One of the most frustrating aspects of home ownership is spending your hard-earned money on an improvement project, only to receive results that are lower quality than you envisioned. We frequently get calls from homeowners who had patios installed by other contractors who are less than satisfied with the results This is usually because the concrete has clearly visible cracks or has quickly become discolored.
In the case of cracks, it’s important to remember that some small hairline cracks are normal and can’t always be prevented. As concrete transitions from a liquid to a solid, its changing physical properties create tension. Factors like humidity and temperature are obviously out anyone’s control, but we do everything we can to minimize the possibility of hairline cracks.
Structural cracks, however, are less common and are more preventable. The number one way to prevent these larger and more problematic cracks is to thoroughly and correctly prepare your surface. First, the surface needs to be extremely well leveled to prevent thinner spots, which lead to tension in the concrete.
The ground also needs to be properly compacted; otherwise there will be soft spots underneath the concrete, and the weight of the concrete will press downward and cause a crack. Using rebar or concrete mesh is certainly important, but these materials won’t really help if the preparation process was rushed or not performed correctly.
We also use control joints to lessen the potential for significant cracking. These joints mitigate the tension caused by the concrete’s changing physical properties, so they’re a very important part of preventing large cracks.
For customers who want color added to their patio, we mix the color directly into the concrete. This way the color is integral to the concrete and resistant to fading. Our process is superior to the other method of simply staining the patio after it has been laid; patios constructed in this manner often fade and the customer is dissatisfied.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of contractors out there who are not properly preparing the surface before pouring a patio, or they don’t take the time to install control joints properly (if at all). Their coloration process is usually inferior as well. You may see these guys come through your neighborhood with their concrete truck, offering to pour quick and low-priced patios. It is unwise to trust this type of operation, because you’re likely to end up with a patio that cracks and discolors within the first few months. This is unlikely to be the home improvement you had in mind, and you’ll need to spend even more money to have the patio removed and replaced with high-quality concrete.