Concrete has a number of benefits for outdoor applications. Ideal for patios and walkways, this durable material boasts a low level of maintenance and versatility for any aesthetic. Yet, certain factors can cause the material to crack. Some of these occur before, during, and directly after pouring, such as poor mixture ratios, insufficient curing, and improper site preparation. Others take place over the life span of the concrete. Here are some of the most effective ways to prevent cracks.
How to Prevent Cracks in Your Concrete
1. Keep the Surface Moist
After the material is poured, it loses water and causes plastic shrinking, which leads to cracks. To prevent excess moisture loss, keep the surface covered for at least three days after curing. Use a material such as burlap or plastic, and be especially mindful of keeping it covered in high heat or direct sun.
2. Use Just Enough Water
It may be tempting to add extra water beyond what’s recommended in ready-mix products, but resist the urge to do so. The excess water you add will evaporate even more, which can lead to intensified plastic shrinking. Always select the right mix for your application and follow the instructions provided for water ratios.
3. Ensure a Smooth Subgrade
The subgrade is the base on top of which you place the concrete. To prevent the uppermost layer from cracking, the subgrade must be strong and smooth. The soil should be compact and have ample drainage and few tree roots. Avoid pouring the mix over frozen ground, as the soil will expand and lose moisture as it thaws, which could cause cracks.
4. Avoid Overloading the Slab
Concrete is one of the strongest materials available, but it’s not without its limits. When you choose a mix, look for the PSI listed. This refers to how many pounds per square inch the material can tolerate. If you’re planning to park a vehicle on it, for instance, you’ll need a higher PSI. Oftentimes, cracks related to overloading result from parking large recreational vehicles or filled dumpsters on the surface.
5. Choose Sand in the Winter
The freeze-thaw cycle is notorious for causing cracks. For this reason, homeowners should use sand instead of salt when treating their driveways during the winter. Salt will accelerate freeze-thaw cycles, which can lead to cracking and pitting. Sand, on the other hand, can provide the traction you need—without the damage.
If you’re considering concrete for your project, turn to The L. Suzio York Hill Companies for your ready-mix products. This supplier services south-central Connecticut and provides several types of concrete, crushed stone, and asphalt for major residential and commercial projects. Explore their services online, or call (203) 237-8421 to speak with a team member.