Landscape materials are subject to all sorts of weather conditions. In cold areas, constant freezing and thawing can degrade even the hardest materials. This is considered normal wear and tear. Slight changes in level can be expected; when shifts occur abruptly soon after construction, this is a sign there are larger issues.
Improper Base Materials
A proper base needs to be prepared before concrete is poured. First, soil must be compacted and leveled. Then, a base of sand or gravel is laid down. This base provides the drainage. These steps are also necessary for loose materials such as pavers or flagstone. When this process is not followed, the chance of saturated soil and sinking is much greater. If problems occur within the first year, the contractor may be at fault.
Improper Construction Materials
Walkways are constructed with the lay of the land in mind. Measures are taken to create as level an area as possible. Concrete and mortar are common materials used to construct hard walkways. When mixed improperly, they can be weak. This will cause them to crumble and crack prematurely, making the walkway unstable. This is one cause for irregular sinking.
Concrete is poured at a pitch to allow water to run off. If poured improperly, water can pool, creating standing water. Over-saturated soils can cause soil under walkways to give way and sink. New water drainage issues need to be addressed immediately. Make sure that underground water lines are not cracked or broken. Sometimes, construction nearby can cause water to be re-routed to your property. This is an unfortunate yet ongoing issue in residential neighborhoods. Walk your property yearly during the wet season to check for standing water.
Replacing or Repairing the Walkway
When a sinking walkway is in good condition otherwise, try to repair it. Sometimes it can be shored up and fill materials added beneath the walkway. This process is called "leveling" and can be done for half the price of replacing the walk. When walkways are broken up, it is better to replace them. Determine why it happened, so recurrence can be prevented. Choose new materials better suited for your climate. See what materials have been successful in your area.
Soil can be amended and proper construction implemented, but you can not change the climate. Loose materials like flagstone, brick or pavers can handle soil settling and wet conditions better than concrete or aggregate. If your walkway is a public sidewalk, check the city for regulations. Unfortunately, in many residential areas, the homeowner, not the city, pays for these repairs. If damages are due to a broken city water pipe, they will usually do the repairs.
- Photo Credit fall sidewalk image by Aaron Kohr from Fotolia.com leaves in water image by Christopher Martin from Fotolia.com making a sidewalk image by Joann Cooper from Fotolia.com rain image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com Tulips and Pansies image by JKL from Fotolia.com
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