Concrete Steps- Cracking and crumbling

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Old 03-12-14, 03:57 PM
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Concrete Steps- Cracking and crumbling

Hi Folks,

I have a set of concrete steps at the front of my house that I'd like to attempt to repair. The first thing I think I have to do is repair some rounded corners that have broken off. Not being a mason, I thought it would make more sense to reattach the broke pieces rather that create new corners since I don't think I could create the nice rounded corners. My question is this; is there a way to reattach the broken corners. Some sort of concrete "glue". After that I'll float some concrete type product (Cement All?) over the steps. Also, your thoughts on filling in the cracks would be great.

I'm attaching a photo. You can see the broke corners on bth sides of the bottom step.

Thanks so much in advance for you help on this project!

Regards,
Greg
 
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Old 03-12-14, 04:33 PM
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Greg, looking at the picture, I think you have bigger issues going on under the whole step. The crack even runs into your walkway, to me that says you have foundation trouble under the steps. Filling the cracks would only be a cosmetic fix and sooner or later, the cracks will come through your repair. Cold/hot/wet dry weather will effect it as well.

If it was my steps, I would take it out and try to find out why the ground is giving, then I would build a solid footing and re-pour the steps (use reinforcing wire,or rod "re-bar") Fairly easy job if you have a few days to do it.

Quick cosmetic fix would be a couple tubes of cement "grout" from Lowes or Home Depot, or similar store.
 
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Old 03-12-14, 04:44 PM
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Not being a concrete guy, my thought on that is as follows:

I know of concrete glues and adhesives that are designed to help bond fresh concrete patches to older stuff.

I know of situations where you can probably get away with using certain glues and adhesives to re-attach loose pieces to forms and shapes that do not undergo heavy abuse or foot traffic.

I don't see you creating a lasting repair that will get you several more low or no maintenance years of heavy use with the technique you are considering. There are certain methods of repairing chipped and broken steps that you can attempt without yanking it all out and re-doing it, but I cannot vouch for how long they will hold. And they are probably best reserved for otherwise serviceable steps with only a few areas of mild damage. Here is an example of a DIY process that is a little more involved than what you are considering:

How to Repair Concrete Steps - YouTube

That being said, those steps appear to be pretty old and pretty far gone. If they are chipping and spalled to that degree, you have to figure that once you patch the current problem areas new ones will pop up soon after. Now it is time to weigh the cost/benefit ratio. If you are willing to tolerate having to be out there patching up new damage and repairing your past repairs on an on-going basis, this could be a decent learning experience. If you want to have this done in a way that you could turn your attention to other things and not worry about it for several years, it is time to think about saving up for new steps.
 
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Old 03-12-14, 11:30 PM
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Trying to glue bits and pieces of concrete back into place will be a losing effort, and for your situation (in my opinion), a total waste of time. The top photo, in particular, shows deep surface scaling and spalling farther back from the edge of the top step. That alone is an indication that a "glue-it-back" approach would not be appropriate for your stairway. Bite the bullet, yank everything out and start over.

Do it once, and do it right.

Speaking of doing it right, the linked You-tube video is a classic example of NOT doing it right. The guy confidently makes his repair using a mortar mix with no coarse aggregate in it. He apparently doesn't know that concrete strength relies on sound, coarse aggregate (rock) having lots of fractured faces, for it to work like concrete and not mortar. Lead expansion anchors are also a poor choice for anchor bolts, as they are prone to loosening over temperature swings (lead, being a soft metal, relaxes when it undergoes alternating heating and cooling). Low-modulus epoxy or even a Portland cement slurry would be far better. I'd bet a 6-pack of his favorite beverage that his "repair" will not last more than a year.
 
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Old 03-15-14, 06:46 AM
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Thank's very much for your help. I'll report back on when I start this project. I may replace with wooden steps but I'm still working on a plan.
 
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Old 03-15-14, 06:57 AM
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Western
Thanks for your help on this. A couple questions: Is it possible that the cracks, scaling, spalling, etc. are the result of the stairs taking a direct hit from my often overflowing porch gutter coupled with very hot summers/fairly cold winters. (When I hear "foundation trouble" I get concerned). This house (1925 stone) sits on rock (schist) although I'm certain the land was graded/landfilled back then as well. There has been settling over the years too but should I be concerned?
Greg
 
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Old 03-15-14, 07:30 AM
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It sounds like your house is sitting on Bedrock. Unless you have some very serious seismic activity in your area, you'll never have to worry about your house foundation. When you replace the stairs excavate to firm soil and slope the sub-base away from the house. I personally would get some locally produced #1 crusher run stone and place a minimum of 6" and compact it thoroughly. Renting a vibratory tamper would be a must. If you are going to do it yourself, make sure you use a concrete mix with entrained air. This makes the concrete more durable for freeze and thaw cycles. Also get those gutters fixed and cleaned! That may have been the culprit.
 
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Old 03-15-14, 08:30 AM
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It is entirely possible for gutters to contribute to that. The water itself isn't the problem. The volume of it that comes off a roof during a heavy rain storm and the velocity with which it hits the ground, and the erosive power behind all that is the problem. If the gutters are clogged and only overflowing in one place that is actually concentrating more of that damaging water in one place and amplifying the effects of it.

I don't necessarily think rain water erosion from bad gutters is the primary cause of all that as the steps look to be pretty old and probably suffered through many years of freeze that cycles. But it probably accelerated the damage.
 
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Old 03-15-14, 06:24 PM
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The house was built in 1925. I think the original porch was wood and this one was poured at a later time (1950's). I'll incporporate what I've learned through everyone's responses and probably do a temporary repair to tide me over for a year or few with the intent of replacing the steps down the road. Thanks so much for your help! I've attached a photo of the whole porch structure taken about 10 years ago. Thanks again.
 
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Last edited by dagregster; 03-15-14 at 06:43 PM.
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Old 03-15-14, 08:38 PM
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I think the classic elegance of your place's stonework would be compromised by doing a replacement stairway in wood. Plus, you'll be replacing it again when it rots out in a few years.

Done properly, concrete never rots.
 
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