Economic Multipliers (18)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

Maintenance is an economic multiplier.


The advantage of writing is that you can go back to ‘old material’ and borrow from the past:

I once wrote: ‘We are not near as good at ‘maintaining’ things as we are at building ‘new’ … Maintenance is ‘dull’ – it doesn’t inspire people – and it takes a lot of ongoing commitment with few or no ribbon-cutting ceremonies, big awards and ongoing recognition …'

When I wrote this, I was referring mainly to our nation’s infrastructure but also about an ‘attitude’ we as a society have developed about maintenance.

It’s normally very easy to get people inspired about building new things but it’s many times hard to get them inspired about maintaining the things that already exist: When’s the last time YOU heard someone talk about their fundraiser for maintenance?!

That attitude can carry over to what we teach kids.

Since I try to do some concrete maintenance every 2-4 years and recently did some, I thought I’d tell (and show) you why you’d want to do it (OPEN). If you own property (or ever plan to) and don’t have hundreds or thousands of extra dollars lying around, it’s worth a read.

I couldn’t think of any good way to make this text ‘interesting’ (and imagine how ‘dull’ photos of gray concrete can be) so I included a couple tips on how to ‘jazz up’ photos using font software at the photo site (OPEN). But, if you’re a techie creative person that does graphics all the time and you’ve already done concrete repairs, expect to learn nothing here (and keep in mind that there’s a LOT that I don’t know).


I’ve always lived in a cold weather climate. Freezing water (note that I don’t say ice because it’s the transition that creates the havoc) has the capacity to put thousands of pounds of pressure on joints and cracks when it expands. Likewise, in winter, the ice likes to ‘grab’ the pavement surface and if salt or other treatments are put down (to melt the ice), they can further weaken the surface of the concrete, making it easier for the surface to erode (called frost weathering).

Most concrete is always in need of some assistance but whenever I do maintenance on some, I only do a little bit at a time (I like small jobs because they don’t seem like much work).

Now, I always believe the following things about people even if they are not true:

  • They may not have the money to completely replace something if it goes bad.

  • They may never have grown up around tool people and people who normally do repairs so they may lack the knowledge, skills and tools to tackle many different kinds of jobs.

  • They probably would do the job a lot better than me if they took the time to do it because they would probably read more directions, take more time and pay more attention to detail.


On jobs I don’t particularly care to do, I can tend to rush … I do NOT consider this to be a good thing and rush a lot less often as I’ve grown older.

There’s a motto that I was taught years ago: GO SLOW to GO FAST. Amazingly, it works.

The more time you take up front to do things properly and the less you rush, the greater the chance that you’ll do things right the very first time and you’ll be a lot less likely to ‘trip’ along the way.

Now, I’ve had great success in getting vinyl ‘patch’ to hold for many years (10+) because of really good preparation but this year, I didn’t get all the materials I needed together in advance (not enough water, rags and plastic). For the last surface repair I did (OPEN), the ‘patch’ was starting to dry out because I had taken too long (I spent time running around pulling together more materials). I filled in many divots and some areas which were ‘spalling’ before that but I’m not sure the very last repair is going to last (It may: I’m just not sure).

If I had mixed two smaller batches, I would have had more time. (I only used about 1/3 of a gallon container of dry ‘patch’ … sold at hardware stores … for the whole job so it already was a small amount). If I had been more prepared before I mixed the ‘patch,’ I would have taken less time.

The job took 3-4 hours (with preparation and cleanup) but would have taken longer if I hadn’t already had the materials and tools:

  • clean rags (lots of them): you’ll be cleaning the surface

  • clean water (and degreasing cleaner if you think the surface has any oils or grease): you’ll need water for :

    • cleaning

    • mixing the ‘patch’

    • making sure the surface is wet before the ‘patch’ is put down (this is CRITICAL … surface wet but NO standing water … one of the reasons it’s good to have a lot of extra rags) and

    • wetting the surface 12 to 24 hours later (read your ‘patch’ directions but I always consider this a good thing to do … given that I do this job so seldom, I should ALWAYS read the directions … life is a whole LOT of ‘shoulds’)

  • a hard-bristled scrub brush (I omitted this step this year because the concrete was quite ‘clean’ and I scrubbed it with rags but might regret not using the brush … any dirt left on the pavement can prevent good adhesion and if the ‘patch’ isn’t going to hold, there’s no point taking the time to do it in the first place)

  • vinyl cement ‘patch’ (similar to cement but with sand and admixtures (added ‘stuff’ to make it stronger) … if there’s sand in the mix, it’s called a mortar when mixed; if there’s gravel in the mix, it’s called concrete … I know these things and always use the wrong words anyway) and a scoop or trowel or some method to take some out of the container (pouring creates a LOT of dust) … read the directions carefully on the ‘patch’ because you want to make sure you do NOT put too much water in it … stiff but workable (like bread dough but gritty with no visible water)

  • some small (very clean) gravel if you have deep divots that you’re going to fill (you’d surface wet the gravel first … and mix a bit in with the patch … and … surface wet means you pour water over it and literally roll it in a towel before you use it … obviously I’m talking about a SMALL quantity)

  • plastic to cover the patches

  • anchors for the plastic (I’ve used stones, scrap wood, pitchers with water, bricks, etc.) (It’s particularly important to cover very thin coats of ‘patch’ to preserve moisture so the cement can properly ‘cure.’ Many people ignore this step and when I see ‘patch’ that’s pulling up immediately, I think one of two things: they didn’t completely clean the concrete before they applied the patch OR they didn’t cover the thin layer and it didn’t get a chance to cure properly).

  • something to put the mix in (I used a 1 gallon ice cream pail)

  • a trowel (borrow one if you don’t have one and can’t afford one, promise to clean it afterward and make sure you do)

  • vinyl, rubber or latex gloves (to protect your hands … cement is alkaline and lengthy exposure can damage your skin … think of it like a weak acid … just on the other side of the pH scale): I use one hand to smooth down the edges of the patch (especially for the thin layer put on spalled areas) after I’ve troweled it on and leveled it.

  • a dust mask (or at least a scarf): When you first mix everything, it will be dusty … I have some ‘techniques’ for dust … like pay attention to whether there’s wind and be on the correct side, take a breath before you do the dusty stuff, do the dusty stuff and then step away (into a clean air zone) to breath, etc. Even with a dust mask on, the best thing to do is avoid the fine dust.

  • a foam pad covered in plastic (concrete is hard on the knees and the plastic will keep the pad clean)

  • materials for cleanup: I cleaned the trowel (with water and wiped it down … it rusts if you leave it wet … if yours is rusty … you can clean it with steel wool) and threw the pail and rags away … I’ve also reused the pail in other years but this pail was on its ‘last legs.’

Most maintenance jobs are not hard … but they require time, materials, tools and knowledge. The concrete will be replaced someday but small amounts of maintenance like this can mean the difference between replacing a driveway or sidewalk panel in 40 years versus 10 years.

For most people, a 30 year difference is a long time. And, they may have other things they want or need to spend their money on.

The only drawback to ‘patching’ concrete like this is every time you put a batch of ‘patch’ down, you’ll probably end up with a slightly different color gray than your previous one and none will likely match your original concrete gray.

I’ve pondered what it would take to do some up front planning and make patches that look like animals or flowers or geometric designs: If I ever do it, I’ll report my results.

Humorously (for me), this concrete ‘job’ only took 3-4 hours but I’ll bet I spent more time than that THINKING about the fact that it should be done! (Usually it makes a LOT more sense to just get things done).

Of course, concrete maintenance is just ONE maintenance item (and many people hire contractors to do all their maintenance work but they make sure that it’s done): The time and attention you pay to ALL things in your life (including your own personal maintenance) can pay dividends for years.