If you are faced with a new paving job, then the two main options are typically concrete or asphalt. Both have a lot to recommend it. Concrete is the more environmentally friendly option which can also more easily blend in with natural settings while still providing a good deal of durability and strength. Asphalt is usually used where safety is a real imperative, for example on roadways over which vehicles are likely to be traveling at speed. Asphalt paving experts Parking Lot Pros note that asphalt is the better option where snow and ice are a likelihood as it offers more weather-resistant qualities.
Of course, in any given place that experiences cold weather, concrete pavements are going to be affected. It simply wouldn’t be feasible to use asphalt in every single case, and this would anyway be an environmental disaster. However, there is no doubt that concrete can be susceptible to snow and ice and will require de-icing when slippery surfaces arise. Nonetheless, there is just one problem – applying grit salt (the most common and well-known form of de-icing) can damage concrete pavements.
The reason why concrete can be damaged by grit salt is closely related to how concrete is damaged by cold weather more generally. As soon as the first tiny crack appears in a concrete pavement (a natural result of wear and tear), the process of freeze-thaw action can begin. It works like this: cavities in the concrete can collect water, that water then freezes and, because water expands as it freezes, the crack is widened. After that, warmer weather melts the ice in the crack leaving it bigger than before, ready to collect water again and repeat the process. After the process repeats several times, the cracks are widened enough to eventually develop into potholes or become so weak as to be susceptible to damage.
This is where the hazards of using grit salt come in. If you apply grit salt in order to deal with a layer of ice over a concrete pavement, it will successfully melt the ice. However, this merely allows the cracks to accumulate water and freeze again later, accelerating the deterioration of the concrete.
What You Can Do
But of course, wherever safety is imperative, it simply isn’t acceptable to leave a layer of ice over a concrete surface. Here follows some solutions:
Find Alternatives to Salt
It is wise to explore alternatives. Some of the alternatives to salt, like urea, can melt ice. Others might not melt the ice but can provide traction to ameliorate the problem. Sand and rock grit are popular for this application.
Sometimes, ice forms as a result of compressed snow. If you regularly clear away snowfall from your driveway with a shovel, you can prevent the ice from forming in the first place.
Try Cat Litter
A great salt alternative is cat litter. Cat litter actually has two effects. For one thing, it is a totally natural and non-corrosive way to provide traction. It can also retain heat where it is spread, stopping the ice from forming.
Heated Stair Mats
Heated stair mats are excellent for doing something about ice and snow on concrete steps. Naturally, they do not cause any damage to the concrete and will effectively provide an easily gripped surface and prevent the formation of ice.
Sometimes, it must be said, grit salt will have to be used. However, you should try to minimize its use wherever possible. For home concrete installations, in particular, there is nearly always an alternative method.