A construction worker wearing a hard hat, a bandana, a neon shirt and black gloves is smoothing over concrete.

Concrete is a durable and versatile material, but it’s not immune to damage. Over time, concrete surfaces can develop cracks, holes and other types of damage due to various factors such as weather, heavy loads and settling. 

Concrete repair involves much more than a simple application of cement. It requires detailed planning, a deep understanding of the different types of damage and the right use of specific tools and materials. Promptly addressing concrete damage is essential to prevent further deterioration and maintain the structure’s integrity.

In the following sections, we’ll explore how to prepare for a concrete repair project, the steps involved in planning and executing such a project and tips for knowing when to call in the professionals.

 

Safety Precautions and Necessary Tools

Before starting any concrete repair project, it’s important to safeguard your well-being. Ensuring you are outfitted with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to protect against potential hazards such as skin irritation and alkaline burns from wet concrete.

Make sure your safety kit includes the following:

  • Gloves to shield your hands from harmful substances and abrasions
  • Goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris and particles
  • Long-sleeve shirts to guard your skin against irritation and burns from wet concrete

Additionally, using a dust mask or respirator can be beneficial to avoid inhaling harmful concrete dust. For more safety guidelines, visit the OSHA guidelines on concrete manufacturing

Remember, concrete dust can be harmful if inhaled, and sharp edges or tools can cause cuts or scrapes. Taking the time to get proper safety gear will help ensure a safer repair experience.

In addition to safety gear, you’ll need the following tools and materials to complete your concrete repair project successfully:

  • Wire brush or masonry brush for cleaning the damaged area
  • Chisel and hammer for removing loose concrete
  • Trowel for applying patching material
  • Concrete filler or sealant for repairing cracks
  • Patching compound for filling holes and chipped areas
  • Self-leveling compound for leveling uneven surfaces
  • Mixing bucket and stirring tool for preparing repair materials

Having the right tools and materials available before repairing concrete surfaces will help you work more efficiently and achieve better results.

 

Assessing the Damage

Before beginning the repair process, you must assess the extent and type of damage. Common types of concrete damage include:

  • Cracks: Narrow lines that can range from hairline to more significant widths
  • Holes: Deeper voids in the concrete surface
  • Chipped Areas: Shallow surface damage or flaking
  • Uneven Surfaces: Areas where the concrete has settled or shifted

Determine the severity of the damage by considering factors such as the depth, width and length of cracks or holes. This assessment will help you choose the appropriate repair method and materials.

Along with the visible damage, it’s important to investigate the underlying cause of the issue. According to The Portland Cement Association, chemical attacks — including reactions from substances like sulfates, chlorides and acids — can significantly harm concrete by altering its chemical composition and reducing its strength. This damage can be compounded by other factors such as heavy traffic, freeze-thaw cycles, improper installation or soil settlement. 

Understanding the root cause will help you address the problem more effectively and prevent future damage.

 

Preparing the Surface

Proper surface preparation is key to achieving a successful and long-lasting repair. A clean, stable surface ensures better adhesion between the existing concrete and the repair material, leading to a more durable fix.

Follow these steps to prepare the damaged area:

  • Clean: Thoroughly clean the surface using a wire or masonry brush to remove any loose debris, dirt or dust. This step is crucial, as contaminants can weaken the bond between the repair material and the existing concrete.
  • Undercut: Using a chisel and hammer to remove loose or crumbling concrete for larger cracks or holes, creating a clean and stable edge. This process, called undercutting, helps the repair material anchor more securely to the surrounding concrete.
  • Vacuum: Use a vacuum or compressed air to remove any remaining debris from the area. This final cleaning step ensures that the surface is fully prepared for the repair material.
  • Apply a Bonding Agent (if needed): If the damage is deep or the surrounding concrete is smooth, consider using a bonding agent to improve adhesion between the existing concrete and the repair material. A bonding agent creates a stronger connection and helps prevent future cracking or separation.

In some cases, you may need to use a power washer or grinder to remove stubborn dirt, stains or coatings from the surface before proceeding with the repair. Be sure to let the surface dry completely after cleaning to avoid trapping moisture beneath the repair material.

 

Repairing Cracks

Cracks in concrete can vary in size and depth, requiring different repair approaches. Identifying the type and extent of the crack is essential for choosing the most effective repair method.

Hairline Cracks (Less Than ⅛ Inch Wide)

  • Clean the crack thoroughly, as described in the surface preparation section.
  • Apply a concrete crack filler or sealant using a caulking gun, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to choose a flexible sealant that can accommodate minor movement in the concrete.
  • Smooth the filler with a putty knife or trowel, removing any excess material.
  • Allow the filler to dry completely before applying any additional coatings or sealers.

Larger Cracks (1/8 Inch Or Wider)

  • Follow the surface preparation steps, ensuring the crack is clean and free of loose debris.
  • Use a chisel to widen the crack slightly, creating a V-shaped groove that is wider at the surface and narrower at the base. This shape helps the repair material bond better.
  • If the crack is deep, consider inserting a backer rod (a flexible foam material) into the crack to support the repair material and prevent it from sinking too deep.
  • Fill the crack with a suitable patching compound, using a trowel to press the material firmly into the groove. For larger cracks, you may need to apply the compound in layers, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next.
  • Smooth the surface of the patch to match the surrounding concrete and allow it to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Active Cracks (Those That Continue To Widen Or Shift)

For active cracks, it’s essential to address the underlying cause of the movement before attempting a repair. Consult a professional concrete repair specialist to determine the best course of action, which may involve structural repairs or the use of specialized materials like epoxy injection or flexible repair compounds.

 

Repairing Surface Imperfections: Holes, Chips and Uneven Areas

 

A construction worker is wearing a hard hat, a red handkerchief, a dirty neon yellow shirt and gloves while smoothing concrete.

Concrete surfaces can develop various imperfections over time, such as holes, chipped areas and uneven spots. Addressing these issues promptly not only enhances the appearance of your concrete but also prevents further damage and potential safety hazards.

Here’s how to repair these common surface imperfections:

Filling Holes and Chipped Areas

  • Prepare the surface as described earlier, removing any loose material and cleaning the area thoroughly.
  • For deeper holes, apply a bonding agent to the surface to improve adhesion.
  • Mix the patching compound according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring a consistent texture and color.
  • Apply the patching compound to the hole or chipped area using a trowel, pressing it firmly to fill the void completely. For larger holes, apply the compound in layers, allowing each layer to cure before applying the next.
  • Use the trowel to smooth the surface of the patch, matching the texture of the surrounding concrete.
  • Allow the patch to cure according to the product instructions.

Leveling Uneven Surfaces

  • Clean and prepare the surface, ensuring it is free of debris and loose material.
  • If necessary, use a concrete grinder to remove any high spots or rough areas.
  • Prime the surface with a bonding agent to improve adhesion.
  • Mix the self-leveling compound according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring a smooth and pourable consistency.
  • Pour the compound onto the uneven surface, using a trowel or squeegee to spread it evenly. The self-leveling properties of the compound will help create a smooth, level surface.
  • Allow the self-leveling compound to cure fully before applying any additional coatings or treatments.

When repairing surface imperfections, it’s crucial to choose the appropriate patching compound or self-leveling mix based on the depth of the damage and the desired finish. Some products are designed for specific applications, such as rapid-setting compounds for quick repairs or epoxy-based fillers for high-traffic areas.

 

Curing and Finishing

Proper curing is essential for the strength and durability of concrete repairs. After completing the repair, follow these steps:

  • Keep the repaired area moist by covering it with plastic sheeting or misting it with water regularly, according to the repair material’s instructions.
  • Avoid exposing the repaired area to excessive heat, cold, or direct sunlight during the curing process.
  • Allow the repair to cure for the full amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Once the repair has cured, you may apply a concrete sealer to protect the surface from moisture, stains, and further damage.

For a smooth, consistent finish, complete the following process:

  • Use a trowel or float to smooth the repair surface while it is still wet.
  • Gently sand the repaired area once it has dried to remove any rough spots or imperfections.
  • If desired, apply a concrete resurfacer or skim coat over the repaired area to create a more uniform appearance.

Remember, proper curing and finishing are just as important as the repair itself.

 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When repairing concrete, it’s essential to steer clear of common mistakes that can compromise the quality and longevity of your repair.

Here are a few pitfalls to avoid:

  • Skipping Surface Preparation: Failing to clean and prepare the surface properly can lead to weak bonding and premature failure of the repair.
  • Using the Wrong Repair Material: Choosing a repair product unsuitable for your specific type of damage or environmental conditions can result in subpar results.
  • Mismatching Colors: If the repair material doesn’t blend well with the existing concrete, the repair will be more noticeable and may be less aesthetically pleasing.
  • Not Allowing Enough Curing Time: Rushing the curing process can weaken the repair and make it more susceptible to damage.

 

When to Consider Professional Repairs

While homeowners can do many minor concrete repairs, some situations call for professional expertise:

  • Large or deep cracks that may indicate structural issues
  • Extensive damage that covers a significant area
  • Damage that has been present for an extended period and may have led to further deterioration
  • Complex repairs that require specialized tools or techniques

Professional concrete repair services offer several benefits:

  • Experience and expertise in assessing and repairing various types of damage
  • Access to high-quality repair materials and specialized tools
  • Ability to identify and address underlying issues that may have caused the damage
  • Warranties or guarantees on their work

Professional repairs are often the best choice for severe damage or complex projects to ensure long-lasting results.

 

Your Trusted Partner for Industrial Concrete and Steel Services

SW Funk Industrial Contractors is a trusted partner for industrial facilities seeking reliable and safe structural concrete and steel services and professional plant upkeep services

With over 40 years of experience, we have earned a reputation for delivering high-quality results in even the most challenging environments. Our commitment to safety, integrity and meeting deadlines sets us apart from competitors in the industry.

As a one-stop solution for industrial concrete and steel needs, we offer a unique combination of services that few contractors can match. Our skilled tradespeople specialize in:

  • Complex concrete installations and repairs
  • Precision anchor bolt layouts
  • Fabrication and erection of platforms, catwalks, stairs, handrails and more
  • Steel structures and buildings of all sizes and complexity

What truly distinguishes SW Funk Industrial Contractors is our ability to work seamlessly within operating industrial facilities. Our experienced team develops customized plans to address complex access, logistical issues, physical restrictions and space limitations, ensuring your project stays on track without compromising your production and operations.

At SW Funk Industrial Contractors, safety is the foundation of our culture. Our comprehensive training program provides our tradespeople with over 80 hours of safety training per year, and our protocols and hazard analysis system ensure that every project is completed safely and efficiently. You can also trust that we will bring our expert crew to every job, eliminating the need for multiple sub-contractors. 

Our AISC certification and proven track record with large-scale projects for major industrial clients demonstrate our capacity to support your needs and deliver results you can rely on.

Contact us today to discuss your upcoming project and experience the SW Funk Industrial Contractors difference.