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Winter Concrete Protection from Salt: Top 10 Tips

August 22, 2023
Winter Concrete Protection from Salt: Top 10 Tips
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When winter weather comes, every business's first concern is getting rid of the snow and ice that prevent customers and clients from accessing commercial premises. Parking lots, entryways, and pavements can all become dangerous slipping hazards that negatively impact foot traffic.

Without proper care and attention given to your outdoor surfaces, your concrete and asphalt could become so damaged that it needs to be repaired or replaced entirely within a few short years.

At Earth Development, we take this seriously. Not only do our local snow removal experts take precautions to protect your outdoor surfaces, but we also provide advice right here on our website.

Here are useful tips to help you protect your concrete from damage this winter.

How Exactly Does Salt Damage Concrete?

Salt Damage Concrete

Salt can potentially cause significant damage to concrete due to the freeze-thaw cycle. When water absorbs into the concrete and then freezes, it expands. This expansion creates pressure within the concrete, leading to cracks and spalling.

Road salt, commonly used during winter, exacerbates the problem. The chloride ions present in salt penetrate the poured concrete, accelerating the corrosion of reinforcing materials. Protect your concrete by minimizing de-icing salt exposure and implementing proper maintenance and sealing techniques.

10 Tips for Concrete Surface Protection

There are several things you can do to help protect concrete surfaces from salt damage.

What to Do Before Winter Arrives

As winter approaches and you prepare for icy conditions, it's important to take steps to protect your concrete surfaces from salt damage.

#1. Maintain Your Concrete Surfaces

concrete sealer

Properly maintaining your concrete surfaces outdoors is the first step in protecting it from damage. The moment you see cracks forming, it's best to take action and mend those cracks. If water and salt find their way into those cracks, there will be a nasty combination of corrosion and freeze-thaw action which will make that crack get bigger and bigger.

You can choose how you want to fix those cracks, whether you'd prefer to replace the concrete entirely or use special crack-filing sealants.

#2. Protect Concrete with Coating

Snow and ice storms can wreak havoc on uncovered concrete, causing cracks, scaling, and disintegration. Protect your concrete driveway, patio, or walkway by applying an acrylic sealer before winter arrives. The sealer penetrates the concrete to provide a water-repellent barrier against moisture and de-icing salts. It helps prevent freeze-thaw damage while allowing vapor to escape. We recommend routinely reapplying the protective coating to provide a simple, affordable way to shield your concrete driveways from the damaging effects of winter weather.

#3. Use Salt-Resistant Concrete Mix

When installing new concrete, use a mix specifically engineered to resist salt damage. Salt-resistant concrete contains special properties to help withstand freezing water. It also utilizes specialty aggregates and chemical admixtures to slow the chemical reaction that occurs between salt and concrete. Specifying a salt-resistant concrete mix when pouring new sidewalks, driveways, and steps will boost durability and longevity in areas exposed to regular salt application.

#4. Provide Proper Drainage

Ensure that concrete has proper drainage so melting snow and ice can run off. Allowing slush and water to pool on concrete enables greater absorption of salt.

  • Check that the soil or base under the concrete is graded properly to direct water away from the surface.
  • Use a slope of at least 1/4 inch per foot.
  • Install drainage pipes or trenches along concrete if needed.
  • Seal control joints but leave expansion joints open for drainage.

Proper drainage prevents the accumulation of dissolving salts and excess water, both of which can exacerbate damage to concrete when frozen.

Concrete Salt Protection During Winter Season

concrete surface

While pre-winter preparation is key, maintenance doesn't stop once the snow starts falling.

#5. Apply Concrete Sealer

Protecting your concrete from damage is easy with our water-repellent sealer. Apply specially formulated concrete sealer to create a protective hydrophobic barrier that prevents water penetration, reducing the risk of cracks, stains, and deterioration. With winter approaching, the sealer provides essential winter concrete protection against freezing temperatures and moisture damage.

If you've stayed on top of your concrete and repaired cracks throughout the year, you'll be all set to apply a sealant to your concrete surfaces. An acrylic sealant forms a strong layer over the top of the concrete, stopping water, debris, and salt from getting inside.

The sealant also stops the salt from attracting moisture to the surface of the concrete and causing corrosion. The greater the barrier between the concrete mix and salt, the better.

Not only does a high-quality sealant provide protection from water, but it also keeps the top of the concrete surface looking clean and new and even maintains a grippy feel on the top. Perfect for those slippery winter months.

#6. Use a Lithium Silicate Densifier Solution

Ensuring the longevity of concrete requires protecting it from the elements. Applying a lithium silicate densifier solution helps safeguard newly laid, high-quality concrete from damage. The densifying treatment chemically reacts with the concrete to produce more calcium silicate hydrate, increasing surface density and hardness. This makes concrete more impermeable to water, de-icing salts, and freeze-thaw exposure. Routine application of a sodium or lithium densifier is Earth Development's go-to method for ensuring concrete withstands years of wear while maintaining its pristine appearance.

#7. Utilize Concrete-Friendly De-Icing Salts

Regular rock salt or sodium chloride can cause significant damage to concrete through chemical reactions and cracking. Instead, choose de-icing salts specifically designed to be gentle on the concrete's surface. Look for formulations with reduced chlorides as well as inhibitors that prevent road salts from interacting with concrete. Acetate-based melts work well. Using concrete-friendly ice melts prevents costly repairs from salt deterioration and spalling during winter. 

At Earth Development, we combine quality deicers and additives, including Calcium Chloride, to minimize the impact that these agents have on your concrete while still effectively combatting ice and snow.

#8. Consider Salt Alternatives

salt damage

Consider using salt alternatives that are less damaging to concrete. Products like calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) and potassium acetate are more environmentally friendly options that are less corrosive. Sand offers good traction without the deteriorating effects of salt. Abrasives like crushed stone aggregate can also substitute for salt. Even mixing a small amount of sand or ash into your salt can help “cut” the proportion of salts applied. Using CMA, acetates, sand, or grit either alone or blended with minimal salt are all concrete-safe options for melting ice.

#9. Showel Snow and Ice Promptly

Be diligent about clearing snow and ice buildup on concrete surfaces. Allowing snow and ice to linger enables road salt to concentrate as it melts, leading to excessive salt exposure. Make it a priority to promptly remove accumulated snow after a storm, before it turns to ice. Sweeping away any remaining salt residue will further prevent the accumulation of concentrated salts that can damage concrete over time. Quickly clearing snow and ice denies salt the chance to cause harm.

#10. Plow Snow with Right Instruments

When it comes to snow plowing, using the right instruments can help protect your concrete surfaces. Opt for plastic shovels or shovels with a rubber or plastic blade instead of metal ones to prevent potential damage. Metal shovels can scratch and chip decorative concrete. Additionally, using plastic or vinyl shoes instead of metal cleats can help avoid excessive pressure on the concrete and minimize the risk of cracking and salt penetration. Remember, being mindful of the tools you use can go a long way in preserving the integrity of your concrete.

Let the Experts Care for Your Concrete

The best way to ensure your outdoor surfaces are not compromised during winter ice management is to employ the help of local experts. Earth Development offers reliable contractors who know how to take care of all kinds of outdoor surfaces, from concrete to asphalt.

For more advice, a free quote, or to book a consultation at your property, call the Earth Development team today. We'll get you prepared for the winter weather, and help keep your outdoor surfaces in top shape.

Eddy Zakes
Eddy is a distinguished expert in the snow removal and landscaping industry, boasting over 20 years of experience. As an Advanced Snow Manager certified by the Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA), he is dedicated to upholding the highest industry standards. His strong commitment to excellence and relentless pursuit of improvement makes him a trusted voice in the snow removal and landscaping.
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The amount of snow Minnesota gets each winter fluctuates, but it’s typically safe to expect a consistent amount throughout the winter months. Last year, did you have enough space on your property to store plowed snow?