Admit it; taking care of concrete patios, driveways, sidewalks, and floors on basements and garages is almost an afterthought for most people. One of the likely reasons for this is we think that they’re indestructible since they survive an almost constant beating from being driven or walked on day and night. Well, concrete is a durable material– until it’s not.
Like a bodybuilder who suddenly decided to stop working out, a concrete slab that’s not maintained correctly will slowly and surely weaken. Add that to the fact that concrete isn’t exactly cheap, and taking care of it would give you dividends on your investment.
So, here are five easy and cheap concrete maintenance tips that you can easily follow:
The Life Span of Concrete
If you have concrete slabs in good condition, they should last for decades. Some environmental factors such as aggressive tree roots regrowth or earth movement may cause cracking. But the concrete flooring can be easily maintained for many years.
Stamping concrete can also generally extend its life than regular alternatives as they have better coatings. Stamping often has a color hardening agent and sealants that help protect concrete against wear and damage on surfaces.
5 Crucial Tips for Concrete Maintenance
1. Sealing Concrete Surface Using A Concrete Sealer
It should always be coated with a protective sealant to keep moisture and stains out to make plain concrete last longer. Why is this important? Although concrete might seem solid and won’t show any signs of damage, it is quite porous. So, it quickly absorbs water, and in most climates, it dramatically affects its longevity.
Most experts suggest that a sealer isn’t necessary for freshly poured concrete, at least until it is completely cured. This process usually takes around 28 days, so you might want to hold off on applying any additives until the concrete is completely dry.
So, what kind of sealant should you use? You can choose between two types of topical sealers. These are:
- Acrylic-resin sealers: This sealer forms a protective film on the concrete and creates a resistant barrier against water and dust. These sealants may be water or solvent-based.
- Penetrating sealers: can be in the form of silanes, silicates, siloxanes, and siliconates that can penetrate deep into the concrete to form a chemical barrier that protects it from moisture and deicing chemicals. These are great because they won’t change the appearance of the concrete’s surface while still allowing water vapor to escape.
However, you must apply them regularly. Although how often you’ll need to reapply the sealant might depend on a few factors like the weather and how much beating (vehicle or foot traffic) your concrete driveway or walkway receives.
In general, you’ll need to reapply the acrylic-resin sealants once every two years, while penetrating sealants can last anywhere from five to 10 years.
Applying sealants to keep your concrete surfaces dirt-free is a pretty simple process, and it can be your next DIY project. All you need is a good sealing product from a reputable brand and a paint roller with a ¾ inch nap. Meanwhile, the price of sealants may vary depending on where you live, but it typically costs around 15¢ to 25¢ per square foot.
Good to know: Concrete Experts offer concrete sealing.We make sure your concrete is sealed in a correct way. We can also lift and level concrete slabs. We are your best choice for providing maintenance, protecting your concrete, preventing and repairing cracks, and cleaning stains.
Avoid destructive and wrong chemicals
Concrete patio sealers are made from concrete to withstand extreme elements and regular wear. Some heavy-duty chemicals cause contamination and premature crack, while other products containing ammonium nitrate sulfates and ammonium nitrate are incredibly toxic.
So, you should avoid putting deicing salt on stamped concrete since they may help clear out ice in your pat,h but it’s difficult to extend the life of your concrete and complicate its maintenance if you use them.
It is also important to avoid salt during the first winter following installation to prevent damage to the sealants.
2. Maintaining Concrete Involves Regular Cleaning
Oils and other chemicals will not only leave stains on concrete, but they can also lead to its deterioration. Also, since they are quite porous, you should maintain concrete regularly to prevent staining.
The best tool that you can use is a pressure washer, as it effectively keeps concrete clean and remove stains. When you pressure wash pool decks or other surfaces, maintaining concrete is more straightforward, and it will protect its appearance for longer. It also requires less effort compared to when you’re using a garden hose in cleaning concrete. You don’t need to buy any other heavy machinery to clean oil, other stains, and dirt if you have one.
Manage plant growth
Tree roots may compromise your concrete when not handled properly. Roots can grow under your driveway or patio, pushing it upward and causing it to crack. Unfortunately, the cracking in concrete cannot be repaired, making it hard to maintain.
Using preventive methods could save you considerable costs to maintain your driveway. For example, you should keep the roots cleaned frequently to ensure that it doesn’t damage the cement. You might also need the removal of trees that are known to develop deep roots to prevent future problems.
People love concrete for its ability to resist scratches on furniture. The surface of chairs and other furniture scratch the sealing agent whenever you reposition them. To prevent this, use soft rugs or soft cloths.
Rugs also cover the surface against spillage like oil and other chemicals that leaves stains. They can also cover cracks, mildew stains, and other imperfections that you want to hide. A lot of carpets can be placed outdoors too!
3. Avoid Using Deicing Chemicals on Concrete Surfaces
Experts strongly advise against using deicers on concrete, especially if it’s only a year since it was poured. But contrary to what you might think, deicers are not the ones that cause problems, and it’s the increasing freeze-thaw cycles that they produce.
Here’s what usually happens:
- Deicing agents work by lowering the freezing point of water using chemicals.
- Deicers slowly convert water and snow into a salty brine solution as this process progresses.
- This saline solution repeatedly thaws and refreezes as the weather conditions change. This will expose the concrete to more freezing and thawing cycles than it would otherwise experience if you didn’t use deicers.
Another note is that the saline solution that results from deicing agents will eventually seep into the porous surface of the concrete. Once it gets inside, it freezes, making the concrete expand and thaws which causes the slab to contract. Also, water’s volume increases significantly, around 9%, once it reaches its freezing point and expands.
You also need to look out for certain deicers with ingredients like ammonium nitrates and ammonium sulfates that cause further damage to the concrete. On the other hand, chemicals like rock salt (sodium chloride) and calcium chloride cause minor damage to concrete slabs, but they’re harmful to plants and the soil.
It’s best to use sand and thoroughly scrape off or shovel snow and ice as it doesn’t cause damage to your concrete driveway and is environmentally friendly.
4. Etch It Out
Coating or painting a concrete floor with an epoxy layer would make it more attractive and help it last longer by protecting it from stains and other corrosive agents. But before you do anything, make sure you’ve done the proper prep work and etch the concrete.
Why is etching necessary? This can help open the concrete slab’s pores, which allows it to have a better bond with the paint that you’re going to apply. By doing so, you’ll have a tighter seal. You can skip this process, but it’s essential if you’re regularly repainting your concrete floor.
Although it’s best to hire professionals for this job, you can use some off-the-shelf products and do it yourself. You just need to know how to do it properly and what products are appropriate for your patio floor.
5. Take Care of Your Joints
Expansion joints, or those felt-lined gaps that span between concrete, leave room for them to expand and contract as the temperature and weather change. If these joints aren’t waterproof, moisture can seep through them and get under the concrete. The accumulation of water under the concrete can make them heave and pitch as well, which then causes them to rise and sink. The stress resulting from this constant shift can lead to cracks.
To prevent this from happening, you should get rid of any debris and fill the gap using a self-leveling sealant. This product is available at most hardware and convenience stores. Here’s how you should do it:
- Remove the debris by using a utility knife or other sharp tools. You might also need an angle grinder to clean it out more effectively. But please remember to wear gloves and safety glasses while doing this. If you don’t have an angle grinder available, you can rent one at home centers.
- When the residues and muck in the expansion joints are removed, use a wet/dry vac to collect the ones that are stuck inside.
- To lessen the amount of sealant, you’ll need to fill the joints, fill it with a closed-cell foam backer rod, more commonly known as a filler rope.
It’s pretty easy to do this, and you won’t need to hire contractors for this job. You just need the right equipment and chemicals and the read instructions that you can find online to do it properly.
BONUS: A Painting Tip
So water can seep out of concrete and can rise above it. Generally, poor drainage and the overall climate can aggravate this problem by mixing dripping concrete, paint, oil, and water. Paint also adheres poorly to wet cement.
So, how do you know if you’re having problems with moisture? Aside from the obvious signs that you can see, you can perform a test quickly and cheaply. Simply cut an 18”x16” piece of plastic sheeting and apply this on all three sides.
After a day, remove the plastic sheet to see if water vapor has condensation on the other side or if there’s a dark, damp residue on the concrete pavers. You’re ready to etch the concrete if you don’t see this.