Hairline cracks in patio call for cosmetic changes

Q We have a large concrete porch and it has a few hairline cracks. What can be done to make it look better? I thought of putting tile on it, but wonder if it would be too slippery when wet. It is not exposed to freezing and thawing conditions.

- H.R.H., Austin, Texas

A Installing tile on the patio may not be your best option, says Howard Clark, a licensed construction supervisor in Hopkinton, Mass. The forces that cracked your concrete may crack the new tile as well.

But if there is space atop the slab for another layer that won't interfere with a doorway, he suggests the following potential solutions:

1. Install a wooden frame around the patio to contain loose-laid paving brick, tightly spaced and grouted with dry stone dust. If the concrete beneath continues to crack it will not affect the appearance of the patio.

2. Lay wooden sleepers (1 by 3 inch strips of pre-treated lumber) on the concrete 16 inches on center, and install wooden decking over them. The sleepers should be attached sparingly with masonry fasteners as the weight of the decking will hold the assembly down. (This option would not work as well in an area constantly exposed to sunlight or moisture.)

3. Tight cracks in the patio can be caulked and wiped smooth with a damp cloth, while wider cracks can be chiseled out to accept quick-setting hydraulic cement, which sets even under water. Though the patio surface will never look as good as new, it can be painted with a patio paint and look pretty good.

If the cracks don't reappear after a few seasons, use a belt sander with coarse-grit paper to roughen the patio surface (to improve adhesion) and install a tile suitable for use around a swimming-pool deck.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

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