Without a doubt, concrete is able to withstand the elements on its own—after all, it’s been used to build skyscrapers, interstate bridges, and even ancient Roman temples that still stand today! However, outdoor concrete surfaces—especially those used for pedestrian or vehicle traffic—can be stained or damaged by everyday use. In areas that regularly experience cold and wet winters, the freeze-thaw cycle can widen cracks and create areas of spalling.
If your facility has an outdoor concrete surface that you’d like to keep attractive and pedestrian-safe, you’ll find several options for protective coatings. Below we’ve overviewed several of the most common options, ranked from the least to most protection.
Outdoor concrete sealer
At the very basic level is a simple concrete sealer, designed to keep out moisture and protect against minor staining and wear. This type of product is fairly easy to find and is typically used in the residential market for decorative patios or driveways.
In most cases, a sealer will not stand up to the demands of an industrial or commercial facility, but for a rarely-trafficked surface it’s a step up from no protection at all.
Epoxy floor coatings are durable, water-resistant, and protect surfaces from impacts and abrasions to a much greater degree than a simple sealer. An aggregate such as quartz can be broadcast over the coating as it sets for an anti-slip surface, ideal in wet conditions.
Unfortunately, exposure to UV light can damage an epoxy coating, causing it to yellow or appear “chalky.” UV-resistant coatings can be added to the formula to mitigate this, but in general epoxy is not recommended for use in especially sunny areas.
If you’re looking for the next level of protection, you may want to consider a modified urethane coating. Urethane is durable, water-resistant, and can also withstand staining from spilled oils and chemicals (such as from delivery trucks).
CPC’s crews used a water-based urethane to protect a loading dock and containment area for a client, and were able to add an anti-slip texture to it as well. This particular blend of urethane is typically not available off the shelf, but can be formulated by a floor coating expert depending on your needs.
Waterproof stadium coating
For an outdoor surface that must withstand weather as well as foot traffic, your best bet may be a special waterproof deck coating, such as those designed for sports stadiums. These are often reinforced with anti-slip elements that keep pedestrians safe, even in inclement weather.
These formulated coatings are sometimes proprietary in nature, so it’s best to contact a concrete flooring expert who can point you in the right direction.
Elastomeric Traffic Coatings
For outdoor surfaces that take a lot of abuse from vehicle traffic, you may consider investing in an elastomeric traffic coating. This type of coating offers one of the highest levels of outdoor concrete protection.
The coating forms a kind of membrane over the surface of the concrete, shielding it from damage due to water vapor, ice, impacts, and caustic elements such as salt and chlorides. They can be used to improve older concrete surfaces that already have extensive cracking and deterioration, though special considerations may need to be taken depending on the existing damage.
When to work with an expert
Before spending money and energy on installing an outdoor concrete coating, it’s wise to get a flooring professional to evaluate the current state of your surface and to make personalized recommendations. The expert may find that there’s a less-expensive option that will suit your needs perfectly, or may uncover a hidden factor that could sabotage your coating of choice.
If you’re located in the Carolinas, northern Georgia, or eastern Tennessee, you can get a free estimate from one of the experts at CPC Floor Coatings. We’d love to talk with you about your project and help you find the most cost-effective solution for you!