July 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

The Handyman

Fill cracks in your concrete and mortar

Whether you have a cement driveway or a brick home, you surely have some concrete or mortar cracks to deal with. While it would be nice if these pesky cracks never appeared, it isn’t realistic. For an informative video on the subject, visit MasterHandyman.com, click on Video Advice and look for Repairing Driveway Cracks.

“Concrete doesn’t bend, it breaks, so homeowners are going to have cracks in their driveways” said Ken Calverley of KC Masonry, (877) MASONRY, kcmasonry.com.

The infamous Michigan freeze and thaw cycle was even more dramatic this winter, causing slabs to heave and sink, resulting in cracks and a widening of expansion joints. Calverley says that the best way to lessen the amount of cracks is to have the driveway poured properly in the first place, so that the base is more stable. He starts with crushed concrete and then adds steel reinforced mesh before pouring the cement thick, almost like oatmeal, not soupy. The more water in the mix, the less stable it is.

Because concrete cracks, Calverley said contractors will add cuts or expansion joints in the driveway to make it crack where it should. He said if the contractor did the job right, you can leave the cracks alone.

Fortunately, if you hate looking at the cracks, you can fill them yourself if you use the proper method and products. Not only will it look better, but it will eliminate that perfect environment for weeds to grow.

For cracks less than ½-inch wide, you can fill them by using a crack sealant such as Vulkem 116 from Tremco, tremcosealants.com, or Concrete Crack Filler by Sakrete, sakrete.com. When cracks are ½-inch wide or wider or you are dealing with expansion joints, first clean out any weeds and debris with a linoleum knife or crevice tool, then sweep or blow out the crack. Next, fill in the crack with play sand and tamp it down, and fill in the remaining space with a polyethylene backer rod, leaving about 112-inches below the concrete surface. Now you’re ready to fill the crack using Quikrete’s Self-Leveling Polyurethane Sealant; Sikaflex Crack Flex Sealant by Sika, usa.sika.com; or Loctite PL S10 Polyurethane Concrete Crack & Masonry Sealant, loctiteproducts.com.

In addition to concrete, winter freeze and thaw cycles can also cause annoying cracks in the mortar lines on your home’s brick or chimney. Empty mortar joints permit wind and water to enter the building envelope, so you need to repair them now so they don’t lead to further damage. If just a little tuck-pointing needs to be done, you can do it yourself but wear goggles. Clear away the loose mortar with a cold chisel and brick hammer. Clean out the damaged area with a whiskbroom, and then fill in the joints with Quikrete’s Mortar Repair or Sakrete’s Concrete & Mortar Repair Tube.

This time of year, cracks in your basement walls may also become more noticeable. In most cases, this is not a DIY project, especially if the crack is leaking. If the cracks aren’t leaking, you can do a quick fix using hydraulic cement, but that is not a permanent solution. To fill a crack, it is best to inject polyurethane or epoxy into the crack. I recommend calling a company such as Foundation Systems of Michigan, (877) DRY-MICH, drymich.com; Mr. Sponge, (248) 583-1115, mrsponge.com; or SAS Services, (800) CALL-SAS, 1800CALLSAS.com.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail askglenn@masterhandyman.com. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536, between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.