Help! My Sidewalks are Cracking

Winter is rough time for most of us—and our sidewalks.  Between the temperature fluctuations and excess moisture, it’s no wonder they’re cracking! In Maryland and Pennsylvania, we have especially inconsistent weather that only contributes to this problem.  If you have concrete sidewalks, though, youmight be making it worse.  Not sure how?  Well, we’ll explain.

Why Concrete? 

Not to get too into the whole asphalt vs. concrete vs. natural stone debate, but a little background is in order.  If you’ve driven through the area, you’ve probably noticed a difference between Maryland’s roads and Pennsylvania’s road.  This primarily comes down to a matter of materials.  Asphalt offers a smoother ride and lower upfront costs, but concrete holds up better over time.  It’s great on roads with a lot of traffic, since it’s less likely to crack under the weight—even when it comes to large tractor trailers.  Still, it has its disadvantages too.

The Freezing Point

Over the last few winters, the weather has been unpredictable (to say the least).  We’ve had some of the lowest temperatures ever, along with some of the warmest.  Still, our primary concern is somewhere in the middle.  What happens when snow/ice thaws and then refreezes repeatedly?  Not only does it make outdoor surfaces more dangerous due to the potential for “black ice,” but it’s also absorbed back into the concrete.  Specifically, when the thermometer hovers around the freezing point (between 25 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit), concrete doesn’t always perform well. 

When temperatures remain at or above this point, rock salt does its job by helping to melt ice and/or snow.  Below 25 degrees, though, it stops working and allows everything to refreeze.  Then, the cycle begins all over again as temperatures warm back up.  Each time, allowing more and more of this salt-water mixture to seep into your concrete sidewalks.

What Causes the Cracking?

Well, lots of things can. But specifically in winter, when the mixture of rock salt and melted snow/ice start to refreeze from within the concrete, it creates pressure.  As it pushes up, it can create tiny divots or holes in your sidewalks.  With enough pressure, it’ll start cracking from the inside out.  However, there are ways to prevent this. 

Not all concrete is created equal.  They’re now making different mixtures designed to prevent this problem, so be sure to check what you’re getting.  If you don’t have a say in the building materials, though, try to avoid using rock salt as your snow melt of choice.  There are many other environmentally-friendly options available today.  Check out our last blog for more tips. 

At the end of the season, don’t forget to call Peak Power Wash!  We can wash away any lingering snow melt to prevent your sidewalks from cracking further.  While we’re there, we’re happy to evaluate your other exterior surfaces.  We always offer free estimates, so you can decide what you want without pressure.  Contact us today for more information!

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Our home power washing and home pressure washing service area includes, but is not limited to: Westminster, Finksburg, Hampstead, Sykesville, Eldersburg, Manchester, New Windsor, Mt Airy, Taneytown, and Woodbine in Carroll County. Ellicott City, Clarksville, Columbia, and Elkridge in Howard County. Reisterstown and Upperco in Baltimore County. New Market, Walkersville, Thurmont, Emmittsburg in Frederick County. Hagerstown, Boonsboro, Smithsburg in Washington County. Other areas include Spring Grove, Gettysburg, Littlestown, Waynesboro, Chambersburg, and Hanover Pennsylvania.