Protect Your Concrete from Winter

Jack Frost has already begun his annual outing, painting the Maples and Aspen groves, scattering crystals in the lakes, while nipping toes and noses. It’s a beautiful but potentially destructive time of year for anything caught out of doors. Even concrete and stonework that looks impermeable can suffer if not prepared for freezing conditions.


How Frost Deals Damage

Concrete is a mixture of cement and aggregates such as gravel, sand, and water. These materials are mixed by hand for small projects or by machine for larger jobs. No matter the means of mixing, concrete must be blended thoroughly to create the material required by job specifications. As it is mixed, air can be trapped in little pockets, which can be difficult to eliminate. As a result, despite its solid appearance, concrete is actually quite porous. 

When the autumn rains fall and the snow begins to fly, moisture can seep into unprotected concrete and fill up those air pockets with water. Just as the water in an ice cube tray expands in the freezer, the water in these little pockets freezes and expands. When there’s no room to expand like in the ice cube tray, these little ice crystals make room any way they can – by pushing the concrete out of the way. Millions of these little expansions, and then contractions when the spring thaw begins, weaken and tear apart concrete structures with no regard to their size or value. 


Protective Measures

If you have movable concrete statuary or landscape elements such as birdbaths or stepping stones, an economical protective measure is simply moving them into a shelter that will prevent their exposure to freezing moisture. If pieces are difficult to move, they can be sealed to protect the concrete from water permeation. If cracks have already begun to appear, the piece must be cleaned before the sealer is applied.

In the case of concrete slabs, periodic applications of sealer are the best protective measures to take. The slab will need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove any grease and grime before sealing. In the Minneapolis- St. Paul area, contact Concrete Science. Their team of concrete experts can help keep your concrete in top shape this winter and for years to come!