How to seal cracks in concrete floors, foundations, walls, or other masonry: this article how to seal and repair of cracks in poured concrete slabs, floors, or walls.
We list all of the current methods used to seal control joints or cracks that occur in those building surfaces, giving the properties, general procedure, and pros and cons of each method: control joint inserts, masonry caulks, radon crack sealants, semi rigid epoxy resin crack fillers, special poly urea caulks designed as a joint filler – polyurethane foam injection to seal cracks, grouts including portland cement, latex-modified, epoxy, modified epoxy-supported, and furan grouts or other products used to fill or seal cracks in concrete or other masonry surfaces & structures.
Here we discuss how to choose among and apply the alternative methods for repairing or sealing cracks in masonry surfaces such as poured concrete floor slabs, concrete foundation walls, or brick or masonry block foundation walls. We describe use of epoxy sealants, polyurethane foam sealants, and hydraulic cement crack repair sealants.
This article series describes how to recognize and diagnose various types of foundation failure or damage, such as foundation cracks, masonry foundation crack patterns, and moving, leaning, bulging, or bowing building foundation walls.
Types of foundation cracks, crack patterns, differences in the meaning of cracks in different foundation materials, site conditions, building history, and other evidence of building movement and damage are described to assist in recognizing foundation defects and to help the inspector separate cosmetic or low-risk conditions from those likely to be important and potentially costly to repair.
Here we discuss: a list of materials used to fill poured concrete slab control joints. How to seal a cracked masonry foundation wall or floor slab.Typical concrete crack preparation for sealant with an epoxy product.
Use of Polyurea as a control joint filler or crack sealant in concrete slabs (Polyurethane Foam Injection Method). Use of Epoxy-supported Grouts as a control joint or crack filler in concrete slabs or walls. List of the Types of Tile Grouts, their Bonding Agents and other Properties. Concrete expansion joint sealant products, epoxies, caulks.
Use of Hydraulic Cement for Repairs in Concrete Slabs, Foundations, or Masonry Block/Brick Walls.
Warning: some crack sealing operations may make crack diagnosis or monitoring more difficult
Watch out: First of all do not just seal a crack if the crack size, shape, pattern, location, or other evidence indicate that something important is going on with the foundation. Further evaluation and choice of proper repair method may be in order.
If for example we think that there may be active foundation movement or settlement going on and if that condition is going to be monitored for evidence of further movement, just pushing a flexible sealant or caulk into a crack is leaves some worries unattended:
This photograph of foundation cracks attributed to concrete that included iron sulfide (pyrrhotite) The pattern looks like shrinkage but the crack width is larger than normal shrinkage cracking.
We may decide to seal a cracked wall or floor slab anyway, to try to reduce water entry in a building, but remember the implications of sealing we’ve just listed.
Control joint sealant: control joints, designed to control where cracks appear in concrete placed horizontally or vertically, are themselves are sealed against water, frost, debris and to handle recurrent movement (listed below) using a flexible sealant.
Recurrent movement: Seal and repair cracks in concrete using injection of either epoxy resin or polyurethane where recurrent movement is expected (in my opinion a flexible sealant is what’s called for here) when the movement is considered normal, perhaps caused by traffic vibration or temperature swings, and where the movement is not threatening structural damage.
Stop a water leak: Seal and repair cracks in concrete when it is important to quickly stop water leaking through a crack,seal those cracks in concrete using injection of either epoxy resin or polyurethane sealant.
Structural repair: Seal and repair structural cracks: for some situations (usually where an engineer, expert in masonry repair has made an assessment), actual structural repairs are made using injectable epoxy resin and possibly in some (probably low-load) cases by using injectable polyurethane sealant.
In my opinion (I’m not a P.E.) this application of injected epoxy resin is probably most-appropriate when cracks have appeared due to non-recurrent stresses. When we epoxy cracked structural concrete or a concrete slab that was broken by an initial installation error or by a subsequent event, we expect the repaired area to be as strong or stronger than if no crack were present.
Structural reinforcement: some sealant manufacturers such as it provides seal or wrap-and-seal systems that actually provide additional strength to existing concrete structures such as concrete columns.
Structural reinforcing wrap systems may include use of synethetic fabrics, carbon fibre fabrics, and other wraps. These products might also be used on steel or concrete that has been damaged by weather, frost, corrosion.
Surface repair: for working surfaces such as industrial work floors or parking decks cracked by spider-webbed shrinkage cracks that are non-structural, special “healer-sealer” crack sealants may be applied.
The situations listed above are those of most-interest to owners of residential and smaller commercial buildings. Below are examples of additional applications of epoxy resins and sealants in construction:
Anchoring epoxy products: used to inject into holes into which connectors such as bolts or post anchors will be placed.
Bonding agent epoxies: used to promote secure bonding between abutting, often different materials. A special example is the use of segmental bridge adhesives that bond post-tension pre-cast concrete bridge segments to other structural members or to one another.
Epoxy resin adhesives are formulated for bonding concrete to concrete, concrete to other masonry, concrete to steel, and concrete to wood or to other substances.
Overlay expoxy resin coatings: used as a coating on concrete surfaces for skid protection or for patching damaged surface areas. Some of these epoxy resin products are formulated for use as a high-friction surface or for use to repair spalled or chipped concrete surfaces.
To seal a shrinkage crack or a control joint crack in a poured concrete slab, regardless of whether or not it has occurred at an expansion or control joint, it may be appropriate to seal the surface to resist water entry and radon gas entry.
Control joints are also sealed to provide a smooth and clean concrete surface which does not collect surface moisture or debris. Keeping surface water from entering at a control joint might in some cases also help avoid uneven soil settlement below the slab and tipped or heaved slab sections.
To seal a control joint or expansion joint crack in a concrete slab use a flexible sealant designed for foundation crack repair or sealing. The radon mitigation industry offers special foundation caulks and sealants for that purpose as well. (If water is coming up through a concrete floor or slab, sealing cracks is probably not going to be enough – you need to address the cause of water below the floor.)
Any sealant that is going to be used to fill a control joint in a slab needs to have the ability to bond to the sides of the cut or opening of the joint, to remain flexible over temperature and moisture changes, and to withstand both compression and expansion as the concrete moves in response to curing and in response to temperature and moisture changes.
Epoxy, for example, is not generally used to fill the expansion joint in newly-poured concrete because the concrete is just too wet and has too much movement for the epoxy to bond and perform acceptably. Similarly, a special product would be needed to fill a control joint in concrete in very cold weather.
Watch out: select the right product for your application. Some crack fillers like the spray injection product Good-Bye Cracks elastic crack “cover” product shown in our photo are not suitable for concrete.
The manufacturer says this product can be used to fill cracks in plaster, drywall, and wood and that it dries to a flexible, paintable finish.
Polyurea joint filler products for concrete control joints have received attention for filling concrete control joints and is increasingly used in that application since this material is resistant to moisture, has high adhesion properties when used with concrete, and will cure in very cold weather.
Polyurea sealant products are also reported to be useful in sealing control joints in “green” concrete which has not yet had its full 28 day period of initial curing.
An advantage of polyurea or polyurethane used as a crack sealant is that the flexibility of the material will accommodate slight seasonal or temperature-related movement that might otherwise cause new cracks in an epoxy-repaired structure or reopening of repaired cracks in a mortar or concrete-repaired crack.
Also in our experience, because the injected polyurethane foam expands after it is injected into a crack, you may find it easier to fill the crack through the building floor slab or wall than when using alternative repair methods such as epoxy or masonry repair kits.
Epoxy grouts are available which can be mixed and troweled into a concrete crack or joint. These products are less flexible than the control joint fillers described above. In our opinion, an epoxy grout filler may work fine to provide a well-bonded repair to a stable wall or floor crack in an area where there is no anticipated further movement such as from temperature or moisture variations.
Watch out: while epoxy, a material stronger than concrete alone, is sometimes used for structural repairs, if your building masonry (concrete, brick, masonry block) is cracking due to ongoing movement, settlement, frost, or other active or recurrent problems, unless those conditions are fixed, sealing a crack with epoxy will not prevent new cracks from forming.
But read the manufacturer’s intended application before buying an epoxy reinforced grout for building crack repair. Do not use the product where it was not intended unless a call to the manufacturer provides you with good information that it’s acceptable to do so.
On the one hand we like using a rigid material to fix a supposedly stable crack in a residential building since the fact that the patch is inelastic means it will be easy to see if there is ongoing or new building movement.
On the other hand, a small amount of moment in a foundation wall or floor slab due to changes in temperature will leave a flexible crack filler un-damaged and sealed where a rigid material may fail.
Quoting: Epoxies are recommended for structural cracks. Unlike polyurethane foams, epoxies will not expand. However, they cure to an incredibly hard solid, making them ideal for structural repairs. Our two-component epoxies are strong, durable and reliable. After curing, Epoxies create a more powerful bond than concrete, resulting in an extremely strong repair.
Quoting: Manufactures epoxies, vinyl-esters and silicones for various industries and markets such as: Construction, Waterproofing, Mining, Industrial, Electrical, Zoological, Golf and DIY. It has been custom formulating epoxies in excess of twenty-five years and has created over 1,500 unique formulations.
For building surfaces that will remain exposed and where cosmetic appearance is a concern, It (and perhaps others) offers a stick-on injection port system that allows the crack material to be injected into a wall or floor crack to leave a smooth surface even with the existing wall or floor surfaces on either side of the crack.
It Easy-Peel Sealer kit uses a surface seal that includes injection ports. After the injected sealant has cured, the surface seal and injection ports are peeled away from the repaired surface.
Quoting: Crack Seal and Port Adhesive 1:1 is a high modulus epoxy gel designed for surface sealing of cracks prior to injection and for attaching surface ports. It can also be used for bonding miscellaneous materials to concrete.As with any epoxy adhesive, surface preparation is critical.
Concrete surfaces should be cleaned by wire brushing or other mechanical means. All loose or unsound material must be removed. Surfaces should be dry and dust free to insure a superior bond. Application onto wet surfaces is not recommended.
Most foundation wall and floor slab cracks can be successfully filled and sealed using low-pressure injection such as that afforded by a caulking gun and cartridge of sealant, or similar device for both epoxy and polyurethane foam sealants.
Professional polyurethane foam injection crack sealing applicators may use a high-pressure injection system using equipment that includes a pump or a device similar to an automotive grease gun and pressures up to 250 psi. Drilling to prepare injection ports along the crack may be required.
Hydraulic cement used for crack repairs is a waterproof cement product that is sold dry and mixed with water on the job to prepare a slurry that is painted (or troweled) over a crack in a foundation wall or in some cases (wall sealants) painted over the wall surface in a paint mixture.
Hydraulic cement is often lower in cost than the epoxy and polyurethane products described here. However, the repair is at risk of re-cracking due to product shrinkage or due to even slight movements in the structure from settlement, earth or frost pressures, or thermal changes.
A principal advantage of hydraulic cement for repairing & sealing cracks in masonry floors or walls is that it can handle and effectively seal a crack even when there is significant active water leakage through the crack. The cement, properly mixed (as stiff as possible) cures and expands to seal the crack in the presence of water.
[As early as 1969 we used this approach to successfully seal holes in a masonry block foundation wall through which groundwater was squirting several feet into the basement. We mixed a plug of hydraulic cement and forced it into and against each hole until it set firmly enough to remain in place – about 3 minutes. – Ed.]
Watch out: any cement product is caustic and can cause skin burns or eye or lung damage if you do not handle it properly and wear the proper protective gear for eyes, lungs, skin.
For an effective repair of a wall or floor crack using hydraulic cement you will need to clean out and widen the crack to approximately 1″ wide x 1-1/2″ deep, ideally with the crack wider at its innermost and more narrow at the wall or floor surface (a “V” shape) to give a mechanical bond to the cured concrete patch.
For a wall crack through which water is seeping, seal the crack progressively beginning at its highest point on the building wall. When all of the crack has been sealed except a single pressure relief point, that final leak is sealed with a molded plug of cement.
We have had our home mitigated for radon. The latest reading is 2.9. Therefore, we feel we are controlling the radon successfully. We are in the process of removing carpet from a 8′ X 12″ bathroom in the basement. In preparation for installing an overlay linoleum we found a irregular crack in the concrete floor.
Our question is – should we seal this crack with some time of sealer that could be painted on and would this be effective? If so, what type of product would you recommend? – F.H.
A competent onsite inspection by an expert might find other cracks, openings, or sources for radon gas leakage that you’d want to address, but usually that would have been done when your radon mitigation system was installed.
Following the installation of a radon mitigation system the installer is expected to make a follow-up radon gas level measurement to be sure that the mitigation is working as expected, and s/he also inspects the home to see if you have exhaust fans or other features that could accidentally interfere with proper operation of the radon mitigation system itself.
If all of that was done, the added radon gas leakage into your home from pulling up carpet to expose a floor crack should not be significant. Nevertheless it would be good practice to seal any floor slab cracks that you expose.
Here are some things to consider:
If your floor slab cracks are hairline (less than 1/8″ across – see our photograph above left) they may be normal concrete shrinkage and they may be too fine to seal with a polyurethane sealant (see our polyurethane sealant link below).
In that case a sealant paint or a combination of mesh tape and sealant used to cover cracks in concrete before installing tile would still work well.
For larger floor slab cracks (such as shown in our photo at left) there are some sealants (“caulks”) widely used by radon mitigators that work well in floor or wall cracks, typically polyurethanes. The crack is vacuumed or cleaned, and when dry, sealed.
More sophisticated floor slab crack sealing is done if you are going to put down ceramic tile: the repair includes a strengthening mesh glued to the floor over the crack to resist the transmission of the crack upwards through the ceramic tiles. Under carpet you don’t need that step.
At CONCRETE SLAB CRACK REPAIR and SEAL CRACKS by POLYURETHANE FOAM INJECTION at we discuss methods to seal cracks in floors.
At How to Remove Indoor Radon we include more details on how to get the radon level down in homes. You’ll see that sealing and caulking to stop radon gas from entering at floor or wall cracks or joints is important.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to check for gaps that may have opened between the floor slab and the foundation wall – seal those too.
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