It’s important to address any trip hazards with your sidewalks, driveways and other concrete slabs, particularly in summer when more people are spending time outside.

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Q: Is it important to fix my home’s concrete?

A: With warm weather right around the corner and more people spending time outdoors, it’s important to address any trip hazards with your sidewalks, driveways and other concrete slabs.

Fixing and protecting concrete may be the last thing on a homeowner’s mind, but it is literally your home’s foundation. Concrete issues impact the safety of your home and its surroundings as well as your home’s value.

Concrete slabs are found in a number of areas of your home, including sidewalks, driveways, interior floor slabs, patios and pool decks, steps and porches, additions and garage floors.

Over time, these concrete slabs can encounter a variety of problems, including sinking and uneven concrete, broken and chipped concrete, pitting, flaking and deterioration of concrete surfaces. There are three main reasons why concrete settles and becomes uneven:

  • The soil below your slab is poorly compacted.
  • Your soil is too dry.
  • Your soil is too wet.

With our wet Northwest winters, the soil under concrete slabs becomes saturated and soft, or washes out completely. Polyurethane foam — available from dealers as PolyLevel — can be a solution to lift and level sinking concrete.

PolyLevel takes the original concept of mud jacking and combines it with modern knowledge and technology. Rather than a mixture of concrete and mud, this method uses high-density, lightweight, structural-grade polymers to lift, level and stabilize slabs. This makes it easy to return surfaces to the desired level.

PolyLevel is significantly less expensive than concrete replacement and has numerous benefits to the mudjacking alternative. These include smaller injection sites, not being prone to messy concrete “blowouts,” little added weight to underlying soil, and no chance of washout.

PolyLevel does not degrade under the slab, so there is no need to worry about the contamination of soil or groundwater with dangerous compounds. Studies have shown that over the lifecycle of buried polyurethane foam, there is no evidence of leaching of any dangerous chemicals which could cause health or environmental problems. An extensive study in 2006 by the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois concluded that the longevity of rigid polyurethane foam is more than 1,000 years in landfill conditions (a similar representation of the environment PolyLevel resides in under a slab).

Many people ask, Is foam strong enough to stabilize concrete?

Absolutely. In fact, because PolyLevel is so powerful and permanent, it is used in many major commercial projects to lift and stabilize extremely heavy structures and surfaces with far greater usage than residential concrete, including roads, bridges and industrial buildings.

 

Jim Wiederaenders is a senior design technician at Matvey Foundation Repair and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS), and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.