#AskAngie: Does Freshly Poured Concrete Normally Crack?

Cracking in freshly poured concrete can be common within the first 30 days. (Photo courtesy of Paul Piontkowski)

Cracking in freshly poured concrete can be common within the first 30 days. (Photo courtesy of Paul Piontkowski)

Dear Angie: I just had a new concrete driveway poured and the very next morning, several cracks showed up in the concrete. My contractor says that this is normal and will not affect the integrity of the concrete. My contractor had a representative from the material supplier come out and take a look and he also said that this was normal.

I looked at my neighbor’s 1-year old driveway, though, and there is not a single crack in it. I elected to hold the final payment until I get a satisfactory answer. What do you think? Is this normal? – James B., Chicago.

Dear James: Unfortunately, cracking is pretty common in concrete, especially during the first 30 days, while it’s curing or setting up. If a contractor does it right and the conditions are ideal, the cracks can be virtually unnoticeable from plain view, except the homeowner’s prudent eye.

There are a number of reasons why concrete cracks. The most common is because concrete shrinks as the excess water evaporates and it hardens. Unfortunately, too often contractors add too much water to the mix, which makes it easier to apply but also more vulnerable to cracking. Concrete can also crack if it dries too quickly.

Weather conditions — extreme temperatures, rapid temperature changes or conditions that are too wet or too dry — also play a major factor in how well concrete cures.

Related: How to Extend the Life of Your Asphalt or Concrete Driveway

Another consideration is if the contractor used control joints and spaced them properly. Contractors place control joints in the concrete with the anticipation that it will crack. Also called “relief joints,” control joints are the straight lines or grooves you typically see at regular intervals on concrete sidewalks, driveways and garages. Their purpose is to relieve the pressure that leads to cracking with the cracks essentially forming in those grooves, so that, cosmetically, it’s barely discernible.

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I recommend you give it a little more time. Concrete takes a good month or so to really set up. By then, the cracks could be undetectable. The method the contractor uses to cure the concrete plays a big role on how well it holds up. Cement requires a moist, controlled environment to gain strength and harden fully. Talk to your contractor about his method to cure the concrete.

It expands and contracts in response to the temperature. If there are fluctuations in the weather during and immediately after the pour, which is known to happen in Chicago, that can also create problems. Contractors must be good judges of those situations to determine when to seal the concrete to reduce the chances of it cracking.

Related: How to Avoid Bad Concrete and Lay a Good Foundation

Those many variables alone could have played a factor as to why your neighbor’s driveway has no visible cracks.

All that said, if after it cures, the cracking is severe — big enough that you can fit a quarter in the crack — that’s an indication of a problem and deserves a conversation with your contractor about an agreeable solution. You were smart to withhold the last payment. I advise homeowners to do that precisely for situations like yours. You now have leverage in case those cracks do become worse instead of better.

If you continue to have concerns about the integrity of the concrete, consider bringing in an independent home inspector or structural engineer to determine if there’s a more serious issue.

Related: Paver Driveway Makes Dramatic Change over Concrete

Angie Hicks is founder of Angie's List. Email questions to askangie@angieslist.com or tweet to #AskAngie. Follow Angie at @Angie_Hicks.


Editor's note: This is an updated version on an article originally posted on June 21, 2012.


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Comments

Concrete suppliers and contractors never have any accountability to homeowners. MNDOT and companies test the product on the spot for slumping and other issues. Homeowners do not have this ability and trust that it will all be done right.

11 months ago I had a driveway put in. Some of the edges are cracking off. There is a 3 ft crack toward the center. In some parts of the drive, the cement is wearing away. This was a big project,very costly. I am waiting for the contractor to return my call. The cement is still discolored. 3 different pours, should there be a rust color?

No there should be no rust colour and if after 45 days the concrete should be uniform in colour. If it's just standard concrete then eventually one day it will be uniform. The reason for this is the contractor probably didn't take notice of water content on first pour therefore how do you match the next. When concrete has diff water contents then it will cure differently!! Bring so new you should have no visible wear yet and no chipping should accour. Anyone can place and finish concrete. But very few do it corectly. It alwYs looks good when week old. But time always seperates the good from the bad!

Thanks for all the comments. ..it helps to understand problems with having a new driveway.

Check the cracks and observe the extent of concrete cracking during and after curing, Consult an Engineer.

Does anybody have an idea why foamed concrete screed cracks after 7 days when laid under normal conditions?

When they say how many yards, (concrete pouring)

I agree with the main discussion points made by Angie in her answer to the home owner, however, home owners best beware about holding final payment UNLESS they have a contract that clearly states the specific causes and instances in which payment can be withheld. Holding back payment wihtout a contract can put the home owner in a precarious legal situation if an unscrupulous contractor decides to lien the property. Though it may sound like over-kill, I strongly suggest a signed contract on ANY home project that is contracted out. Being proactive today eliminates being reactive tomorrow.

If that is indeed a tire mark on freshly poured concrete than that might explain things. I am a state licensed concrete, masonry & landscape contractor for over 35 years. I agree with the other contractors that mentioned control joint spacing, steel location, water quantities and etc. I also want to add that ever since we went to 1" rock, suspended steel reinforcement & Sodium Silicate to control the moisture. We have had no visible cracking and we are talking Southern California the land of earth movement. I hope this information helps.

As a concrete worker I know abou this cases but some builders just dont understand to let the driveway finish hardening before rolling with a massive 3 ton truck into the driveway.....if this picture was taking the next after freshly pour concrete you can clearly see this tire mark in it wheres that crack was created, meaning someone drove into it not caring if it was freshly poured!

The tire track is obvious! It may look hard but it needs to cure before you drive on it. You must give the man his money! He cannot be responsible for someone driving on your driveway the next day!

I have been a concrete contractor for 25 years doing all flat work. People need to understand ALL CONCRETE CRACKS. FIBERMESH / WIREMESH / REBAR does not keep concrete from cracking. Ground movement cracks concrete. ALL WORKMANSHIP IS ALWAYS GUARANTEED. CRACKING IS OUT OF OUR HANDS. Again, people need to understand thatl.

Is it normal to have 11 10' long cracks in a driveway after 2.5 years?

Ok, so having been in the concrete business for over 20 years, my mantra has always been, "there are two kinds of concrete, one that's cracked, and one that's gonna crack." Expansion joints and sawcuts are put in place for those cracks to happen out out sight, out of mind. What many people are not stating is that yes, concrete has many different mix design issues, and then there are the environmental ones. Contractors working in humid, moist environments don't understand what 5% humidity,30 mile an hour winds and 100degree heat will do to a freshly poured slab on grade. We deal with this in the southwest with curing agents which retard the rapid evaporation to avoid craze cracking associated with that issue. There are also retardants which can be put in at the batch plant which perform the same task. Or, third approach, is to mist the surface periodically for the first 72 hours post pour as the slab will reach 75% of it's tensile strength during that time. I have to say though, that the picture of the crack in question looks to be more of a structural issue related to soil subsidence in absence of good compaction methods or poorly placed rebar. Or, if too much water was added to the mix, you would stand to have delamination (spalling) of the concrete surface over time exposing the aggregate. Bad news! As an owner, I probably would not accept or sign off on this slab. REDO!!

I have been pouring concrete since 1968. I have owned my own concrete masonry business since 1976. It is NOT normal for concrete to crack if the job was done correctly. If the base was prepared and power compacted a driveway should have very little cracking. A driveway that cracks the following day was done by amateurs and will have a very SHORT life. Lets not start posting incorrect information and giving people the wrong idea about what a quality concrete project should look like. James B. if the contractor is licensed, he has to warranty the work for 18 months. Call your state department of licensing and regulation. CRACKING THE DAY AFTER A JOB IS POURED IS HARDLY NORMAL.

No sir you are incorrect!!!! in Florida there are many elements that will cause concrete to crack you as a worker and owner and me as a owner and have a degree in concrete technology from middle Tennessee state .. LOOK IT UP... Are wrong... Concrete will crack in most cases there is nothing you can do to keep it from cracking unless you are going in to lime stone which is 30-45- feet below soil. So stop feeding customers fantasies for maybe you live in a clay hard rock area and most everyone else does not... You are incorrect and are a amateur yourself for saying concrete done right does not crack. Come to Florida and warranty concrete and you will be out of business before you even start..

should there be cracks in our 1yr old driveway?

If you read the customers question carefully, they said the driveway was cracked the VERY NEXT DAY! This is not normal ( unless there was an earthquake overnight ) and the contractor that did it needs to refund their money and find a new line of work!

For being in the "business" for 20 years, you guys hardly know concrete! MOST cracking happens right away for one, and ALL concrete has cracks! The only way to keep concrete from cracking is to never open the bag! Dont bash other contractors for something that you either wont admit or just cant see!

Homeowners need to know it is possible for new concrete to crack and many reason are already listed however this might help the homeowener who is getting a new driveway installed: DO NOT GO WITH A BRIEF BID --- BE DETAILED! 1) Make sure the contractor is insured. They may request some money up front but never give no more than 25% upfront. If that contractor needs more --- find another contractor. 2) Have the contractor SPECIFY exactly what they are going to do. This way if they lie, or if you have major issues later, it is speiified on contract & in writing. Make sure all work is in writing! Anything not in writing is not to be done & you will not pay for. 3) Specify on the contract the followinig: Contractor is to tear out all the following ares ---(BE SPECIFIC). Contractor is to set forms, apply 2" base 1/2" gravel compressed, with full screen rebar, around full open areas. Concrete is to be a minimum on 3,000 to 3,500 PSI. Before pouring, add Fibermesh to concrete. Contractor will apply a finished brush top finish with picture frame around complete driveway & around all control & expansion joints. Remaining balance will be paid upon completion of job & completion of all clean up. Contractor will put dirt back around open areas where forms were & fillin any open gaps on side of driveway, sidewalk, patio, etc (where new concrete was poured) Contractor guarantees quality workmanship. Before & after pictures will be taken and contractor can use pictures on their website. All work is gurananteed for 1 year. By doing this --- the homeowner is protecting themselves from scams & any unprofessional work will not be paid for. Plus, by you taking pictures the contractor is getting free advertisement & your getting guaranteed quality workmanship. Plus, if something happens; the pictures show proof of what was done. This should help homeowners from getting burned or having issues with concrete.

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