If your home has uneven concrete steps, it's important to have them fixed as soon as you can. Uneven concrete steps are a safety hazard — a gap between your steps and the door can cause you or your guests to trip while entering or leaving your home, potentially resulting in serious injury. Uneven steps are also difficult for those with mobility issues to walk up and down, further increasing the danger that uneven steps pose to your guests.
What causes concrete steps to become uneven? It's most often caused by the soil underneath them becoming compacted — concrete steps are very heavy, and that weight can cause them to settle over time. When the soil underneath shifts, small gaps left in the soil can cause the concrete steps above to become uneven. Soil erosion from rainwater runoff can also contribute to this problem as the rainwater carries soil away with it.
What can be done to fix your concrete steps and make them level again? You have two options: you can either replace them or you can opt for concrete lifting. To help you decide which is best for you, here's an explanation of what they entail:
Remove and Re-pour
When you remove and re-pour your concrete steps, your existing steps are busted apart with a jackhammer and hauled to the landfill. Additional soil is added to the area to replace the soil that has been lost to erosion, and then all of this soil is compacted to help prevent your new concrete steps from settling in the future.
Your new concrete steps will be carefully re-poured to make them level with your door, and then they'll be left to cure until they're ready to be walked on. The number of days the steps will take to cure depends upon the weather — you can typically walk on them within two days, but you should wait a month before you drill into the concrete to replace any handrails or guardrails.
When you have your concrete steps lifted, you have two choices available to you. You can lift them using a polyurethane foam, or use a crushed aggregate slurry to lift them in a process called mudjacking. These processes are very similar. A concrete contractor will drill a hole into your concrete steps and inject either polyurethane foam or a stone slurry underneath the steps.
The purpose of the substance injected underneath the slab is to raise the slab at strategic places until your concrete steps are made even and level with the door again. A concrete contractor will carefully determine where to drill the holes into your steps and how much foam or slurry to inject underneath the slab. After your steps are leveled, the holes will be filled with mortar in order to restore your concrete steps to pristine condition.
Polyurethane foam and crushed aggregate slurry give similar results, but polyurethane foam has the advantage of resisting soil erosion — the foam is completely inert and water-resistant, whereas the stone slurry may slowly be eroded away by water. Additionally, the stone slurry is much heavier than foam and may lead to further settling.
Which Option Is the Best For You?
Concrete lifting is much less expensive than re-pouring new concrete steps, and results are instant — there's no need to wait for a lengthy cure time for replacing the guardrails and handrails.
Removing your concrete steps and replacing them, however, is useful when your concrete steps are cracked or spalling. If your concrete steps are in poor condition, you may wish to simply have them replaced. While concrete lifting will provide a stable base for your steps and prevent them from being damaged further by settling, it won't correct any damage that has already occurred.
No matter which avenue you choose, you'll need to call an experienced concrete contractor to even out your concrete steps. When you're ready to eliminate this safety hazard from your home, schedule an appointment with a concrete contractor for a cost estimate.