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Repair and Replacement
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Paving that is constructed from individual elements can usually be repaired or replaced quite easily, and, more importantly, invisibly. One piece constructions, such as tarmacadam, concrete, pattern imprinted concrete etc., that require repair or replacement can only be cut out and patched, usually leaving a visible reminder of the repair.

Replacing individual elements in pavements

This strategy can be used with brick and block paving, flags/slabs, and any other paving type composed of individual units.
case study An extensive case study following the removal of blocks from a pavement and the subsequent repair is available starting on this page

Replacing brick or block paving

To replace an individual unit, or an area of paving, one unit needs to be completely removed from the paving. Other units are then easily removed if required. There are two simple methods for removing this first unit...

The non-destructive method

The unit is gently levered up, using the heel of a trowel or a bolster etc. to prise 2 opposite edges of the block or flag. In the illustration opposite, a block is being removed, but the same principles apply to removing a flag. Once the levers are in place, the block is 'jiggled' upwards, working each side a little at at time, until it can be lifted free of the pavement. The block is usually undamaged by this process, and can be re-used.
lift block 1 lift block 2 lift block 3
Use point or heel of trowel to prise up one edge of block. In this example, a half-block is being removed first as the cut edge makes insertion of the trowel point/heel that much easier The first trowel is used to maintain the elevated position of the first (cut) edge while the second trowel is used to prise up the opposite edge. Continue to jiggle the trowels to persuade the sides upwards, alternately, until block comes free.
pavingexpert video
Click here to watch a short video showing this basic technique being used
Professional contractors will normally use a tool known as a "Block Extractor" to remove individual blocks
block removal tool block removal tool block removal tool
Click any of the above images for larger image in a pop-up window
pavingexpert video
Click here to watch a short video showing the Block Extractor Tool in action

break out

The destructive method

A sharp chisel can be used to break into the block, and then used to lever the broken parts of the block free of the pavement. The chisel or a point chisel, is driven into the block at an angle of about 30° from vertical until the block breaks. Obviously, this method results in the block being un-usable, so make sure you have spare or replacement blocks to substitute for the broken one you have removed.

Once the first unit has been removed, other, adjacent units can be removed fairly easily by levering from beneath. With flags, it may be necessary to cut out any mortar jointing to 'free' the flag, and blocks can sometimes be held quite tightly by the jointing sand, and may need to be 'jiggled' free. Note that some blocks and bricks, particularly clay pavers, have 2 usable surfaces, and so by turning them upside down, you should be presented with a new, undamaged or unmarked face. lifting blocks
Take up as much of the pavement as is required, stacking the blocks close-by for re-use. Brush off any jointing sand adhering to the edges of the blocks or chip off any mortar adhering to the edges of flags. The exposed bedding layer can be floated, trowelled or screeded to prepare it for replacing the paving units. If correcting levels, add or remove bedding material as required. Over larger areas, the surface level of the bedding layer is easily checked using a straight-edge timber and one of the salvaged blocks as a guide. Leave the bedding approximately 5mm high to allow for re-compaction.
pavingexpert video
Click here to watch a short video showing the Bedding Replacement Technique
Replace the blocks/flags as required once the bedding is prepared, supplementing with spare or replacement units, and reseal with dry jointing sand or mortar joints. The area of repair will need to be re-consolidated, preferably with a vibrating plate compactor for block or small-element paving, or a mall for other flags. Check the level of any sealing sand again in 3-4 weeks and top-up if required. check level
When replacing damaged or stained block paving, straight block-for-block substitution over the affected area can result in a noticeable patch of newer, un-faded paving within the existing. As contractors, we pre-empted this problem by leaving each client with a square metre or so of 'spare' blocks on completion of the works. This wasn't simply for fade-matching, but also to ensure that replacement blocks were from the same batch as the originals; it's not unknown for manufacturers to alter moulds, reposition spacer lugs, and amend colour mixes over time.

When no such stock of batch-matched paving is available, the visual impact of the new blocks can be 'toned down' by mixing in with clean existing blocks taken from the immediate vicinity of the staining. So, for a 1m² stain, we might take up 2m² of paving, discard the spoiled blocks, mix in the replacement blocks, and relay the lot.

In most cases, 12 months later, it's impossible to differentiate between the originals and the replacements.  

Replacing flags/slabs and other 'mortared-in' pavings

The method used to replace these types of paving are very similar to that described above for block paving. The mortar joint will need to be cut out, preferably with a power-saw, although it can be chiselled out with a hammer and bolster.
Lever the paving unit out of the pavement, store or discard as appropriate and prepare the bedding layer for re-seating the unit. Butter the receiving edges of the pavement with mortar before replacing the units. Tap down to level with a paviors mall, and then re-point the joints.


Patching non-elemental surfaces

Tarmac, concrete, pattern imprinted concrete(PIC) and resin-bonded surfacing can only be patch repaired, and this will usually result in the patch being noticeable. PIC and resin bonded surfaces are particularly difficult to repair without the patch being blatantly obvious. Get your original contractor to repair or patch these surfaces.

Patching Tarmac

The area to be patched should be marked out, allowing ample working space and making saw cuts right through the tarmac to the perimeter of the repair area. The unwanted tarmac can then be chiselled or jack-hammered out, or removed with a pick and spade, and disposed of. The saw cuts ensure a clean, straight edge to the patching. A normal power-saw is usually adequate, but for larger areas, a trolley-mounted floor saw is preferable.

The vertical edges of the cuts should be coated with a jointing compound ("cold pour"), available from builders merchants, prior to placing the new material. The purpose of the jointing compound is to keep water out of the joint and to prevent it getting beneath the surfacing, where a freeze-thaw action could cause the repair to fail.

It is best to use fresh, hot tarmac for the repair, laying it in at least 2 layers, compacting each with an asphalt punnel, wacker plate or roller. The 'seams' of the repair should be sealed with cold pour compound (see above) to prevent ingress of water. Whilst this makes the repair more noticeable, it will reduce the chance of the repair failing because of water penetration into the joint. roller
Small rollers can be hired for residential tarmac repairs
Tarmac suppliers are not really keen on delivering quantities of less than 3 Tonnes, and may impose exorbitant part-load charges for small loads. Alternatively, some batch plants will load a half-tonne or so onto a trailer or private wagon. If carrying tarmac on a vehicle, it is essential that the tarmac is properly sheeted with a tarpaulin or similar to keep the heat in the material, otherwise it becomes very difficult to work.

faq Overnight fuel leaked from my car, this has resulted in my tarmac drive being dissolved - it has left a couple of holes 5" wide. How can I patch these unsightly holes?

Click here for complete FAQ with answer.


Using pre-packed tarmac

There are 'pre-packs' of repair tarmac available from most builders merchants, and these can work out to be considerably cheaper than having hot tarmac delivered in small quantities. At approximately £5 for 25Kg, this equates to a price of £200 per tonne, compared to £35-45 per tonne ex-works. However, for a 1 tonne load, the batch plant are likely to impose a part-load charge of around £100-120, so any quantity greater than 1 tonne is best bought in as hot, fresh material. repair macadam
For your guidance, a 25Kg bag of repair tarmac will cover approximately 0.45m² at 25mm thick, but no tarmac surface should be less than 70mm, so coverage is reduced to 0.16m² per 25Kg bag at this thickness, requiring just over 6 bags to cover each square metre.

The pre-packed tarmac has been 'cutback' or 'doped' to retard setting until exposed to the atmosphere, where the doping oils can evaporate away over time. The packs are supplied cold, but work best if left in a warm place for several hours before using. The tarmac is removed from the packaging, spread out as required, and compacted down to level, in the same manner as hot tarmac. It will take several weeks for the doping oils to evaporate completely, but the tarmac should be usable more or less immediately. If the surface of this repair tarmac remains tacky, and is being picked up on the tyres of a car or the soles of shoes, dust the surface with a fine sand, much like flouring a work-surface before rolling out pastry. The sand will wash away over time.

We are not overly impressed with these pre-packed repair tarmacs. They have their uses for very small repairs, but we would never consider them for any area greater than a couple of square metres. They remain soft for several weeks and will be easily penetrated by any point load, such as the side-stand of a motorbike or a ladies' stiletto heel. For patching areas of 2-20 m², you might be able to find a tarmac contractor working locally who will order a tonne or so extra if you make it worth their while with beer vouchers.


Tarmac cover-ups

There are various products available that allow you to 'paint' an existing tarmac surface to leave it looking like new. Some are little more than a paint, whilst the better products actively bond to the existing tarmac and revitalise the bitumen binder. They are best used to re-cover an entire drive, rather than just re-covering in patches.
blackjack sealing
They can be used quite successfully to cover up minor blemishes or patches on tarmac, or just to rejuvenate a tired-looking drive. They are available from builders merchants, larger DIY stores and construction chemical suppliers in traditional black colour or a shade of burgundy red.
The drive to be treated needs to be as clean and free from dust and detritus as possible. We power-wash the surface and allow it to dry before applying the cover-up product. Usually, two coats will be required, and they are best applied with a long-handled squeegee (saves the back-ache!) Allow each coat to dry before applying the next. They usually dry in 2-3 hours, and can be trafficked once dry. blackjack cover up
blackjack latex-ite Blackjack Surface Technology supply a full range of Tarmacadam refurbishment products including crack repair and patching products.

Blackjack's "cover ups" are Asphalt Emulsions which are designed to protect and revitalise the bitumen binder as well as bringing the surface back to its original colour, either black or red. Blackjack supply products to all of the mainland Britain as well as Ireland and the rest of Europe. Blackjack products can be purchased online, directly from their web site   


Patching concrete

Stains are not usually considered to be sufficient justification for breaking out and patching a concrete bay, although there are circumstances that will require the concrete to be renewed. Salt or frost damage, repairs to underground services, or removal of damaging tree roots will all require a repair to be effected. Two types of repair are considered here - a shallow, surface repair, and a full depth repair.

Shallow repairs

This method is suitable for repairing minor surface defects or blemishes, such as salt and frost damage. The area to be repaired is marked out and the perimeter cut with a power-saw to a depth of at least 40mm. The spoiled concrete surface can then be chipped out using a hammer and chisel or a demolition hammer from a hire shop. If replacing salt or frost damaged concrete, ensure that all loose and unsuitable material is removed to a depth of at least 40mm. Clean off the area of repair, and brush out as much dust as possible. The exposed concrete surface should be primed with PVA or SBR bonding agents, or etched clean with an acid-etching fluid. The fresh concrete to be used for the repair needs to be a high-strength mix, with PVA, SBR or a hardening agent added. We would normally use a granolithic concrete for such a repair. See Mortars & Concretes Page for discussion of high strength and granolithic concretes.
patching concrete The fresh concrete should be spread out, tamped to level and float-finished as required. Make sure the fresh concrete is worked tight into the edges of the repair and finishes flush with the existing surface.

It is always a good idea to cover or fence off wet concrete as the neighbourhood cats and eejit children seem to love leaving their pawprints behind for posterity. The repair can be trafficked in 3-4 days.

Full depth repairs

When a shallow repair is not feasible or desirable, a full depth repair can be used. Mark out the area of repair, and cut right through the concrete with a power-saw or floor saw. Break out the unwanted concrete and dispose.
For larger areas, it may be advisable to 'tie-in' the new concrete to the existing material by using steel dowels. The diagram opposite illustrates a cross-section of a typical dowel tie with movement joint. Holes of a diameter 5-10mm greater than the diameter of the dowels are drilled into the exposed face of the the existing concrete at approximately 600mm centres, dusted out with a blast of compressed air, and injected with an epoxy gouting agent, such as Lokset®, via a sealant gun. The dowels are hammered into the holes to half depth and allowed to set. dowel
If a movement joint is to be created, a compressible board filler is used to line the face of the existing concrete prior to pouring the new concrete. For small areas, movement joints may not be required; if in doubt, consult a civil or structural engineer. It is essential that any such movement joints are properly sealed to prevent water ingress.
anchor bolts For most domestic or lightweight applications, 200mm anchor bolts can be used to replace steel dowels in the method described above.

Drill holes for bolts at 450-600mm centres, screw in the anchor bolts, and leave protruding by 100mm or so. Make sure there is at least 50mm cover above and below the anchor bolts/dowels.

The new concrete is placed in the area of repair, levelled out, screeded, tamped and float-finished as required. Use a high-strength ready mixed concrete from your local supplier or see Mortars & Concretes Page for discussion of high strength concretes. Protect from unwanted disturbance, and the repair can be subjected to light traffic in 3-4 days. Allow at least 7 days before allowing vehicular traffic to use the repaired surface.


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