Wintertime and Concrete Damage

Concrete Damage in winterWinter is here again which means potential concrete damage from multiple causes including:

  • Freeze-thaw cycle:
  • Salt, or other de-icer damage
  • Snowplow damage

Even though concrete appears to be a very dense material it is actually quite porous!  It acts like a blotter or towel and absorbs water really easily. On a cool winter day the process is much slower but it still occurs.  As anyone who has filled an ice cube tray knows, ice takes up more space than water, by about 9%.  Ice that has been absorbed by concrete can literally break apart the concrete as it expands, depending on the amount of water involved you might see little cracks,  spalding or sections of concrete moving due water expansion aka hydraulics.

Concrete Freeze and Thawing

Winter weather is hard on concrete due to the natural changes in temperature combined with precipitation that creates cycles of freezing and thawing.  Water is absorbed by the concrete or seeps into cracks and joints and slowly breaks the concrete apart.

Snow Plow Damage to Concrete

Snowplows can cause concrete damage by knocking out chunks of concrete.  Plows can also cause rust stains from metal particles that come off when the plows make contact with hard road surfaces or plows/shoes rest on the concrete for extended periods of time.

Salt and De-icer Damage

Spreading salt on the concrete can worsen the effect of the freeze-thaw cycle on concrete because they expand the range of temperature at which the cycle takes place.   They should be used in moderation to remove ice and snow as necessary and excess removed to prevent damage to concrete surfaces and expansion joints.

Proper Concrete Installation and Curing

Proper installation of concrete can make a big difference.  If concrete is not properly prepared or sealed damage can more easily occur.  Moreover, freshly poured concrete is most susceptible to damage since proper concrete curing requires at least 30 days of drying or curing time. Fresh concrete has the highest ration of cement to water, so it is most susceptible to water damage.