Stamped concrete is a beautiful alternative to traditional concrete surfaces, able to imitate expensive stone and brick when installed by a specialist, but this kind of concrete also requires special care, especially during the winter months.
Although here in Tulsa, home of R&M Concrete, temperatures don’t typically drop down as low as those in other parts of the country, we certainly see a few lows below freezing each year and even some snow flurries. These conditions can be tough on stamped concrete. To prevent your home’s concrete surfaces from taking a beating this winter, take these four tips from our team of residential concrete services professionals.
Remember: the first year is the most critical when it comes to stamped concrete care, so if your home has a new surface, be extra cautious this winter when tending to it. If you can get it through the first year unscathed, the next several will be much easier to handle.
Seal It Up
Before the weather gets too chilly, give your stamped concrete a good scrub down to remove any dirt and debris and apply a sealant. Sealants will prevent the concrete from staining and can keep the worst of winter’s wear and tear – think ice melts and similar products – from damaging intricate stamping. You’ll still need to wash the concrete down regularly to remove debris, but sealant will go a long way towards improving the lifespan of your concrete surfaces.
Do be sure not to seal your concrete too often, though – it’s not an annual process. In fact, applying too many layers of sealant can cause your concrete to look faded or murky. Also, if you don’t keep track of the type of sealant you use and apply conflicting formulations, they may react with each other and have unpleasant results.
Clear It Quickly
On those occasions that we do get snow or ice coverage, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible. That’s because one of the greatest threats to your stamped concrete is the cycle of freezing and thawing, compounded by ice and snow.
Freezing and thawing can cause the concrete to expand and contract, damaging stamped patterns and causing cracks in the concrete. Once cracks form, you’re also likely to suffer more and larger cracking, as water will be able to get in between sections of concrete. This is why it’s so important to protect your stamped concrete from the freezing and thawing process; it’s much harder to repair stamped concrete than traditional concrete if it’s damaged.
When clearing your stamped concrete, make sure to use a plastic shovel and not a metal one. The metal can damage and chip your concrete if it catches the wrong way, or mar the sealer, leaving your surface exposed to further potential damage. After all, you wouldn’t drag metal furniture across your concrete pathway – so why drag a metal blade across it? If you only have a metal shovel on hand, you’re better off sweeping away any light snow.
Melt Ice Carefully
When ice does hit, most of us are quick to toss down some salt or ice to get rid of it so we don’t slip and fall. While in most cases that’s a good instinct, it can prove disastrous for your stamped concrete, as the chemical components of many ice melts are highly corrosive.
Instead of using salt or chemical ice melt, we recommend putting down sand for traction. The sand will give your shoes something to hang on to when you step outside, but you’ll also be able to just sweep it off when you’re done without worrying about the lingering effects of it on your concrete. And it if gets stuck in the cracks, you can always just hose the sand away once the weather warms up.
If you are going to use an ice melt product, be very careful which ones you choose. Even salt alone can cause stains – they typically look like hard water stains – but chemical products are even worse. Some will react with dyes in the concrete, irreparably bleaching your surfaces. And those products that contain ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate can actually eat away at your concrete, breaking it down and destroying the stamping. You can give us a call anytime for a product recommendation if you’re uncertain what to buy to deal with icy walks and driveways.
With so many dangers lurking in standard ice melting products, it’s no surprise that those with stamped concrete who live in colder climates often have warming systems installed below their concrete surfaces. By keeping the concrete above freezing through the winter, these systems protect the integrity of the surface – but this isn’t really necessary during generally balmy Oklahoma winters.
Many people use stamped concrete to liven up their driveways, and for the majority of the year, this is fine. Yes, you have to be careful that products like oil or antifreeze don’t drip from your car and onto your concrete, but otherwise, you’re unlikely to experience significant problems. Winter, however, can throw a wrench into the works.
What you need to be most aware of during the winter is the possibility that your local streets may be salted during icy weather, or that visitors may salt their own driveways or drive on salted roads and then park in your driveway. Salt stuck to wheels or to the undercarriage of the car can drip and get on your concrete, causing damage. If you think you’ve been on salted roads, try to wipe down your car in the street before parking it on your stamped concrete driveway.
A Call For Professional Care
Just like you would never install stamped concrete on your own, sometimes you need to call on professionals for your residential concrete services – and that’s when you should call R&M Concrete.
Whether you’re looking to install stamped concrete, a standard concrete walkway or driveway, or even a retaining wall, we’re here to help make your house a home. Contact us today for a free job estimate – you provide the specs and we’ll bring the experience, expertise, and commitment to customer service. It’s the R&M way.