Road Salt Is Essential for Safety, But What Can It Do to Your Concrete?

City Wide Facility Solutions
Published on January 11, 2021

Why Do We Salt Roads in the First Place?

The reason we dispense salt on the roads is the prevention of ice formation. How does salt do this? Let’s take you back to chemistry 101 and review a little about water’s freezing point. The temperature water freezes at is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius. Saltwater, however, has a lower freezing point at just 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit. So what does this have to do with ice on the roads? Ice on the road forms from residual water that has come from melted snow; when this water comes into contact with salt, its freezing point gets lower. This reduces the chance of it freezing and creates those patches of black ice that are dangerous to motorists. It’s not so much about getting rid of ice entirely as it is reducing the chance of ice forming in the first place. While this is a great solution that saves lives in the wintertime, the inclusion of salt into concrete can lead to noticeable deterioration.

How Does Salt Corrode Concrete?

It’s not salt directly that will cause corrosion; salt that has not come into contact with water will simply disperse like most forms of debris. When it comes into contact with water, it’s the saturation of water that penetrates the surface layer of concrete, and potentially the metal reinforcements, that make it so destructive. This will allow whatever moisture is within the surface layer of the concrete to begin to refreeze.  Salt will attract moisture, causing an increase from the pressure of freezing water, which causes cracks and chips to form. The chloride within the saltwater can also create a yellowish discoloration to white or grey concrete. While this sounds like salting is a highly destructive safety measure, it is an essential safety measure nonetheless. The risk of having damage occur to your concrete surfaces is worth, it as it lowers the risk of someone getting injured trying to enter your facility.

What Can Be Done to Minimize Damage to My Concrete?

Not much besides sealer and patch repair can be used to remedy what damage has already been done. You can learn more about the sealing and patching solutions City Wide manages. However, keep in mind it’s not salt that is directly responsible for the damage done to the concrete. It’s the high amount of water that soaks into the surface that causes significant damage. With the proper snow and ice removal services, which can get down to the bare surface, you will reduce your chance of concrete degradation significantly. It’s not just beneficial toward the overall wellbeing of your concrete, but also toward occupant safety.

To learn more about the commercial snow services we manage, click here