Old Crumbling Kitchen Needs Lots of Help

Answered by Jeffrey ~ February 25, 2010 ~ Comments

I bought a 1 bedroom house. I understand it was originally a tool shed, turned into a small maid's quarters. This part is now my kitchen, with cabinets, pantry from IKEA and a dining room. There is a back door in the kitchen... all of this part is on cracked slab. Then after the dining room you go up to 3 small steps to the rest of the house, which is on blocks. I live in Texas and called one of the country's leading slab systems companies. They said that there is no rebarb and the slab is about 6" thick all the way through, no header. He could not help. What can we do, on a very limited budget? Help!

Terry E. ~ Waco, Texas

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Terry, This is an interesting situation, I wish I could see it. If the area used to be the floor of a tool shed, I wonder if there are any concrete footers around the perimeter, probably not. It's not that unusual that there is no rebar, but there should be wire mesh in the concrete, even for sheds that is normally done. I am surprised that it is 6 inches thick, that is a substantial slab. I have not poured concrete in Texas, so maybe 6 inches is the norm out there.

You don't mention if there are many cracks, if there is a lot of separation between them, or if the pieces of slab are at different heights now. The first issue is safety. I would hope that the slab expert, if they actually saw it, would have let you know if they thought the area was suffering a structural failure. If they did not actually look at the slab, then you should have a building inspector take a look at it, the last thing you want is to have the kitchen and dining area come tumbling down on people.

My guess, without looking at it, is that the crack is not recent, it probably occurred not that long after the slab was poured, and it has cracked all that it is ever going to. My grandparents' had a barn built in the 1930's, that the slab cracked within a few years of being poured, and it just remained that way for the next 50 years, it never got any worse. I would think that is what has happened with your slab.

My suggestion for a temporary, low budget fix, would be to have a concrete flatwork contractor come in and work on it. If there is a difference in height between the sections of slab, they can grind the edges so that the difference is not as pronounced. Grinding concrete is a very dirty job, so make sure everything in the room is covered. Then, depending on how wide the crack is, they can use one of many types of concrete patch to fill the crack or cracks. If there is still some differences in the floor's elevation, they can float out the low spots, but that part you may want to have a flooring contractor take care of. I would install an inexpensive floor initially, in case the cracking continues, and you have to get into a more expensive repair.

This is a low budget, temporary repair. I want to say again though, if the cracking looks recent, or you are seeing any cracking in your walls, or cabinets separating from the walls, or anything that would indicate what is going on there has happened within the last several years, you need to have someone local there in Texas take a look at the situation and make sure that area is safe to occupy. Please keep me posted on this, I will be glad to help further, if you need me to.

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