In regions with icy, snowy winters, the use of rock salt or other ice melt is hard to avoid if you want to keep your driveway, sidewalks and steps safe. But these ice melting agents can take a toll on your concrete.
This raises the question that’s good to ask while the weather is still warm:
Should you use concrete sealant every fall to protect against ice melt damage?
Home Depot Community member Jeffro was wondering exactly that after he saw a helpful rundown of the types of ice melters we carry at The Home Depot that was posted on our online Community Forums. Jeffro also wondered about sealing brick against the damaging effects of ice melt.
Home Depot Forums associate Newf offered sage and practical advice from Chicago, which gets its share of snow and ice.
About using ice melt:
I do try to minimize my own use of ice melt by clearing the snow off sidewalks and driveways as soon as I can and let sunshine melt and dry the residue. This works even when temperatures are well below freezing. Still there will be some spots on my front porch and back walkway that occasionally need a sprinkle of ice melt. I bought a 50 lb. bag of calcium chloride a few years ago and still have some left. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride are less damaging to concrete than plain rock salt, but it’s really the freeze/thaw cycles with water penetrating the concrete that breaks it up.
About sealing the concrete and bricks:
Cured concrete can be sealed using a variety of products. There are two main types: top coat sealers and penetrating sealers.
Top coats work like paint, providing a barrier that prevents water from soaking into the concrete. Examples are waxes, polyurethanes, epoxies and acrylics. These are the products I would use for garage and basement floors.
Penetrating sealers make more sense to me for driveways and exterior brick (just my opinion though). These products are made up of silicates and silanes, which penetrate the surface and repel moisture. They can be used on cured concrete and typically do not change its appearance. Behr’s Concrete and Masonry Waterproofer is an example of this type of concrete sealer.
The good news is you do not have to apply this every fall. One coating should last many years, and Behr warrants theirs for 10 years. I sprayed a penetrating sealer on my (then new) driveway in 1995. It’s well past time for another application, but the driveway still looks pretty much like new.
- to protect your concrete in winter, don’t use more ice melt than you need
- make sure your concrete is sealed against moisture
- you don’t need to reseal your concrete every year
You can find our concrete sealants online on our Concrete, Cement and Masonry page. When you’re preparing for snow and ice, take a look at our Ice Melt and Traction Control page. And read more about winterizing your home here on the Apron blog.
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