you can use the surfaces almost immediately after the repair.
A jacking method will not actually fix the cracks you see in your surface, it will only make it to where they are not uneven or gapped. Even though the holes drilled in the surface are filled in after the repair, you might still see evidence of the holes after the project is complete. More so with mud jacking, less so with polyjacking.
So you will still see cracks and might see previous hole locations, but your surfaces will be back to the proper elevation. Jacking methods are a great option for concrete surfaces that still have a lot of life left in them and just need to be brought back to level or proper slope.
4. Grind Down the High Spots of Uneven or Sloping Concrete
Instead of filling in low spots or jacking things up, you could grind down the high spots instead. So rather than dealing with where the slab has sunk, you deal with where it is higher and try to even it out by shaving off the material above the desirable level.
You can use a concrete grinder, but other tools do a similar job: concrete scarifier, concrete planer, or a milling machine. You would likely need to rent the tool, but overall this is a very low-cost method of evening out concrete.
The downsides would be that the final result is cosmetically flawed, meaning it’s not really pretty and sticks out like a sore thumb. While it does solve the problem of unevenness and tripping hazards, it does not address the root cause of the issue and more grinding could be needed later.
5. DIY Slab Leveling of Sunken or Sloping Concrete
Leveling a smaller concrete slab surface would be similar to slab-on-grade foundation repair methods where you are digging underneath and raising the surface from below using vertical supports. Most people wouldn’t want to do this DIY with your home’s foundation, but you could reasonably apply the same principles to a square of concrete sidewalk.
You would dig under and then push in some type of rigid support underneath the slab to elevate it back up to the proper position using a small jack and precast concrete blocks. This is a low-cost method, but a high time commitment and hard work method. If you want to substitute this method for a week’s worth of Crossfit exercise, then it might be just your style.
This method would only be manageable for smaller concrete areas as well, like a sidewalk section or a small set of precast concrete stairs. Trying to do your driveway like this is likely going to be out of anyone’s league unless you’re a superhero with super strength and endurance and have a lot of time on your hands.
Another issue with this method is that when you raise a concrete surface in this way, empty space remains underneath the slab. Unless you fill the void (as with mud-pumping in foundation repair), the unsupported spots could leave you susceptible to cracking or possibly recurring settlement.
6. Paint Tripping Hazards and Wait to Fix Sunken Concrete
This is pretty much like doing nothing. For any tripping hazards on your property, you can buy some yellow paint and apply it on the trip lines to highlight the danger. It won’t work for any other uneven concrete problem besides a tripping hazard. It won’t solve a pooling water problem in your driveway, and it won’t solve a sloping patio problem either.
This option will cost very little and buy you some time to decide or save up money for another solution, but it doesn’t address the root of the problem.
If you are planning a larger repair project later on, this might work for you short term until you are ready for the big overhaul. For example, you have a tripping hazard on your back patio area. But in a couple of years, you are going to put in a pool and make a bunch of other backyard improvements. Dealing with the issue in this temporary way could work for you.
But keep in mind that you could be liable if someone falls and decides to sue you as it may or may not make a difference if you painted the lines or not. So this might be a good option for your backyard or areas where other people don’t often go. But maybe not as good of an idea for your front walkway.
Which Concrete Repair Method is Best for You?
No matter which option you are thinking of choosing, it’s best to be proactive in handling the problem rather than ignoring it. Dealing with it sooner gives you more (and less expensive) options than letting it go until you have no other option but to do the full replacement.
Here are a few scenarios that might help you decide which option to pick:
- If money is no object and you don’t mind the mess, intrusiveness, and the visual of old and new concrete together do the full removal and replacement with new concrete.
- If you have a problem that will work with a concrete overlay AND you can find a contractor with access to the specialized product to help with adhesion, get a bid and see how much they would charge.
- If you have some experience with concrete, try the DIY concrete overlay.
- If you’ve got more muscle and time than funds, DIY slab leveling could work for smaller sections of concrete.
- If you want an inexpensive fix and don’t mind the cosmetic issues, try grinding down the high spots instead.
- If you’re planning to do a larger overhaul project in a few years, painting a trip hazard yellow or just dealing with puddles for a while longer will allow you to save funds for the big makeover later.
- If your concrete has plenty of life left in it and it’s just off-kilter and needs to be lifted or leveled, check out your options for mud jacking or polyjacking and get some comparative bids.
For More Information About Mud Jacking and Polyjacking
Now you might be wondering more about what the difference is between mud jacking and polyjacking. Well, lucky for you we’ve got an article all about that if that option is looking good to you.
As mentioned before, we offer mud jacking services for Brazos Valley homeowners with sunken concrete problems. We have mud jacked large school and church parking lots and sidewalks. We have mud jacked residential concrete issues as well. We have also tried our hand at polyjacking and know a thing or two about it, it’s a great option particularly for smaller projects.
Check out our article called, “Mud Jacking vs Polyjacking Concrete Repair (Cost, Material, Features).” This will give you a good rundown on the two methods and also compares them in cost to full replacement.