Front Concrete Steps Cracked - Replace or Repair?

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Old 06-29-12, 05:08 PM
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Front Concrete Steps Cracked - Replace or Repair?

Hi everyone! I have a crack in my front concrete steps where the first step meets the second. The steps were cracked when I bought the home in 2010, but you could tell that some sort of caulking or concrete repair material had been used to repair the steps. The gap has gotten slightly larger over the last 2 years, but not significantly (probably 1/4" - 1/2").

I'm a little hesitant to just patch it up so I wanted to get a few other perspectives. I'm currently leaning toward using a concrete saw and sledge hammer to remove the bottom step, clean up the mess, rent a concrete drill, drill holes for rebar in the bottom front of the existing concrete, buy some forms and re-pour the step. Is this the right way to approach it? Any idea what type of money we're talking for equipment rental and supplies)? What type of concrete should I use to get the best match? Am I in over my head (I'm not extremely handy, but not completely helpless either)?

View from the front:


View from the side:


Thanks in advance!
 
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Old 06-29-12, 07:15 PM
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If you've never formed, batched or finished concrete before, this project could easily turn into a disaster for you. Steps are a tad more difficult than plain flatwork to get just right, as well. Total material costs should be less than $100, while your equipment rental costs depend on what's being charged by suppliers in your area. The telephone is your friend.

Whatever concrete you use will definitely not match the adjacent concrete, both in color and texture. Too much wear and weathering to try to duplicate, unless you're a true master concrete finisher. Medusa brand Portland cement was always slightly browner/yellower in color than most other brands, if you're planning to scratch-batch instead of using pre-bagged material.

A far easier path forward would be for you to first correct the drainage problem, which I suspect is caused by the 2 downspouts dumping water onto the subgrade and resulting in the concrete settlement you're seeing. Then you could make a few passes with a masonry wheel on an angle grinder to clean up the jagged edges of the open crack, insert some (recessed) foam backer rod, and then fill the gap with a decent brand of polyurethane or 2-part silicone joint sealant. Heck of a lot less work, and certainly far less expensive. And going that route will accommodate a small amount of future settlement without noticeably opening up the gap, as both products will remain somewhat flexible.
 
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Old 06-29-12, 08:49 PM
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Thanks for the info Bridge. The drainage problem has been mitigated, but not completely fixed. The downspouts were not buried when I bought the house which undoubtedly lead to the crack. Looking at the front view (the first picture), the downspout on the right has been buried, but the downspout on the left is above concrete and cannot be easily buried. To mitigate the amount of water collected by the ground I added a drain just behind where I was standing when I took the picture to capture the runoff from the left downspout.

I'm following everything you're saying except for the foam backer rod. Are you suggesting filling the entire crack with the strips of foam backer rod?

Thanks again for your response!
 
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Old 06-29-12, 10:13 PM
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Nope, just one run (a single layer) of backer rod, around a half-inch larger in diameter than the crack is wide. That will enable you to stuff it into the opening while it compresses against the sides, such that no joint material can sneak down between it and the concrete. Leave the top of it at least a half-inch below the surface, enabling you to lay in a heavy bead (3/8-inch thick, or whatever the manufacturer recommends) in a weave pattern, keeping the top of the liquid an eighth inch or so below the finished surface of adjacent concrete. Doing so will minimize the likelihood of snagging (and damaging) it with a snow shovel. And don't forget a few temporary end dams to keep the joint sealant from running away from you--a few wooden stakes with bond-breaker (clear strapping tape is great) applied work well.
 
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Old 06-30-12, 05:50 AM
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I don't know if you can get the backer rod at a big box but I've always been able to get them at the paint store.
 
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Old 06-30-12, 11:33 AM
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Do these seem viable to apply? I'm having a difficult time finding something w/ decent reviews from Home Depot or Lowes.

Do you only suggest patching only the top of the crack, or the sides as well? Obviously, the sides will prove to be a bit more challenging due to gravity, but I wanted to get your thoughts.

Option #1

Option #2
 
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Old 06-30-12, 12:07 PM
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I don't have any experience with either of the ones you've shown. The only 2 polyurethanes I've used were made by Vulkem and Sika, and both were industrial-grade. Dow-Corning's 902 RCS (stands for rapid cure silicone) is one of the best products out there, but a bit pricey.

There's a trick for sealing any vertical openings, like the outside edges of your concrete. You install 2 sections of backer rod vertically in each opening, one in front of the other (with the front one more out-of-the-opening than in it), leaving a half-inch gap between them. Then insert a small hose nozzle extension (on your installation gun) down into the gap, and slowly pump material into the opening as you gradually withdraw the nozzle extension. Leave the outer backer rod in place until the material in the gap sets, at least 4 hours, before removing it.
 
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Old 06-30-12, 02:17 PM
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Option 1, no. It is an adhesive, not a sealant.
Option 2 is made for cracks.
I have no experience with the PL brand of sealant, but their adhesives are super.
You may want to consider Big Stretch elastomeric sealant, as it will give and take with temperature changes.
 
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Old 06-30-12, 06:03 PM
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I found a brochure on Big Stretch and it discourages use in high traffic areas, but I think I might give it a whirl if you think it's the best option. The only thing left to decide is rather to go with ironstone or slate gray. Thanks again for your help guys!
 
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Old 06-30-12, 06:27 PM
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Unless you wear pointy toed shoes there shouldn't be a lot of traffic in this crack If I had a higher traffic area, I probably would opt for butyl rubber.
 
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