The leaves are changing colors, the temperature is dropping and you’re preparing your household for the cooler months. However, while you’re taking measures to protect your house before winter comes, don’t forget the outdoor space. Winterizing your concrete patio is extremely important.
So just as you’re taking steps to prepare yourself from the cold months — pulling out the heavy clothes, making sure the heater and furnaces are in top condition, and weatherstripping your doors and windows — also make sure that your concrete patio, sidewalks, and driveway are ready for the season.
Winterizing your concrete patio (also your sidewalks and lawn decor) will ensure that it stays sturdy and attractive even when the snow and ice thaw in spring. Nobody likes to see big, unsightly cracks, or crumbling edges; it also takes away significantly from your curb appeal.
If you want to enjoy your patio for years, you MUST protect it from the harsh elements — the extreme winter temperatures and snow.
Why do you need to winterize your concrete patio?
A cold winter – especially one that’s accompanied by snow – can wear down concrete surfaces over time by seeping into the material.
When a concrete patio floor experiences the repeated freeze and thaw cycles during the winter, it starts to show outward as well as inward signs of destruction. Since concrete is a porous material, it absorbs the moisture in the air — making it vulnerable to extreme weather conditions.
As temperatures go below 32 degrees, the absorbed moisture freezes and expands within and outside the concrete patio. This not only causes cracks, spalling, pitting, and damage on the concrete’s exterior surface, but also places extreme pressure on its internal foundation. This type of harsh damage to the structural integrity can shorten the life of your patio.
The situation becomes worse if you’ve chosen outdoor concrete paint or an unsealed concrete. The paint colors that were so beautiful a while back will start to flake away — baring the concrete underneath. A sad state for homeowners who’ve spent hard-earned money on that beautiful concrete pad.
Furthermore, the shovel and rock salt that you use to clear the snow and ice can also cause damage to your concrete patio. As you shovel the snow, the tool tends to scrape and scratch the unprotected concrete and rock salt eats away at its surface.
Overwhelmed already? Don’t be. When there’s a problem, there is generally a solution. All you need is to take some steps in order to stop this seasonal cycle of destruction. And, you need to start on time.
If you’re serious about winterizing your concrete patio, it makes good sense to include a few smart practices that will protect your concrete patio from the winter’s damaging freeze-thaw cycle.
Important steps and tips to protect your concrete patio
So, let’s have a look at some of these steps and give your patio the care it deserves.
1. Repair the existing signs of damage
If your concrete slabs are already showing signs of damage such as minor cracks or surface spalling, you need to prevent the damage from spreading. Repair the damage first. You either do it yourself or hire a professional for the project.
By repairing cracks and chips, you make it more difficult for water to penetrate the surface. The repair work is also the best way to ensure that the new surface sealer that you’ll use will adhere to the concrete properly.
The first step is to clean away all the dirt, grime, and grease from the surface. You can use a power washer. Next, depending on the extent of damage, you can use a surface spalling solution that strengthens and restores patchy concrete slabs to their original glory. You can use a long-handled squeegee to apply the resurfacing mixture.
To stop the cracks from spreading, you need to fill them with a flexible crack sealant. When properly applied, it forms a watertight bond with the surface while seamlessly blending with the texture.
So even as the concrete expands or contracts due to temperature fluctuations, the sealant will protect the slabs from extensive damage.
2. Seal the concrete surface
Sealing is arguably the best way to protect your concrete slab surfaces. It prevents the moisture present in ice and snow from seeping into the concrete surface and hence weakening it as the water freezes.
Sealer creates a protective barrier that guards your concrete against winter weather and any other harsh conditions. It also helps to prevent moisture from sitting in the pores and any cracks that would then freeze and expand, resulting in damage and erosion to the concrete.
If you have acid stained your concrete, then you definitely need to make sure you apply a sealer. Anything that affects the concrete will also affect your concrete acid stain – so if you have ice melters eroding the surface of your concrete, then your acid stain will go along with it.
Read more: Step by Step Guide on Concrete Floor Repair
3. Use a quality sealer
Opt for a sealant that offers protection against water as well as the harsh chemicals and salts used to de-ice your patio during winter.
There are an array of sealers that you can choose, but the best one for this purpose is a breathable sealer. A sealer being “breathable” means that it allows a certain amount of moisture to escape through it.
When the ground is saturated wet for long periods of time, the moisture can begin to wick through the concrete and attempt to reach the surface to escape. A non-breathable sealer doesn’t allow it to escape, so water – being the mighty warrior it is – will continue to attack the sealer’s bond to the concrete until it is eventually broken. This can result in white patchy areas that will eventually start to peel.
4. Make some placement changes
Another important thing to keep in mind is that your furniture can damage your sealer. If you have anything metal or plastic on your patio – furniture, planters, pots — it can cause small areas of moisture retention where it makes contact with the concrete. This is likely to result in additional wear and discoloration. So if it’s possible, make sure to move your furniture and accessories from your patio through the cooler months.
Some additional measures for your patio’s decorative concrete fixtures:
- Seal your unpainted concrete statuary and garden art to prevent them from winter damage.
- Move lighter items and small concrete fixtures, to a storage shed or garage where they won’t be subjected to freezing moisture.
- Drain and invert any fixtures such a birdbath or fountain bowls
- Cover them with a secure tarp.
5. Know when to reseal your concrete next
There isn’t a certain time period in which you need to reseal your concrete. Instead, you can tell it needs to be resealed by its appearance. If your concrete is beginning to look dull and worn or if the colors seem less vibrant, it’s time to apply your sealer again.
Another cost-efficient option is to apply a fresh coat of concrete wax on top of your sealer each spring and fall. Concrete wax provides a UV resistant sacrificial coat that is less slippery than sealer alone. It is also less expensive than buying more sealer and is easier to maintain.
Keeping your concrete patio free of snow and ice as much as possible will help you maintain it. However we do realize it’s not totally possible. To combat the deterioration of your patio floor, we have listed some steps that you should take each winter to keep your patio looking new and beautiful.
Preparing for the winter months isn’t hard to do; it just needs some timely treatment. Trust us, you’ll be happy that you took the time when your concrete patio stays healthy and vibrant for years to come!
Read more: Stamped Concrete vs Pavers: Which Is Better?