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Repairing vs. Replacing Concrete Sidewalks

When sidewalks show signs of damage, it is not always clear whether business owners should consider repairing vs. replacing the concrete sidewalks. An experienced concrete contractor can inspect the sidewalk and determine which option makes sense for the damaged sidewalk.

What Types of Concrete Damage Can be Addressed with Repairs?

If repairs are enough to resolve your pavement problems, it will likely be more cost efficient to do so, compared to slab replacement services. The question is – what types of concrete damage can be reliably managed through repairs alone? Here are some signs that repairs may resolve your sidewalk damage:

  • Damage to the concrete is isolated to a single area – If any damage is isolated to a single area, or a few small areas, repairing those distressed spots may be enough to restore the pavement’s long-term durability. Prompt repairs will prevent damage from spreading throughout the pavement.

  • The concrete’s cracks aren’t spreading and are extremely fine – Most cracks do not merit concrete slab replacement. For example, hairline cracks are rarely a threat to sidewalks. Likewise, non-working (non-spreading) cracks can generally be addressed with a flexible sealer.

  • The pavement’s issues don’t threaten its stability – Concrete sidewalks are rarely responsible for bearing structural loads, but if severe cracks or spalls appear, full replacement may be recommended.

 

  • The pavement is relatively new – Concrete sidewalks are characterized by their longevity. You should expect at least a couple decades out of your concrete slab before weathering and heavy foot traffic necessitate replacement. If your sidewalks are less than 10 years old and are in otherwise good condition, repairs will likely be the cost-effective solution.

Five Signs that Your Concrete Sidewalk Needs to be Replaced

Although concrete replacement is more expensive than maintenance or a repair job, it is still the cost-effective option if your concrete’s issues cannot be easily corrected with repairs. Overlying or patching over failing concrete is a short-lived solution that may cause safety issues or accelerate damage to other areas of pavement.

If any of the following signs are present, it is time to consider sidewalk replacement:

  • Previous attempts to repair the sidewalk have failed – If repeated attempts to repair the sidewalk are not working, replacing the slab will likely be recommended. Multiple repair failures indicate deeper weakness in the pavement – weakness that could be caused by an unstable base or low-quality concrete materials. Instead of wasting money attempting repairs, only for the same problems to emerge, property owners are encouraged to replace their sidewalks from the base up.
  • Damage to your concrete sidewalk is extensive or spreading – Some forms of concrete damage can be repaired, but if the sidewalk slab is crumbling or if cracks run down to the pavement’s base, replacement may be recommended. Widespread damage across multiple slabs also indicates a larger problem – one that only replacement may solve. Also, if cracks or other surface damage threaten the pavement’s stability, it will likely need to be replaced.
  • There are signs that the steel reinforcement is failing – Steel-reinforced concrete may be used in some sidewalks – especially those that receive heavy traffic. There are important guidelines that concrete teams must follow when installing steel-reinforced concrete as corrosion may compromise this type of concrete if it is exposed to repeated water intrusion. If the concrete is badly discolored by rust, this could be a sign that rebar mesh inside the concrete is at risk of sudden failure.
  • The sidewalk needs a new feature, like a pedestrian ramp – Sometimes, it makes sense to remove the existing sidewalk and replace it with new slab, even when a repair would be sufficient. For instance, if the sidewalk needs a new feature, such as an access ramp or storm drain, it is more cost effective to remove the damaged sidewalk and install the new feature along with a new stretch of pavement.
  • The sidewalk has reached the end of its useful life and projected repair costs are high – Concrete’s durability is impressive and concrete sidewalks can last for decades if properly installed and if maintenance is performed on time. However, eventually wear and weather will cause the concrete to deteriorate to the point where repairs are no longer effective. If your sidewalk has been in place for more than 20 years and if its condition cannot be improved with cost effective repairs, replacing the concrete slab may save money in the long run.

Regardless of whether repairs or replacement of the sidewalk are necessary, working with a reputable paving contractor will provide the best results.

Concrete sidewalks are a proven investment, offering decades of reliable performance for commercial property owners and pedestrians. However, weather, soil conditions and heavy foot traffic can cause slow and steady wear over time.

If these factors have caused your concrete sidewalks to deteriorate, it is time to consider calling the professionals. An expert concrete contractor can identify which method will be more effective for your sidewalks and will align with your organization’s budget and goals.