Winter Damage and Your Concrete Patio: 3 Steps to Protect Your Investment

When the weather outside is frightful, make sure your outdoor concrete patio remains delightful for years to come. Concrete patio designs can withstand a lot of wear and tear — lasting far longer than other building materials — but as temperatures drop, unique winter conditions can impact the integrity and beauty of your patio. Use these winter concrete protection tips to protect your investment (and your home's curb appeal and real estate value) as the mercury starts to plummet. 

The importance of winter concrete care

Concrete is quite permeable. If your patio isn't sealed, or if it has damage or cracks that allow moisture to get in, that water easily travels deep into the concrete's pores. 

And then the cold weather arrives. As water freezes, it expands by approximately nine percent.

The expanding ice can create up to 100,000 pounds-per-square-inch (PSI) of pressure, causing small cracks and fissures in your patio. As your patio goes through periodic freezing and thawing, the cycle repeats itself and gets steadily worse.

This may lead to:

  • Larger cracks, which lets even more water in
  • A weaker patio with potentially uneven surfaces (creating a potential safety hazard)
  • Pieces of the concrete surface flaking off, damaging the appearance of stamped concrete and stained concrete

And that's just the start. Many common winter home maintenance habits may further contribute to your patio's damage. For example, when you apply salt to melt slick ice sheets, the salt can damage your patio's appearance and strength. 

Thankfully, savvy homeowners like yourself can prevent and repair winter concrete damage ahead of time. 

cracked concrete in winterThe basics of winter concrete care

1. Do a careful inspection of your patio

Because the freeze-thaw cycle is one of the biggest contributors to concrete damage, it's important that you get ahead of the problem by repairing cracks in your patio as soon as possible.

Inspect your patio's concrete surface for any signs of damage:

  • Fine lines or hairline cracks
  • Larger cracks
  • Surface chipping and peeling

Fill in any small cracks and fractures with a flexible concrete sealant, which will bond with the concrete and remain flexible and strong as temperatures rise and fall.

If you notice more extensive damage, such as large fractures or big pieces of your stamped concrete design missing, call a concrete repair professional. In these cases, it's important that you have a professional concrete contractor address any stability or structural issues before making surface repairs or cosmetic fixes. 

2. Follow a regular resealing schedule

How often you need to get your patio resealed depends on the type of concrete sealer you originally used. Many topical sealers last anywhere from three to five years while penetrating sealers tend to last much longer.

How to know if your concrete needs to be resealed:

  • Contact an expert concrete contractor for information on your sealant's lifespan.
  • Do a test of your penetrating sealer: Pour water on your patio and watch to see if the concrete absorbs the water.
  • Check your topical sealer: If it is peeling, cracked, or has lost its gloss/color, it likely needs resealing.

Remember, it's far more budget-friendly to maintain the health of your sealant than to have to repair and restore a concrete patio that's been water damaged. 

3. Practice ice prevention before de-icing

If your patio is freezing over, don't run out right away to buy a bag of de-icing salt. Applying salt to your concrete patio creates a few problems: 

  • By melting snow and ice, salt actually creates additional risks of moisture (now in liquid form) seeping into your concrete.
  • Salt does nothing to prevent the freeze-thaw cycle.
  • Salt can corrode the rebar in your concrete, damaging your patio's overall strength and safety.

The best winter defense is a good offense. Prevention and salt-free maintenance are always better for your concrete:

  • Watch for where and how water collects on your patio (e.g. Are your gutters overflowing? Is there runoff from a higher part of your yard?) and take steps to address it.
  • Shovel off the snow after every single snowfall before it can harden into dangerous, difficult-to-remove ice.
  • Sprinkle your patio with sand (this won't remove ice, but it will make your patio far less slippery).

If you absolutely must de-ice your concrete patio, consider these winter concrete do's and don'ts:

  • Don't use salt during your concrete patio's first winter.
  • Don't use chemical deicers (ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate are some of the worse for your concrete).
  • Opt for calcium chloride or potassium chloride if you absolutely must use salt (these forms are slightly less damaging to your patio).
Beautiful walkway concrete craft

Winter concrete patio construction or repair

Whether you want to get a new patio poured while it's cold outside, or you want to revitalize and restore an existing concrete patio with a fresh coat of cement, it is possible to pour concrete in the winter.

There are, of course, a few caveats to cold weather concreting:

  • The ground must be cleared and thawed before construction begins.
  • Proper planning and preparation is needed to avoid early freezing of freshly poured concrete
  • The new concrete needs to be protected with a plastic sheet or similar material for at least the first 24 hours

Protect your concrete investment all year long

If you want a patio that provides comfort and outdoor fun all year long, a concrete patio can provide decades of joy for you and your family. However, as we've discussed above, concrete patios do need specialized care and maintenance.

Partner with Concrete Craft for professional guidance, installation, repair, and renewal of your new patio. Our friendly team can provide you with:

Request a free consultation today to learn more about how Concrete Craft can help you to build (and protect) a beautiful outdoor space that lasts through every season, and for many years to come. 

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