Protecting Outdoor Concrete And Masonry Features From Premature Weathering
Water eventually brings down even mountains and turns them into gorges, so it should be obvious that it will also weather the hardscapes in your yard. Concrete and cement patios and walkways can suffer cracking from frost heave, which occurs when water in the ground freezes and thaws, causing the concrete to lift and possible crack. Pooling water can also lead to cracks, or just wear on concrete, brick, or paver features.
Protecting Your Hard Surfaces
The best protection is proper sealing. A clear concrete or masonry sealer creates a barrier between the elements and your hardscape surfaces. How often you seal depends on your local climate, traffic on the hardscape, and the recommendations of the sealer manufacturer, but you can usually go a minimum of two years between applications.
Choose a sealer created for your particular surface, whether it's concrete, brick or stone. Also, consider the type of damage you need to protect against. Remember, water isn't the only enemy of hardscape yard features. The sun can bleach color from pavers and bricks. It can also cause painted hardscape features, such as statues, to fade. For example, you may need a UV-resistant sealer if you want to protect a brick path from both moisture and sun fading.
Tips For Paver Patios and Walks
Sealers made for concrete and masonry may protect the pavers in your hardscape, but they won't stop the sand from washing out of the joints. Most outdoor paver projects don't use mortar or grout, but sand. The sand eventually washes out, so you must replace it often so your pavers don't shift or suffer a weed invasion in the joints. One way to prevent premature loss of the sand is to use a polymetric paver sand, which molds together and washes out of the joints more slowly. Another option is to paint a joint sealer over each sand joint. This slows down erosion and can prevent much of the sand loss that would otherwise occur due to wind and rain.
Sealing can offer even more benefits. It can minimize staining, so a spilled drink at your next barbecue won't seep deep into the patio. It can also prevent or slow chemical damage, such as that caused by using ice melt products that contain salt. Keep in mind, though, it's still best to avoid salt or rinse it off as soon as possible, as these products will eventually cause pitting, even on sealed concrete. With proper care and general cleaning, your hardscapes will remain beautiful for years.