Sidewalks are used in every part of our society. They’re a safe way to walk near streets, to our homes, and to our business entrances. You may not think sidewalks are essential or that they need to be cared for, but you would be surprised. This article discusses why sidewalks rise and sink, hazards, the difference between leveling and replacement, how leveling works, cost, benefits, and advantages. 

Why sidewalks rise and sink

Sidewalks can rise or sink due to a few things, including but not limited to:
  • Improper soil compaction – Soil compaction increases the soil’s density, making it less prone to absorbing moisture and settling. If a contractor does not complete this critical process of soil compaction, the sidewalk may sink into the ground.
  • Poor drainage – During heavy rains, water could create channels that flow underneath the sidewalk, causing the soil’s structural integrity to fail. Check if you have a downspout from your gutters pouring in the direction of your sidewalk. 
  • Local soil quality –  Some soil sites are in high water tables, which receive more water than they can drain off. The unpredictable soil could cause the sidewalk slab to settle and sink. 
  • Tree roots – A lot of sidewalks are parallel to streets that usually have trees planted along with them. These trees have large roots that could lift the slab, creating an ugly trip hazard. Unfortunately, when a root lifts the slab over 2 inches, the sidewalk section likely has to be torn out and re-poured, and possibly the root
  • Frost heaving – Frost heaving is when the ground freezes, concrete shifts out of place, and the slab rises as the soil swells. Then, when the ice thaws, the slab sinks. This process can repeat multiple times causing uneven sidewalks and cracks. 
Most of these issues cause voids or gaps to open under the slab, and that’s where sidewalks tend to sink.

Hazards of an unlevel sidewalk

If you have an unlevel sidewalk either leading to your home or on the street in front of your home, someone could get hurt and then sue you for damages. Unlevel sidewalks are also ugly and unsightly. They could even lower your property value. Take action now and fix that sidewalk!

Sidewalk leveling or total replacement?

What’s the difference between leveling an uneven sidewalk and replacing it completely? There are few types of leveling methods out there, but the most efficient and modern solution is polyurethane foam injection. Here’s why it’s one of the most recommended solutions. 
Total replacement is always going to be more expensive and labor-intensive because of the amount of work needed to complete the job. The cost to just remove the sidewalk before the work is started is just as much as leveling. Can you believe that? That’s why most contractors recommend leveling. 
Now, remember, if the concrete slab is cracked or damaged beyond repair, leveling won’t solve the issue. You will most likely need to replace the slab.

How does sidewalk leveling work?

One of the best solutions uses polyurethane foam. Small holes are drilled into the sunken sidewalk. Then the foam is injected into the void that opened beneath the slab. Now the foam expands, lifting the concrete to its original position. Finally, the holes are filled, the work area is cleared, and the tools are removed. But guess what? Because the polyurethane foam hardens so quickly, you can use the sidewalk immediately. Isn’t that great! Sidewalk leveling is:
  • Fast
  • Less disruptive
  • Allows immediate traffic
  • No noise
  • Lightweight
  • High durability, allowing the slab to last longer
  • Increased structural integrity, resisting further settling 
  • Moisture resistant 

Cost and benefits of sidewalk leveling

Sidewalk leveling using polyurethane foam costs $5 to $25 per square foot. But it costs 25% to 50% less than total sidewalk replacement. It’s eco-friendly and lasts longer than another solution called “mud-jacking.” Most sidewalks can be leveled in one day or less, allowing you to use the slab the same day as your appointment. The process is a relatively non-invasive procedure that doesn’t affect the surrounding landscape.

Sidewalk leveling advantages over mud-jacking

The terms “sidewalk leveling” and “mud-jacking” may seem like the same thing. But they are not, being two different processes. Mud-jacking is a method of lifting sunken sidewalks by pumping a cementitious material under the concrete to make them level again. Sidewalk leveling with polyurethane foam injection, on the other hand, can be the better solution in most cases. 
Sidewalk leveling with polyurethane foam injection
  • Requires less drilling with smaller holes at 5/8 of an inch
  • Cures in 30 minutes
  • Bonds and creates a homogenous blend of soil and polyurethane matrix
  • Less cleanup
  • No frost heaving 
  • Stronger
  • Lasts longer
  • It doesn’t degrade in any weather conditions
  • It doesn’t pollute the soil or groundwater
  • It doesn’t retain moisture
  • The foam spraying injecting equipment can reach areas inaccessible to truck-based mud-jacking equipment
Mud-jacking 
  • Requires holes 1″ to 3″ wide
  • Only lasts 5-10 years
  • It takes 24 – 48 hours to cure
  • It uses a heavier material more prone to sinking
  • Requires more cleanup
  • Weeds can grow through holes if not patched correctly
  • The material contains water which will shrink and subject the slab to minor settle

Who to call for sidewalk leveling 

If your sidewalks are unlevel, causing you to trip, or maybe they are just too unsightly, call Foundation Professionals of Florida. The technique used for sidewalk leveling can also be used on patios, streets, garage floors, and more. Foundation Professionals of Florida is an award-winning and top-performing company, and we guarantee you’ll see that with our work. Call today to schedule an inspection and free estimate for your sidewalk leveling needs.