Whether your home has a driveway or patio or your business has a parking lot and walkways, all poured concrete surfaces need concrete maintenance to extend their lifespans.
Despite how durable and invincible concrete may seem, it does slowly deteriorate over time — especially if it’s outdoors and exposed to the elements and gets used heavily. The faster your concrete surfaces wear out, the sooner you’ll have to replace them.
But, with the right concrete care habits, you can protect your investment and keep your concrete looking great for years to come.
5 Concrete Maintenance Tips for Prolonging Your Concrete’s Life
- Keep concrete clean
- Avoid using harsh chemicals
- Seal the surface and joints
- Repair chips and cracks
- Watch the weight
1. Keep concrete clean
The number one tip for keeping concrete in good shape is to clean it regularly. A little natural dirt isn’t necessarily going to harm your concrete, but you need to watch out for stains from things like oil and other harsh chemicals.
For example, cars parked in driveways can leak engine oil and other fluids, like antifreeze, onto the concrete. If you notice any such leaks or spills, make sure to clean them up right away or as soon as possible. Otherwise, they can damage the concrete’s finish, which allows them to soak into and corrode the concrete.
Luckily, cleaning concrete is simpler than you might think, and you may already have everything on hand that you need to do it.
Start by cleaning up any excess liquids from spilled oil or chemicals as soon as you notice them by soaking them up with a rag.
Alternatively, you can soak up larger spills with kitty litter or sawdust. To do so, simply cover the spill in a generous amount of the absorbent material and let it sit for at least 20 minutes or until all the excess liquid is soaked up. Then, sweep up the litter or sawdust and dispose of it properly.
Next, scrub the stain out of the concrete using a paste made from baking soda or powdered laundry detergent and water. A good stiff-bristled broom with a long handle is ideal for this, so you don’t have to get down on your hands and knees to scrub.
Once the stains are dissolved and the concrete looks as clean as you can get it, rinse it thoroughly with water.
Even if you don’t see any stains on your concrete, give it a good scrub and rinse at least once a year to remove normal buildups of dirt and grime.
2. Avoid using harsh chemicals
Another important part of concrete maintenance is to avoid letting any harsh chemicals come into contact with it. Chemical products containing acids and salts can damage your concrete surfaces and their finishes.
So, it’s best to avoid using deicers that contain ammonium nitrates and ammonium sulfates on your driveway or other outdoor concrete surfaces during the winter. If you absolutely have to, use as little as possible.
You should also avoid using any harsh chemical cleaners on concrete surfaces. Regular non-chemical soaps, such as dish soap and laundry detergent, along with baking soda, are safe for concrete and work perfectly well for cleaning it.
If you have a fluid leak in a vehicle that you park in your driveway or garage, put something absorbent, like a few sheets of cardboard, under the leak to protect the concrete. Get the leak fixed as soon as possible.
You might come across some advice suggesting using vinegar to clean concrete, but the acid in vinegar can actually strip away protective sealants from it and leave the surface vulnerable to damage.
3. Seal the surface and joints
Every concrete surface and its joints should be sealed using a protective concrete sealant to prevent moisture damage and repel other liquids that can damage the concrete.
New concrete gets sealed as soon as it’s fully cured, but you should make sure to reseal it every few years. Exactly how often you need to reseal concrete depends largely on how harsh the weather it gets exposed to is and how much foot and vehicle traffic it receives. But, a good rule of thumb to follow is to reseal concrete every 3-5 years.
For residential concrete surfaces, this is a job you can easily do yourself with concrete sealant, a paint roller (for the surface), and a caulking gun (for the joints). Just make sure to clean the concrete thoroughly first. For larger commercial surfaces, such as parking lots and sidewalks, you should hire a reputable concrete contractor to reseal the surfaces for you.
4. Repair chips and cracks
Keep an eye on your concrete and watch out for chips and cracks. It’s normal for these to appear over time, but they can lead to much worse damage if left unattended.
For small cracks that are less than 1/4-inch wide, you can fix them yourself with commercial concrete crack filler/concrete patching compound. The same goes for chips and holes that are up to about 1/4-inch deep.
If you see any cracks or holes that are bigger than that, it’s a good idea to call a concrete contractor to come out and inspect the damage. They’ll be able to tell you what needs to be done to fix it and prevent further deterioration.
5. Watch the weight
While concrete is incredibly strong and can support a lot of weight, certain types of very heavy weight can damage poured concrete. This is especially true of residential concrete, which is not intended to support extremely heavy loads.
For example, your home’s concrete driveway can support regular passenger vehicles with no issues, but you should avoid parking heavy machinery and heavy trucks on it. This is easy to avoid by ensuring all overweight vehicles park on the street, which is designed to withstand much heavier loads.
You don’t need to worry about the weight as much for commercial concrete surfaces, as parking lots and the like are made to be much more load resistant than residential surfaces.
So, by now you should know how to take care of a concrete driveway or any other concrete surface you have at your home or on your commercial property.
By following these 5 simple concrete care tips, you can ensure that your concrete lasts as long as possible and avoid expensive concrete repair and replacement.