How to Repair Concrete Steps

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Cracks in your concrete stairs are not just unsightly, they can become downright dangerous if you don't do anything about them. Someone could easily trip going up or down the steps and end up seriously injured--not how you want to welcome visitors to your home. Luckily, small cracks in concrete stairs are relatively easy to fix and most homeowners can take on the job themselves.

Things You'll Need

  • Clear silicon caulk
  • Putty knife
  • Work gloves
  • Wooden float
  • Eye protection
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Small sledge hammer
  • Concrete bonding agent
  • Ready mix concrete
  • Wheelbarrow or mixer for concrete
  • Caulking gun and waterproof caulk
  • Cold chisel

Hairline Cracks

  • While hairline cracks by themselves are probably too small to actually cause any damage, if you just ignore them, over time they'll get bigger. Water will get down into the crack and with freeze and thaw cycles expand it, and then you'll have a big repair job on your hands.

  • Clean out a hairline crack with a piece of wire or a blast of air from an air compressor or even a can of compressed air. (Compessed air is sold at computer stores to clean dust out of computer keyboards.)

  • Run a bed of clear silicon caulk along the length of the crack and use a putty knife to push the caulk into the crack and smooth the surface even with the concrete.

  • Loosely cover the caulk (to keep anyone from walking on it) for a few hours and you're done. The clear silicon will fill the crack and stop any water from getting in and will also act as a bit of a cushion for the natural movement (expansion and contraction) of the concrete itself.

Larger Cracks

  • Larger cracks need more than just a layer of caulk to fix them. Begin the repair by using a cold chisel and a small sledgehammer to actually make the crack bigger.

  • Undercut the bottom of the crack into a reverse "V" shape. The bottom should be at least 1 inch wide.

  • Remove all of the loose concrete fragments and dust by flushing the crack with a hose or sweeping and vacuuming the concrete pieces out of the crack.

  • Paint the newly expanded crack with a concrete bonding agent (available at home stores) and allow it to set until it becomes tacky. (The bonding agent will help the new concrete bond tightly with the old concrete.)

  • Prepare a batch of ready mix concrete patching material in a wheelbarrow or concrete mixer while the concrete bonding agent is "setting up." Follow the manufacturer's directions to ensure that you get the right consistency.

  • Use a wooden float to firmly pack the concrete patch material into the area being repaired and level it with the surface.

  • Allow the concrete to set for about 30 minutes and then use an old broom, a whisk or even a stiff paintbrush to create a slightly rough surface on the patch that will help prevent slips.

  • Cover the patched area with a sheet of heavy plastic or a tarp and leave it in place for a few days--just removing it once a day to spray the patch with a mist of water. This will ensure that the concrete dries slowly. If concrete dries too fast, it will crack.

  • Wait a week, take off the plastic sheet and admire your handiwork. No more ugly cracks in your steps!

Tips & Warnings

  • You can help prevent your concrete stairs from cracking by applying a concrete sealer (available in home stores) once a year. Fall is a good time since you will likely have water from snow melting and freezing on your stairs in winter. Concrete sealer will also help prevent any salt damage to your stairs.
  • Washing your stairs with a mild solution of TSP and warm water (in the spring) will also get rid of salt residue.
  • Be sure you always wear proper eye protection when chiseling out cracks in your stairs. You can't control where the tiny concrete chips will go.

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