How Does Winter Affect Concrete Surfaces?

Concrete is a porous material, which means it has tiny gaps and holes where water can easily pass through. Sealing is an effective way to repel moisture and protect the surface from weather damage. If the concrete surface is unsealed, the excess moisture will freeze and expand during winter. 

Without proper care and maintenance, your concrete driveways and walkways can degrade when exposed to extreme freezing temperatures. Read our blog to know what could happen to your concrete this wintertime.

What is the Freeze-Thaw Cycle?

When the temperature drops below zero, the water inside the concrete will freeze and expand. Water expands by 9 percent until it produces pressure in the pores of the concrete. This is called the freeze-thaw phenomenon. Usually happens during the cold season, the freeze-thaw cycle causes damage and deterioration to the concrete material.

The most signs of deterioration are hairline cracking, scaling, and joint corrosion. The more water comes into contact with unsealed concrete surfaces, the more damage you might notice. To protect your concrete from the freeze-thaw cycle, you need to seal it before the winter season starts.

Salt Intrusion Damage

De-icing chemicals are typically used to remove snow from roads and driveways. Although these products seem harmless to humans, salt-based deicers may kill plants and cause damage to concrete. High levels of sodium chloride can lead to corrosion and discolorations. It can also increase the freeze-thaw cycle, which might cause internal cracks on your concrete driveways and sidewalks. 

Without proper application, the concrete surface will start to crumble and become discolored over time. Only use good ice melt products that are completely safe for concrete and the environment.


This is a type of concrete damage characterized by the peeling of the exterior concrete slabs. Concrete scaling happens due to frequent freezing and thawing. It’s very common once the cold weather rolls in. When the concrete surface starts to flake, the fine and coarse aggregate will be exposed. 

Aside from sub-freezing temperatures, scaling can be due to de-icing chemicals, road salts, and the wrong water-cement ratio. Talk to a concrete contractor about how to address these scaling problems.

Improper Curing of Concrete

Curing helps retain moisture in the concrete slab to ensure strength and durability. This step is crucial in achieving better surface hardness. Properly cured concrete can withstand the usual wear and abrasion.

One of the most important factors when it comes to curing is temperature. The optimal temperature for pouring and placing concrete is between 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. When it’s cold outside, the curing process slows down. The freezing temperatures impede crystal growth in the concrete, which results in weaker concrete surfaces. This is why it’s better to avoid pouring new concrete during the winter.


This is another concrete issue that’s very common during the winter season. There are a number of reasons why spalling occurs:

  • Freeze-thaw cycle
  • Poor concrete mix
  • Corrosion or oxidation of reinforcing rebar
  • Water exposure
  • Natural deterioration
  • Electrochemical reactions caused by de-icing salts

When the rebar and steel materials inside the concrete corrode, the concrete will delaminate. The spalling of concrete can occur several inches deep into the slab. All the coarse aggregate will then be exposed. Due to the continuous freeze-thaw cycles, this problem happens more often during cold weather. The spalled concrete area must be repaired immediately before it worsens to the point of no return.

How To Winterize Your Concrete Surfaces

Preparation and maintenance can keep your concrete surfaces from being damaged by winter weather. The more you prepare for the winter ahead of time, the longer you can preserve its appearance and structural integrity. Follow these tips for winterizing your concrete:

  • Apply concrete sealer once every 2-3 years
  • Avoid using harsh deicers on your driveways and patios
  • Use a plastic snow shovel when plowing snow and slush
  • Patch and repair cracks if you notice them on your concrete surface
  • Request professional concrete repair for slabs with extensive damage

Reach Out to Us for Concrete Work

When it comes to concrete solutions, Midstate Concrete is your go-to company! We offer concrete stamping, concrete leveling, and mudjacking! No matter what your concrete needs are, we can provide quality service at an affordable price. Our Harrisburg concrete contractors are here to serve you even during the winter season. Give us a call today!