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Handyman Q&A

Cracked Concrete Slab Requires Structural Repair


Question: Cracks are forming in my concrete slab foundation and are causing problems with flooring.

My master bath floor tile has developed a 4-foot crack (tiles, not grout) and I see a ridge forming underneath my vinyl kitchen floor. What is the best way to approach this problem?

I have a little over a year left on my homeowner's warranty. Is this a structural or cosmetic problem?

Answer: This definitely is not a cosmetic problem, and unless properly repaired will not only continue, but will probably get substantially worse. First, contact the warranty company (in writing) and tell them what's happening. Include photos.

Then, make a "structural repair." Have a licensed structural engineer survey the problem and design a repair that will hold permanently.

The engineer will probably suggest that you remove the vinyl and the tile flooring and the concrete slab beneath.

The slab (and possibly some of the underlying substrate) should then be replaced according to the engineer's specifications.

Follow the engineer's advice to the letter. Removing bad soil and replacing it with a proper substrate (compacted rock, loose gravel, for example) and then keying the new concrete to the old with steel bars epoxied into the old and protruding into the new are just a few of the things that will probably have to be done.

By the way, the structural engineer will probably require you to provide a soils report. Often these are on file with the builder of the home or the local building department.

If a cosmetic repair is all that is made there is a good possibility that you'll be making the same repair again in a year or so.

Steps to Refinishing Hardwood Floors

Q: I have an oak hardwood floor that is covered with carpet and pad. I want to remove the carpet and pad, and clean and finish the oak floor. Any advice?

A: Hardwood floors were standard equipment in homes until plywood and cost-conscious construction made its way onto the scene. Uncovering an old wood floor can add significantly to the appearance and value of your home.

Although a carpet and pad can offer some level of protection, the nails used to hold the tack strip at the perimeter and staples used to attach the carpet could mar an otherwise pristine finish.

Carefully remove the carpet and pad. If the pad is attached with staples, carefully remove them using pliers. Use equal caution to remove the tack strip using a pry bar and a small hammer. Be sure to place a small shim shingle or other protection between the pry bar and the floor.

With the carpet and pad out of the way, thoroughly vacuum the floor and then sponge-mop a small section at a time using a cleaning solution such as Spic and Span. Remember, wood and water don't mix, so go easy with the water.

Once clean, use a soft, white terry cloth dampened with mineral spirits to test if the finish consists of wax or a hard finish such as polyurethane. If the surface appears dull after wiping a small section with mineral spirits, it is waxed. If the finish appears to be revitalized, the finish likely is polyurethane.

If your test reveals that the floor is waxed, apply a new coat of either liquid buffing or paste wax. The wax should fill in the nail and staple holes and result in a smooth and uniform finish.

If, on the other hand, the floor has a polyurethane finish, buff the surface with a buffing pad and apply one or more coats of new polyurethane--making sure to buff between coats. A 10-inch flat pad works best when applying finish.


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