Concreate, Inc. delivers concrete polishing and custom staining for both commercial and residential projects primarily in Virginia and Maryland (but also up and down the East Coast). We work hand in hand with with designers, architects, project managers, general contractors, tradesmen, and home owners alike from start to finish. We welcome the opportunity to serve your polished concrete needs in every way possible.

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When Should I Be Concerned About Cracks in Concrete?

When Should I Be Concerned About Cracks in Concrete?

Stress cracks in a concrete floor.

Cracks in your concrete floor are entirely normal, but you should address them when they reach a certain point.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s perfectly normal for your concrete floors to crack
  • Various underlying causes could cause these cracks
  • You can sometimes leave the damage alone if the appearance doesn’t bother you
  • Numerous repair techniques are available when necessary

It should be no surprise to learn that concrete floors tend to crack. If you’ve been around these floors in the past, you might have seen various imperfections on the surface that stand out.

The good news is that your contractor can usually repair cracked concrete quickly, before or after polishing it. The steps you’ll take to improve your cracked concrete depend on the size of the imperfection and what caused the damage in the first place. You might even leave the crack alone if it isn’t a tripping hazard because of the character it adds to the surface.

If you’re asking, “When should I be concerned about cracks in concrete?” the answer is, it depends on the individual situation. Here’s a look at some common causes and types of cracked concrete, along with how your contractor can repair them.

Causes of cracked concrete

Are cracks in concrete normal? Yes, but some specific underlying causes typically lead to damage. Unfortunately, many of these errors occur when pouring the concrete, so repairing the cracks as they form is the only option.

First, the contractor responsible for installing the concrete could have put too much water in the mixture. Adding excess water makes the concrete easier to pour but creates additional shrinkage as the surface dries and the moisture evaporates. The shrinking concrete then pulls apart and cracks.

Another issue that could cause your concrete to crack is when the surface dries too rapidly because of a lack of moisture. The process that allows concrete to go from a liquid to a solid state requires water, and this chemical reaction should continue for weeks after pouring it. The slab cures too quickly when there isn’t enough water in the mixture, causing it to crack.

Additionally, a lack of control joints could create cracks in your slab. These control joints ensure your floors don’t have too much pressure on any given point by distributing it throughout the room. 

Cracks in your concrete floor may also arise when the ground beneath the slab isn’t adequately compacted before pouring the surface. A subgrade, subbase, or base course is necessary to minimize the issues that arise as the ground settles.

You can’t do much about the cracks in your concrete floor except repair them, but understanding why they appear can help as you move through the process. The underlying cause also determines the type of crack you’ll experience.

Types of cracks in your concrete

The steps you’ll take to repair your concrete could depend on the type of crack present. The different types of stress cracks in concrete could also create greater urgency.

Hairline cracks on the surface are common but often aren’t overly serious. You’ll want to repair these cracks if you notice them widening over time. They’ll also require attention if they become a tripping hazard or you don’t like their appearance. 

Shrinkage cracks occur early in the floor’s lifetime due to the curing process. You can sometimes reduce their prevalence by installing control joints at the surface.

When the ground beneath the floor didn’t adequately settle, or the contractor didn’t utilize a subgrade, subbase, or base course, settlement cracks can arise. This scenario occurs when portions of the floor remain static while the ground under some parts of the surface begins to sink. 

Structural cracks are the most serious of the bunch because they’re typically wider than a credit card and run through the surface’s entire width. These cracks will require extensive repairs or, in more extreme scenarios, even an entirely new slab.

When a repair is necessary

You don’t always have to repair the cracks in your concrete, as each situation is different. What’s acceptable to one building owner could be a non-starter for others, so you’ll have to determine what you’re comfortable with before beginning the repair. 

Generally, if the cracks in your floor are structural, a repair is necessary. These cracks could also signify something more noteworthy going on under your concrete, so there’s a chance you’ll have to replace the entire slab.

You’ll have other options when dealing with hairline and other non-structural cracks. However, if the gap is gradually getting wider, going ahead with a repair is recommended. It’s also wise to repair cracks that become tripping hazards, trap dirt, or allow moisture seepage. Otherwise, your willingness to repair the damage comes down to the floor’s aesthetics. 

How to repair cracked concrete

Your concrete professional’s repair technique comes down to the damage at hand. A cement-based patching mixture might be good enough for a small, shallow chip on the surface. You can also utilize a skim coat to cover minor surface damage. 

When the damage is more significant or covers a larger surface area, your contractor might use hydraulic or anchoring cement or a self-leveling overlay to handle the repair.

Some building owners will leave hairline cracks as a touch of character on the floor. However, applying a tinted urethane skim coat is possible to make the crack more decorative and ensure it doesn’t stand out too much. 

If your crack is growing and you’re polishing the floor, grinding the damage out with a diamond blade and filling it with a semi-rigid polyurea is the way to go. From there, you can polish the floor to get it looking great. 

Speaking with a concrete expert ensures you address your cracked concrete floor as efficiently as possible. A cracked floor isn’t a big deal when you know the necessary steps to take after noticing it.

Get the expert help you need

Noticing cracks in your concrete floor isn’t any reason to panic as long as the damage isn’t structural. A concrete expert will make the necessary recommendations and ensure your surface repair goes as smoothly as possible.

Concreate assists with concrete repairs, joint work, polishing, grinding, and sealing. We do everything but pour the slab, so if you’re dealing with a concrete floor issue, we’re available to help. Visit thisisconcrete.com for more information on how to deal with cracks in your concrete floors.