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Are Ice Melts Safe For Concrete?

You want to get rid of the ice accumulating on your driveway. But you are wondering if ice melt is safe for new concrete.

And that’s exactly what I want to talk to you about.

What ice melt should you consider using on concrete, and which you should you avoid?

What makes concrete vulnerable?

Freshly laid concrete is more susceptible than older concrete. But before we list the effects of ice melt on concrete, it’s informative to note that concrete deteriorates for a variety of reasons.

How concrete reacts when ice melt interacts with it depends on how it has been made. Mixing concrete’s ingredients in the wrong quantities will compromise its chemical makeup. And that makes it extra-vulnerable. Inadequate aeration of the concrete mixture also contributes to the vulnerability.

The ice itself also plays a part. You see, cracks in the concrete fill up with water which freezes into ice. The consequent expansion and contraction as temperatures fluctuate will cause the concrete to crack or spall. So ice melt is not always the culprit when your concrete surface gets damaged.

Now, let’s look at the effects of ice melt on concrete

Many people shy from using commercial ice melts due to concern for their concrete. Products like rock salt are notorious for causing concrete to spall, crack, or scale.

Ice melts, however, are not the originators of the problem. As we mentioned earlier, water seeps into the cracks or capillaries in the concrete. And when temperatures drop and the water freezes, the subsequent expansion and contraction cause the top surface of the concrete to start chipping.

The chemicals in ice melt don’t cause the cracking or spalling. Freezing does! What ice melts do is they escalate the process. Small cracks and breakages become larger cracks, and potholes begin to appear on your pavement.

But as we noted earlier, the concrete wouldn’t be so vulnerable if it was made using the right ratios of ingredients. So if you are still in the planning phase, ensure you don’t use too much or too little of any of the ingredients.

So, are ice melts safe for concrete?

Good question. But I can’t give a straight answer.

It depends on the weather temperatures of your region. You see, ice melts work because they lower the freezing point of water. Different ice melts have different freezing points. For instance, calcium chloride melts at -250F and sodium chloride (salt) has a freezing point of 200F.

So for temperatures near or below zero, calcium chloride is the best option. Magnesium chloride is also a safe bet in such cold places because it melts at -150F.

For warmer temperatures, use sodium chloride, potassium chloride (250F), or calcium magnesium acetate (200F.).

However, I still think these products may be too strong for freshly poured concrete. If you do use them, I advise you to use sparingly. Be especially wary of rock salt, which many people love because it’s so readily available.

The best commercial ice melts for concrete are calcium chloride and magnesium chloride because of their super low freezing points.

What else can you use on concrete?

  1. You could install a heated driveway. The heat radiating from the electric grid beneath will course through the entire concrete surface, heating it up. Ice will melt before it even forms, and your concrete will be safe.
  2. You could also use heated mats. The same principle as the heated driveway applies. But instead of installing it beneath the concrete, you place the heated mat on top of it, and let its heat keep the concrete safe from ice.
  3. Use pickle brine or cheese brine. Yeah, you heard right. Pickle brine has a freezing point of -60F and cheese brine melts at -210F. And that makes them perfect ice melts. Like salt and most of the ice melts we have mentioned, they contain chloride, but in fewer quantities. That means they will have a gentler impact on concrete than salt.

Conclusion

Ice melts may be harmful to your concrete, but as we have established, the harm is relative. First, ensure you have made your concrete using the correct ratios. Second, make sure the ice melt you use is appropriate for the temperatures your area is experiencing.

  • January 19, 2017
  • Ice
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