Repairing Concrete Steps

Once a crack develops in concrete, water seeps in and causes further damage, especially in regions that have freezing temperatures. Fix small cracks and chips in your stairs right away or you may have to replace the whole stairway. If your steps are made partially of brick. Buy patching concrete or concrete sand mix and add extra Portland cement. Mix in only enough water to make the material doughlike. If the chipped-out area is large, drive masonry screws partially into the damaged area to help anchor the patch in place.

Tools: Hammer and cold chisel, pointed trowel.

Replace chips with epoxy cement. If a piece or two has broken out in such a way that it will fit back in place, you can glue it back on. Clean both pieces and make sure they are dry. Mix epoxy cement, apply it to the chipped-out spot, and brace the chip in place with a brick and a piece of wood.

1. To mend a broken edge, chip out the edge. If an edge is broken or cracked, remove all loose material so no cracks remain. With a hammer and cold chisel, cut the edge back to make a V-shaped groove. Clean the area thoroughly and moisten it.

2. Make a form and fill. Use bricks to hold a board against the riser to act as a form for the concrete. Mix the patch material and pack it into the groove. Smooth the top of the patch. As the material begins to set up, remove the form and smooth the edges of the patch.

Where the Steps Meet The House - If you have a crack where your concrete steps butt against the house, any patch you make probably will crack again within a year or two. The steps and the house rest on different foundations, so they shift and settle in different directions. If you don’t seal the crack, the problem will get worse. Here’s how to seal out moisture and debris.

■ If the crack is small, seal it with silicone, butyl rubber, or siliconized acrylic caulk.

■ If the crack is large, insert expansion joint material into it for the best seal, or use oakum.

3. Cure the patch slowly. To ensure that the patch will stick, make sure it cures slowly. Cover the repair with polyethylene sheeting and hold it in place with scraps of lumber. Keep the patched area damp for about a week by spraying it with water.

Repairing Railings

Here’s a common and pesky problem: The metal railing on a concrete stairway comes loose, either at its base where it connects to the step or at the top where it connects to the house. Often the problem is rusty metal. If only screws are rusty, you can replace them. If the bottom of the railing itself is rusted away, it may be time for a new railing. Just as often, the screws or anchors were not large enough for the job and have come loose and cracked the concrete. To make these repairs, you can use epoxy putty, anchoring cement, masonry screws, or masonry anchors.

Tools: Hammer and cold chisel, drill with masonry bit, trowel.

1. To re-install a bolt on a stair, chip away a hole. Remove loose material. Enlarge the hole, if necessary, so it will be deep enough for the new bolt and so the epoxy putty or anchoring cement has plenty of area to grab onto. “Key” the hole by making it larger at the bottom than at the top; this provides a greater area for the patch to stick to.

2. Install bolt and cement. Hold the bolt in position and fill the hole with epoxy putty or anchoring cement. Make sure the bolt sticks up at the correct height, is plumb, and is in the correct position. Tamp the epoxy putty or cement firmly and meld it with the concrete surface.

Anchor the top of the rail. At the point where the rail meets the house, you need some serious fastening power. Small screws with plastic anchors will not do the trick. If the concrete has broken away, you will need to set bolts in cement or epoxy putty. Or, fill the old hole and use a masonry screw or anchor. Masonry screws can be driven directly into pilot holes. Simply drill the hole and drive in the screw. You also can use masonry anchors, also called lag shields. Drill the correct-size hole (in some cases you can simply enlarge the old hole) and tap the anchor in until it is flush with the wall surface. Then hold the bracket in position and drive the screw in place.

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