A properly prepared and poured concrete driveway should not degrade for many years. If a relatively new driveway shows peeling and flaking, the concrete mixture was wrong, or the installation was not properly done. The elements to which your driveway has been exposed will tell you what is the probable cause of the degradation.
Peeling and flaking on the surface of concrete is called concrete scaling. Scaling usually starts in small patches; if the condition of the concrete allows scaling, it can spread to larger patches and work deeper into the surface of the concrete. Scaling is most likely to occur in regions where the weather can freeze then thaw, repeating the cycle several times in the fall, winter or spring. Sometimes concrete scaling is also referred to as spalling.
A possible cause of scaling is incorrectly mixed concrete. For a climate with freezing and thaw cycles, the concrete must be air entrained. Air entrainment is accomplished with the additional of air entrainment compounds to the concrete mix. Finishing the the surface of the concrete with standing water on the wet concrete will also lead to scaling. The water in the concrete must be allowed to come out and evaporate before the final finishing of the surface is completed.
If a concrete driveway is prone to scaling, road deicing chemicals accelerate the breakdown of the concrete surface. The chemicals may come from using them to deice your own driveway or may be carried onto your driveway from the road by your car tires. The deicing chemicals can break down the concrete bonds; that action combined with freezing and thawing can cause the concrete to scale within the first year after installation.
A concrete driveway with scaling can be repaired. The surface must be cleaned of all of the loose concrete chunks and flakes. A power washer works well for this task. Then apply a new top layer on the driveway using a polymer cementitious compound. After the new top layer is installed and dry, the driveway should be sealed with a water-resistant sealant to prevent future peeling and flaking.
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