Common Sidewalk Issues to Keep an Eye On

The average lifespan of a sidewalk is between 20 and 30 years. Along the way, that sidewalk will naturally experience a little wear and tear. This article highlights a few of the most common sidewalk problems and why it’s important to fix them. So, whether you’re running a nonprofit, a retail location, or Jeff Bezos’ HOA in outer space, keep an eye out for each of the following:  

Cracking     

It’s inevitable that, after several years (even in the most well-made sidewalks) you’ll start to see some cracks. Cracking—as with all sidewalk issues—can have a number of causes, but oftentimes it’s caused by changes in temperature. 

Keep an eye out for “edge cracking,” as this means the edges of your sidewalk aren’t supported as well as they should be. You might also see something called “alligator cracking,” in which cracks form patterns that vaguely resemble the scales of an alligator. There are also cracks that look like spider webs (caused by premature drying of the concrete), cracks caused by overloading the sidewalk (think big, heavy equipment or dumpsters resting for too long on your concrete), and cracks caused by the concrete settling or expanding. 

Don’t worry, no one expects you to keep all these different types of cracks straight. Just know that if you see any type of cracking, it’s time to call in the pros.

Lifting

Another common sidewalk issue is when a section of your walkway begins to tilt or lift. That leads to a sidewalk that’s uneven, disjointed, and possibly even dangerous. The culprit is often tree roots, which exert an impressive amount of force as they continue to grow underneath your sidewalk. This sort of lifting can also be caused by the expansion of the ground below.  

Sinking

This is similar to the “lifting” issue…but in reverse. A sidewalk begins to sink when its support system—the ground—gets washed away.                

Potholes

Everyone’s seen potholes in the road. And unfortunately, sidewalks are just as susceptible. Potholes usually have the same root cause as the sinking you just read about; water washes away the soil beneath the sidewalk. And with no support down below, the structural integrity of the sidewalk weakens, and part of the sidewalk caves in.   

Spalling

Spalling, commonly referred to as “flaking,” happens when the smooth upper layer of a sidewalk erodes. That exposes a gritty layer that can end up looking patchy or gravely. Flaking, unfortunately, typically leads to even more flaking. And while it has a number of causes, it’s usually due to poorly mixed raw materials, settling of the sidewalk when it’s first being installed, or the expansion of any moisture that’s trapped inside the surface.       

Accessibility Problems

Accessibility is a fairly unique issue because it’s not caused by the deterioration of the sidewalk. Instead, it’s caused by the sidewalk’s design. If someone is in a wheelchair, they’ll need the sidewalk to be a certain width, they’ll need it to have a ramp, and they’ll need the ramp to be close to the handicapped parking spots. So, it’s important that sidewalks are designed with equal access in mind. (Did you know Black Diamond can help with your ADA needs? In fact, we’re experts in the field—click here or give us a call to learn more!)    

Bears

If an actual bear wanders out of the forest and onto your sidewalk, that’s one of the biggest sidewalk problems you’ll ever run into. Do not call Black Diamond. Just ditch your salmon and run.

The Importance of Fixing Sidewalk Issues

You want to stay on top of your sidewalk’s maintenance for several reasons: 

  1. A damaged sidewalk can lead to injury, which is bad in and of itself. But you also open yourself up to the legal liability that comes with those injuries. 
  2. Your sidewalk might create issues with your local government. For example, if your sidewalk is unsafe, or it isn’t handicap accessible, you might get slapped with a fine. 
  3. A crumbling sidewalk hurts your curb appeal, which can impact you financially. 
  4. A damaged sidewalk can lead to even more damage. Once the cracking begins, it quickly spreads. 

Black Diamond Can Help Maintain Your Sidewalk

Over time, your sidewalk will naturally need a little TLC. So, whether it’s preventive maintenance, crack sealing, or a completely new walkway, reach out to Black Diamond Paving & Concrete today to see how we can help whip your sidewalk back into shape! 

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