A concrete patio is a luxury that turns your outdoor living space into somewhere to gather, entertain, or enjoy a book or snack in the fresh air. The downside is it’s vulnerable to the elements. Weather extremes such as hot and cold temperatures and rain, snow, and hail can take a toll. General wear and tear can affect concrete over time, as well. Once cracks appear, they can expand and, eventually, cause your concrete to crumble.
When well-cared for, concrete can last for two or three decades and sometimes up to 50 years or longer. However, the long-term durability of your patio is dependent on how well you maintain it. You can add years to the life of concrete surfaces and the functionality of your patio with these tips:
1. Allow Enough Time to Let the Concrete Cure
Concrete dries best in warm temperatures. It helps to schedule your patio project when temperatures are forecast to remain consistently warm. The more optimal the temperature and moisture content of the concrete is during curing; the more desirable its properties will be.
Proper curing enables concrete to harden to its full strength. It involves chemical reactions within the cement that help it bind. A reaction between water and cement, known as hydration, also occurs, which generates heat as the concrete is drying.
So, how long does the process take to complete? If you’re just concerned with walking on the surface, it’s best to wait seven days. Heavy vehicles and equipment should be kept off the surface for at least 30 days.
As was stated earlier, maintenance is essential for any concrete patio. This can significantly improve its longevity, so it’s vital not to ignore regular upkeep. The best forms of maintenance include:
- Cleaning: Not all homeowners know how to clean a concrete patio. Without cleaning, water, soil, and contaminants with a high mineral content can erode the concrete. To prevent this, use a garden hose with a spray attachment, or a pressure washer, to clear away dirt and debris about every week or two. Stubborn spills can be treated with liquid dish soap, then scrub the concrete with a broom before applying a water spray.
- Inspections: By regularly inspecting concrete, you can find cracks in its early stages and take the appropriate measures. The problem will only get worse over time. The best times to check your concrete include late in the summer season when expansion due to heat may have generated cracks. During the winter, freeze-thaw cycles can put concrete under stress. Ground settling, expanding tree roots, water intrusion, and rust formation can worsen crevices, so take a glance now and then to prevent against future high-cost repairs.
- Sealing: Whether there are cracks or not, sealing the concrete can help protect it and extend the life of your patio. Sealers can prevent dirt, oil, and grease from causing stains, as well as stop water, snow, and ice from getting below the surface layer where they can cause severe damage during freeze-thaw cycles. The proper sealer can avoid further cracking, flaking, and scaling. All you need is a brush, roller, or household broom to apply it. Your concrete can look like new for much longer.
3. Repair Any Damage
Damage to concrete leaves it highly vulnerable to additional deterioration. Sometimes minor damage can be repaired with items from home improvement stores. Resurfacing compounds can be used for small cracks, but make sure the surface is thoroughly cleaned first. You’ll need a high-pressure washer and duct tape/weather-stripping to protect the concrete joints.
Larger cracks require additional steps. Widen the break with a chisel and hammer (by at least ¼ inch) and remove deteriorating concrete or fragments. Brush away any loose material. If there are cracks more than ½ inch deep, insert a backer rod, and use a caulking gun to apply a sealant.
However, repairing damaged concrete can be tricky. If you don’t have experience in this area, Cross Construction Services can help with your Houston concrete patio repair. Our experienced technicians apply the most appropriate polyurethane sealants and polymer-based cement resurfacers. In addition to using top-quality compounds, we can address stained, cracked, or crumbled concrete, even if retaining walls, expansion joints, drainage, plumbing, or hand railings seem to be complicating matters.
4. Seasonal Preparation
In addition to power washing concrete every couple of months, it’s essential to ensure your concrete patio is ready for the challenges each season brings. Here are some ways to provide seasonal protection:
- Apply a concrete patio sealer at least once a year (less frequently used surfaces can go two or three years between sealing). Otherwise, the permeability of a concrete surface will leave your patio vulnerable to water entry, ice, and erosion due to salt. Reapply the sealer whenever the sheen starts to disappear, or the surface color starts to fade.
- Clean the gutters and downspouts to ensure water is properly draining from your roof. Blockages can cause overflows and damage that put your concrete surfaces at risk. Also, point gutters/downspouts away from masonry to prevent water from over-saturating the pavement and causing excess wear. For maximum protection, relocate your downspouts entirely or install underground drainage.
- Stock up on non-chemical deicers. While ice can do plenty of damage, ice-melting chemicals not only break down the sealer but also the concrete material below. The damage may first appear as small divots on the surface, but it will get worse over time. Aside from safer deicers, you can also use sand. Another added means of protection is to lay rugs (on covered patios), which can protect the concrete from stains and damage from furniture.
5. Install a Patio Covering
Patio covers provide a roof to protect concrete. While some covers have an open lattice design for partial shade, a solid patio covering entirely blocks rain, snow, and other outside elements. At the same time, it can provide full shade. It can be sized to cover every square foot of the patio and the furniture, equipment, or dining space it contains. The cover can also protect televisions, sound systems, and other entertainment-related equipment.
With a patio covering, you can also add extra features such as retractable shades, sliding doors, and, for additional comfort and cooling, ceiling fans. You can even extend the ductwork from your home HVAC system to provide heating and cooling on your patio. At Cross Construction Services, our team can also add sunscreens, gutters, plastic composite/glass enclosures, and other functional elements, along with insulating materials such as aluminum or polycarbonate.
Some patio covers are designed to match the exterior façade of the house, right down to the shingles. The choices enable homeowners to match their patio cover with a larger design scheme. For professional assistance designing and building a concrete patio in Houston, TX, and suitable protection that can extend its life, contact Cross Construction Services at 713-254-1703 for a free estimate today!