Concrete interlocking unit pavers are designed to be virtually indestructible. With correct installation and a few simple maintenance precautions, they will last for years and years without problems. The winter season is when a little extra care should be taken with your unit pavers, whether they are on your patio, walkway or driveway. Just as snow and ice and efforts to clear them can be hazardous to us, the removal of snow and the use of ice melt products creates potential problems for pavers.
Chemical Deicers and Pavers
Deicers are a fact of life in many regions of the US. Fortunately, concrete pavers are resistant to most deicing salts. In particular, calcium-based deicers and rock salt, which is sodium chloride, are safe to use on your pavers. Magnesium-based deicers should be avoided. While they are effective for melting ice, they are much more likely to cause damage to the concrete paver surface. There are many non-magnesium deicing products on the market to choose from. It is easy enough to safely melt snow and ice without causing damage to your unit pavers.
Mechanical Snow Removal
While serious damage is unlikely to result from scraping snow and ice off your pavers, some surface scratching can occur. Metal blades from snow plows and snow shovels are the worst culprits. It is best to use shovels with plastic blades and snow plows and blowers that have plastic blade protectors.
Plan for Winter During the Design Phase
There are a couple of ways that advance planning can lessen maintenance work and keep your pavers free from damage. For areas with significant ice problems, consider installing a snow melt system under the pavers. Either an electric or glycol-based heating system will do much of the work involved in keeping your pavers from icing over. The initial expense is more, but long term savings of time and money can be significant. Floor heating manufacturers are a good source of information about these systems.
Be sure your pavers are installed on a stable, compacted aggregate base with good drainage. This will prevent shifting and heaving of pavers from frequent freezing and thawing cycles. You may also want to use a sealer on your pavers before winter weather arrives. This will give them a little extra protection from chemicals and deicers. Your paver supplier or installer can give you recommendations.
When spring or a mid-winter warm spell arrives, hose off your pavers to remove any residue from salts and deicers. If you have taken these few basic precautions, your pavers will look almost new, free of any ill effects from winter and all that it brings.