If you are a homeowner, then you know how quickly repair costs can add up. So you want to be wise about when and how you update, especially if you’re on a budget.

When it comes to concrete, it’s fairly obvious when it is damaged. After all, no one really wonders if they should do work to a sidewalk that looks like it’s in perfect condition. So what is it that you need to look for when you’re evaluating cracks?

The first thing to determine is whether or not the damage is superficial or structural. In other words, does it affect only the outer area? Or has it compromised the stability?

For example, a small crack across the top edge of your sidewalk likely is only superficial. But a major crack across a concrete beam could mean major trouble. If you have structural damage, DO NOT take on this work unless you are trained. Instead, we recommend bringing in the big guns like an engineer.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re evaluating your stairs:

  • Is the damager localized or widespread?
  • How deep is the damage—or is it superficial?
  • If reinforced steel is present, is it corroded?
  • Are the cracks still moving?
  • Do you have access to details about the original construction (mixes, specifications, drawings, etc)?

Next, we recommend having the following tools present: a hammer and a tape measurer. Ping the concrete with your hammer. What you want to hear is the sound of clear ringing. If you hear a hollow or drummy sound, then you may have delaminated areas.

With the measuring tape, determine the extent of your damage. We recommend taking photos (nothing fancy – an iPhone will work) or videos to help document the problem.

From here, it’s time to resort to destructive evaluation tactics; break away any damaged concrete. This will help you determine just how deep the damage goes. If you happen to have access, non-destructive evaluation techniques can also be used, such as impact-echo, radar, and infrared thermography. This can tell you a lot about the state of your concrete without having to open it up.

Obviously, you are not alone when it comes to repairing concrete steps. Want an expert opinion? Give us a call. We’re happy to come out and let you know what we think.