FAQ: Winter and Concrete Don’t Mix! Curing, Frost Heaving, and Ice Melt

sunken driveways
Concrete projects in Minnesota come with a few extra challenges. If you live in the Twin Cities area, or any state closer to Canada than Texas, then you know all about the long winter freeze. But for the best concrete contractors Minneapolis has to offer, it’s just business as usual.

Summer is usually the busiest time for concrete contractors. That leaves many of our clients wondering if it’s possible to pour concrete during the winter months, or if they have to wait until the spring. While there are ways to work around the cold weather, it’s better to act fast.

Can You Pour Concrete In the Winter?
You can be held liable for trips and falls on your property from sunken driveways, broken slabs, or uneven pavement. And things get pretty slippery once the snow and ice starts to fall, making even small cracks serious trip and fall (and lawsuit) hazards.

What’s the problem with pouring concrete in cold weather? In order for concrete to harden into its final fixed shape, it has to cure. In the curing process, water and chemicals in the concrete mix together and harden, giving concrete its famous strength and longevity. But if the water freezes, it expands during the curing process, ruining your concrete.

That’s why you’ll see most concrete contractors repairing sunken driveways and cracked slabs after the spring thaw. That being said, it’s not impossible to do concrete work in the winter — to a point. Some crews use heated tents to avoid the elements, while some use curing blankets, or heated blankets used to facilitate the curing process in winter. Still, if you can avoid winter work, it’s better to act quickly.

Winter and Concrete Don’t Mix! Sunken Driveways and Frost Heaving
Freezing and thawing often cause a phenomenon familiar to driveway contractors called sunken driveways. This is when your pavement sinks, creating a dangerous gap between other surfaces, like the sidewalk and garage. It’s not just bad for your cars — it’s also another trip and fall hazard.

Frost heaving occurs when the soil expands and contracts repeatedly during the freezing/thawing cycle. Sometimes, the frost heaving effect lifts the concrete foundation, which can separate a concrete deck or patio away from your home or business altogether!

To avoid concrete repair, you need concrete footings that go below the frost line (the depth at which the soil freezes). Concrete repair workers bury new footings below the frost line, creating a solid foundation that won’t be damaged in freezing weather. The best concrete contractors Minneapolis and St. Paul have to offer will ensure that the finished concrete slopes at least one-quarter inch per foot, ensuring water won’t collect and freeze come January.

Concrete driveways should last for 25 to 50 years if installed and used correctly. There’s a reason concrete is one of the most used materials in the world. Plus, concrete comes in 250 hues and colors.

How To Use Salt Mix on Concrete Properly
During the winters in Minneapolis and St. Paul, lots of salt and ice melt is poured onto roadways. This can corrode concrete and asphalt. When you use ice melt, try not to use more than necessary. Don’t put ice melt down until you’ve cleared away as much snow as possible. Finally, ice melt works best when you put it down before a big storm.

Remember: most common pavement damage comes from using too much ice melt!