How to Prevent De-Icing Salt from Damaging Concrete In Winter

by TRP Ready Mix on December 20, 2017

De-icing salt can damage concrete structures, but these top tips from concrete suppliers can help you avoid constant repair and replacement.

Concrete Suppliers Offer Tips to Help Keep Your Concrete in Good Condition during the Winter

Winter weather means plenty of salt on roads and driveways. But that salt can cause damage to concrete, especially when it’s new. If your concrete is not mixed, installed, sealed, and/or cured properly, it will be at risk of being weaker and more susceptible to damage in winter from below-freezing temperatures and de-icing salts.

So the best thing you can do to protect your concrete during winter is to ensure you have quality concrete from concrete suppliers and understand these causes of damage and how you can prevent it.

How De-Icing Salt Damages Concrete

Concrete absorbs water. So if you add rock salt to ice and snow, it will form salt-water slush. As this melts, the concrete will absorb the water. While this water absorption is fine on a warm summer day, winter temperatures drop well below freezing, causing the absorbed water to freeze, expand, and break the concrete.

Salt also attracts water, so it will lead to concrete becoming saturated with water. As more water freezes in concrete and the pressure from growing ice crystals increases, your concrete will become more damaged, with the surface likely to spall—peel, flake, or pop out.

Freshly poured concrete is the most susceptible to this damage since it is still highly saturated with water. If you poured concrete in the late fall, it will need a minimum of 30 days to dry. The only way young concrete can withstand the below-freezing temperatures of winter is if your concrete suppliers added enough cement to the mix, and this cement was not diluted with water. Cement creates a hydration reaction that emits heat in the concrete, preventing it from freezing.

How to Prevent Damage To Concrete

The first step to preventing winter damage, especially from salt, is to ensure you have a strong, durable, and high-quality concrete. This requires the right mix, installation, seal, and curing. Concrete suppliers can help you find the right mix depending on your concrete project.

Here are some suggestions for ensuring your concrete will be strong and able to withstand many winters without damage:

  • Use concrete with a minimum compressive strength of 4,000 PSI;
  • Use air-entrained concrete;
  • Don’t add water to the concrete mix at the work site;
  • Seal the concrete to prevent water absorption, but avoid foam-forming sealers;
  • Have workers with experience mixing and installing the concrete; and,
  • Use sand instead of salt on your concrete in winter.

While a strong quality concrete mixed from expert concrete suppliers will be at less risk of damage from de-icing salt, you can avoid the risk altogether and use sand instead. Sand will not melt the ice and snow, but it will provide traction, making your walkways and driveways safer to walk on in slippery winter conditions. Take care of your concrete in winter so it will last for many years to come.