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Cement step repair: get your curb appeal back in one day!

Cement Step Repair

Long cold winters stink.

And worse yet, broken or crumbling cement steps are a bad side effect.

So this week’s tutorial is all about showing you a quick way to fix your steps in less than one day.

Here’s the deal, you don’t need any cement experience to do this.

If you mess up it won’t be the  end of the world either. After all, you already have a broken step, right?

I’ll walk you though this repair, show you all the tools and share the products that are DIY friendly.

Cement isn’t much different than play dough, although the former is a tad bit harder in the end!!

So let’s have some fun and get started :)

Here are the supplies you need

  • Hammer
  • Cold Chisel
  • Safety Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Margin Trowel
  • Steel Trowel
  • Edging Tool
  • Plastic Tub (for mixing cement)
  • Shovel or Hoe
  • Bucket
  • Garden Sprayer
  • Respirator
  • Wood (2×8 for creating a form, I’ll explain)
  • Cinder Blocks
  • Quikrete Bonding Adhesive
  • Quikrete Quick Setting Cement
  • Hammer Drill
  • Tapcon Drill Bit
  • Tapcon Screws
  • Flat Head Bit for Drill
  • Pam Cooking Spray (haha, this is perhaps the best cement tool)

Yes, there are a lot of tools.

But read on and I’ll have a surprise at the end that could help ;)

Here’s what you’ll learn

  • How to patch crumbling or broken cement steps

Your first step to fixing steps (pun totally intended, haha) is prep work.

 

Prep work: it’s not just for the prom, cement steps have needs too!!

I remember the prom and think cement steps need more primping than guys.

Seriously, all I did was comb my hair, buy some flowers, and rent a tux.

Chip off any loose or crumbling cement. You can use a hammer and cold chisel  to do this.

You’ll also want to undercut the edges of the step. Undercutting is simply adding a v-shaped groove. This helps the new cement stay in place during freeze/thaw cycles.

Remove Old Loose Cement

Drill holes into the crumbling step using a hammer drill and Tapcon drill bit. Stick with me here because this tip can mean the difference between your step lasting years or falling apart.

Drill Holes with Hammer Drill

Tapcon screws can then be screwed into the holes and act as anchors for the new cement. This anchoring effect should be used on areas of the step that are steep.

Use Tapcon Screws

You can use either your hammer drill or impact driver to tighten the Tapcon screws. I used Tapcons that were 1 3/4 inches long and like to have their heads 1/4 or 1/2 inch below the new cement.

Add Tapcons to Step

The one thing you don’t want is the screw heads to be sticking out above the new surface. So keep this in mind when tightening them. Dust off the entire step. Loose cement or dust will hurt the bond between the new cement and old step.

Remove Dust and Loose Cement

For repairs that require more than 1/2 inch of cement you should consider using Quikrete Bonding Adhesive. This product is fabulous at getting new cement to bond with the existing step.

Apply Bonding Adhesive

Let the adhesive to dry for 2-3 hours before applying the new cement.

Wait for Adhesive to Dry

Now that you’re done with prep it’s time to go to the big dance. And I’ll show you all the right moves, like what cement to use and how to tool it.

 

Using the right cement and tools (and believe it or not, they all fit in your car’s trunk)

It’s amazing that your holiday turkey might weigh more than the cement in today’s project.

You can buy 20 pound pails of Quikrete Quick Setting Cement. So you don’t need to be a strong person to fix cement steps, contrary to most TV shows.


Quikrete Cement

I like using this kind of cement because it sets up in 15-20 minutes. Yes, you’ll have to move fast but don’t worry. I’ll show you how to save time.

Measure the height of your step. Cut a piece of wood that’s at least that height. You’ll want the wood to also be the length of of the step because it will serve as a form.

Make Wood Form

Spray the form with Pam, yes I recommend Pam cooking spray! Primarily because you probably already have it. Pam prevents your new cement from sticking to the wood form.

Spray Form with PAM

Trust me, Pam is a remarkable cement or concrete tool. If it stops steak or chicken from sticking to the grill then cement is no match!

Place the wood form against the step. Place cinder blocks again a the wood to hold it in place.

I chose to use Quikrete Quick Setting Cement for this project for its quick drying time. And this was an absolute necessity since there’s no other way to
access the house except through these steps.

After watching my video you’ll likely have a good idea of how fast you need to work. It’s not that hard but you do need to keep track of time so that the cement doesn’t harden on you (or your front steps!!!)

 

Cement Step Repair in One Day -- by Home Repair Tutor
Runtime
7:35
View count
4,656

Cement Step Repair

http://youtu.be/Llxg17jOLIU

 

Before mixing up the cement have all of your tools ready so that you can move quickly.

Estimate how much cement you need then add it to a plastic tub. Create a crater in the cement then add your water. This makes it easier to mix the cement with a shovel or hoe.

The final consistency should be like super thick ice ice cream. Scoop the cement up with a margin trowel and dump it between the wood form and step. Push down on the cement to compress it agains the form. Once your cement is packed down you should use a a steel trowel to make it level.

Trowel on New Cement

Use a level to check that it, well, is in fact level. Look for any low or high spots. Fill low spots with extra cement and remove high areas with your steel trowel.

Levelness of New Cement

Remove the wood form and fill voids in the vertical surface. You can either use your steel trowel or level to check that the vertical portion is plumb (aka straight up and down). This process is just like the one you did for the horizontal area of the step.

Fill Voids

Once you’re satisfied with the shape of your step you can use an edging tool to round off the edge. This is a nice touch and also helps preserve the structural integrity of the step.

Shape Step Edge

Smooth the surface of your step with a grout/cement sponge. You’ll totally love the texture the sponge leaves behind and it also gives super smooth transitions between the old and new surface.

Smooth Cement with Sponge

Keep the new cement moist for as long as the directions state. In this case, it’s 48 hours.

Keep New Cement Moist

You can then cover the cement with plastic to preserve the moisture.

Cover with Plastic

The final thing you need to do is seal the new cement. If you use Acrylic Concrete Cure and Sealer by Quikrete there’s no need to spray the cement step with water. This kind of sealer can be sprayed immediately after the cement has setup and it’ll keep the cement strong for years to come.

Seal New Cement

You’ll literally get your curb appeal back in one day by fixing your steps.

 

Many thanks to Lowe’s for their continued support and making me a Lowe’s Creative Ideas blogger.

Lowe's Spring ideas

They provided some dinero for this project but the lively banter and cement tips are from me.

You can get more inspirational home improvement ideas by clicking over to the Creative Ideas website. Here’s the link http://www.lowes.com/creative-ideas.

If you’re a Pinterest fan, Lowe’s also has a ton of pins for home projects (3,545,565 people like their boards and I’m guessing you might too).

 

Want Some Tools?

You know I love you.

And to show my appreciation I’ve got an awesome giveaway for a tool lover!! Sorry I can’t send the Quikrete, the shipping & handling is crazy bad (lol).

Win Awesome Cement Tools

 

You’ll get

  • 7 inch Pointing Trowel (for tight spaces)
  • 5 inch Margin Trowel
  • Edging Tool (for rounding your step edge)
  • 14 inch Ultra Light Steel Trowel
  • Bostitch 3/4 inch Mason’s Chisel
  • Sponge for Texturing

I know these will come in handy!!!

In order to qualify to win, just leave a comment on this post by the end of next Tuesday April 29 (11:59 p.m. 4/29/2014).

Tell me about your own cement project and some of the challenges that are involved.

The winners will be announced on Facebook and here on Home Repair Tutor.

Thanks again for dropping in, I really love hearing from you. See you in the comments.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. Congrats to Joe, the winner of the cement supplies. He’s got a crumbling step at his house that needs some TLC. Now he’ll be able to DIY that bad boy back into shape ;)

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41 comments… add one

  • Dorth April 25, 2014, 12:01 PM

    We were away for the winter (left Pgh for Fla), and when we got back noticed big cracks in our driveway. Our son will have to repair it this summer. My husband and I are both DYI handicapped. Thanks for all you great ideas.x

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 8:53 AM

      Thanks Dorth, it was a super bad winter in Pittsburgh.

      You might be able to just fill the small cracks using a good crack filling product from Quikrete or Sakrete. Make sure to read the directions on the bottle and measure the width of your cracks to see if these products will work.

      I used filler with a putty knife and it turned out well.

  • C Goodwin April 25, 2014, 1:30 PM

    Nice job! Might suggest tamping vertically through the new patch, before removing the form. This might eliminate most of the voids that have to be filled later.

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 8:48 AM

      Good suggestion, I push down as much as possible with the trowels. But tamping with something else might be a better option.

      • C Goodwin April 27, 2014, 3:03 PM

        That would be similar to contractors dropping vibrators down through the concrete, between the forms, when pouring a wall.

  • Char April 25, 2014, 1:52 PM

    Hi Jeff,
    Did almost this exact same thing, and something I thought would be an unbelievably huge expense [ -total removal and replacing] turned out fantastic! Thank you!

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 8:45 AM

      Great job Char! Doesn’t sound like you spent a ton of money yet got a fantastic result.

      Did you use the same cement or a different product? I’d like to know because maybe your fix is better :)

  • anamaria April 25, 2014, 4:01 PM

    I really enjoy all your tips. I was wondering if I could use this same procedure to repair the cracks in my cement driveway. They look awful and seem to be getting worse each winter. I really need to get these fixed. thanks

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 8:42 AM

      Hi Amamaria, the cracks can be approached a few different ways. You have crack filler for small fractures. If you’re trying to repair joints you can use a different approach with backer rod and self-leveling products.

      What kind of cracks are your dealing with: small ones in the pad or expansion joints?

  • Jeremy April 25, 2014, 10:22 PM

    My front cement steps are not broken, but look old and tired. Do you have any reccomendations to spruce them up? Thanks for your posts!

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 8:36 AM

      Thanks Jeremy, you could always try to power wash them or apply a penetrating stain. The stains look really cool, although I’ve never used them. Quikrete has a stain that doesn’t peel called Penetrating Concrete Stain. Check that out and let me know your thoughts.

  • Patti April 26, 2014, 8:29 AM

    Wow … I definitely think I can handle this project … I wish I had seen this before deciding to rip out my old cement steps …
    Thanks for always showing such clear and concise ways to fix all those home upkeep projects that most of us need to hire a pro for … checking your how-to’s always makes that choice clearer for me … by the way, I replaced my shower surround with your help! Thanks again!

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 8:33 AM

      Thanks Patti, your kind words make me want to do more projects!!!

      Glad your surround turned out great. Make sure to send me some pics, I’d love to see them :)

  • Joe Lydic April 26, 2014, 8:41 AM

    Jeff! This is awsome! I actually need to do this exact repair at my rental sometime soon. Thanks for the tutorial video and info. You just saved me a bunch of prep time and research time. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Keep up the good work and thanks for all of the great info.

    Joe

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 8:54 AM

      Thanks Joe. Glad this helped and you’ll save a ton of money by DIYing your steps.

      This is a repair I know you can do :)

  • Sally Gillies April 26, 2014, 9:41 AM

    I love your tutorials, Jeff. this is one i won’t do, however. i have no steps! Florida homes are like that! I had carpel tunnel surgery this week along with ulnar nerve realignment so i havent finished my penny backsplash yet. And typing isn’t that easy either. i’ll be back in ten days or so with pics of this interrupted project. So happy i found your site!

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 12:31 PM

      Glad to hear your surgery went well Sally. That’s not easy to go through. Get better soon and when you’re back I’d love to see your penny backsplash pics :)

  • Sheri B April 26, 2014, 10:37 AM

    My steps aren’t badly broken as in your demo. At some point, the steps and porch were “painted” red. The red is peeling off the front side of the steps. The peel appears to be about .5 inches thick. Could this be a non-penetrating stain like you mentioned in another comment? Or just poorly made steps that are coming apart differently than your demo?

  • Wayne April 26, 2014, 1:30 PM

    will be making cement stepping stones for my front entry. Have a 4′ section of grass beside my short entry walk and will use stepping stones to add a couple of chairs and a table to enjoy the summer.

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 1:37 PM

      Whoa, sounds cool Wayne. Keep me posted on how you do it. I love stonework, it just has a classic look that lasts forever.

  • Linda in Ky April 26, 2014, 4:07 PM

    Love the videos! I really enjoy how you break it down to make it easy enough for a novice to understand. Watching them has made me brave enough to try my very first home repair myself and I succeeded! Thanks for the boost of confidence.

    • Jeff Patterson April 26, 2014, 6:08 PM

      Way to go Linda!!

      Good job getting over your fears and going for it.

      Thanks for liking my videos and if you ever want a specific tutorial please let me know :)

  • Debbie April 26, 2014, 5:43 PM

    Thanks for all your great tips!!
    Debbie C.

  • Emily April 26, 2014, 11:07 PM

    Well at least I know why my repair from last summer crumbled over the winter! And thanks to you I know what to do now.

    • Jeff Patterson April 27, 2014, 1:10 PM

      That stinks Emily, sorry to hear that. It was a really tough winter though. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

      Let me know if you have any questions this time around.

      What kind of cement product did you use last time?

  • Gwyne April 26, 2014, 11:17 PM

    Thanks for all the info.

    • Jeff Patterson April 27, 2014, 1:12 PM

      You bet Gwyne.

      Let me know if you try this project and if you have any questions ;)

  • Connie April 27, 2014, 1:42 AM

    I don’t have steps, but I do need to sledgehammer out some concrete slab in my great room to replace floor outlets in a 30 yr old house. One of the receptacles shorted, flamed out and died a little while back. I can’t get exact replacements so I have to make the holes bigger to accommodate new boxes and receptacles. It seems like this process will work for filling in after the electrician installs the new outlets.
    I’m replacing carpet with hardwood so now is the time to do the repair! Also have a crack to fix.
    BTW I am a DIYer who always thinks a project sounds simple until I run into that “little” unexpected moment that throws me for a loop. C’est la vie!

    • Jeff Patterson April 27, 2014, 1:13 PM

      I hear ya Connie, that is the way it goes!!

      And for some reason it’s that way a lot for me, lol.

      Once you get started please feel free to reach out to me if you’ve got any questions.

      I’d love to see your new hardwood floors :)

  • Britt April 27, 2014, 8:57 AM

    Really enjoy reading all of your DIY articles. Seeing things like redoing bathroom floors and showers broken down step-by-step make doing them much less daunting.

    • Jeff Patterson April 27, 2014, 1:09 PM

      Thanks Britt. I think that once we see how simple a project can be it gives us hope that we can do it ourselves. Too often the books and magazines out there try to overcomplicate things or leave out some of the small stuff.

      It’s funny how the minor details can be the most frustrating part of DIYing. So I try to include that stuff in the tutorials.

      Let me know if you’d like to see a specific tutorial, I’d be happy to do one for you :)

  • Mr Hank Wolgast April 28, 2014, 12:18 AM

    You might try tapping the outside face of the form with a hammer to help fill the voids on the front of the step. I would do this as you are putting the concrete in from the top. I have used this tip many times with good results.

    • Jeff Patterson April 30, 2014, 7:58 PM

      Thanks Hank, that’s a great tip. Next time I’ll definitely give that a shot.

      Do you have a certain kind of DIY concrete that you like?

  • Mark J April 28, 2014, 9:03 PM

    Looks pretty easy! Nice job!
    How many tapcon screws would you suggest using for any given situation? It looks like you used one screw about every 6-8 inches in the area that would need the heaviest amount of cement. Is that a good general rule?
    Thanks!

    • Jeff Patterson April 30, 2014, 8:03 PM

      Thanks Mark. It’s hard to say how many to use. I spread them out about every 6 inches so as to not compromise the existing cement’s structural integrity. Putting the Tapcons in the area that needs the most cement is the best strategy for sure.

      Use a hammer drill and Tapcon bit to drill the holes. This is totally the way to go when drilling into cement. Let me know if you have any questions along the way.

  • dennis allen May 1, 2014, 2:35 PM

    great video jeff. the one thing I would change is to make the form the same height as the step.

    • Jeff Patterson May 1, 2014, 8:40 PM

      Thanks Dennis, that’s a great tip. A good one to follow especially if you want an easier way to keep the new cement level.

      I’ll tell you, I wish I could have done this but unfortunately the step beneath the one I repaired is all wonky :(

      It’s only a matter of time before I have to fix that one, too. If it’s not one thing it’s another with homes. Always something to repair.

  • Hannah C June 16, 2014, 4:52 PM

    Thanks for posting this!! All the pics are super helpful!

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