Tips for Maintaining Concrete Exteriors

Concrete is a durable, long-lasting material that can last without maintenance. But if you want to extend its life and keep it looking beautiful for a long time, you need proper maintenance and a little TLC. As an exterior material for walls, driveways, buildings, and patios, concrete suffers from being exposed to the elements and can still deteriorate in time. Knowing how to maintain concrete will enable you to have a beautiful curb and exterior instead of one that is faded, oil-stained, and dirty.

Here’s how you can protect your concrete exteriors:

1. Cure concrete properly.

The ideal temperature for pouring and curing concrete is between 50 to 90 degrees. Extreme hot or cold may compromise the final product. Too cold of a temperature may cause concrete to expand and contract, creating spalling and cracking. Meanwhile, a temperature too hot can cause concrete to set faster, compromising its strength. Then, make sure to stay off new concrete and don’t put anything heavy on top of it for at least a week after installation.

Concrete must be sealed after being cured for at least a month to increase its longevity. In short, a big chunk of maintaining concrete depends on how well you install it in the first place.

2. Seal your concrete.

Sealing the concrete is an integral part of finishing the job right, and concrete sealers offer a lot of benefits. It helps extend its life and keep it looking great. An unsealed concrete floor or wall would suffer from algae, mold, and mildew growth over time, which will cause problems and require regular cleaning.

There are different kinds of concrete sealers available, which can be applied to the surface of the concrete every few years to prevent staining and damaging the surface. This layer can also enhance the appearance of decorative concrete, protect against excess wear, and block against dirt, moisture, oil, and stains. Make sure to use a sealer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Sealing must take place 24 hours after pressure washing. A layer is usually enough, but the second layer of sealant may be needed if the concrete is porous.

3. Protect your concrete.

Outdoor concrete surfaces can take a lot of beating, especially during the summer and winter. Spring rains and snow run-off can cause damage if it sits on the surface too long. Make sure to slope the concrete away from the house to prevent water damage to the surface and the foundation.

If your concrete floor or driveway receives heavy traffic, it will need to be recoated every three to five years for protection.

4. Clean your concrete regularly.

To maintain its good looks, concrete must be kept clean. Practice basic maintenance by cleaning it immediately after spills and debris to minimize staining. Remove stains or spills from grease, gasoline, or oil before it penetrates your sealant, using a removal solution or a pressure washer. Remove normal dirt and grime build-up and rust and other stains at least once a year. Cleaning might not strike you as the key to avoiding damage, but debris like small stones can scratch and cause a crack in concrete floors if left removed. For cement driveways, exterior floors, and walls, pressure washers can be useful for thoroughly cleaning them.

5. Keep an eye on it.

Keep a close eye on your concrete surfaces, regularly checking for damage and wear and tear. If you have properly cleaned, etched, and sealed your concrete floor, the upkeep means sweeping debris away and mopping up spilled grease or oil. Concrete driveways and walkways may need localized pressure washing for deep cleaning. Also, check your flaking sealant yearly.

6. Remove stains immediately.

Though a concrete sealer can help protect the concrete surface, it’s still a good practice to clean spills and stains as soon as they happen. For instance, if your car leaked oil on your concrete driveway, clean the oil spill as quickly as possible to prevent any staining and discoloration from occurring.

7. Check for cracks.

As part of your routine maintenance, always check concrete foundation floors, walls, and slabs for any cracks. Some are minor and can be easily repaired, thanks to advances in technology. But if the crack is as wide as a nickel, call a professional to help you repair it. Nowadays, crack chasing has improved repair materials and adhesives, allowing contractors to carry out more efficient and quality work and avoid the need to replace floors and walls right away.

8. Limit weight.

Concrete is very strong and durable, but residential concrete isn’t designed to hold extremely heavy materials. Your driveway may handle the weight of your everyday vehicle, but it’s not equipped to handle heavy machinery or oversized vehicles like moving trucks or delivery trucks. Make sure these types of vehicles stay on the street and not on your driveway to maintain the integrity of your concrete.

9. Use the right chemicals.

It’s essential to refrain from using certain chemicals on the concrete. For instance, some deicing chemicals used during the winter can work through the sealer and harm the concrete. Yes, you must keep walking paths clear of ice and snow to prevent slipping, but you can use less damaging substances like sodium chloride or calcium chloride to preserve the concrete material. You can even use sand as a chemical alternative to avoid harming the surface or corrosion of any surrounding metals.

Fertilizers are also chemicals that are a no-go for your concrete as they can cause stains, so make sure to remove any spillage from your concrete surfaces. Make sure to use a cleaner specific to concrete – some household cleaners may do more harm than good. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and disclaimers on products before trying them out on your concrete floor or wall.

10. Work with a pro.

To make the most of your investment, it helps if you consult a concrete maintenance professional first to use the right solutions that fit the needs of your concrete surface. This way, you can save time and money by getting it right the first time, rather than ruining the concrete, giving a professional something to undo first before working on your main issue.