There is a variety of reasons why concrete is such a popular material choice for homeowners. It’s practical, in part because of its malleability and its utility in a variety of applications. It’s durable, because it can withstand most forms of impact without sustaining much damage.
And it has a high longevity, which gives it the ability to remain functional for a number of years. But concrete isn’t a perfect material, and if you’re using it for your driveway as many Americans do, you should be aware of the various ways it can deteriorate, and more important, how to preserve it for decades to come.
How Concrete Can Be Damaged
Concrete can be compromised in a number of ways, including aesthetically and functionally. Here are some of the principal ways your concrete can get damaged:
- Stains. Stains are one of the most obvious ways that concrete can be compromised, though thankfully, it’s almost always little more than an aesthetic problem. If you spill a staining substance on your driveway, it may leave an ugly, permanent mark … but you’ll still be able to use your driveway as if it were normal.
- Cracks. In contrast, cracks, depending on their severity, can interfere with your driveway use. They can form in a variety of ways, but the most common is as a result of a series of freeze-thaw cycles, during which expansion and contraction eventually cause a split in the surface. It could also occur from the stress of an exceptionally heavy load, though this is much more rare.
- Divots. If something heavy or sharp strikes concrete, that can take a chunk out of your driveway. But this is fairly rare.
- Corrosion. Several things can potentially corrode or erode the finish of your driveway, including certain chemicals and cleaners, and harsh weather conditions.
Best Ways to Maintain Your Concrete
Given the potential sources of damage and deterioration above, what are the best ways to maintain your driveway over time?
1. Keep your driveway clean.
Since concrete isn’t an especially aesthetically striking material, and your driveway is meant to perform a work-horse type of job, it might not occur to you to clean it very often. But regularly cleaning your driveway can greatly improve its overall lifespan … and make it look nicer, as well. The best way to do this is with a power washer, which will require the least amount of effort and do the best job. Clearing away dirt, mold, and mildew will reduce ongoing damage that your driveway could sustain from such materials. There’s no rule for how often to do this—it depends on how dirty your driveway gets—but once a month is a reasonable rule of thumb.
2. Regularly seal your driveway.
There are a number of ways to seal a driveway, but all of them perform a similar function. The point is to coat your driveway with a chemical compound (usually a water-based agent, acrylic, or urethane, each of which has advantages and disadvantages). This will protect your driveway in a number of ways: you’ll protect it against damage from the elements, including freezing and thawing from precipitation, which will reduce cracking; you’ll reduce the potential for staining; and you’ll help your driveway maintain a nicer look as well. Different sealants will last different amounts of time, but generally you’ll likely need to do this every five years or so.
3. Remove stains as soon as possible.
It’s not an easy task to prevent spills on your driveway. This may be where you change your cars oil or transfer other liquid materials, for example. But swift reaction to a spill can help avoid the potential for a permanent stain. If you spill a stainable liquid on your driveway, work quickly to absorb as much of it as possible, and go over the area with your power washer before the stain has an opportunity to set. Again, applying a sealant proactively can help fight against a permanently undesirable outcome as well.
4. Refrain from using harmful chemicals.
Be careful about which chemicals you allow to come into contact with your driveway. Though some chemicals (such as sealants) can produce a positive effect, others have the potential to corrode or clearly damage your concrete. For example, sulfates can eat away at concrete, and calcium chloride can have a damaging effect as well. Even some common liquids like sea water can create a corrosive effect, so be careful about whatever you apply to your driveway.
5. Mitigate direct damage.
This is a common-sense tip, but it’s worth restating so you can remember to watch out for it. Many forms of concrete damage are direct damage, such as a heavy load or direct impact. Whatever you can do to minimize such damage will be beneficial for keeping your concrete in good condition. If you’re moving something heavy or potentially destructive, take extra precautions such as using a blanket or similarly shock-absorbing material to protect the surface.
6. Repair damage as soon as possible.
Not all damage is preventable. Eventually, your concrete driveway will probably chip, crack, or show other forms of wear. When it does, it’s your choice whether to address the damage as quickly as possible; but leaving it untouched could make it vulnerable to even further damage. Cracks have a tendency to spread out, and divots can deepen and broaden, thanks to the increased vulnerability. The sooner you can repair these flaws, the better … and it will save you money in the long term because you’ll be preventing further damage.
With the above strategies, you’ll be able to keep your concrete driveway in healthy condition for the longest possible duration. There’s no guarantee it will last forever, and some forms of damage will be beyond your control, but the more effort you put into protecting your driveway, the longer it’s going to last … and the better it’s going to look.
If you’re interested in learning more about how best to preserve your concrete, or your driveway might need a new concrete pour, contact R & M concrete for a free quote.