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Pool Deck Repair for Cracked Concrete & MoreDiscover the best methods for repairing the concrete around your swimming pool
Pool deck repair brings new life to your concrete. If your surface has damage like cracking, spalling, or discoloration, but is still structurally sound, it could be a candidate for repairs. Options range from a simple color enhancement to total resurfacing.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON POOL DECK PROBLEMS?
|Discoloration or stains||
|Sealer failure||Strip and reseal|
|Slippery concrete||Grit additive|
How does each repair option work?
- Filler — fills small cracks to add strength to a weakened area of the surface
- Joint sealant — prevents moisture from getting into joints or cracks and causing further damage
- Patch — used to fix larger cracks, or smooth areas of spalling
- Overlay — creates a fresh new surface for the entire pool deck
- Pressure washer or cleaners — used to clean the surface of various stains
- Coloring agents — surface applied colors such as stains can help camouflage imperfections
- Strip and reseal — chemicals are used to remove the failing sealer and a new one is applied
- Grit additives — added to the sealer to improve slip resistance
- Slabjacking foam — injected beneath settled concrete to raise it back into level
Tip: Some coating manufacturers sell patch kits, so check with them first. Be sure to ask about color matching.
WHY IS MY POOL DECK CRACKING?
Minor cracking is very normal for a concrete pool deck. Hairline cracks are only a problem if they detract from the appearance of the surface. If you are concerned that the cracks around your swimming pool are more serious, have a concrete contractor out to assess the damage.
Here are a few reasons that your concrete surface may have cracks:
- Freeze-thaw damage — Concrete is porous, which may allow water to get in. When that water freezes small flakes from the surface can break off.
- Deicing salts — Salts applied in the winter can release alkaline chemicals that can make the freeze-thaw damage worsen.
- Not enough control joints — Without properly placed expansion joints, your concrete won’t be able to expand and contract with the weather.
- Lack of reinforcement — Without any steel in the structure, cracks can occur, as the rebar holds the concrete together.
- Weak concrete — If there was too much water in the mix when it was poured, the concrete may be weak, and susceptible to cracks and surface problems.
HOW TO FIX CRACKS IN YOUR CONCRETE POOL DECK
If you need to fix a crack in your concrete, you can either patch or fill it.
In order to fill a crack, follow these steps:
- Chisel out the crack to remove loose pieces of concrete
- Clean the debris, including all dust and chips with a broom, shop vac or air compressor
- Apply filler directly into cracks, checking periodically to see if it has settled
- Allow the filler to cure over a 24-hour period
- Seal the filled area for long-lasting results
HOW DO YOU PATCH A POOL DECK?
Patching is primarily used for fixing spalling or larger cracks. Spalling is when your concrete surface starts to chip and flake. When this happens, you have two options: resurface the entire pool deck or patch the problematic spots.
Patching makes the most sense when there are only a few small areas of spalling. If a majority of the surface is affected, resurfacing is the best solution.
The patching process is very similar to filling. First, prepare and clean the damaged area. Then apply the patching material and allow it to cure. Finally, seal your repairs or have an overlay applied to the entire deck.
HOW DO YOU FIX SINKING CONCRETE AROUND YOUR POOL?
If your concrete surface is sinking, a contractor can use a technique called slabjacking to fix the problem. This option can prevent you having to remove your pool deck altogether.
The slabjacking process follows these steps:
- A pattern of holes are drilled through the sunken slab.
- A grout mixture is pumped under the slab, lifting it to the desired height.
- The holes are patched using a concrete mixture.
SHOULD I TRY TO FIX MY POOL DECK MYSELF?
Some concrete repairs can be done as a DIY, but it is highly recommended to hire a contractor for more complicated tasks. There are many patching and filling products available that make fixing small cracks easy for a homeowner to do themselves.
However, if the job requires you to do a full resurface, or use materials that need to be leveled, a professional contractor will be the best choice for your project. A contractor is more likely to complete the job on time, without error, and with a finished look you’ll enjoy for years to come.
WHAT TO DO AFTER YOU’VE MADE REPAIRS
If you’ve patched or filled cracks in your concrete pool deck, and are unhappy with the results, you can resurface it with a concrete coating. This overlay offers an opportunity to update the decorative appearance of the concrete, as well as cover up any repair work.
Pool deck resurfacing
If your pool deck has extensive cracking, scaling or spalling, the best solution is to resurface it with a concrete overlay or microtopping. Resurfacing covers up existing flaws and upgrades the look of your pool by allowing you to add color, texture, and pattern. Some systems are designed specifically for resurfacing pool decks, and will improve the slip resistance of the surface and also reflect heat. (See What Type of Pool Deck Overlay Will Stay Cool?)
Here are the steps to expect when your contractor is resurfacing your pool deck:
- Prepping — The old surface is ground or treated with chemicals to help the overlay bond.
- Cleaning — Any dust or debris is removed with a broom and hose or pressure washer.
- Mixing — The overlay product is mixed, along with any integral colors, or tints.
- Applying — The material is sprayed or troweled on, and decorative treatments are added.
- Sealing — Once cured, a sealer is applied to protect your pool deck for years.
Tip: Some coatings are formulated to dry quickly, making it possible to give a pool deck a decorative makeover in as little as a day.
MORE REPAIR IDEAS FOR CONCRETE POOL DECKS
For concrete with minor cracking or discoloration, you can completely disguise the flaws by engraving or cutting a pattern in the surface. Depending on the pattern you choose, the flaws in the concrete can actually contribute to the look. With engraving, the concrete is stained first and then a special routing machine is used to cut the pattern into the surface, creating faux grout lines. See examples of concrete engraving.
Although most concrete stains, color hardeners, integral pigments and other coloring methods are long-lasting and wear-resistant, years of neglect can take a toll. Discoloration of concrete pool decks can be due to a number of causes including weathering, sun exposure, improper color application, and attack by pool chemicals. The good news is that in most cases the concrete color can be revived by applying a new coat of acid or water-based stain. By using a UV-resistant staining product and by protecting the concrete with a good sealer, your newly colored pool deck should maintain its beauty for many years. For more information on choosing and applying concrete stains, read these Stained Concrete FAQs.
See these concrete pool deck repair projects:
A microtopping enhanced by decorative brick-patterned borders and stenciled designs gave this dysfunctional pool deck new life. Before the topping could be applied, large cracks in the deck were repaired by stitching and filling them with mortar, and then a swale was installed to help correct a drainage problem.
A cast-in-place concrete overlay, stamped with a fieldstone pattern and a decorative medallion, completely restored this deteriorating concrete pool deck without the need for replacement. Because the existing concrete deck had extensive cracking and settlement, the overlay was poured at a 1 ½-inch thickness and reinforced to prevent failure.
In addition to chemical and hard water stains, this indoor hotel pool deck had a rough surface that was unfriendly to bare feet. The solution was to resurface it with a durable and attractive acrylic topping and add a brick-patterned border to define the edge of the pool and improve the visibility.
For this pool deck makeover, vine designs colored with water-based acrylic stains were used to turn cracks into unique focal points. The surface was also given a random flagstone pattern created by sawcutting and staining.
POOL DECK REPAIR Q&AS
Decorative concrete expert Chris Sullivan addresses common problems relating to pool decks.
Spots on stamped pool deck may be sealer diffusion
Question: We have an issue with efflorescence on a stamped concrete pool deck and need your advice. The last time the pool deck was sealed was about three years ago. About a month ago, we resealed the deck and now it has white spots (see photo). We used a 30%-solids solvent-based acrylic sealer. We applied the sealer to a test area about three months before we resealed, and there did not seem to be any issues. Before resealing, we cleaned the deck with a mild acid wash, neutralized, and then allowed the sealer to dry. We then applied one coat of sealer diluted with xylene followed by a second coat rolled on full strength.
The grayish-white spots on this pool deck may indicate sealer diffusion, a condition in which the sealer lifts from the concrete.
What is causing the white spots, and what percent of acrylic sealer or type of sealer do you recommend for a stamped pool deck?
Answer: From the picture, it appears that efflorescence may not be the problem. These white spots are actually more gray, and they don't have the look of efflorescence. Instead, this looks like sealer diffusion. This phenomenon, where the sealer is no longer adhered to the concrete, looks a lot like efflorescence from a distance, but on closer inspection is actually more gray or cloudy. Without getting into complex physics, the sealer has lifted (even if only by micro-meters) and it causes the discoloration. The small air gap that now exists between the sealer and concrete causes the light to diffuse and create the grayish-white cloudy look. Moisture-vapor pressure, contamination or over-application of the sealer can cause this problem. To confirm this diagnosis, do a sealer-adhesion scratch test or just lightly scratch the sealer with a key or some other hard blunt-end object. If the sealer holds and does not flake, it may be something else. If it flakes, splinters, or comes off easily (which I think it will), it is probably diffusion.
Another thing it may be is moisture condensation trapped under the sealer. Have you had any major wet weather events in the weeks prior to this occurring? As with most decorative concrete issues, it could be a combination of both of these things, with a little efflorescence thrown in for good measure.
To fix the problem, I would wait until the winter is over and you get some warmer weather. A xylene bath (lightly soaking the problem area with a xylene solvent and back rolling) is the first step. If this does not work, you will probably need to strip off some or all of the sealer.
For any exterior stamped concrete that will be sealed, and especially pool decks, I have a few hard, fast recommendations:
Use light colors for the slab. Dark colors show everything, especially all the chemical residue from pool water, including chlorine, bromine and salt.
Use less-aggressive stamp patterns. Water seeks low spots. If you have lots of "grout" lines and or lots of rough texture, water will puddle in those low areas. Pool decks are wet to start, so the combination can be especially bad. Lighter-texture seamless patterns with simple sawcuts or large light-texture stone patterns work best.
Use a sealer with a solids content of less than 20%. Less is more, and this is especially true when sealing decks around pools and hot tubs. Lower solids allow moisture and air to move through the sealer easier. Lower solids also reduce the risk of slipping accidents. Consider using a solvent-based acrylic sealer with an 18% to 20% solids content. They provide nice gloss, good color development, and greatly reduce callbacks.
Excess antiquing color causes problems
Question: I have a pool deck in which the sealer seems to be flaking off and coming up in some areas. This is not an issue that we have dealt with before, so I am a little concerned. Can you let us know what is occurring and how we can remedy this issue?
A good rule to work by is that secondary color should make up 5% to 30% of the final color. In this case, the secondary color makes up almost 100% of the surface color, causing sealer failure.
Answer: This is actually one of the most common issues we face with coloring stamped concrete. It is in fact not a sealer issue, but rather the antiquing color that is causing the sealer to fail. The sealer failure can occur within weeks of application, but more often shows up 6 to 12 months down the road.
Imprinted concrete looks pretty bland and unrealistic without highlights or antiquing, which give the pattern definition and color variation. These highlights make the concrete look like stone, tile or whatever natural material the installer is trying to mimic. The highlights can be accomplished in a multitude of ways, with release powder being the most common. Other popular methods include stains, tints, dyes and colored sealers. Virtually any means of getting some contrasting color to stick in the depressions and textured areas of the surface will work. The problem occurs when too much secondary color is present. The depth and type of texture on the imprinting tool will determine the amount of secondary color to use. More aggressive textures with deep grout lines, lots of deep veins, and rough slate or stone surfaces will accommodate more secondary or antiquing color. The opposite holds true for light textures with smoother surfaces and non-aggressive patterns. A good rule to work by is that secondary color should make up 5% to 30% of the final color. In your case, however, the secondary color makes up almost 100% of the surface color.
The real curve ball is that stamped work with such high ratios of secondary color can look amazing and beautiful. Once sealed, the work looks great, the applicator gets paid and everyone is happy. The problem is that you have ticking time bomb, and it is just a matter of time before it explodes. Have you ever considered what secondary color is made of and how it works? No matter whether you use release powder, stains, washes or tints, you are filling the surface pores of the concrete with solid material. Those solids are filling the voids that the sealer needs to fill in order to "bite" or adhere to the concrete. The more secondary color present, the bigger the problem. The sealer will encapsulate the solid color in an attempt to do its job, but if there are no pores to fill, adhesion is compromised, which leads to failure when external forces exceed the ability for the sealer to hold. This is usually why we see these types of failures in the spring, after a winter assault of freeze-thaw cycles, deicing salts and snow shovels. As a result, the sealer lifts up in small circular areas and takes the secondary color with it, since the color is all it had to hold onto. You are then left with a stamped slab that has round, discolored spots. The "discoloration" is actually the base color that should have been visible in the first place, but was covered with too much secondary color.
The repair is fairly simple in theory, but more difficult in practice. The sealer has to be chemically stripped, but the process will usually remove most of the secondary color as well. Once the stripping is complete, you can remove any residual secondary color, give the surface a good cleaning, and then allow it to dry before resealing. The hard part is selling the client on the new "correct" color combination of their patio. What was mostly dark brown with hints of tan is now mostly tan with hints of dark brown.
Bad concrete causes decorative disaster
Question: I hope you can give me some idea about what's going on with my concrete pool deck. The deck was poured in August 2005 by a local contractor, who then stamped the concrete in an Ashlar slate pattern using a dry color release. After he washed off the residual dry color from the surface, the deck did not look evenly colored. Some areas had barely any color while others had too much. I told the contractor that the color was unacceptable and needed to be fixed before the sealing. Despite that, when I wasn't home the contractor went ahead and applied a sealer pigmented with a dark brown stain. That made the deck look even worse, but it isn't my biggest problem. After the first winter, which was mild for the central Midwest, the decorative surface of the deck started to peel and chip away. In some large areas, the surface came off completely, down to the aggregate. I did not apply deicing salts, and no water was left lying on the surface.
Answer: Unfortunately, you have a slab of decorative concrete that's in bad shape and beyond easy repair. As the photo clearly illustrates, the top 1/2 to 1 inch of the concrete surface is beginning to come off because the stone, which gives concrete its strength, is pushed down, leaving a weak sandy layer on top. Once the top surface has been breached, it's just a matter of time before the entire top will break apart. Because the layer below with the stone showing appears to be strong and intact, you have two repair options: totally rip out and replace the slab or remove the top 1 inch and cover the underlying concrete with a stamped overlay.
In my opinion, the problem is not caused by the contractor's coloring methods. Instead, it's probably due to poor installation techniques, poor curing, a bad concrete mix or a combination of all three. Stamping the surface of bad concrete only speeds up the deterioration process. What makes things worse is that the contractor is refusing to take any responsibility and will not get involved to help figure out what happened.
Pool Deck Cleaning