How to Protect Your Concrete This Winter
The winter season can be brutal in many ways, including on your concrete driveway and sidewalk. When the temperatures are below freezing and Mother Nature has just dropped another eight inches of snow over your town, you may be tempted to use rock salt to battle snow and ice accumulation. After all, you still need to be able to get to work without driving along an ice skating rink! But it turns out that rock salt can severely damage your concrete, so steer clear of it and utilize a more natural alternative like sand.
Why Does Rock Salt Hurt Concrete?
To understand why rock salt, the common snow and ice melting tool, is dangerous on your home’s concrete surfaces, you first need to understand a bit about the science of concrete. While concrete is undoubtedly one of the strongest paving materials, it only remains strong when it is squeezed and compressed. Rock salt has the potential to “pull” the concrete, which reverses its compression. This occurs because rock salt melts snow and ice to create a saltwater mess, allowing that salt water to leach into the concrete, which is surprisingly absorbent. Once the temperature drops again at night, that salt water will freeze, and the pressure of the expansion of ice crystals will force the concrete to blast apart.
The Best Alternative
To properly and safely take care of your concrete surfaces throughout the snow and ice of winter, opt for sand instead of rock salt. Though sand will not melt snow and ice, it provides the traction you need to stay safe. It will be up to the temperature and the sunshine to determine when and how fast your snow and ice will melt, but without the rock salt your concrete will not be at risk of damage during that melting phase. One other option is to treat your concrete before snowfall with a clear coating that contains silanes and siloxanes. These ingredients allow the concrete to breathe still but minimize or even eliminate the chances of water being absorbed into the concrete.