Why Winter Temperatures Could Mean Cracked Concrete Around Your Home

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Cooler weather is just around the corner, and unfortunately for some, that may mean cracked concrete around the exterior of your house. By and large, this happens due to what's known as the freeze-thaw cycle. All unsealed and poorly sealed concrete is vulnerable to moisture damage. Additionally, over time, concrete is inherently prone to deterioration from the cold and freezing weather. Fresh concrete is, however, the most susceptible to cold temperatures since it still contains a lot of moisture. We're going to explain why this happens, and how to prevent the worst damage from happening.

Whether you have a concrete patio, concrete retaining walls, pathways, pavers, or a concrete driveway, these are all vulnerable to cold temperatures and can become cracked and/or damaged over time. Homeowners who may have freshly set concrete will want to take the necessary steps to prevent this before it happens, so time is of the essence. 

Why cold weather affects concrete

Concrete is naturally porous, meaning it absorbs moisture. The freeze-thaw cycle is what happens when moisture gets trapped inside the concrete and freezes. This causes expansion and results in building up pressure. Then warmer temperatures melt the trapped frozen water. Over time, the surface of the concrete can become damaged, and cracks can occur. Small cracks are common in concrete, but they can grow wider and deeper as time goes by, allowing more moisture in. It's important to pay attention to these and repair them right away.

New concrete takes at least 30 days to cure and allow all the moisture to evaporate from inside. However, if temperatures outside get to freezing during this time, it affects the curing process and can cause the concrete to crack or crumble apart. It's important to finish concrete work at least a month in advance of any freezing temperatures. When water freezes on the surface of concrete, it expands by 9%. This causes pressure to build up, and cold weather can cause this to happen repeatedly! Cracks are inevitable — so is there anything you can do to prevent them?

How to stop cracks from happening

Sealing your concrete is one of the best ways to protect the surface from moisture seeping inside. You can apply a water-based acrylic sealant to protect the surface and make it waterproof. However, if you need to repair any cracks first, you'll need to use a polyurethane sealant. Follow the instructions for repairing concrete cracks carefully. Once that's finished, get out the pressure washer.

Thoroughly wash the concrete before applying the sealant. You'll need to remove dirt, oil, salts, and anything else that could compromise the bond of the sealer. Use a good quality product, even though it's going to be a bit costly, it's worth it. Amazon has a product called Ghostshield Cryli-Tek 5505, it's an excellent concrete sealer and comes in a 5-gallon container for $249.88.

Use a roller, a brush, or a garden sprayer to apply the product evenly. This part is critical, so take your time. A second coat will need to be applied after two hours. Keep in mind if you have older concrete surfaces you want to repair, a resurfacer can be applied to restore strength and durability. In conclusion, repairing cracks if necessary and sealing your concrete will help to prevent cracking in cold weather in the future.