Concrete structures are common in almost every type of home. Even if your foundation is not a concrete slab, you probably have a concrete driveway or a concrete patio. Maybe the stairs leading to your front door are made of concrete, or the garage has a concrete floor.
Wherever concrete is located on your property, it is at risk of cracking or sinking. When facing displacement due to weak soil or weather, concrete has no other choice but to crack.
Why Can’t Concrete Stretch?
Concrete settling occurs due to displacement that causes a loss in the amount of soil supporting the slab. With expansive soils, this happens when the soil takes in moisture, expands, then shrinks once it’s dry. However, Florida contains a type of sandy soil known as Myakka. Sandy soils do not expand because they drain water instead of retaining it. This can cause its own set of problems.
When sandy soils are constantly draining due to storms or humidity, they can begin to erode and break down over time. This causes sandy soil to become weak and unable to support the weight of a concrete structure. This causes concrete to sink into the soil. Sometimes, concrete sinks unevenly. One portion of the concrete may sink while the other does not.
Most concrete structures are unable to handle the pressure caused by uneven sinkage, and since they can’t stretch the concrete cracks and breaks. Solid objects like concrete have poor flexibility because of their particles. Concrete particles are solid and unmovable, so when pressure is applied during an event like uneven settlement, the pressure travels through the concrete in a burst of energy. These solid particles have no way to move aside as the energy passes through them so the pressure rips through the concrete and creates a crack as the energy has no other way to escape.
What Can Damage Concrete Surfaces?
While a variety of factors can affect concrete, they almost all come back to one thing: soil. If soil is moved, weakened, or damaged by weather patterns or faulty construction, the concrete resting on top of it is bound to experience cracking.
Here’s an overview of the different ways concrete can become damaged.
Expansive soils are very likely to expand and shrink as storms roll through. Since Florida experiences a high amount of annual rainfall, expansive soils can easily affect concrete on your property. Clay soils and peaty soils, located in parts of North Florida and South Florida, respectively, are considered expansive and can cause damage to concrete surfaces very quickly as they fill with water and then dry in the hot Florida sun. When dehydrated, expansive soils shrink, leaving large voids that concrete structures gradually fall into when the weight of the slab can not be supported.
Settlement occurs as the cycle of storm, expansion, and shrinkage repeats. Florida is no stranger to storms, be aware of this issue throughout the year.
Weak or unstable soils tend to be loamy or sandy. The majority of soil in Florida is sandy and is relatively loose compared to other types of soil. Sandy soil has more space between the particles and therefore is less dense than other types of soil.
Weak soils can be strengthened over time with care and effort, but this is a special task that will take the involvement of professionals to get any noticeable results.
Soil washout and erosion are also common causes of damage to concrete structures and buildings, and they are intimately connected to both weak soil and the weather. Loose, sandy soils, for example, are far more prone to washout than heavy, clay-based soils. If this kind of soil becomes unhealthy, a strong rainstorm or period of gale-force wind can simply wash or blow the topsoil away.
Over time, this process will expose property foundations and leave voids underneath concrete driveways and sidewalks, leading to their cracking and sinking into the ground. Preventing or managing this process is, once again, all about keeping the soil healthy and ensuring there are good drainage systems in place.
Any one of these issues can cause concrete surfaces and structures to become cracked, damaged, or sunken. The fundamental inability of concrete to stretch and bend is a factor in this process. When concrete becomes damaged or sunken, concrete lifting services are often the best solutions in both the short and long term.
Florida’s soil is mostly sandy, which also means it is more likely to wash out in a storm or hurricane. In Florida, your home will also face plenty of rain and wet weather, which can drastically affect your soil and foundation.
When sandy soil around your home attempts to absorb far more water than it is actually capable of holding, it creates huge pressure that presses up against the slab. This phenomenon is called hydrostatic pressure, and it can cause your concrete slab to shift out of its original alignment or even crack into pieces.
The SettleStop PolyRenewal™ system utilizes a very innovative foam that is incredibly effective for concrete lifting and stabilization. The foam, made from polyurethane, is very lightweight, so it will not exacerbate soil and concrete settlement. It is also waterproof to protect the soil underneath concrete slabs against the humid and rainy Florida summers. The material also protects chemicals from leaking into your home, such as weed killer or fertilizers. Furthermore, SettleStop PolyRenewal™ foam cures within 15 to 20 minutes, so you can reap the benefits in less than a day.