Understand Environmental Elements to Prevent Roadblocks with Your Next Project
by Thomas Briggs - Sales Representative - Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana & Alaska
No two jobs are ever alike. That’s a hard-fast rule in the world of concrete. And it’s never truer than when working with concrete flooring.
When looking at a job, there are a number of different aspects to consider that are the difference between a job well done and a call from an unhappy client. Most of them deal with environmental elements we can’t control, but ones we can create solid recommendations around that will keep clients happy and surfaces beautiful for years to come.
Some factors to keep in mind, include:
Remember that one coating does not fit all seasons. While the bulk of our work takes place spring, summer or fall, as contractors, we need to remember the wear and tear that all seasons – especially winter – brings to the coatings we install.
For instance, while stamped overlays are popular, installing one on a long concrete driveway that’s mechanically plowed when snow falls will result in some surface damage. The stamped overlay is being subjected to a large metal scraper running over the surface and damage may be seen on any high spots or edges. Random stone, ashlar or brick patterns will see small chips. While this does not necessarily mean the coating bond is sacrificed, come springtime, clients will notice the small imperfections, especially if there is not an integral color. This will likely lead to an uncomfortable and potentially relationship compromising call for repairs.
To avoid this type of situation, a broom finish with a simple stain may be a better choice, unless the client has a radiant heat driveway system.
With temperatures across the U.S. ranging from more than 110 degrees in the summer and plummeting to more than -20 degrees in the winter, taking product over joints with large thermal cycling events can cause problems. Work that is done in areas such as the southwest with small thermal cycles will may not be as successful in the inland northwest where joints are susceptible to extensive joint movement. Thermal cycling, especially in climates with large temperature swings, wreaks havoc on all things cementitious, making it detrimental to acknowledge saw cuts and tool joints.
From desert landscapes of the southwest to the damp climate of the Pacific northwest, moisture matters when considering types of coatings to use. Taking time to consider how much moisture the coating will be consistently exposed to creates an opportunity to build a system that prevents vapor transmission.
However, where a leaking sprinkler head or a small backyard pond saturating the ground may not be an issue in the southwest, in the northwest and inland northwest, the wide temperature swings may result in concrete upheaval due to ground saturation throughout the summer months.
Moving into winter, the water will freeze, causing it to expand and lift your concrete-coated slab. If it has been compacted and has proper drainage, this can be prevented, but all too often this is not the case.
When spring months hit, it’s not uncommon to see daytime temperatures in the 60s drop below freezing at night, causing a lot of movement. If you have coated over any of these joints, you’re inviting failures, as you could see movement of a ¼-inch or more in areas. This is where the term “spring breakup” originates. When the saturated ground freezes through the winter months, spring breakup occurs when this ice buildup is coming out of the ground. Roads will have weight and load limits, along with reduced speed limits. It’s not uncommon to see 6 or more inches in surface difference on damaged roads. If a surface built for constant wear and tear is that vulnerable, just imagine a client’s back patio going through these same changes over the seasons. This is why it’s important to make sure the correct cementitious products and installation procedures are being used.
Also consider the water source in large municipal regions. Sources can vary greatly from areas where water is subject to water treatment and monitoring systems that supply consistent pH and hardness to more rural and self-sufficient sites where the water could be of different quality. Water wells, especially in high-sulfur or iron-rich areas, have an effect on your cementitious coating.
Ultimately, the whole reason a client seeks out cementitious coatings is to fix and resurface concrete that’s been sacrificed. Not understanding the environmental elements at hand will invite failure and set a contractor up for the unwanted possibility of repairs.
When bidding, be sure to look around and play detective to see what could become an issue. While ultimately the customer is always right, being honest, providing sound reasoning and knowledgeable insights about why something won’t work is always better than having it come back to bite you months later.