Protect Your Investment: Tips on Caring for Your Concrete

Concrete continues to be among the most popular material choices for construction.  It has a wide array of applications; it is completely customizable, extremely durable, requires minimal maintenance, and is relatively inexpensive.  However, as durable and low maintenance as concrete is, following a few simple tips will keep your concrete looking beautiful and performing as expected for several years to come. 

Concrete should be protected from several elements like rain, snow and de-icing salts that are present and become detrimental during the winter months in a freeze/thaw climate.  Due to its porous nature, concrete has a tendency to absorb water.  When it freezes it can expand by as much as 9%.  This can cause the surface to scale (a local flaking or peeling of a finished surface of hardened concrete.)  This same situation occurs when snow is present on the concretes surface.  With daytime temperatures above freezing followed by below freezing nights, this continuous freeze/thaw cycle, common to our Ohio climate, is naturally difficult on unprotected concrete.

There are a number of commercially available deicing chemicals that claim they are safe for concrete.  Simply put, deicing chemicals increase the already high number of freeze/thaw cycles your concrete must endure during a typical Ohio winter.   The use of deicing chemicals is never recommended, especially in the first year of service.  Clean sand and #9 ice grit are great traction alternatives that are acceptable anytime.  Deicing chemicals used for snow and ice removal can cause and aggravate surface scaling.  If your situation requires the use of deicing salts, use them sparingly.  When conditions permit, hose off accumulation of salt placed and deposited by cars on newly placed driveways and garage slabs.

Never use ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate as a deicer; these are chemically aggressive and destroy concrete surfaces.

The benefits of applying a quality concrete sealer are numerous.  Not only will it protect your investment from moisture penetration, chemical attack, and staining, but enhance the color and leave an attractive shine on the surface.  A simple way to determine if your driveway requires any sealer is to pour some water on it.  If the water soaks in then this winter could have a serious impact on your driveway.  While a curing compound acts to prevent moisture from leaving the concrete during initial stages of strength development, a concrete sealer is designed to prevent moisture from entering the concrete.  Keeping concrete sealed will help prevent water from soaking into the concrete, where it can do damage either by freezing or by corroding the reinforcing steel in the slab.  Concrete cure and seals and penetrating water repellant sealers can also minimize dusting, protect against damage from chloride (deicing salt) ingress, protect against staining, and they can act as a sacrificial layer to reduce abrasion and wear to the concrete from traffic.  Finally, concrete cure and seals can enhance the color and impart an attractive shine to concrete, especially beneficial on stamped, colored and acid stained surfaces. 

Penetrating water repellent sealers can last five or more years before requiring reapplication.  The exact life expectancy of the seal is impossible to determine, since it is dependent on the quality of the concrete and the amount of traffic and weathering the concrete receives.  Traffic, weather, and sunlight will degrade a concrete cure and seal much faster, and reapplication is required every 2 to 3 years.

If you’re concerned about how your concrete is going to endure the winter that Mother Nature has planned for the Ohio region this year, feel free to contact any of the professional staff members at Ohio Ready Mix  to discuss the best methods to protect your investment.