Does Rock Salt Damage Your Driveway & Sidewalk?

February 19, 2015

The winter is a dangerous time for drivers, as it provides the greatest opportunity for road hazards to cause serious harm.  Icy roads, snow banks, and more can all prove quite difficult to manage during the winter season, with a large number of accidents – some of which are even fatal – occurring due to these hazardous, weather-related conditions. Fortunately, we’ve come up with a number of methods of snow removal to keep our environment safe during the winter season, including rock salt, that wondrously simple solution to the problems we face in wintertime.

The Potential Price of Safety

But is it that simple? As with anything else, when you introduce rock salt into your environment, there is a consequence – as there always is. In the case of your rock salt, it damages your concrete sidewalks and driveways, big parts of the “face” that your home presents to the outside world.

The thing to watch out for is the freeze/thaw cycle that winter weather naturally goes through, and the damage that this can cause to your concrete sidewalks and driveway. Rock salt melts your ice and snow when temperatures reach somewhere between 32 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit, but when the temperature reaches below 25 degrees, the water will re-freeze, but as temperatures rise above 25, the salt will melt the ice and snow again. The resultant salt/water mix is absorbed by the concrete, but when that mix freezes again, it puts pressure on the cracks in the concrete, widening them. As you can imagine, this is not ideal.

Concrete Under Pressure

In fact, the pressure this creates puts so much upward pressure on the concrete that the concrete will begin to form pits – small divots or holes – where once it was flat and smooth. It should be noted that this is not always the case – different concretes are damaged in different ways, and some have a higher threshold for damage than others. Ultimately, however, your concrete will suffer for the use of rock salt, and the best way to avoid this is to use some method other than rock salt to protect against inclement winter weather. There are a wide variety of ice melters, but you should be certain of what you’re doing to your concrete and the rest of your lawn and garden when you use them; remember, everything has a price.