Concrete production is terrible for the planet.
Repairing your home’s concrete instead of replacing it can help.
Concrete is amazing stuff. It can be poured and shaped into almost anything you like. Humans have used it to build structures large and small for more than 2,000 years.
But concrete has its drawbacks. Though incredibly strong and durable, it’s not indestructible. And sadly, concrete production - especially the Portland cement that forms its basis — is bad for the environment.
- Concrete is the most consumed substance on the planet besides water.
- If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest CO2 emitter behind the US and China (Portland cement is a primary ingredient in concrete).
- Over 60 years, nearly 8.9 billion tons of plastic have been produced. The cement industry produces that amount every two years.
- 2012, concrete production consumed nine percent of industrial water use.
- By 2050, 75 percent of water demand for concrete production will likely occur in water-stressed regions.
- When you replace your driveway or patio with new concrete, the old concrete is typically broken up and taken to a landfill.
So, yes, concrete production is terrible for the planet. But there is something we as homeowners can do to reduce its impact on our environment.
Repair, Don’t Replace
It’s easy to see that the less new concrete we use, the better it is for the environment. This is why repairing broken concrete is the only reasonably sustainable option for homeowners wanting to address broken, sinking or damaged concrete slabs in their driveways, patios, sidewalks and pool decks.
When repairing concrete, there are two options: mudjacking and polyurethane foam lifting (PolyLevel™ is a preferred brand). So, let’s first look at mudjacking.
Mudjacking involves pumping a slurry of Portland cement, soil and water underneath your concrete slabs to “jack” them back up to their original position. While this works temporarily, it presents several problems. First, it requires drilling large ports in the cement through which the slurry is pumped. When filled in, these ports remain obvious and are considered eyesores. Second, and most important, the mud slurry used in the process is heavy. That means it adds weight to the soil beneath it, which can cause the concrete above to settle. It should be noted that, as you might suspect from a name like “mudjacking,” the whole process is messy.
Polyurethane foam lifting is better. Like mudjacking, this involves the injection of fluid material underneath sunken slabs, where it expands and hardens. Unlike mudjacking, the material is lightweight. It also compresses the soil beneath it as it expands, stabilizing it for a permanent fix. The ports through which it is injected are also much smaller than those used for mudjacking and are typically barely visible when filled in.
It should be mentioned, by the way, that new concrete has its drawbacks beyond the adverse environmental impact. It is a disruptive process: Your old concrete must be jackhammered into chunks and hauled away. New concrete must be poured in its place and left to cure for a week or more. This means your driveway, patio, etc., cannot be used for that period. Secondly, there’s the fact that it doesn’t actually fix the failing soil that likely caused your concrete to sink in the first place — something that polyurethane foam addresses.
Save Your Driveway While You Help Save the Planet
The bottom line is you can repair concrete around your home and improve its curb appeal (and value!) without pouring new concrete. That’s good for you, and for the planet.