Last year, during a temporary lapse of common sense, we bought an old duplex as an investment property. The building itself is pretty solid. In fact, it’s VERY solid, with all the floors, and many of the interior walls, made of concrete. The exterior of the building didn’t look like it had gotten much love in the past few decades, though. The foundation needed re-pointing, and the patio out back had about 50% of its original concrete left, most of it in convenient, bite-sized pieces. Aside from the foundation, though, the area voted most likely to bring on a lawsuit was the front entry stairs. Time and bad weather had worked their magic, and the concrete steps were badly in need of repair. When we learned Quikrete wanted to do a sponsored post to demonstrate a DIY Quikrete stair repair, I called dibs!
In addition to the steps at the rental property (affectionately known as the Hellplex), our own home has a large back porch with a concrete floor and steps leading down into the yard. There are a couple of places where decades of northeastern winters have opened gaps in these steps, too, so I decided to pretty things up on the home front as well. We’ll take a quick look at both projects.
I’m no concrete guy. I don’t even play one on HGTV. That’s not to say I haven’t hoisted many a bag of Quikrete over the years; I’ve poured a lot of footers for decks, porches, fence posts, and the like, and done a lot of minor concrete repairs. Some of the repair work I’d be doing on these stairs was structural, though. The recommended product for that type of repair is Quikrete Quick Setting Cement, which I’d never used before.
If you’re a bit daunted by the idea of working with concrete, have no fear. There are good instructions on every bag or bucket of the product, and the Quikrete website is loaded with helpful information, including step-by-step instructions for numerous common DIY projects. They even include shopping lists, detailing all the materials and tools you’ll need. There is also an excellent assortment of how-to videos. Here’s the Quikrete stair repair how-to video from their web site:
The hardest part of the whole project is hoisting the stuff around, and even that’s not so bad with the smaller bucket and bag sizes offered by Quikrete.
Here’s the Quikrete stair repair shopping list for my projects:
• QUIKRETE Quick-Setting Cement – two 20-lb. buckets
• 2 Qts. QUIKRETE Acrylic Fortifier
• 1 Qt. QUIKRETE Concrete & Asphalt Cleaner
• Quikrete Textured Acrylic Concrete Coating
• Wire Brush
• Scrub brush
• Measuring pail
• Margin trowel
• Safety glasses
• Not really a shopping item, but a hose and/or pressure washer is helpful
• A masonry brush, if desired (more on that later)
A special Voice of Experience tip: Buy more product than you think you’ll need. Most home centers and hardware stores will let you return any unopened excess product. Running out of material when you’re ALMOST finished is a giant suck pill. Trust me.
Quikrete Stair Repair Rule Number One: Cleanliness Is Key!
As with most projects, the quality of your finished product relies heavily on good prep work. Having a clean, stable surface for your patch to bond to is crucial when doing your Quikrete stair repair. Before you get started, don your safety glasses. This type of project can involve lots of flying cement chunks and other debris, dust, and various liquid splashes, so it’s a good idea to keep them on for pretty much the entire project.
Using a cold chisel and hammer, remove any loose or crumbling sections of concrete. Go over the surface with a wire brush, and remove any loose material. You can also use a masonry grinding disk and a grinder or portable drill. The folks at Quikrete also recommend tapping some of the small fracture cracks in the stairs with a hammer, to determine if it is hollow/delaminated or solid (solid is good!).
Concrete can get pretty grimy over the years. The best way to displace that grime from all the nooks and crannies is with a pressure washer; if you have access to one, now’s the time to fire it up. It will also blast out any little chunks of loose concrete and other miscellaneous debris, so assuming you’d prefer not to have any of those chunks wedged in your eyeball, eye protection is critical.
The final step in the prep phase is to take your stiff brush, and give the area to be patched a quick scrub with some Quikrete Concrete and Asphalt Cleaner. This will ensure there is no grease or dirt left that will interfere with the intimate bond between the old material and the Quikrete Quick-Setting Concrete you’ll be introducing it to. This stuff is potent – WEAR YOUR RUBBER GLOVES AND SAFETY GLASSES! Rinse the area thoroughly when you’re finished.
Mix It Up – And Be Quik About It
Now for the fun part of our Quikrete stair repair – filling in the holes! The Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement can be mixed with water, but for better bonding with the old material, they recommend mixing it with their Concrete Acrylic Fortifier. Since this isn’t a project you want to be repeating soon, I figure it’s worth a few extra bucks for the added holding power.
A word to the wise: Read the instructions thoroughly, and make sure you have everything you need close by. It’s pretty easy, but you need to be aware that this stuff sets up FAST (hence the name “Quick-Setting”). You have roughly 5 – 10 minutes at the most to work with it. The surface to be repaired should be thoroughly wet, but get rid of any standing water. And any sitting water, for that matter.
The Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement gets mixed with the liquid at a ratio of five parts cement to one part liquid. The easiest way to brew it up is to get the liquid in your mixing container first, then add the cement a bit at a time and stir it up. When it’s fully mixed, you’ll have a good stiff mix with a consistency similar to peanut butter, but gray, and nowhere near as tasty. Now it’s time to get moving!
The instructions say to use a masonry brush to apply a thin coating of the mixture, then use a margin trowel to press it firmly into the repair area. I didn’t have a masonry brush (it wasn’t on my shopping list), so I just scooped some up on the margin trowel and pushed it into place. I’d probably get kicked out of mason’s school for this, but I also scooped some up with my gloved hand and pressed it into place.
The Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement is very easy to work with. It sticks well to the existing surface, and doesn’t slump at all, even on a large vertical surface. The instructions say to overfill the repair area a bit, so that’s what I did. The stuff does set up quickly; one minute it’s all friendly and pliable, then all of a sudden it’s getting stiff and ornery, so don’t be daydreaming or stopping to have a chat.
After about ten minutes, the Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement is firmer than Jason Statham’s jaw, and the final sculpting can begin. Take the margin trowel, and scrape off the excess cement, blending the new material in and matching the contour of the existing concrete. My Hellplex project included a rounded base, which was a bit tricky, but I think it came out okay, and it’s a heck of a lot more solid than it was before!
On the stair repair I did at home, there were some fairly large eroded areas, and some long cracks. The Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement was great at filling the larger gaps, but some of the cracks were a bit too narrow to get it into easily. After getting the big stuff done, I went and bought a tube of Quikrete Polyurethane Concrete Crack Sealer and finished the repair. It was easy to use, but be sure to keep your rubber gloves on while you’re using it – it’s sticky. One final tip – if you want to be able to re-use your tools in the future, rinse them off well as soon as your project is complete. This stuff hardens like concrete.
After the concrete stair repair was complete, the finished product was very strong and solid, and looked better than it had in a very long while. If you’d like it to look even better, by camouflaging the patched areas, it’s Quikrete to the rescue again. By rolling on a coat of Quikrete’s Texture Acrylic Concrete Coating, you can create a brand new finish that will be a textured, non-slick surface. I’ll likely do this shortly, to class up the joint; when I do, we’ll post a quick follow-up showing the final product.
Ready To Try YOUR Quikrete Stair Repair?
Our stairs at home had been in need of some attention for quite a while. Since the bad spots were on the risers, and not a safety issue, I blissfully ignored them. The stairs at the duplex had been neglected for a VERY long time., and in some areas were posing a safety issue. The Quikrete stair repair I started there took care of part of the decay, and made me confident I can deal with the rest. I’ll be heading to the home center for some 50-lb. bags of Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement to take care of the rest of the damage.
Quikrete’s Quick-Setting Cement worked great. It’s easy to mix and apply, and it’s strong enough for structural repairs like stairs. Now that I’ve finally filled in my problem areas at home, further damage should be halted. Since water can’t get in there to freeze and expand any more, hopefully our stairs will be stable and happy.
Got a bad spot (or two) in your concrete stairs? With some inexpensive Quikrete products, a little effort, and part of an afternoon, you can make your concrete stairs safer – and a whole lot better looking. Quikrete products are widely available, in various sized containers. The 20-pound containers of Quikrete Quick-Setting Cement I used are available from the Home Depot for around $12:
Their Acrylic Fortifier is just over $7: