How do I Prevent Cracks in Concrete?

Felicia Dye

Many people have seen cracks in concrete and this leads them to underestimate the material. They should know that concrete has many uses and it can last for decades if it is poured and cared for properly. One of the best ways to prevent cracks in concrete is to have professionals do the work. If you feel, however, that you can do it yourself, realize that the entire job requires great care, from mixing to finishing.

Concrete can be reinforced with metal bars to withstand tension.
Concrete can be reinforced with metal bars to withstand tension.

If you are doing the job yourself, make sure you do not use too much water. A wet mix makes pouring easier but it also tends to encourage shrinkage. The more shrinkage you have, the higher your chances are of finding cracks later. The same caution should be applied if you are hiring a contractor to do the job. Try to make sure that he is not conserving supplies at your expense.

Cracked concrete.
Cracked concrete.

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Apply the amount that you need. Cracks in concrete often result because the amount of cement poured was not thick enough. You may need to do some research or get professional advice about the thickness required for your job. Then, be sure to use that as a guideline. If you try to save money by thinning out the job, you are likely to be unhappy with the final results.

Cracked concrete.
Cracked concrete.

Concrete is a hard material but it is not very pliable. This means that is generally not meant to be bent. When using concrete for driveways, it is important to be sure that the underlying soil is compacted. If it is not, uneven settling is almost inevitable. When this happens, you will generally get cracks in concrete lying over soft spots.

The need to keep the concrete level applies to other types of projects as well. Reinforced steel is often recommended as a solution to help strengthen the concrete. If the reinforced steel is not placed too far below the surface, it can be very helpful in holding the concrete together.

You must also realize that drying concrete contracts. This will cause the material to try to pull apart. When that happens, cracking often follows. This can be prevented with control joints — lines intentionally made in the cement to prevent cracks due to expansion or contraction. It is usually best if the control joints are evenly spaced.

The manner in which the job is finished also plays a big role in whether cracks in concrete are likely. The rate at which the material dries is very important. If it dries too quickly, cracking is very likely. To control the drying rate, you can use moistened straw, burlap, or plastic. These should be applied only once the cement has begun to get firm.

Not reinforcing a concrete foundation can cause structural problems in a home.
Not reinforcing a concrete foundation can cause structural problems in a home.

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