Why Is Concrete Repair So Expensive?

Decorative Concrete Kingdom (crop)/flickr

What makes concrete repair so expensive? Isn’t concrete basically just a mix of cement, water, and rocks? And these days you can buy precast concrete – slabs, steps, etc. – at your nearby home store for peanuts. So why does it cost so darn much to fix a crack or two in your driveway, basement floor, or other concrete structure around your house?

Concrete Repair Vs Replacement

Although it may seem expensive, repair tends to work out cheaper than replacement, especially for load-bearing concrete structures and interior concrete floors (because they’re harder to access). Fortunately, the products available for repair have improved a great deal in the past couple of decades. There is another advantage – repairing your concrete is more sustainable, since it uses smaller quantities of materials.

DIY Concrete Repair Vs Professional Work

If you’re the handy type, taking care of small cracks can be an easy DIY repair using a commercial concrete crack filler. Larger cracks and most other repairs require more expertise -- not to mention manpower and specialized equipment -- so it’s best to hire a professional concrete contractor.

3 Important Steps Before Concrete Repair

A reliable concrete contractor will take 3 important steps before performing any major repair. Although this preliminary work adds to the cost, it ensures that your concrete will perform better and last longer in the future.

  1. Investigate – Some serious detective work may be necessary to find out what caused the damage in the first place.

  2. Repair the underlying cause – Usually damaged concrete is the result of one of these factors:
  • badly done original concrete installation
  • water penetration
  • tree roots
  • unstable soil due to settling or frost heave 
  1. Prep – Even for a small job, cleaning and removal of old deteriorated concrete is necessary. You may need large-scale demolition, followed by haulage of the concrete rubble. Doing the demo yourself can save some money if you have a sledgehammer or jackhammer and a truck, but be warned: concrete removal is backbreaking work.

What Else Affects Price?

Quality of the work. A skilled, experienced concrete professional won’t just patch up the problem temporarily, but will do a repair that could extend the material’s life another 10 years or more. He’ll also take care to make the repair blend in with the surrounding concrete as much as possible.

Access. Your concrete pro will consider access. How difficult will it be to bring the concrete truck to the site? Might the concrete need to be carted in by wheelbarrow? This is always a factor in any concrete work, but may be even more complicated in the case of a repair.

Equipment and materials. In addition to concrete, your contractor may need to supply other supplies such as rebar, forms, and equipment for mudjacking or foam injection.

Permit. In some locales, you may need a permit for concrete repair and/or demo, especially if the work is classed as an alteration to existing construction. 

Economies of scale. Repairing one square of a concrete sidewalk is likely to cost approximately one-quarter of the price to install a new 10-square sidewalk … or the equivalent of 2 ½ new squares. Keep in mind there’s a minimum charge for a concrete truck, usually the cost of 4-6 yards of concrete … and that’s a lot of concrete! And as is standard in most industries, many concrete pros have a minimum charge for a service call, to cover travel time, gas, etc.

Your location. Sorry to tell you this, but any type of contractor work generally costs more in upscale neighborhoods.

Get the Most for Your Money

Get multiple quotes on your concrete repair job. Don’t automatically go for the lowest bid -- compare exactly what they all include.

Look at the warranties you’re being offered, as well. How long is each one for and what does it cover?

Check contractor references and read unbiased online reviews.

Hire a licensed, experienced concrete pro. Professional concrete repair must be done by licensed individual – in some states, a general contractor’s license is sufficient, while other locales demand a concrete license. Make sure that licensing and insurance are up to date.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

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