Even though concrete is one of the most durable paving materials available, without the proper care and attention in the wintertime, your concrete could easily become damaged by exposure to snow and ice and freeze and thaw cycles. If you’ve poured concrete within the past few months, it’s especially important to protect the surface during the concrete in its first year. Follow these guidelines to care for your concrete in winter and ensure that it lasts for years to come.
Even though you may have poured your concrete months ago, the chemical reaction (curing) that occurs over time may not be finished. For concrete that is a year old or less, it’s important that you minimize driving or parking vehicles on it until after winter freeze thaw cycles are over. Exposing concrete to deicers or brine dripping from vehicles increases the risk of weakening the surface and possibly causing scaling.
Because water expands when it freezes and contracts when it thaws, any water trapped in the pores of your concrete will cause damage as it expands and contracts with changing temperatures. Quality concrete sealants will minimize the amount of moisture that can get into the pores in your concrete, protecting it from snow and ice during wintertime. To apply sealer, first ensure that your concrete is completely dry. Then, apply the sealer with a paint roller or pump sprayer in an even layer across the surface. Always follow the application instructions from the sealer manufacturer.
When snow and ice build up in wintertime, it can be tempting to spread road salt or deicing chemicals to try and clear your concrete. However, it’s crucial that you avoid using deicers, especially those with ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, or magnesium chloride The chemicals in deicers will attack the concrete and can cause it to break, corrode, or even disintegrate over time. Instead, try spreading plain sand on your concrete to harmlessly provide traction and help you walk across it without slipping.
Just as it is important not to use deicing chemicals on your concrete, it’s also important to avoid leaving cars that have been driving in the snow in your driveway for long periods of time. The tires and undersides of the car will track concentrated amounts of snow, ice, and salt, brine and deicing chemicals from the road that can pool on your concrete’s surface and cause damage. As much as possible, avoid vehicle traffic on new concrete until cold months have passed.
As you are clearing snow this winter, be extra cautious that you don’t chip or scratch the surface of your concrete with a shovel or snowplow. To avoid this, use a shovel or snow blower that has rubber or vinyl-edged parts instead of one made of metal. For new concrete always keep driveway cleared of snow and ice. Leaving any amounts of snow and ice on the new concrete will promote deterioration of the concrete surface during freeze and thaw cycles.
By preparing your concrete ahead of time and following these basic guidelines, you can help ensure that your concrete doesn’t weaken and crack during cold winter months.