Fall is quickly turning into winter, and Minnesota’s gnarly below-zero temperatures can do a number on your home’s infrastructure, not to mention any concrete you’ve recently (or not so recently) poured.
“Winterization” is fairly self-explanatory; It means preparing an item to withstand winter, whatever that may entail for your specific climate. However, winterizing concrete may not be self-explanatory and often requires quite a few steps.
Don’t begin to fret just yet, though! With Creative Concrete here to help, your pre-winter to-do list won’t get too long. As a residential concrete contractor, we know how to winterize any concrete structure.
Learn how to prepare your concrete garage, concrete driveway, and pool deck concrete for Minnesota’s harshest season – and what happens if you don’t.
Why Winterize Your Concrete?
Unsealed concrete is porous, which means it isn’t immune to penetration by water and other liquids. When temperatures dip below freezing, water that has soaked into your unsealed concrete expands, which puts pressure on it from the inside out. This can shorten the viable lifespan of your concrete by degrading its structural integrity and causing unsightly cracks.
Proper Winterization for All Concrete Surfaces
If you’ve been a responsible concrete owner, winterizing concrete generally boils down to a few additional tasks. Stay ahead of the game – trust us, you’ll thank yourself later!
Taking care of your concrete throughout the year ensures you’re not running around in a tizzy when the fall months roll around, and additional winterization tasks crop up on top of all that maintenance you’ve put off.
Of course, every concrete structure is different. Some might require all of these procedures, and some none at all.
Check Your Concrete Sealant
As you know, unsealed concrete is vulnerable to the elements. Applying a quick, pre-winter sealant is one of the best ways to keep your concrete safe from ice and salt damage. Be sure to power-wash all the dirt off your concrete before you start!
Without sealant to protect it, water can seep down into your concrete. When winter rolls around, this water freezes, expanding in volume and putting excess strain on your concrete. Ensure all necessary sealing procedures are completed long before the first frost.
Take Care of Concrete Repair or Replacement ASAP
Concrete will crack; it’s in its nature. However, not all cracks are cause for concern. If they are, you’ll want to repair these before the first frost to prevent additional damage.
A cracked and decrepit driveway or patio is unlikely to make it through the winter. If it’s beyond repair, replace your concrete before winter sets in and the problems worsen.
Additional Winterization Steps for Concrete Garages
If your concrete garage has been properly sealed, below-freezing temperatures alone have little effect on it. It’s only if improperly sealed concrete is left exposed to water for a prolonged period of time or if caustic deicers are allowed to penetrate the sealant that your concrete is at risk.
Wintertime concrete care, as far as garages go, should focus on keeping water and chemicals off your garage floor. This is easier said than done in some cases. Your car’s tires can track a whole bunch of gunk in, and the physical force exerted as your car pulls in grinds everything from pebbles to water into the concrete below.
Prolonged exposure to the water your tires drag in, along with salt and other road debris, can put excess strain on any concrete garage floor, regardless of how well it’s laid. Not to mention that if not properly sealed, your garage floor is subject to damage as the ice melts and water seeps into it and re-freezes.
As the owner of such a long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing asset, you’d be wise to show your concrete garage a little extra love in the wintertime.
Consider a Containment Mat
Your car’s tires can drag damaging chemicals into your garage floor, debilitating your concrete over time. A containment mat is essentially a place for your car to wipe its metaphorical feet!
In other words, it prevents water and brine from spilling onto your concrete garage floor, which decreases the likelihood you’ll need replacement or repairs come spring.
Add An Epoxy Coating
An epoxy coating on your concrete garage floor is the most efficient solution for protecting the surface long-term. Along with shielding your concrete from salt and winter grime and making it easier to sweep it up, a good epoxy coating should also stop water from penetrating the concrete, greatly increasing the lifespan of your garage floor.
Top Winter Concrete Maintenance Tips
Once you’ve got your concrete winterized, you might think that there's little more you need to do to it until spring to ensure its longevity. And to an extent, you’d be right – the whole purpose of winterization is to put your concrete into “hibernation,” so to speak, readying it for inevitable cold temperatures so it comes out looking sharp.
But without the proper care, typical wintertime chores can actually undo your prep work, leaving your beloved decorative concrete exposed to the cold and snow. You do need to be conscientious as far as winter maintenance goes.
Don’t Use Deicers
Even though you’re not applying these materials to your garage floor, your tires and boots can still track them in. Keep your driveway and other concrete shoveled, and use a non-water soluble material for traction on the ice if you must.
In fact, don’t use deicers at all on a concrete structure if you care about its integrity. We know you need a slip-free concrete driveway, but many deicing products can let water into your concrete, even if they’re labeled as safe to use.
It can even cause bits of your concrete to flake off in a process known as scaling. If you need traction, opt for cat litter or sand to give your wheels or shoe treads the extra grip. Of course, you could simply shovel your driveway before things get that bad, which brings us to our next point…
There’s no need to panic about snowfall on your stamped concrete; it’s a structure meant to be outside, after all! That being said, your concrete still requires that you keep it relatively free of snow and ice if you want it to look its best come spring. This is especially true when it comes to stamped concrete, as the freeze-thaw cycle of excessive ice can put a strain on the designs.
Shoveling a driveway is pretty self-explanatory, simply requiring a bit of elbow grease, but there’s one thing to keep in mind: always use a plastic shovel, as their metal counterparts can do some major damage to your concrete.
Bring that same kind of care inside to your garage floor. A quick squeegee job after you get out of your vehicle stops water and deicers from eating at the concrete below. Just don’t squeegee the water onto your driveway, be sure to clean it up with a wetvac. Going the extra mile when it comes to concrete care is one of the best ways to ensure its longevity.
Redirect Drain Spouts
Another tactic that isn't always discussed as an option to protect your concrete is changing the direction of your building's downspout drains. Chances are, ice and snow melting off the roof land directly on your concrete surfaces, creating a liability for slip and fall injuries and extra wear and tear on the material.
Repositioning doesn’t take a lot of time and moving the downspouts away from your foundation or any concrete areas, will protect them from pooling water.
Need Concrete Replacement? Contact Creative Concrete Today
We’re a Twin Cities concrete company that has experience in creating anything from garage floors to pool decks to patios. If your concrete needs replacement before winter hits, you can reach us online or give us a call at 612-414-7932.