Deciding Whether to Repair or Replace Concrete

Deciding whether to repair or replace concrete pavement? Concrete is one of construction’s most valuable materials, offering excellent durability, longevity and cost effectiveness. However, concrete eventually will show signs of damage, which may include the following:

  • Cracks – there are many types of concrete cracks
  • Spalls
  • Fractures
  • Uneven slabs
  • Blistering and scaling
  • Delamination
  • Corrosion

Deciding whether to repair or replace the concrete depends on a few factors, including the type of damage the concrete is developing, along with its severity.

Concrete Repair: Concrete Problems That Can be Fixed with Repair Solutions

Fortunately, many concrete problems can be addressed with cost efficient and reliable repair options. Some of those correctable problems include:

  • Surface-level, non-working cracks that do not extend deep into the pavement – There are several types of concrete cracks that can be addressed with repairs alone. Examples include map cracking (crazing) and plastic shrinkage cracks. These cracks are confined to the pavement’s surface and therefore do not threaten the concrete’s long-term durability. These are non-working cracks, which means they aren’t actively spreading.

    If the concrete’s cracks can be repaired, pavement contractors have several repair options to choose from, including epoxy injection, stitching, routing and sealing, plugging and others.

  • Small spalls and popouts – Spalls and popouts are small chunks of concrete that have separated from the pavement’s surface. They can emerge due to a number of causes, including poor quality concrete mix, improper curing methods, impact damage, and corrosion, among others. Small popouts and spalls typically do not threaten the concrete’s overall stability, but badly spalled concrete can expose the pavement’s deeper layers to water intrusion. This can eventually lead to corrosion and worsening damage.

    If spalls and popouts are addressed quickly, your concrete contractor may be able to seal the concrete or install an overlay that protects it from further issues.

  • Some surface defects, such as scaling, flaking and delamination – Scaling, flaking and delamination are surface-level defects, typically the result of a poor concrete mix or poor curing methods. They do not represent a structural threat to the concrete, but they can cause ugly cosmetic problems. To address them, concrete experts will first clean the pavement’s surface before removing it. Once the failed surface layers are removed, the area can be resurfaced.

Reputable concrete contractors assess damage and determine whether it can be repaired on a case-by-case basis. If any of the following factors are present, your concrete team will likely favor repair over replacement:

  • The pavement’s damage is isolated to a small part of the concrete, which is in good condition otherwise.
  • The cost of repairs is significantly less than the cost of replacement.
  • The concrete is still early in its lifespan, and many more years are expected out of the pavement.

The above considerations may guide a contractor’s decision on whether to repair or replace the concrete.

Concrete Replacement: Signs That Your Property Needs New Concrete Pavement

Concrete’s durability is unmatched among pavement materials, but there are some types of damage that indicate slab replacement. Those issues include:

  • Structural cracks or working cracks that extend deep into the pavement – If concrete cracks in areas where it is responsible for significant loadbearing, repairs alone may not be sufficient to restore structural strength. If not, total slab replacement may be recommended instead. Deep working cracks (cracks that are spreading) may indicate the need for slab replacement if the concrete is nearing the end of its lifespan.
  • Large fractures and spalls – Major fractures and spalls, such as those caused by freeze/thaw cycles, overloading, or unstable subgrade, are more cost effective to replace than repair. Repairs may be impossible or only provide a temporary solution. For example, repairing concrete on unstable subgrade will only lead to re-emerging cracks and spalls – only by stabilizing the soil can a permanent replacement solution be acted on.
  • Uneven concrete slab or depressions – Uneven slab may be the result of frost heaving (water expansion inside the soil), unstable subgrade, poor soil compaction, thermal stresses, and other forms of extreme weather or wear. Small areas of uneven concrete may be jacked, but this does not restore structural strength and is therefore not a long-term solution for commercial pavement. Instead, removing the failed concrete, addressing the underlying subgrade issues, and replacing the pavement is recommended.
  • Chemical attack – Concrete can be attacked by a variety of carbonates, chlorides, sulfates and silicates if the right conditions are present. Chemical corrosion can cause concrete to deteriorate to the point where it erodes away or damages any steel reinforcement. The only sure way to address corrosion is to replace the damaged pavement.

In addition to the above, the following may indicate the need for replacement:

  • The pavement exhibits extensive damage and wear in many areas.
  • The cost to replace the pavement will be less than repairing it.
  • The concrete is more than 20 years old or appears to be approaching the end of its lifespan.
  • The concrete needs new features, such as an access ramp or drainage structure.

If any of the above are true, instead of investing resources into concrete repairs, it may be more cost effective to replace the pavement outright.

A Reputable Concrete Contractor Can Determine Whether Repair or Replacement is the Right Solution

Repairing or replacing concrete? In both instances, you’ll need a reputable pavement contractor to handle the job. A reputable contractor who can prove an extensive work history, competence with projects like yours, is insured, and has strong communication skills will ensure the right materials and processes are selected for the job.

A reputable pavement contractor can provide a quick, commitment-free inspection that will assess your concrete’s damage and determine the best approach to resolving it.