Cracked patios don't have to be a fact of life. Installing the patio correctly is the first step to preventing cracks, followed by selecting the right patio material and maintaining it properly. The following tips can help keep your patio crack-free and attractive.
#1: Install the Base Properly
Whether you use poured concrete or pavers, the base is the key to preventing future cracks. In most cases, excavating to a 10-inch depth and filling it with a sturdy substrate, such as pea gravel, creates a base for the patio that can handle the natural expansion and contraction of the soil during freeze and thaw cycles. This allows the base to absorb the soil movement, so it doesn't affect the actual patio. The substrate also allows moisture to trickle through so it doesn't cause damage.
Make sure the base is perfectly level and compact before installing the final patio. Even a minor irregularity in the base surface can turn into a crack on the patio later.
#2: Opt for Pavers
Slabs of concrete are more likely to settle and crack than a paver patio. Concrete pavers are just as durable as poured concrete and often more attractive. As the patio settles, each paver settles individually, so there is no danger of cracking. If a paver settles unevenly, or experiences a rare crack, you can simply fix the single damaged paver instead of replacing the entire patio.
#3: Allow for Moisture Seepage
Moisture inside the concrete can freeze, which results in a crack. This is why there are often joints dividing large patio slabs. These joints allow for concrete expansion and minimize the chances for cracks.
Concrete pavers also require moisture seepage. This is done via the joints between the pavers. These joints are typically filled with paver sand, not mortar, because the sand allows moisture to move through unhindered.
#4: Prevent Weed Growth
Weed and plant growth in joints or along a small crack can result in a much larger crack or a crumbling patio. Kill any plants that invade promptly, and then seal the crack. You can fill joints with polymetric paver sand, and then apply a sand joint sealer over the top. For cracked concrete patios, patch the crack before sealing the entire surface.
Regular inspections and minimal maintenance can prevent most damage, so that your patio remains attractive and useful for years to come. Most damage is also easily repairable, if you act quickly before it spreads. Talk to a professional like Sterling Landscape for more information.