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How to Keep a Concrete Patio or Sidewalk From Sinking

By Sal Marco
Keep sidewalks and patio level and stable with proper installation.
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Many homeowners choose to install concrete sidewalks, walkways and patios in and around their homes. Concrete sidewalks and patios offer a stable, long-lasting area to walk, entertain or relax. Some concrete patios and sidewalks sink, crack and become otherwise unstable because of improper ground preparation and concrete installation methods. Concrete sidewalks and patios can also sink from installation on soft soil. Preventing sinking keeps the sidewalk or patio from becoming unlevel and incurring damage.

Dig out the area for the patio or sidewalk with a shovel and compact the soil with a vibrating plate compactor. Soft soil areas benefit from tightly packing the soil to get rid of air pockets; air pockets lead to settling. Compressing the soil tightly provides a stable base for the concrete to lie.

Dig 6 inches below the frost line with a post-hole digger. Tamp the base of the hole with a 2-by-4 piece of lumber. Add 4 inches of a sand and gravel mixture to the bottom of the hole and tamp the gravel to compact it tightly. Mix concrete with water in a wheelbarrow or trough. Pour the concrete into the hole until concrete fills the hole. Allow the concrete to set for 72 hours before continuing with the sidewalk or patio installation. Dig and fill holes with concrete every 18 to 24 inches throughout the sidewalk or patio field beginning 4 to 6 inches from the edge of the patio or sidewalk.

Add 4 inches of a gravel and sand mixture to the base of the compacted sidewalk excavation or 6 inches of a gravel and sand mixture to the base of a large patio to provide adequate drainage under the concrete structure. Water flowing under a concrete patio or sidewalk causes erosion that leads to a sinking sidewalk or patio. Run the vibrating plate compactor over the sand and gravel mix to compact the ground further under the concrete. Avoid compacting over the concrete support piers.


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Vibrating plate compactor
  • Post-hole digger
  • 2-by-4 inch lumber
  • Sand
  • Gravel
  • Concrete
  • Wheelbarrow or trough


  • Metal support piers are also available to help keep a concrete patio or sidewalk from sinking. Typically, metal support piers require professional installation.


  • Wear a dust mask, gloves and eye protection when working with concrete.

About the Author


Sal Marco began writing professionally in 2009. He has written many online home improvement articles based on his more than 20 years of experience in the home improvement and building industries. He has worked as both part of a team and as a site supervisor. Marco has a Bachelor of Science in management science from Kean University.