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How De-Icers & Rock Salt Damages Concrete & Makes it  Spall or Chip

How to Protect your Concrete From Damage from Rock Salt & De-Icing Products

A concrete driveway covered in frozen ice and being treated with de-icer

Constant freeze/thaw cycles can wreak havoc on a concrete driveway, leading to flaking, chipping, and cracking over the winter months.

Concrete Treat can help to protect your driveway from normal rock salts, but not commercial grade salts. Contact us for details!

Each winter, concrete de-icers wreak havoc  on unsealed concrete.   Concrete sidewalks, steps, and driveways begin the season looking clean and in good repair, and by the spring, they're spalling, flaking, and showing pitting and damage.

Most homeowners write this off as a necessary evil, thinking that spalling, damaged concrete is the price we pay for the convenience of concrete de-icing salts and other materials.  And the truth is that chemical de-icers have been used for more than 75 years, and there's no end of their use in sight. However, with proper use and protection, your concrete is safe.

Concrete Treat: Concrete Sealer and Blanket is your solution for spalling, flaking concrete.  When Concrete Treat is applied to concrete, it hardens in less than four hours, forming a glasslike seal within the pores that still leaves a slip-resistant concrete surface.

This barrier protects the concrete from the elements, including moisture, rain, salt, non-commercial grade de-icers, and other forces--and it will never spall!  Additionally, it can make your driveway, sidewalks, and concrete steps easier to shovel, as ice and snow will not be able to seep into the pores of concrete and "latch" on. Order Concrete Treat today and protect your concrete driveway, steps, and walkways!

Concrete is damaged by de-icers and salt in three main ways:

1.   Melting/Freezing Ice Makes Concrete Spall

Concrete de-icer alone does not melt ice and snow.  Instead, it mixes with the water in snow and ice to form a liquid brine.  This brine lowers the water's freezing point, which makes the snow melt.  The de-icer continues to change the snow and ice into brine until it becomes too diluted with water to be effective.

As the snow and ice melts on unsealed, porous concrete, some of it will seep into the concrete, saturating it with brine and moisture.  As temperatures drop, this brine and moisture can refreeze, which makes it expand.  When the pores inside the concrete fill with moisture and freeze, it creates pressure on the concrete's surface, creating chipping, flaking, spalling, pitting, and other concrete damage.  If there's a continuous freeze/thaw cycle going on, as is common in spring, then the damage can become much more serious.   In some cases, adding de-icer can actually increase the number of freeze/thaw cycles of the moisture.

2.  De-Icing Salt Crystallizes and Forms Subflorescence

Often, landscaping contractors and maintenance workers do not use chemical de-icers and rock salt the way they should be used.  Instead, they liberally spread the de-icers over the snow and ice until it completely melts.   
However, this process is very poor practice.  Along with the added expense of using far more de-icer than is needed, the de-icer can lead to damaged vegetation, rock salt that can easily end up on the home's carpet, and serious damage to concrete.

As moisture from snow and ice melted by de-icers seeps into concrete, the concrete can become soaked with it.  As the moisture evaporates, it will leave the salt in the de-icers behind.  This salt will recrystalize in the pores of stone and masonry, causing its surface to flake off, or spall.  This process is known as "subflorescence".

3.  Salt Corrodes Concrete Rebar Metal

If rebar metal is present in the concrete, salt and deicing chemicals can cause them to rust and corrode.  If this happens, the corrosion and rust will push outwards on the concrete around it, creating pressure that can cause the concrete to spall and crack,  As the concrete deteriorates, it will become even more susceptible to salt and de-icer, making the concrete break down even faster.

Preventing Concrete Spalling from De-icers

A frozen concrete driveway and walkway treated with rock salt.
Rock salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, causing it to soak into the concrete during very cold weather. There, it can refreeze and expand, pushing on the concrete above and causing it to "pop" off.

High-quality concrete that has been created with best practices in mind is much more resistant to spalling, and this is a good start. Be sure to use the ice melters properly as well.  Apply just enough to loosen ice and snow from the concrete steps, walkways, and driveways.

Once loosened, you can remove it mechanically with a shovel or plow.  If you think that you may not have applied enough, add just a little more, until you can remove the ice and snow.   Properly using rock salt and de-icers will save you money while minimizing damage to concrete and vegetation. However, the best way to protect concrete from spalling is Concrete Treat.  When applied, Concrete Treat will seep into the pores and openings and harden into a glasslike seal.

This concrete sealer prevents the brine created from snow or ice and de-icing chemicals from seeping into the concrete, where all the damage is taking place.

Concrete Treat can be applied easily as a do-it-yourself  project,  drying in just 2-4 hours after application.  It's easy, it's colorless, and it won't break down when exposed to salts, cold temperatures, or spilled chemicals.  And  because it stops moisture from seeping into the crevices of concrete and freezing there, it even makes shoveling snow and ice easier!  Order Concrete Treat today to protect your concrete!

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