Anyone who has lived in the Midwest knows the roads and sidewalks are not always in the best shape. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, over half of Milwaukee streets were rated “poor” in 2018. The same is true for sidewalks and walkways for public use. Homeowners and retailers want to make sure their slab concrete is safe to use in every season. That said, as we enter the winter, we all know that problems arise once it gets cold and wet. This situation begs the question: why does concrete crack? Unfortunately, concrete cracks for more reasons than you might think. Some of the reasons include the following:
- Incorrect pour methods
- Incorrect mixing methods/ratios
- The concrete was poured into a foundation that was not leveled
- The concrete was poured into a frozen foundation
As you can see, there are many technical reasons why concrete might crack. Luckily, the internet provides users with the best list of concrete workers to address any job. All things being equal on the technical side of the job, there are still many factors that cause concrete to crack. Even under the ideal circumstances, the problems listed below may arise given enough time. Identifying and responding to new cracks in your concrete can save you money down the road. If you don’t fix the problems as they arise, you risk setting yourself back hundreds if not thousands of dollars. So, if you want your slab concrete to last for a long time, you should consider the following causes of concrete cracking.
Plastic Shrinkage Cracking
This sounds like a strange problem. Plastic, in this instance, does not refer to the material; it refers to a semi-liquid state. When a contractor pours fresh concrete into a foundation, it takes time to set. As the concrete sets, the water in the mixture will evaporate. This is a normal phenomenon; however, sometimes the water near the top of the slab dries too quickly. When this happens, the top and bottom of the slab pull apart. As the slab pulls apart internally, stress forces will disperse through the entire body of the concrete. Once the slab dries, the concrete will begin to crack in order to release the internal stress. Hot weather only makes this problem worse (which is a problem because warmer seasons are best for pouring concrete). Plastic shrinkage will eventually cause concrete to crack, and this root cause tends to combine with other causes of concrete cracking. One of the most common combinations of problems is plastic shrinkage cracking with expansion cracks.
Expansion Concrete Cracking
When concrete warms up, it expands and stretches. People who lay concrete know this and will make the appropriate adjustments. That said, the environment changes over time, and sometimes materials will fall into cracks in concrete. Everyone has seen grass, weeds, and even small saplings grow through cracks in concrete. Sometimes, organic materials within the cracks of concrete are benign. Unfortunately, much of the time, these materials will exploit pre-existing weaknesses in concrete slabs. When a foreign object in the concrete does not move against the expanding force of the slab, the force of the concrete against the object will compound over time. And, given enough force and time, the concrete will begin to crack. These cracks can start small, but they can grow deeper and wider. Much like the issue of shrinkage, expanding concrete cracks open up the rest of the slab to new problems.
Concrete Cracks Caused by Heaving
When concrete cracks, water can make its way down into the foundation of the slab. In places like California, this isn’t always cause for concern. However, in cities like Milwaukee, water that enters cracked concrete will freeze. When water freezes, it becomes compact and pushes up on the concrete from beneath the surface. Even if it does not freeze, though, the water will cause the soil to expand, and the effect will be the same. Over the course of a winter, the freezing and thawing of the water change the foundation of a concrete slab. The expansion results in the concrete “heaving” upwards, sometimes by several inches. Once this happens, you will need to replace your concrete. If you neglect your heaving concrete, you will increase the likelihood of tripping and falling. You also run the risk of having the problem expand outward, and the cost to repair will only increase.
Concrete Cracks Caused by Settling
This form of cracking occurs when materials under concrete experience change. Sometimes, when a company removes a tree from a yard, they do not tear out all the roots. If there are leftover roots under your slab concrete, the roots will decay over time. Given enough time, the decayed material will displace the foundation, and your concrete will start to sink. Concrete settling is a fairly common problem, as yards and walkways go through changes all the time. Fortunately, settling and sinking concrete can be mudjacked, which means you can stay ahead of your concrete problems. If you ignore this problem, settled concrete will crumble and collapse. Therefore, you should fix settled concrete as soon as it begins to sink.
What Should I Do If My Concrete Cracks?
If you notice your concrete is cracked and sinking, you should definitely consider making repairs. Mudjacking is a cost-effective and quick solution to concrete problems. We fix residential and commercial concrete in a way that is most convenient for you. Our services have been praised by happy Milwaukee residents, so contact Level Headed Mudjackers today to schedule a consultation for your unique concrete needs. We look forward to making your concrete look brand new!