February 20, 2013
Concrete continues to be one of the most popular material choices in the construction industry due to its wide range of applications. As a material, it is highly customizable, incredibly durable, and reasonably priced, ultimately requiring little maintenance. Yet, while this material may be quite durable and low maintenance, its appearance can suffer some after years of wear, even if the material beneath remains solid.
To keep your concrete looking beautiful and continuing to perform as expected for years to come, we suggest a number of common practices.
Protection Against the Elements
Concrete should be protected against certain elements, specifically rain, snow, and de-icing salts. This is quite detrimental during winter months in freeze/thaw climates. By nature, concrete is porous, which means it has a nasty habit of absorbing water. When that liquid freezes, it expands by as much as nine percent. What the expansion does is cause the surface to scale in the form of local flaking or peeling of a finished surface.
The same outcome occurs when snow is present on the concrete’s surface. With the cycle of daytime above freezing and nighttime below freezing, this can be quite difficult on unprotected concrete.
As a solution, you can purchase a number of commercially-available deicing chemicals that are reportedly safe for concrete. The skepticism behind this product is that deicing chemicals increase the already frequent number of freeze/thaw cycles concrete goes through during the winter season.
These chemicals are rarely recommended, especially in the first year of service. Instead, consider using clean sand and #9 ice grit as traction alternatives. Deicing chemicals can cause and aggravate surface scaling when used to remove snow and ice. If your situation requires the use of deicing salts, use them sparingly.
Ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate should be avoided entirely as deicers. They chemically aggressive and destroy concrete surfaces.
Rather than going the route of chemical deicers, instead consider concrete sealers. Not only do these protect your investment against moisture penetration, chemical attack, and staining, but it also enhances the color and creates a rather attractive shine on the surface. If you want to know whether a concrete surface needs a sealer is to pour water on it. If the water soaks in, then this winter is going to have a serious impact on your driveway or other concrete surface.
Curing compounds prevent moisture from leaving the concrete during the initial stages of strength development, whereas concrete sealers are meant to keep moisture from entering the concrete entirely. They protect against damage caused by deicing salt, staining, and abrasion and wear.
Most penetrating water repellant sealers can last up to five years before requiring reapplication. The amount of traffic the surface receives determines the lifespan, making an exact life expectancy difficult to determine. By applying a seal to your concrete, you ensure greater longevity in your concrete and a more aesthetically-pleasing surface for years to come.