Although concrete is one of man’s most durable building materials, it can crack if not properly installed. But there are ways to prevent concrete cracks in your DIY project, whether for your patio, walkway, driveway, pool deck or other concrete installation. At the same time, preventing cracks means also avoiding the unsightly damage that makes your concrete vulnerable to bigger breaks. In this article, the concrete pros of We Do Concrete Cheap offer some helpful tips to prevent concrete cracks in your next DIY project.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid concrete cracks and other mistakes is to enlist the pros to help you with your next project. We Do Concrete Cheap offers the expert installation and customer satisfaction you deserve, also backing up our work with a limited warranty. Having the experts do the work is cheaper in the long run, providing the lasting beauty you want for your patio, walkway, driveway, pool deck or other project. Call us today at 919-454-3927 for a free estimate for your North Carolina or Southern Virginia residential or commercial concrete installation.
1. Properly cure your concrete.
It is important to understand that concrete takes 28 days for curing. Even more important to preventing concrete cracks are the steps taken in the first days following the pouring. During this time, it is critical that the concrete retains moisture to reach its full strength. But the moisture in the concrete must evaporate slowly to prevent cracks from forming. For these reasons, you need to spray water on your concrete installation several times per day for the first week after pouring. On hot, dry days, you should spray it more often.
For your DIY project, you can eliminate this need for watering to prevent concrete cracks. Instead, add an acrylic curing and sealing product designed for this purpose into the water you mix to the concrete before installation. If you skip this step, ensure you spray water diligently for the first week after the pouring.
If your local temperatures will drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during this week, cover the concrete installation with an insulating blanket or at least 4mm-thick polyethylene tarp. If you have to cover the concrete because of low temperatures, do not uncover it again to spray it with water until the temperatures are above the 50-degree mark.
After day seven, you no longer need to spray water on the concrete installation or cover it. It will have cured enough to endure temperature changes at this point.
2. Add control joints.
Control joints are the second important part of preventing concrete cracks in your large-slab DIY project. If you are installing a patio, driveway or sidewalk, you need these joints. They keep your concrete installation from cracking because of shrinkage occurring from temperature changes, moisture and soil movement. Control joints are simply cuts made into the slab to a depth of about one quarter of the pour.
You can make control joints in wet concrete using a grooving tool. Or you can insert expansion joint strips made of wood fibers during your pour. Another option is to cut them into the slab using a circular saw on the day following your pour. Of course, to use a saw, you must ensure to also use a concrete blade. There are specific requirements for control joint depth, placement and other factors. It is best to look up how to perform these cuts specific to your concrete installation project.
3. Use the right amount of water in the mix.
Adding too much water to dry concrete mix is the most common mistake made by DIYers that leads to concrete cracks. Using more water than you should weakens the concrete significantly. The mix should be like oatmeal, not too sloshy or dry and crumbly.
4. Compact the concrete base.
Before pouring your concrete slab, you first need to lay a compacted base. Otherwise, the uncompacted base shifts and settles, creating a space under the slab and leading to concrete cracks. Use gravel compacted into the ground to a depth of three to four inches to create a firm base on which to pour your slab.
5. Use steel reinforcements.
If you have ever seen a professionally poured concrete installation, you probably noticed their use of rebar in a grid pattern to reinforce the concrete. You should also do this as part of your DIY project. It makes the slab stronger and prevents concrete cracks. For walkways or patios, create a grid pattern of rebar set about two feet apart. For smaller installations, use wire mesh. Of course, you need to ensure the reinforcing materials only rise about halfway into the slab.