Cement provides a stable surface and secure footing for steps and stairs. However, changing temperatures and water seeping into the concrete can cause the formation of hairline cracks. As the water trickles in, it enlarges the cracks. Eventually, the cement weakens and entire chunks of concrete fall off. The edges of the steps are the most vulnerable to crumbling. When steps begin to crumble, falls and injuries can occur. Repairing a crack in cement steps is a simple repair job. Fixing a crumbling concrete step requires more work and may require the use a wood form to set the new cement.
Fixing a Crack in a Cement Step
Crack repair starts with removing loose dirt and rock from within the crack with a broom. Push the broom as far as possible into the crack and sweep out all the debris. Any debris left in the crack will compromise the repair, making it less stable. Fill a caulking gun with masonry crack filler. Point the nozzle into the crack and fill the fissure completely with the filler. Another technique involves filling the crack with a concrete patching compound using a putty knife or similar tool to push it into the crevice. After filling the crack with either material, buyers should rake any excess from the concrete step with a straight-edged tool. The affected area must harden for 24 hours before placing any weight on it.
Restoring a Crumbling Cement Step
Remove loose areas from a crumbling step with a sledgehammer. This may result in removing hefty pieces from the step, but it’s better to remove areas that are no longer stable and start anew. Sweep away tiny cement fragments with a broom. Use pieces of wood to create a form for the concrete. If a corner of the step must be replaced, hammer two wood pieces together to form a corner. Set the form in place and rest bricks or heavier pieces of wood next to it to keep it in place. Ensure the top of the wood piece is level with the step. Mix the cement according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply the cement into the form with a trowel. After filling the form, tap the top of the cement with the trowel to remove air pockets. Smooth the top layer of the cement with the trowel. Allow the area to harden for 24 hours or according to the directions on the cement mix before walking on it. Remove the forms only after the cement has hardened completely.
Avoid Damage to Cement Steps
Eventually cement steps will succumb to weather and foot traffic, but there are ways to delay the damage. While it’s wise to de-ice concrete steps in the winter, rock salt can eat away at the cement because of a chemical reaction. Buyers should use crystals created from magnesium chloride or potassium chloride instead to avoid this issue. Since cement has a porous surface, it allows water to seep inside. This leads to cracking, especially in regions with freezing temperatures. Water expands as it freezes, causing cracks to form. As the frozen area thaws in warmer temperatures, thawing results in a contraction that causes the cement to crumble.
Outwardly the step may look fine, but as a person places weight on it, he or she may feel the step give. This means the interior of the step is weak from inner cracking caused by the water seepage. An annual application of a waterproof sealant can slow or prevent damage due to seepage. Apply the sealant with either a sprayer or a paintbrush. The paintbrush application applies a thicker coat of the sealant.
How to Buy Cement Repair Materials and Tools on eBay
Head to the Building Materials and DIY section of the Home and Garden area of the eBay website. From there, type in items such as “cement,” “trowel,” “putty knife,” "timber" or anything else needed to fix cement stairs. Consider the seller’s feedback when purchasing supplies. Feedback is an important piece of information that guides buyers to the most reputable sellers on the web site. A buyer can purchase items right away by clicking on the “Buy Now” link.
Repairing cement steps may seem intimidating, but it’s actually quite a simple process when a buyer is armed with the proper instructions and the right tools and materials. Taking preventive action to repair cracked and crumbling steps can prevent falls and will help keep the steps in excellent shape.