Homeowners need to get their concrete right

Wade Fenner of Concrete Replacement Experts reminds us that our driveways have to be strong enough to withstand our Alberta winters. Photo supplied.

by Wade Fenner, Concrete Replacement Experts

(Edmonton) – Getting Your Concrete Right – Even though concrete is considered to be hard and strong as “concrete” it’s still susceptible to issues and needs some basic maintenance to keep it doing its job well for many many years.

The first thing that needs to be considered is getting the right type of concrete for the application you’re using it for. Take driveways for example. When placing a new driveway, or any application for that matter, we want a mixture that will be strong enough to park vehicles on and also withstand the frost-heave cycles of our Prairie winters. In order to protect the inside of the slab from corrosion we need to protect the outside. This starts with ordering a concrete designed for driveways, one that is designed to withstand the harsh conditions of our climate, road salts and other minerals that may affect the surface structure. A long favorite for many contractors is a common mix called Dura-Mix which has a certain registered formula that all suppliers must adhere to. Each manufacture or concrete supplier such as COD Concrete (Concrete On Demand), which is a the small contractor division of LaFarge, have their own proprietary mixtures such as “Ultradrive 32” which may be as good or better.

Concrete is very strong but brittle so it needs to rest on a firm well compacted base material such as road crush which is better than plain sand because the fractured and broken gravel or rock mixed in the sand acts as little barricades preventing the sand from moving around as much if it were on its own. Reinforcement steel (Rebar) is used in most concrete application to help strengthen the slab and mitigate the brittle nature of concrete. Concrete will crack, impossible to prevent entirely, but rebar helps hold the slab together preventing cracks from separating much and increasing the overall strength of the slab.

Once the concrete is placed there are a few simple things you as a homeowner can do to protect your new investment. Firstly, backfill against any exposed edges of the concrete so the road crush can’t spill out from under it creating voids. Landscape your yard in such a way to prevent running water from getting underneath the slab. Direct downspouts away from the concrete edge to the downhill side so water runs away to the soil and not underneath. When installing a new driveway or sidewalk ask the contract to install a pipe under the slab to collect rain water from the downspouts if they terminate on the uphill side of the concrete.

Another commonly overlooked maintenance item that should be done yearly is concrete sealing. This is a simple and inexpensive item you can do yourself. If you have stamped or decorative concrete this procedure is a bit more detailed but its pretty easy if you just have regular broom finished concrete. Buy a pump pressure can (for spraying the sealer) from a concrete supply store such as Milltrade Building Products and a quality water based sealer. Clean your driveway and sidewalks by pressure washing them, being careful to remove any oily stains etc. Then after the driveway is completely dry spray on the sealer liberally following the manufactures recommended protocols. This should be every year, its very easy to do and goes a long way to preserving the durability of your concrete.

Another topic that comes up a lot involves sinking or uneven concrete and the question of repair or replace. The idea of “mud-jacking” has come a long way from the original liquid slurry used many years ago to the more commonly used polyurethane. These procedures can help extend the life of your driveway or sidewalk by many years in some cases depending on the cause of the sinking issue but its generally not seen as a permanent fix. Each scenario needs to be evaluated by the homeowner with the help of knowledgeable contractors to see if sunken concrete can be lifted or if it needs to be replaced. The underlying issue of poor base preparation and bad compaction doesn’t get resolved by this process so the likelihood of the concrete settling again is quite high. The big question is when.

For extreme cases of sunken concrete or badly cracked concrete, especially if the cracks are separating or causing trip hazards, the only solution is generally a full replacement by a Concrete Driveway Replacement Expert. Look for a reputable company that focuses on your specific needs. There are a lot of “generalists” whereas you want a “Specialist” who focuses on your exact needs such as garage floor or driveway replacement.

Wade Fenner can be reached for a free estimate at 780-934-6990 or for more information visit ConcreteReplacementExperts.com.

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