Uneven sidewalks and fissures in concrete can be a trip risk during and after a cold, rainy winter. Winter weather is detrimental to concrete because it causes excessive moisture to be absorbed in the ground's microscopic capillary gaps, which then freeze and thaw. This frost heaving process can result in depressed slabs that present a tripping hazard throughout wintertime and last until spring arrives.
Frost heaving probability is determined by the manner in which the soil was prepared prior to the pouring of the concrete and the type of soil beneath it. When light, loamy soils are inadequately compacted, they provide numerous opportunities for subsurface ice formation. Freezing water causes a 9% increase in volume, which can cause the concrete to rise, particularly if air was not adequately incorporated or captured during placement. Although slabs may reposition themselves when this occurs, they are frequently misaligned, resulting in unevenness.
Additionally, the procedure induces cracking in the concrete. Although some cracking is to be expected on concrete surfaces, excessive cracking can compromise the material's stability. Cement particles are separated from the surface when internal pressure within the material causes it to freeze. Scaling is a degradation process that can cause concrete to deteriorate, resulting in the formation of holes and fissures that obstruct visibility, render the surface unsightly, and ultimately necessitate the replacement of the concrete in order to rectify the situation.
For a property owner who clears their sidewalk in the winter to reduce the chance of harm, both unevenness and cracking present issues. When a sidewalk is covered with snow, an uneven slab may not be visible; yet, slamming into a ridge of uneven concrete can damage snow blower blades and cause pedestrians to lose their balance. Cracks and scaling can occur more frequently when de-icers and chloride salt are used to promote melting and lessen slickness.
Numerous issues can be avoided by carefully preparing the ground before pouring concrete, making sure the concrete is mixed appropriately, and then placing it correctly. Sadly, if you bought a house where these procedures were not followed correctly years ago, you will not be able to go back and may have to cope with the fallout from careless work done in the past. There is not much that can be done in the winter to prevent frost heaving and the damage it causes to concrete slabs. The frigid conditions make it impossible to perform concrete lifting or mud jacking efficiently and make soil penetration challenging until spring.
If you frequently seal the concrete with commercial products that contain compounds like silane or siloxane, you will be able to stop or reduce cracking more effectively. By lowering the quantity of water that the concrete can absorb, these compounds may prevent cracking. Another method to stop water absorption is to fill up cracks.
If you encounter cracks or uneven sidewalks this spring, Lift Right Concrete is here to help.