Notice any problems with the concrete in the picture above? That's right: it's cracked. While concrete is the strongest, most durable material used for commercial driveways, it’s still susceptible to the elements – especially during the winter when the temperatures plummet. Damaged concrete is usually frowned upon because of its appearance, but it can also be dangerous to vehicles and pedestrians alike. If you own commercial property, any injury or accident on your concrete can result in a series of liability claims.
Cold Weather Damage: The Freeze-Thaw Cycle
Cold temperatures aren’t damaging your concrete – moisture is the true killer. Any kind of moisture, whether it’s rain, snow, sleet, or water vapor seeps into the pores and cracks of your concrete. When temperatures drop below freezing, the moisture inside of your concrete freezes and expands. This can discolor the concrete, cause cracking, and create structural issues.
3 Ways Cold Weather Can Damage Your Concrete
Snow and ice can severely damage your concrete when left sitting on the surface.
Scaling generally occurs when concrete is exposed to extremely cold temperatures, large amounts of moisture due to snowfall, and back-to-back freeze-thaw cycles for long periods of time. Scaling essentially peels off the top layer of your concrete in small flakes. Severe scaling results in peeling in the deeper layers of the concrete, structurally compromising it.
When concrete is installed, contractors place steel components within the structure to keep it sturdy and in place. With low temperatures and snowfall causing repetitive freeze-thaw cycles, these steel components become corroded and expanded. This expansion pressure causes your concrete to delaminate and risks chances of spalling and deterioration.
Cracking is a product of freezing temperatures and inadequate concrete mixtures. When snow falls on the surface of your concrete without removal, it eventually melts into water and penetrates the pores of the surface. Once inside the concrete, the water freezes again due to freeze-thaw cycle, creating ice expansion within the concrete. This pressure can turn into extreme cracking without a reliable concrete mixture.
4. Preventing Cold Weather Concrete Damage
The best defensive against concrete damage is to properly prepare your surface before winter. At Wright Construction, we recommend contacting our company for a high-quality concrete sealing service. A professionally performed seal acts as a barrier between the concrete, moisture, and freezing temperatures, therefore eliminating the freeze-thaw cycle’s effects on your surface. Sealants only have to be applied every 2 to 3 years, but if you’re wanting to play it safe, we’re happy to reseal your concrete surface on an annual basis.
5. Preventing Snowfall Damage
Aside from having your concrete professionally sealed, it’s also important to stay on top of snowfall removal. Shovel or plow your snow with a machine, but never use metal tools to chip away at frozen patches – this could crack your concrete. Keeping snow and slush off your concrete reduces the risk of damage! Avoid using rock salt on your surface. The calcium hydroxide in concrete reacts poorly with calcium chloride found in salt, causing premature cracking and crumbling. Use alternative de-icing materials like magnesium chloride, kitty litter, coffee grounds, or alfalfa meal.