Garage Floors: How to Restore from Winter Damage
Spring is here! Time to plant flowers, enjoy the fresh air, and rid your garage of those ugly salt stains! As you’ve watched the snow accumulate outside for the past few months, the salt and chemicals from the roads have been accumulating in your garage. Now the time has come to take inventory of any harmful salt stains that need to be removed and damaging cracks that need repair.
In order to effectively clean and repair your concrete, it is important to first understand what causes this winter damage. From there you can successfully stop the damage from progressing.
What Causes the Damage?
In order to de-ice the roads, road crews typically use various mixtures of liquid magnesium and calcium chloride (road salt). This mixture is applied with the purpose of not only melting the existing ice and snow but also with the intention to prevent future refreezing.
These deicers catch a ride on the bottom of your car and eventually end up on your garage floor. Once on the floor, they begin to seep into the pores of your concrete instead of just freezing on the surface. As the temperature in your garage drops, the liquid refreezes inside these pores. In doing so, it expands and slowly breaks it apart. This cycle occurs throughout the entire winter, leaving you with broken and cracking concrete—this is known as spalling.
Another nasty side effect to this liquid is called subflorescence—i.e. those ugly white stains on your floor. When the moisture on your garage floor evaporates, the salt that is left behind recrystallizes and causes your concrete to flake off.
How Do I Fix It?
Well the first thing you need to do is clean your garage floor—every inch of it. This deep cleaning will reveal the salt stains and indicate any damages that may need repairing. Here’s the recipe for removing salt stains:
- 1 gallon warm water
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 squirt dish soap
- Whole lot of elbow grease
After you’ve made your concoction, begin scrubbing with a stiff deck brush. Once sufficiently scrubbed, mop or wet vac the remaining reside. This is important! Mopping or using a wet vac prevents the salt from reentering the same pores you’re just scrubbed them out of. Once the residue is removed, you may rinse liberally with water.
For those especially stubborn salt stains, you may want to consider purchasing Salt-Away. Though it is tempting, try to steer clear of pressure washers. While they certainly appear to be removing the stain, they may in fact just be driving the salt deeper into the pores so that they may reappear at a later date.
Now that the salt is removed, it is time to repair any flaking or spalling that may have occurred. Polymer modified cements work best for this. Their consistency allows them to bond much better than regular cement and create a stronger finish that can be feathered much thinner. A regular cement patch will not adhere well to the surface and can easily chip or break away.
What About Next Year?
Once you are satisfied with the outcome of cleaning and repairing your garage floor, the next step is to protect it from winter damage in the future. For information and additional tips, check out Protecting Your Garage Floor from Ice and Snow, as well as How to Winter-Proof Your Garage!
Now that your garage is clean and rid from the stubborn residue of winter, you can pull out that lawn mower, fire up the grill, and bring on the sun!