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How to Level Concrete Sidewalk Trip Hazards

Thousands of people are injured each year due to concrete sidewalk trip hazards. Usually, injuries like these are termed as trip, slip and fall accidents.

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines trip hazards as vertical heights that are ¼ inch and above. To successfully clear up these hazards, you must first understand the possible factors that could lead to their development. From there, it will be easy to assemble the right tools and equipment for leveling sidewalk trip hazards.

Factors that Contribute to the Development of The trip hazards

  • Buckling: These refer to large and uneven broken concrete slabs. In most cases, they develop from tree roots that push up from underneath the sidewalks.
  • Snow and Ice: Snow and ice are quite common in arctic regions. It is always advisable to remove them to minimize the risks of trip, slip and fall accidents.
  • Cracks: Cracks on the sidewalks are usually caused by changes in seasonal temperatures, the soil conditions or change in weather conditions. They may also be due to inferior materials that could have been used in repairing the sidewalks.
  • Uneven Pavements: The common cause of uneven pavements on sidewalks is the separation of concrete or asphalt. This may be due to heavy traffic or tree roots heaving up some areas on the pavement.

Leveling Concrete Sidewalk Trip Hazards

The nature of the sidewalk trip hazard will determine the approach you take to repair it. If it were due to a sunken block, you'd need to raise it. 

If it were due to a raised region on the sidewalk, you'd need to remove the hazard to level the ground. Here are a few quick solutions for leveling the concrete sidewalk hazards.


Raising Sunken Sidewalk Blocks

You can raise sunken sidewalk blocks by using polyurethane foam injection, the mud jacking technique or just replacing the concrete. Replacing the concrete will be a viable option if it has deteriorated or it if it has cracked dramatically.

For this option, you'll basically pour a new concrete slab though the problem may reappear again if the soil underneath may not handle the weight of the slab.

For the mud jacking approach, you'll be lifting the concrete to level the sidewalk by pumping grout through the affected concrete area. You'll then push this grout from below to push the concrete up.

Finally, the polyurethane foam injection approach relies on expanding polyurethane foam for lifting the concrete slab. For this approach, you will inject the foam through a hole that's about ⅝-inch and allow the reaction between the two part-poly of the product to lift the slab.

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Leveling Raised Concrete Sidewalk

If the sidewalk hazards are due to raised sections on the ground, you still have three options of leveling the affected regions. Here's a breakdown of the options that are available for you.

  • Precision Concrete Cutting

Most contractors prefer precision concrete cutting because it leaves an aesthetically appealing ground. It is also much more efficient as compared to conventional methods of leveling raised concrete sidewalks. 

Of course, if your sidewalk contains concrete curbs you'll want to make sure you're using the correct tools and machinery for that aspect of the project as well.

For this approach, your focus will be on texturing the concrete to convert it to a non-slip surface. You'll basically be saw-cutting the trip hazards with patented equipment to ensure that they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Acts requirements.

  • Using Concrete Grinders or Scarifiers

Your choice for the concrete grinders or scarifiers will be influenced by the type of concrete sidewalk you wish to level. If the trip hazard was due to bad pour or demolition activity on the surface, and the concrete is more than ⅛-inch, a scarifier would be a preferable option.

This is because it would clear the mess quickly than a grinder would do. If the trip hazard was due to thicker coating and you wish to polish the pavement after removing the trip hazard, the concrete grinding approach would be a preferable option.

Here are the differences between these two pieces of equipment


Concrete grinding machines are best suited for removing trip hazards at a depth of just about ⅛-inches. They use rotating cutting discs to remove the raised concrete sections.

Depending on your preference, you can choose to go with propane, gasoline or electric powered grinders. You can use both wet and dry grinders depending on the condition of the sidewalk you're leveling.

One primary advantage why you might want to use a grinder to level these trip hazards is that it assures you of a smoother finish as compared to when you use a scarifier. Instead of abrading the concrete surface, a grinder will polish it to leave behind a clean finish.


You may opt for a scarifier if you wish to level the concrete sidewalk faster, and the final texture of the ground isn't of significant concern. They're generally more aggressive hence leave rougher finishes when compared to the grinders. Scarifiers are available in varied options powered by gasoline, electricity or propane. 

They can also be used with vacuum attachments to help with dust and debris collection. Their aggressive nature makes them the ideal option for grooving sidewalks to ensure that slip-resistant and eliminate trip hazards that may be due to slipping.


Digging out and Removing the Raised Concrete Slabs and Adding New Concrete

This is a more labor intensive approach for leveling sidewalks to remove trip hazards. Usually, it involves removing the entire pavement so you remain with bare ground.

After exposing the bare ground, you'll level it and perform other prep activities to make it ready for the new slab. Once you're sure that the surface is prepared, pour the concrete slab and let the sidewalk to cure.

The primary advantage of this option is that it addresses other possible underneath conditions that could make the surface become a trip hazard. It also improves the physical appeal of the sidewalk.

Precautions when Leveling Concrete Sidewalk Trip Hazards

Your safety comes first and just like in any industrial activity, it is prudent that you keep an eye on your safety when you level these trip hazards. Here are a few tips to take note of:

  • When using grinders, always monitor its speed. Its rotation speed must not be higher than the stated maximum RPM on its wheel.
  • Ensure that you use the grinding wheel guard every time you use grinders.
  • When using scarifiers and grinders, make sure that you've assembled all the parts and flanges correctly.
  • Before beginning any work, be sure to test your grinders or scarifiers. As an added safety, make sure that you also observe regular maintenance and repair intervals of the machine.
  • Protective clothing. You must not begin any job without your protective gear. From the helmets to goggles and ear protection, etc., ensure that all are in place before commencing work. Finally, ensure that all required personal protective tools and pieces of equipment are all in perfect conditions before you can use them.

Wrapping Up

The effectiveness of your preferred way of repairing concrete sidewalk trip hazards majorly depends on the type of tools or equipment that you use. If you don't know how to use or assemble a specific piece of equipment, for example the grinders, be sure to request a demo or contact the manufacturer for tips and guide on how to use the equipment.

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