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Winter Maintenance: Tips for Caring for Your Concrete in the Cold

Concrete is extremely durable, however, in order for it to last, it requires proper maintenance and care. Winter weather can be brutal, so you’ll want to protect your investment. Ensuring driveways and walkways are safe when the snow and ice hits is a priority for homeowners and business owners alike, but did you know that deicers can be harmful to concrete surfaces? This is especially true during your concrete’s first winter. Here are a few winter maintenance tips to help preserve your new concrete through tough winters.A picturesque two-story Minnesota house in a winter setting, covered in a thick layer of snow. The house features beige siding with stone accents and a gabled roof.

 

Concrete Winter Maintenance and Care

It is extremely important to not use any deicer chemicals on your concrete surface. The use of deicers on your new concrete patio, driveway, or sidewalk could be harmful to its surface. Instead, use sand to add traction to any areas that are experiencing ice buildup. Damage from chemicals will void your warranty.

Even deicers that are labeled as concrete safe may   aggressively attack and deteriorate concrete surfaces. It is also important to note that salt eats ALL types of masonry installations. This includes concrete. Salt damage to concrete includes discoloration, cracking, or a crumbling surface.

When snow or ice coverage occurs, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible. However, you’ll want to avoid using any method of snow removal that has a steel cutting/scraping edge. This will leave behind tiny amounts of steel on the surface of the concrete. Over time, these small amounts of steel will oxidize and rust, leaving rust visible on the surface of the concrete. This rust is difficult to remove. Instead, opt for a plastic snow shovel for clearing your concrete sidewalk or driveway.

Exterior concrete is subject to freeze/thaw cycles. Expansion joints are cuts that are made to allow for the expansion and contraction of the concrete slab during these cycles. Expansion joints are sometimes referred to as isolation joints. The 4-6 inches of the base is responsible for reducing the pressure of frost heaves. Cracks may appear over time if pressure on the concrete slab is not diverted into the expansion cuts. However, cracks can still appear for no reason at all. 

Do's and Don'ts for Winter Concrete Care

Concrete Cracking 

Regardless of the quality of the concrete or best installation practices, all concrete is susceptible to cracking. Cracking may occur in 1 day or 3 years. If the subsoil beneath the installed base moves too much, it can cause concrete movement or crack. This is especially common in areas with clay subsoil. If a crack passes through a saw cut, it may cause a small piece to break off. There can be some surface cracking from the drying process as well. If a crack does appear, the solution is to fill the crack. That area of the installation should then be monitored yearly. Cracks are never repaired, they can only be filled. Once filled, a crack can resurface over time. The time frame can be from 1 year to 10 years and is dependent on the earth’s movements.

Concrete Sealer

Aurora utilizes a penetrating concrete sealer called Single Seal Freeze Protect that is purchased from Professional Products Direct. Single Seal Freeze Protect creates a semi-permeable layer of weather-resistant protection that stops moisture from seeping into the concrete. This helps to eliminate chipping and cracking during freeze-thaw cycles. Although no sealer can 100% prevent the effects of salts/deicers on concrete, Single Seal provides your concrete with a better defense against harsh Minnesota conditions.

Following these simple tips will help you maintain your concrete driveway during harsh winters. This information also applies to other concrete surfaces such as concrete sidewalks and concrete patios. While the winter months can be the most challenging on your concrete, your concrete should be monitored and maintained year-round. If you notice damage or cracks, contact a professional before a small flaw becomes a large expense.