Why DIY Concrete Leveling Is A Bad Idea

DIY concrete - Image 1

We all love a good DIY project, right? That sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of saving some money – there's nothing quite like it.

But sometimes, let's be honest, certain tasks are better left to the professionals. Concrete lifting, for instance, can be a tricky business.

At Thrasher, we want to help you make informed decisions about your concrete, which is why we want to share some insights on why DIY concrete lifting might not be the best idea.

Transparency is important to us: We specialize in professional concrete lifting. But our primary goal is to give you all the unbiased knowledge you need to make the best choice for your home, even if that means going the DIY route.

In this article, we're going to discuss the complexities of concrete lifting and why hiring a professional might be your best bet. Let's go.

First... what is concrete lifting?

Before diving into DIY methods, it’s important to understand what concrete lifting is and why it sinks. Concrete lifting is a repair method used to correct uneven concrete surfaces and return them to their original level position.

Why does concrete sink?

There are a few reasons concrete sinks, including:

sunken concrete

If your concrete looks like this, there’s likely more happening beneath the surface than you might think.

  1. Poorly compacted soil: If the soil under the concrete wasn't compacted properly, it might settle over time, creating voids beneath the surface.
  2. Moisture changes: Changes in moisture can cause the soil to expand and contract, weakening its support for the concrete.
  3. Defective concrete: Sometimes, the concrete itself might have issues, like improper mixing or curing, which can lead to sinking.
  4. Tree roots: Tree roots can displace the soil, creating gaps or uneven pressure under the slab.

(If you want more details on each reason, we explain it all in this blog.)

Soil is the problem 99.9% of the time

Voids in soil underneath concrete slab

When voids form in the soil, your concrete slab loses the support it needs to hold its weight.

Concrete's stability is very dependent on the soil beneath it.

Over time, various factors can cause the soil to lose density and strength and overall, fail to support the weight of the concrete.

This leads to voids forming where the soil has either moved or compressed. As the concrete slab loses support, it begins to sink into these voids.

How do you fix sinking concrete?

To correct this, the voids beneath the sunken slab must be filled.

While there are many DIY solutions available (which we'll discuss in a second), the two professional methods primarily used are mudjacking and polyleveling. They're both very similar, but polyleveling is often preferred due to its efficiency and effectiveness.

We actually compare both methods in this article, if you want to know more.

Polyleveling explained:

poly gun render polyurethane foam

A poly gun injects polyurethane foam beneath the concrete slab. As the foam expands, it lifts the slab back to its original position.

Polyleveling involves injecting a polyurethane foam under the concrete slab.

This process starts by drilling small holes in the concrete, through which the liquid foam is injected. The foam then travels through the voids, filling every crack and crevice.

As it expands and hardens, the foam stabilizes the soil and lifts the concrete back to its proper level. 

It's a quick, reliable solution that addresses the underlying problems without the need for extensive excavation or disruption. 

Common methods for DIY concrete leveling

It's completely understandable to want to tackle concrete problems on your own. After all, most of us enjoy DIY projects and, more importantly, saving money.

However, when it comes to lifting concrete, DIY methods typically fall short and can even be dangerous. Let’s discuss why some common DIY approaches are not recommended.

1. Using mechanical jacks

Some homeowners try lifting a concrete slab with mechanical jacks, hoping to fill the resulting gap with gravel, sand, or similar materials.

Why it doesn't work:

  1. It leads to cracks: Getting a large, heavy slab to lift evenly is a tall order. The pressure from the jacks often ends up cracking the concrete instead.
  2. It's only a temporary fix: Materials like gravel or sand aren't stable enough for long-term support. This instability usually leads to the slab settling again, requiring further attention and lifting.
  3. Safety risks: Without the right expertise, using jacks can be downright dangerous, especially if the slab shifts unexpectedly.

2. Using concrete mix

concrete mix in bucket

Adding more concrete beneath your sinking concrete might seem like a no-brainer, but it actually makes the problem worse.

Another approach is to try and pump concrete mix under the sunken slab to raise it.

Why it doesn't work:

  1. Doesn't address the root problem: Often, concrete sinks due to underlying issues like poorly compacted soil. Adding more concrete can make this worse by adding weight and compressing the soil even further.
  2. Hard to get right: Properly lifting a slab requires precise placement of the material. DIY attempts often lead to uneven lifting, causing more instability and cracking.
  3. Lacks durability: Concrete isn’t very effective at forming a moisture barrier, and can crack, allowing water to erode the soil beneath even more.

3. Filling voids with dirt

Some might try to fill under a sunken slab with dirt, hoping this will push it back up.

Why it doesn't work:

  1. Ineffective compaction: It’s crucial to compact the soil beneath a slab properly for stability. Filling with dirt typically results in settling over time, as the fill compacts under the weight of the slab.
  2. Uneven lifting: Achieving an even lift with dirt is difficult, and uneven lifting can increase pressure in certain areas, leading to new or worsening cracks.
  3. Moisture issues: Dirt can absorb and hold onto moisture, leading to expansion and contraction that destabilizes the concrete further.
  4. Short-term solution: This method is a band-aid that doesn’t solve underlying issues like erosion, so the problem will likely recur.

4. DIY spray foam kits

professional polyleveling

DIY spray foam kits might seem cost-effective, but they often lead to costly mistakes and expensive repairs.

You might find DIY spray foam kits at hardware stores, intended to replicate professional concrete lifting. 

Why it doesn't work:

  1. Safety concerns: Handling polyurethane requires safety equipment due to the chemicals involved, which can be hazardous. Without proper protective gear, you risk exposure to harmful fumes.
  2. Requires expertise: Lifting concrete isn’t just about filling voids; it requires careful planning and precise execution. Professionals know how much foam to use, where to inject it, and how deep to go for an effective lift. DIY kits often provide oversimplified instructions that don’t account for specific site conditions.
  3. More costly in the long run: While initially cheaper, mistakes made with DIY kits can lead to significant additional costs if you need to fix errors or replace the concrete entirely.

Should you DIY concrete lifting?

While DIY projects have their place, concrete lifting is best left to professionals. The risks involved—including potential injuries, property damage, and the cost of fixing mistakes—make it a wise decision to hire experienced contractors. Professional concrete lifting is not only safer but ensures a long-lasting, effective solution tailored to your home's specific needs.

before and after poly level

If you're ready to explore the benefits of professional polyleveling for your concrete project, we're here to help. If you happen to live in or around Omaha, Kansas City, Wichita, Denver, Springfield, Grand Island, Sioux City, or Peoria, we offer free estimates, where we come to your home, inspect your concrete, explain the entire process, and give you an estimate for your specific project, all for free.

If you want a thorough inspection, or even if you just have questions about concrete repair, call us at 1-844-948-3306, fill out this form, or start a chat in the bottom right-hand corner. 

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