Mudjacking vs. Poly Leveling: What Method Is Best For Concrete Repair?
There are two popular methods when it comes to concrete repair: mudjacking and poly leveling.
Both techniques aim to fix sunken or uneven concrete surfaces, such as driveways, sidewalks, or patios. But understanding the difference between the two and which option is best for you can get confusing.
That’s why we put this blog together. We will dive into the characteristics and benefits of mudjacking and poly leveling and hopefully, help you make an informed decision for your concrete repair project.
Full disclosure: We’ve done some mudjacking in the past, but now exclusively offer poly leveling for our concrete repair services. We promise to fairly represent the advantages and disadvantages of both, though. Above all else, we just want to give you the information you need to make the right decision for your home.
Let’s quickly define mudjacking and the installation process so we are all on the same page when we start the comparisons.
What is mudjacking?
Mudjacking, also known as slabjacking or pressure grouting, involves injecting a mud-like substance into the voids beneath concrete slabs. It’s not actually mud, though. It’s a mixture of soil, water, and concrete that’s often referred to as slurry or grout. The slurry mixture is injected beneath the concrete slab, fills the empty spaces between the soil, and then once hardened, raises the slab.
The mudjacking installation process:
1. Drilling holes: Two-inch holes are drilled into the concrete slab to serve as access points for the slurry injection. The number and placement of the holes depend on the size and condition of the concrete.
2. Injecting the slurry mixture: A slurry mixture, that consists of water, cement, and other additives, is pumped under pressure into the drilled holes using specialized equipment. The slurry fills the voids beneath the slab, displacing settled soil and then raising the slab to its original position.
3. Leveling: As the slurry is injected, it expands and exerts pressure, gradually lifting the concrete. Once the desired height is reached, the holes are sealed with a cement material and excess slurry is cleaned off.
4. Curing: The leveled slab then requires time to cure and harden. Depending on the mixture used, it can take a few hours to a few days.
Important to note that not all mudjacking mixtures are the same. Different contractors will have different thicknesses based on the ratio of ingredients used.
Understanding Poly Leveling
Poly leveling is a newer(ish) concrete repair method that takes the original concept of mudjacking and improves upon it by using modern technology.
What is polyurethane foam?
There are several terms when referring to using polyurethane foam for concrete repair. We usually use the term “poly leveling”, but it’s also called polyjacking, polyfoam injecting, foam lifting, or polyurethane concrete raising.
Poly leveling is a concrete lifting technique that involves injecting high-density, lightweight, structural-grade polymers to lift, level, and stabilize concrete slabs. The foam is typically a two-component mixture that combines polyurethane resin and a catalyst. Once injected, it expands and fills in all the voids in the soil beneath the slab.
Poly leveling installation process:
1. Preparation: The contractor will prepare the area by drilling small, pea-sized holes into the concrete slab. These holes are typically around 5/8 inches in diameter.
2. Foam injection: Using specialized equipment, the contractor injects the polyurethane foam mixture through the access holes. The foam flows beneath the slab and expands to fill the voids and gaps in the soil. As the foam expands, it gently lifts the concrete slab, effectively leveling it.
3. Monitoring and adjustment: The contractor carefully monitors the injection process, ensuring that the slab is lifted evenly. They may adjust the injection rate and foam flow as needed to achieve the best result.
4. Patching and cleanup: Once the desired level is achieved, the access holes are patched with a compatible material. Any excess foam or debris is cleaned up, leaving the repaired area tidy.
5. Immediate use: Unlike mudjacking, you can immediately use the repaired surface with poly leveling. The foam cures rapidly, allowing for usage shortly after the repair is completed.
Let’s compare the two
Now that we have a good understanding of both methods, let’s dive into their similarities and differences.
They are both cheaper than concrete replacement. You could say no to both methods and opt to replace the concrete altogether. But that would be the most expensive, intrusive, and timely option.
Both are similar concepts. Like we mentioned above, mudjacking is the more traditional, older way to repair concrete. Whereas poly leveling improves upon the same concept using better materials (at least, in our opinion).
Pros of mudjacking:
1. Cost-effective. Mudjacking is generally more affordable compared to poly leveling. It offers a budget-friendly solution for raising and leveling sunken concrete surfaces
2. Environmentally friendly. Mudjacking uses natural materials like cement, soil, and water, which makes it sustainable.
3. Tried and true. Mudjacking has been used for many years and is an established technique for a lot of contractors.
Cons of mudjacking:
1. Larger access holes. The process of mudjacking requires drilling relatively larger access holes (some as big as a can of soda) compared to poly leveling. These holes can be unsightly and may require additional patching after the repair.
2. Heavier material. Mudjacking material is heavy (weighing in at 120 pounds per cubic foot) which may put additional stress on weaker or problem soils. This can cause the slab to sink even deeper over time.
3. Longer curing time. Mudjacking typically requires more time for the injected grout to fully cure and harden. This means the repaired area may not be ready for immediate use, which can be a little inconvenient.
4. Messy. The slurry that’s injected often spews out of other holes or through the concrete cracks. And it’s extremely hard to remove.
5. Weight and load restrictions. Mudjacking relies on the stability of the soil beneath the concrete. It may not be suitable for areas with unstable or weak soil conditions.
6. Potential for future settlement. Although mudjacking can provide a stable foundation, there is still a possibility of future settlement over time. Factors such as soil conditions, water drainage, and the overall condition of the concrete can contribute to further settling in the future.
Pros of poly leveling:
1. Lightweight and non-intrusive. The foam used in poly leveling is lightweight, which reduces the stress on the underlying soil and won’t cause repeat sinking. On top of that, the injection process is non-invasive and causes less disruption to the surrounding area.
2. Long-lasting. Poly leveling does not rely on the underlying soils to support the concrete. Instead, the slab floats on the hardened foam without increasing pressure, making it last as long as the concrete itself.
3. Water-resistant and durable. Polyurethane foam is resistant to water and moisture. Once cured, it forms a strong, waterproof barrier that helps prevent future settlement and protects the soil from erosion.
4. Quick curing time. It installs and cures quickly. Driveways can be used 15 minutes after the installation is completed.
5. Fewer and smaller holes. When compared to mudjacking, poly leveling installation requires fewer and smaller holes (over an inch smaller) drilled into the concrete.
Cons of poly leveling:
1. Higher cost: Poly leveling tends to be more expensive than mudjacking. The specialized equipment and materials used, along with the precise nature of the process, contribute to the higher cost.
2. Not a lot of contractors are specialized. Because poly leveling popped up in the last ten years, a lot of contractors do not know how to do it correctly (but we do!).
3. Doesn’t use natural materials. The foam used is derived from polyurethane, a synthetic substance, so in contrast, poly leveling is less environmentally friendly than mudjacking. (Important to note: it does not deteriorate underground and does not affect the soil ecosystem).
Factors to consider:
Now that we’ve gone through the advantages and disadvantages of each method, let’s summarize and discuss the factors you must consider when deciding which method to use.
1. The cost
While mudjacking is generally considered more cost-effective than poly leveling, the specific costs can vary depending on the extent of the repair and the size of the project.
Lower cost, however, doesn’t indicate better value. When you consider that poly leveling offers longer-lasting results, it’s usually a better investment and saves you more repairs down the road.
2. Longevity and durability
Poly leveling is often considered more durable due to the lightweight yet strong nature of the foam. It forms a stable and permanent support system for the concrete, reducing the likelihood of future settlement.
3. Environmental impact and sustainability
If using natural materials is more important to you, then mudjacking might make more sense. Poly leveling foam is non-toxic and non-hazardous, though.
Both mudjacking and poly leveling can effectively address a range of concrete issues, including uneven slabs, sinking or settling foundations, and void filling.
However, certain situations may favor one method over the other. For example, poly leveling is often preferred when precise and controlled lifting is required, or when the project involves areas with loose or unstable soils.
Making the right choice
To make the best decision for your concrete repair project, consider the following steps:
1. Assess the severity of the concrete damage:
Evaluate the extent and severity of the concrete to determine the most appropriate repair method. Minor settlement issues may be suitable for mudjacking, while more significant or precise repairs may require poly leveling.
2. Consult with a professional contractor:
Seek advice from experienced contractors who can assess your specific situation. They will provide insights into the most suitable method based on factors such as the nature of the damage, the underlying soil conditions, and your budget.
3. Consider specific project requirements and constraints:
Consider any specific project requirements or constraints that may influence the choice of method. This includes factors such as load-bearing requirements and time constraints.
4. Weigh the pros and cons to determine the best option:
Carefully evaluate the pros and cons of both mudjacking and poly leveling (Luckily, you have this handy-dandy guide we’ve laid out nicely for you).
Consider the longevity, cost, environmental impact, and effectiveness in addressing your specific concrete issues. This will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your priorities and goals.
So which method is right for you?
While mudjacking offers a traditional and cost-effective solution, poly leveling provides a more advanced and versatile approach. At the end of the day, both are good options.
By understanding the characteristics and benefits of both methods, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs. Whether you opt for mudjacking or poly leveling, the best advice we can give is to reach out to a reputable, concrete professional. Having a knowledgeable company walk you through the process is key to knowing all of your options and reaching the best solution for you and your concrete.
If you're interested in learning more about poly leveling and live in the Des Moines area, we'd love to chat. We offer free estimates, where we come to your home, inspect your concrete, explain the entire process, and give you an estimate for your specific project, all for free. If you want a thorough inspection, or even if you just have questions about concrete repair, call us at 1-844-210-0982, fill out this form, or start a chat in the bottom right-hand corner.