Caring for Your Concrete in Minnesota

Tips for installing and maintaining your concrete slabs and floors

Although extremely durable in nature, proper concrete care and maintenance will add value to your investment. The following tips and how-tos from Van Haren Construction, along with other trusted industry resources, will benefit your concrete’s longevity.

Winter Concrete Care

Do not apply de-icing chemicals for snow and ice removal during winter months. Sand is recommended to provide traction if needed.

Never apply deicers containing ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate. While these products may be sold as de-icers, they aggressively attack concrete surfaces, deteriorating their structural integrity. Another big product to avoid is salt. Salt eats at ALL types of masonry installations including concrete.

[Using deicers on your concrete driveway in the winter can cause surface damage — primarily scaling and spalling — by forcing the thawing and refreezing of moisture. Avoid the use of any deicers the first winter after driveway placement, since new concrete is more susceptible to the harmful effects of salt. As an alternative, use sand.]*

Concrete Cleaning and Sealing

Your stamped and colored concrete installations should be properly cleaned and sealed on a regular basis. The frequency will depend on the traffic level and type — cars, foot traffic, etc. — as well as the concrete's exposure level to water and chemicals. At Van Haren Construction we recommend resealing your concrete every two to three years. Longer durations in-between sealant applications may result in color fading.

[Cleaning your concrete driveway on occasion and keeping it sealed are the best measures you can take to keep it looking its best. How often you clean and reseal will depend on the weather conditions the concrete is exposed to and the amount of vehicle traffic it receives. Generally, you should reseal a concrete driveway every two years or so, or when the finish begins to show wear. Good commercial sealers are available from concrete material suppliers and hardware stores. Or ask your contractor for recommendations. Always apply the sealer according to the manufacturer's recommendations.]*

Proper Concrete Installation

Concrete should always be installed over a strong base. At Van Haren Construction we install concrete over a minimum 4" base made-up of compacted process gravel. Our installations are typically reinforced with re-bar or fiber mesh. If the temperature is expected to remain above 50 degrees for 30 days we apply a cure and seal product to help the concrete cure slower, reducing the potential for shrinkage cracks.

Freeze / Thaw Cycle

Exterior concrete (driveways, sidewalks, patios, etc.) is exposed to Minnesota’s freeze / thaw cycles. To buffer these effects, expansion joints or cuts, are made into the concrete to allow for the expansion and contraction of the slab. The first buffer is the layer of process gravel, as it assists in reducing the pressure from frost heaves. When frost heaves do occur, the expansion cuts help to prevent cracking. However, cracks may appear over time if pressure on the concrete slab is not diverted into the expansion cuts. Even if done properly, cracking can still occur, so there is no guarantee against cracking.

UV Light

Ultraviolet Light, as cast by the sun, affects the pigments within concrete. Continuous sun exposure without a proper sealant application typically results in color fading. Maintaining a sealed surface is the best defense for preserving your concrete's color.

[Remove Stains Immediately

While a sealer will help to protect concrete from stain absorption, it's still a good idea to remove oil, gasoline, grease and other spills as soon as possible. If the concrete does discolor, pressure washing and certain cleaning chemicals will remove most stains.]*

[Treat it With Care

Although concrete is one of the most durable paving materials for driveway construction, the typical residential driveway isn't engineered to support heavy vehicles (like a huge moving van) and large construction equipment. Also use care when plowing or shoveling your driveway. Avoid the use of metal blades that might scrape or scratch the surface.]*

*Bracketed [] content courtesy of Taken 4/17/14.