By late October, if you’re a homeowner getting ready for winter, you’ve probably already cleaned the gutters on your house, caulked around drafty windows, and replaced the worn weather stripping on the exterior doors.
However, have you made any preparations to safeguard your outdoor concrete from the impending cold? Although concrete is one of the most resilient building materials available, you might be surprised to hear that concrete sidewalks, patios, birdbaths, and other concrete garden implements can be damaged by exposure to snow and ice as well as by the freezing temperatures of winter.
Concrete is porous until it has been sealed. Therefore it is obviously susceptible to moisture. When temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, extra rainwater or dew that has accumulated on concrete cannot easily evaporate like it can in warm weather and instead freezes and expands. Temperature changes can produce movement that leads to surface spalling — when the top layer of concrete flakes away to reveal pitted patches — or concrete fissures.
In addition, a concrete surface that has already developed fractures is considerably more vulnerable to damage because water can infiltrate into the crevices and apply strong pressure as it freezes, enlarging existing cracks and reducing the concrete’s structural integrity. Water that penetrates through wide gaps can saturate the ground underneath slab concrete, such as patios and sidewalks, which can lead to the ground heaving upward when water in the soil freezes and expands. The walking surface becomes uneven and could be hazardous as a result of this movement.
So, what should you be looking for?
Do your concrete slabs already have surface spalling or fissures up to a quarter-inch wide that indicate damage? Repairing the damage first is the best approach to ensure that a surface sealer will adhere as well as to stop the damage from spreading as the seasons change. You may be able to do it yourself with a concrete crack sealant.
However, professional repair may be necessary if a slab has significant damage, such as heaving, uneven surfaces, or numerous cracks greater than 1/4 inch. Before attempting repairs, seek guidance from a professional concrete contractor if you have concerns about the stability of a concrete slab.
Before winter threatens the surfaces of weakened concrete slabs, strengthen and restore them to their former splendor so they can endure the upcoming inclement weather. Use a concrete resurfacer to solve the problem. For older patios, driveways, and sidewalks, the concrete resurfacer combines with the existing concrete to produce an essentially seamless surface.
If you have any patches on your patio where the sealant has worn off, or you have unsealed concrete items like birdbaths or garden art, you should take the time to properly seal them before the cool weather sets in.
Smaller items may be moved to a shed or garage if you do not wish to seal them, and water should be removed from any birdbaths or concrete vessels — especially if you live in an area where freezing weather is expected.