If you never get a second chance to make a first impression, you might want to think twice about those crumbling concrete steps on the way into your home or business.
Whether you’re a business or homeowner, one of the very first things a customer, guest or potential buyer sees is the steps leading up to your entrance. If those steps look tired and messy – or, worse, unsafe and ugly – what message are you sending? Repairing your concrete steps and walkway can make all the difference between a sour sight and a warm and welcoming first impression.
Here’s a quick guide to fixing those sagging steps:
Haste Makes Waste—Mix It Right
Obviously, the scope of the project will depend on the size, number and location of existing cracks, but the main thing is to get the repairs right the first time. If you aren’t willing to invest some time or aren’t careful to avoid causing additional damage to the surface as you work, you could be setting yourself up for complications (and headaches) in the future.
The biggest reason steps crumble is because the concrete wasn’t mixed properly in the first place, which causes it to set with air bubbles. It’s advisable to take time to understand how the crack was formed in the first place, since that will provide clues as to how best to seal the existing crevice and prevent new ones from forming.
PRO TIP: This would be the time to assess whether a little repair and maintenance will do the trick or if you’re better off removing and replacing the steps entirely.
Attack The Crack
The old adage may be true: things are going to have to get worse before they get better. It’s counterintuitive, but you may actually need to widen the crack before beginning repairs. This allows room for concrete repair products to do their thing. A small sledgehammer and a chisel should do the trick.
In some cases, if the steps are in particularly bad shape, you’ll need to create a form where the patch needs to be. Contractors generally use wood, but ready-made stair patch kits can often be found in hardware stores.
Clean Up the Mess (and Make Your Mom Proud)
Unlike the last tip, this one’s pretty straightforward. Once you’ve widened the offending crack, you’ll have some debris to clean up before moving on. This is important; small particles can inhibit the bonding process between any adhesive materials and the concrete surface. The key here is to use a brush, a damp cloth, or a vacuum – and be thorough about it.
Fill ‘Er Up
Next, you’ll need to mix up the cement or crack repair compounds. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s specific instructions and follow them to the letter, or you can expect inferior results. Take your time with this step and be sure to tamp the mixture well to remove any air pockets between the patching compound and the concrete.
Special trowels and blades are generally available at your local hardware store which can be helpful when feeding patch material into a crack. If using a form, be sure to tap the wood after pouring to eliminate air bubbles.
PRO TIP: A little cooking oil sprayed on the form will keep it from sticking to the concrete.
The Finishing Touch
Smooth the patch using a trowel, then allow the concrete or repair product to set for the recommended time before brushing to a feathered edge for a flawless seam. If you’re not fond of the two-tone look, you can kill two birds with one stone by painting the steps with a moisture-resistant coating, which is recommended anyway, to seal your steps against precipitation and stain absorption.
If you’re a hard-core DIY fanatic, this project might be for you. But as with so many home repair and maintenance projects, while DIY may be an option, it’s often more cost effective and efficient to call in the help of an expert (not to mention the fact you’re less likely to pull out your hair over missed air bubbles come next summer).
Fix Your Concrete Stairs the Right Way
If you’re seriously considering improving your visitors’ first impression and want more information on the best way to fix your steps at home or even design new stairs for your Tulsa business, call R&M Concrete for a free estimate. They’re Tulsa Oklahoma’s leading concrete experts, known for providing exceptional service – on time and on budget.
Congratulations — you’re just a step (or two) away from making a great first impression!