SOS! How to Repair a Crumbling Concrete Foundation?

May 17, 2021

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If you’re a homeowner searching for how to repair concrete foundation crumbling, it’s vital that you address this issue quickly. Foundation damage only gets worse the longer it’s ignored and can lead to expensive secondary damage including wood rot, mold, and a sinking or settling home.

Crumbling foundation concrete is best repaired with concrete patching material, and concrete or cement paint. Cracked and otherwise damaged foundation concrete might also require more extensive repairs, including steel pin insertion or house leveling.

Since durable foundation repair is vital for ensuring cracks and chips don’t get worse, and for avoiding secondary damage inside and outside the home, you might note some suggestions for fixing crumbling concrete. It’s also helpful to note why foundation concrete might crumble over time, and signs of foundation damage and potential building collapse.

concrete foundation crumbling

A homeowner would also do well to note what might happen if you don’t fix foundation problems, so you better understand the importance of timely repairs! You can then discuss your foundation issues with a repair contractor near you, and ensure your home is always in pristine condition.

How to Repair Concrete Foundation Crumbling

For crumbling concrete repair to last, you’ll need the right tools and a bit of prep work. Ensure you also have enough time to get the job done right, as rushing through this task will usually result in patching material that doesn’t adhere to the concrete or help block more damaging moisture.

Tools and materials needed

To repair crumbling foundation concrete, you’ll need:

  • Stiff-bristle outdoor broom
  • Chisel
  • Hammer
  • Garden hose
  • Scrub brush
  • Stucco or concrete patch mixture
  • Bucket(s)
  • Cement paint
  • Clean paintbrush
  • Sponge
  • Burlap, tarp, or plastic sheeting

If your hardware or home improvement store doesn’t sell cement paint, simply pick up some Portland cement and an extra bucket so you can mix it up yourself! Also, if you cannot find stucco or concrete patch mixture, you can mix 1.5 parts Portland cement, .5 parts hydrated lime, and four parts concrete sand in a bucket, and then add water until it’s the consistency of applesauce. Don’t make up this mixture until you’re ready to start patching, however, as you don’t want it to start to cure before it’s applied to the damaged concrete.

tools for crumbling foundation repair

Cleaning and preparing the concrete

Your first step in patching crumbling concrete is to clean and prepare the area. Start by removing any chipped and broken concrete with your outdoor broom. Once brushed, hose down the area and brush it again, to remove as much dust as possible.

Patching mixture doesn’t stick well to damaged concrete, so you’ll then need to break away any crumbling concrete still adhering to the foundation, using your hammer and chisel. Once done, repeat the brushing and hosing process until you’ve exposed solid concrete and have removed all dust and debris. It’s often easier to use a scrub brush along the opening than your broom, for a more precise clean.

Applying the paint and patch

One reason that DIY foundation repair might fail is that the patching mixture doesn’t adhere well to the existing concrete. Applying cement paint before the patching material allows for more adhesion, and less risk of the stucco crumbling away before too long!

If you cannot find premade cement paint at the hardware store, simply mix water and Portland cement until it’s the consistency of latex paint. Get the concrete damp with your sponge; you don’t want it soaking wet, but the paint won’t adhere well to a fully dry surface. Once the concrete is damp, apply the cement paint with your paintbrush, just as if you were painting any other surface.

Never allow the cement paint to dry before applying your stucco or patching mix, as you want these two materials to dry together. If patching a large portion of damaged concrete, work in small sections so the “paint” stays damp while you apply the patching mix.

cement painting brush

Keep the patch damp

Your patching material should stay damp for 48 hours so it can dry slowly and form a strong adhesion during this process. To keep it damp, cover it loosely with your burlap, tarp, or plastic sheeting. This cover will help avoid evaporation, trapping moisture inside the patch so it can dry slowly and adhere properly to your home’s foundation.

Why Is My Cement Crumbling?

Knowing why foundation cement crumbles can help you avoid this issue in the first place, or make changes needed to protect the material from premature damage! Consider a few reasons why your home’s foundation might be crumbling so you know what to expect by way of repairs.

Poor-quality mix and installation

One common reason for concrete damage is a poor-quality mix and application. Concrete is made by mixing Portland cement, which works as a bonding agent, and water. Once these materials create a paste, aggregates such as sand and gravel are added, to create concrete.

A low-quality concrete mix might contain too much water or aggregate so that the material doesn’t stay solid and firm over the years. Certain minerals in those aggregates can also leech out over the years, damaging concrete binders and causing it to crumble.

foundation tools for crumbling concrete

Rebar is also typically used when pouring concrete, to keep it in place while it cures. Not using enough rebar or the wrong rebar can also result in crumbling concrete! These risks are why it’s vital that you always hire a reputable, reliable concrete installer or foundation repair expert for concrete pouring and installation or repairs on your property.

Freezing and thawing, water damage

Concrete is a porous material that absorbs moisture from the ground and air around it. As that moisture freezes, it expands, pushing apart the binders that keep the material solid. Over time, repeated freeze-thaw cycles can increase the risk of concrete crumbling, flaking, spalling, and suffering other similar damage.

Even if the water absorbed by concrete doesn’t necessarily freeze, it will break down those cement binders and lead to concrete damage. It’s vital that your property is graded properly, meaning at a slight angle so that moisture in the soil runs away from your home’s foundation and to the street or a nearby drain. Keep the gutters clean as well, so rainwater doesn’t wash over their sides and pool around the foundation.

Salt and other chemicals

Certain chemicals react with and break down cement binders, leading to crumbling concrete. These binders include salt you might spread on your home’s driveway during wintertime or fertilizers and other lawn care chemicals used in summer. These can all wind up clinging to exposed concrete, which can then lead to crumbling and spalling.

To avoid premature breakdown, have your home pressure washed regularly, as this will remove salt and other chemical residues. You can also invest in a bagged mower and ensure you aim your snowblower away from the home, to cut down on salt residues clinging to the foundation.

working on concrete foundation

Signs of Building Collapse

Buildings rarely collapse even when a foundation starts to weaken and crack; however, interior walls, stairs, and ceiling panels can crack and collapse, risking expensive damage and injury to anyone in the vicinity. Note some signs of extreme foundation damage and the risk of collapsed building sections, and call a foundation repair contractor at the first sign of needed foundation fixes:

  • When a foundation sinks, it pulls windows and doors out of level, meaning that they don’t fit their frames properly. Doors and windows might then begin to stick or operate on their own. Locks might also become difficult to close and secure properly.
  • Small cracks often indicate foundation or water damage to the home, but the larger those cracks, the more likely it is that a section of drywall or other materials will fall away and collapse! This is especially true if smaller sections of drywall have already started to crumble away.
  • Sagging floors and staircases indicate structural damage. The longer this is ignored and especially the more weight on those floors and risers, the more likely those boards are to splinter and collapse under you.
  • Crumbling concrete along interior basement walls can indicate a risk of collapse; as with drywall, this risk is even greater if the concrete has already gotten powdery or has started to show severe cracks.

A structure is also at greater risk of collapse if it’s suffered through a fire or flood, and especially if it wasn’t repaired properly after such a disaster! Heat from fires and water used to extinguish them weaken wood framing as well as foundation concrete, creating a great risk of collapse.

Sealing Crumbling Concrete

sealing concrete foundaitons

One of the best ways of avoiding concrete damage is by waterproofing and sealing the material regularly. Both options provide an added barrier against water damage as well as damage caused by snow salt and other chemicals. Waterproofing is especially vital in areas with added moisture in the soil such as tropical environments, and basement waterproofing protects finished building materials and items stored in the space.

While sealing and waterproofing protect concrete, they are not fillers or patching materials! It’s vital that you first repair crumbling or cracked areas before adding sealant or waterproofing coatings. Once your foundation concrete is repaired as needed, consider annual or semi-annual sealing, to keep it in good repair.

What Happens If You Don’t Fix Foundation Problems?

Even though it’s not likely that your home would outright collapse if you ignore foundation problems, this doesn’t mean you should put off needed foundation fixes! There are many reasons to schedule timely repairs no matter their costs; consider a few of those reasons here.

Water damage and mold growth

Foundation cracks and gaps let water and moisture into the home. This moisture is then absorbed by drywall, wood framing, and other building materials, risking wood rot, crumbling and broken drywall, and unsightly stains along walls and ceilings.

water damage before foundation repair

That water also increases the risk of mold growth inside the home. Not only is mold unhealthy but it’s damaging to drywall, wood framing, and other materials.

Wall and floor damage

Cracks along interior and exterior walls are one of the first and most common signs of foundation damage. These cracks are not only unsightly, but they also let in outside heat, cold, and humidity, while letting out your heated and cooled air, spiking your utility costs.

Floor cracks and buckled floors are also common in homes with foundation damage; not only is this damage unsightly but it can cause tripping hazards! The longer you put off needed repairs, the more floor tiles, hardwood planks, connectors including nails and bolts, and materials like grout and caulk you’ll need to replace eventually.

Roof damage

As a foundation weakens, a structure might begin to settle and sink along that weak area, pulling on building materials and surfaces. This includes its roof! If you ignore needed foundation repair and your home or commercial structure starts to settle, it might then pull on roofing materials including shingles, tiles, flashing, underlayment, decking, and framing.

In time, you might notice shingles or tiles crumbling or pulling away from the roof decking, and nails and other connectors popping away from the framing. Your structure might then suffer roof cracks, gaps, and leaks, which can also lead to costly water damage along interior spaces.

Crumbling chimneys and exterior structures

As a structure settles and sinks, it can also pull on exterior structures such as chimneys, porches, stairs, and decks. These features can then crumble, split, or outright collapse. Not only are cracks and other damage unsightly but consider that uneven stairs and cracked porch flooring are both downright dangerous underfoot!

getting a foundation inspection before repair

Cracked chimneys also don’t vent fumes and emissions from furnaces as they should, which means unhealthy indoor air. A collapsing chimney is also dangerous to anyone in the vicinity! To avoid all these risks, ensure you schedule foundation repair or fix crumbling concrete at the first sign of damage.

Better Foundation Repair Baton Rouge is happy to bring this information about how to repair concrete foundation crumbling to our customers, and we hope you found it helpful. For expert foundation repair and waterproofing, turn to our experienced Baton Rouge foundation repair contractors! We have over 20 years of experience and guarantee all our work to last. For more information, contact us today!

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