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Tips for Protecting Concrete to Prevent Damage

by TRP Ready Mix on August 11, 2019

How to Maintain Concrete to Avoid Concrete Damage

While concrete is considered relatively low maintenance, it is important to maintain it with occasional upkeep to ensure your concrete looks great and lasts a very long time.

Concrete maintenance is relatively simple, and it’s worth the bit of work to protect your concrete from damaging elements and wear and tear.

So to extend the lifespan of your concrete, consider these factors that can lead to concrete damage in order to better understand how to prevent it from happening.

Elements That Damage Concrete

Along with water, here are some of the most damaging elements that affect the lifespan of concrete.

Chemicals

Chemicals wear down both concrete and concrete sealers, affecting its overall appearance while also making it more vulnerable to damage from the elements, such as heat, snow, and ice.

De-icing chemicals, salt, and pool chemicals are the most common culprits. De-icing salt can cause severe damage since it causes concrete to absorb saltwater from melted ice and snow. And when that water expands, it will cause the concrete to crack and spall.

Other chemicals that damage concrete include:

  • Paint
  • Adhesives
  • Drywall mix
  • Grease
  • Oil

Erosion

If the soil base underneath concrete erodes, concrete slabs can shift, crack, and break.

Soil erosion often occurs if the soil base was not correctly compacted before pouring the concrete slab. Soil can also dry up and shrink, resulting in voids that lead to concrete settling and cracking.

Another cause of soil erosion that can damage concrete is when water washes out the soil underneath the concrete.

Heat

Extreme heat and radiation from the sun can damage concrete in all its stages. Typical damage includes cracks and fissures on the surface of concrete. Resealing your concrete every two years before summer can help protect the surface and prevent the concrete from wearing down.

Ways to Protect Concrete

With regular maintenance, your concrete will not only look clean, but also be better able to withstand the elements. Here are a few of the best ways to maintain your concrete.

Cleaning

Regularly cleaning your concrete is the best way to protect it from the damaging elements that cause concrete to wear down over time. If your concrete is exposed to leaves, debris, weather, or vehicle traffic, you may want to use a power washer to remove dirt buildup.

If using a power washer, do not hold the spray in one area for too long, especially on exposed concrete, since the pressure can break the cement and dislodge stones from the pavement.

Another option for cleaning concrete is to:

  1. Sweep it with a broom
  2. Soak it with a concrete and asphalt cleaner
  3. Let the cleaner sit for 10 to 15 minutes
  4. Rinse off with a garden hose.

Be sure to wear safety glasses and gloves when cleaning concrete to protect yourself from dirt, debris, and cleaners.

Removing Stains Immediately

Although concrete sealer prevents concrete from absorbing stains, you should still remove stains immediately in case the sealer has worn down. Oil, grease, gasoline, and other spills should be cleaned with a power washer or a concrete cleaner as soon as you notice them to avoid permanent stains on your concrete.

Sealing

Concrete should be resealed every 1-to-2 years, depending on the sealer that is used. Concrete sealer protects concrete from the elements in all seasons, from extreme heat to extreme cold, and snow, and ice. Sealer also helps brighten the colour of the concrete.

Be sure to clean the concrete thoroughly before sealing, and choose a good time of year to reseal when the weather is dry—either in late spring, summer, or early fall when it isn’t snowing. Once you seal the concrete, stay off of it for three to four hours, or however long is recommended on the manufacturer’s instructions.

Remove Snow Carefully

To prevent damage to your concrete in winter, take care when shovelling to avoid chipping or scratching the surface. Avoid using metal shovels and ice chippers, and instead use plastic shovels.

If you use a snowblower, raise its blades to avoid scraping the surface. Also be sure to use sand instead of salt and de-icing chemicals on concrete walkways to prevent wearing down the sealer and causing your concrete to crack and spall.

Watch Out for Pool Chemicals

Concrete pool decks can experience damage from salt, chlorine, and other pool chemicals. So to protect your pool deck, be sure to seal it every year before using it throughout the summer. Also consider using a slip-resistant additive that provides traction while feeling smooth underfoot.

Types of Damage and How to Fix

Here are the most common types of concrete damage along with some recommendations for repairs.

Cracks

Unfortunately, cracks are inevitable in concrete. If there were not enough control joints used when installing a concrete slab, cracks might start appearing within two weeks of the pour. Hairline cracks are to be expected, and usually safe. But you will still want to consider repairing, resurfacing, or replacing concrete if the crack:

  • Looks severe
  • Is a safety hazard
  • Allows water to enter underneath the slab.

Concrete patching products are ideal for fixing concrete cracks. But if the cracks are too large, consider replacing the concrete altogether.

Spalling

Spalling refers to the chipping or flaking of concrete surfaces. This often occurs during the freeze-thaw cycle and is sometimes the result of improperly mixing concrete.

When water penetrates the concrete pores and freezes, the water volume expands by up to 9 percent. And once it thaws, it creates pressure under the concrete’s surface layer which eventually results in spalling.

Proper mixing by ready mixed concrete suppliers at the time of pouring can help prevent spalling. But if spalling has already occurred, you can fix it by resurfacing and sealing the concrete.

Settlement

Sometimes voids form under concrete slabs due to soil erosion. The soil could have been loosely compacted at the time of pouring, dried up, or washed out.

As the concrete settles into these voids, it can crack and break, resulting in an unstable and uneven surface. If this happens, you will need to repair the sub base and replace the damaged concrete.

Lifting

Tree roots and the freeze-thaw cycle can both cause concrete to lift. Concrete slabs that have been severely heaved should be replaced since they pose a safety hazard to pedestrians and people in wheelchairs. Raised concrete can also damage vehicles that drive over it.

Though concrete is durable, it does require some maintenance to stay strong and to look great for many years. So spend some time taking care of your concrete. And contact your local ready mixed concrete suppliers for help with repairing or replacing damaged concrete, maintaining and protecting concrete, and pouring new concrete.