All concrete (including new concrete) has a tendency to crack, which is part of the reason why producing crack-free concrete is impossible. To get around this problem, it’s common to create pre-planned cracks, called control joints, in driveways or other slabs made of concrete. The control joints are a weak spot in the concrete that give it a place to break.
Why does concrete crack? Changes in moisture and temperature cause concrete to expand and shrink. In general, though, concrete shrinks more than it expands, and the shrinking is what causes it to crack even when the concrete is not very old. Irregular cracks look ugly and are hard to maintain, but they don’t affect the concrete’s integrity.
The American Concrete Institute has said that concrete floors will crack and curl even under circumstances where the best floor designs and correct construction techniques have been used. That is why designers and contractors have a responsibility to tell owners, ahead of any work being done, that some cracking and curling is normal on every project. When the cracks appear, they don’t mean that the floor was poorly designed or constructed.
When icy concrete becomes a problem, we recommend applying sand instead of salt on it. Salt lowers the temperature at which water freezes, increasing in the number of freeze-thaw cycles, and that leads to pitting and cracking. When the temperature reaches 18 degrees, the concrete will freeze. At 35 degrees, it will melt and cause the cracking, crazing, pitting, and scaling.
Concrete also cracks in the extreme sun. Heat causes the concrete to expand. After the sun goes down and temperatures cool, the concrete contracts and reverts to its original position.
To help prevent cracking, crazing, pitting, and scaling, we recommend applying a good acrylic sealer that is solvent-based. The sealer should be applied once per year. We can repair cracks after they occur by injecting epoxy, dry packing or routing the concrete, and stabilizing cracks by using sealing techniques.
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