Admixture and Paver Surface Treatment Supplier to Manufactured Concrete Products Producers

Question: Deicing Salts

Dear Ben, It’s freezing outside and I’m concerned about ice buildup on my concrete pavers - what should I do to deice my pavers?

The past few weeks the news has been a lot about winter bomb cyclones, record snowfall and general winter weather hazards – which reminds me that pavements can potentially take a beating this time of year too.  Like you, many homeowners and property managers worry about ice causing accidents and are looking for advice on how to prevent ice buildup and the associated slips, trips and falls. 

Properly manufactured, high-density concrete pavers are incredibly durable and resist the impact of the potential freeze-thaw degradation from extreme temperatures and degradation from deicing salts. The high cement content in these pavers helps it to resist damage from the stress of expanding ice. When pavers are properly manufactured they have high density, low absorption, and high compressive strength which helps them stand up to the most demanding conditions.

Nonetheless, concrete pavers like all concrete can be susceptible to damage from deicing salts especially if too much salt is used or the wrong type is used.  Deicing salts are not all the same, some are more effective at lower freezing temperatures than others and some are more damaging to concrete than others.  Here is guide in how to select the best deicing solution for your situation.

First and foremost, never underestimate the power of a shovel. Do not use deicer as a snow removal substitute; use only for melting ice formed by precipitation or freezing snowmelt. 

Use only as much deicer as needed to do the job. This maximizes the chemicals’ benefits while minimizing damage to the concrete pavers and surrounding environment. Once the snow and ice are loosened, remove it promptly by plow or shovel to avoid a concentrated buildup of the deicing chemicals. 

If you’re concerned about traction around entry ways and on sidewalk, consider using a combination of deicing salts and sand. The added sand helps increase the traction and reduces the amount of deicing salts you’ll need to do the job. 

Note, though, if you have a permeable interlocking concrete pavement system, you should use a slightly coarser jointing aggregate instead of sand to limit the amount of fine sand that might get into the joints and decrease the surface infiltration rate.  You can get jointing aggregate from the folks who installed your permeable pavement.

Next, when choosing a deicing chemical, use rock salt (aka, sodium chloride) whenever possible.  It is the least damaging deicing chemical to concrete materials and is effective down to about 15 °F (-10 °C).  If a more effective, quicker-acting deicer is necessary, consider using calcium chloride which works down to about -2 °F (-19 °C), but do so sparingly as it can be harsher on the concrete.

While magnesium chloride and other magnesium based deicing salts can also be effective down to very low temperatures, we do not recommend using them. They are not only harsher on the concrete surface, but if too much is used and the salts soak into the pavers, they can cause severe chemical degradation years down the road. This delayed rection can take three to five years or more to appear and can result in the concrete being degraded ½ inch or more into the pavers.

Whatever deicing salts you use, remember to use only as much as you need and remove it from the surface promptly once the ice has melted and been removed. If you see a pile of salt on a dry pavement that has no ice – that’s a sure sign you’re using too much.  And consider using some sand in addition to the deicing salt to increase traction while limiting the actual amount of salt on the surface.  

One last note, if you want extra protection on your future paver projects, consider using pavers that have been manufactured with ColorScape® EverBold technology which includes a factory applied surface treatment that penetrates the concrete surface. Besides providing unsurpassed color enrichment while resisting acid rain, stains, and fading – the ColorScape® EverBold system also significantly reduces the amount of deicing salts that can penetrate the paver surface and potentially harm the concrete.  

For more information on deicing salts and freeze-thaw research, visit the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) website at ICPI | Hardscape Industry Education & Technical Resources.

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