Protect Parking Structures from Winter Damage

snow ice parking structure

Chemical deicers and snow plows are commonly used in winter to eliminate hazardous ice and snow from parking decks and parking structures. While deicers are doing their job melting away snow and ice, some may actually be corroding the parking structure’s concrete and reinforcing steel, and some snow removal techniques may actually be doing more damage than good.

The following tips will help minimize unnecessary damage to parking structures during the winter months, as well as keep drivers safe:

Snow Removal Tips

  • Clearly mark expansion joints in a way that will be visible to the equipment operator when the deck is covered with snow.
  • Establish a snow removal pattern so the plow blade approaches expansion joints, control joints and tee-to-tee joints at an angle no greater than 75 degrees.
  • Equip snow plow blades and bucket loaders with shoes or rubber guards that prevent direct contact with the deck surface.
  • Do not pile snow on the deck surface. Piles of snow can exceed the rated load capacity and cause cracking in the concrete deck surface.

Deicing/Salting Tips

Using chemical deicers to control ice and snow buildup is common. However, these chemicals can have a negative effect on concrete and reinforcing steel and should be used sparingly. There are several different types of deicers on the market that can be used, however, only those approved by the American Concrete Institute are recommended.

  • Sodium Chloride (road salt, table salt): This is the most commonly used salt deicer. It has little effect on concrete, but promotes corrosion in reinforcing steel and other metals. Use of this type of deicer is NOT recommended.
  • Calcium Chloride: This is a major ingredient in most commercial deicers. It has little effect on concrete, but promotes corrosion in reinforcing steel and other metals. Use of this type of deicer is NOT recommended.
  • Ammonium Nitrate or Ammonium Sulfate: Use of this deicer will lead to serious concrete deterioration because of its direct chemical attack on reinforcing steel. Use of this type of deicer is NOT recommended.
  • Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA): The effects of this deicer are similar to salt, but it requires more time to melt ice. It has no adverse effects on concrete or steel reinforcement. If a deicer is required, CMA is recommended.

It is important to minimize the amount of deicing chemical applied during the first two years of the concrete being installed. During this time, the concrete has an increased permeability, which can allow the deicing chemicals to migrate into the concrete more rapidly. As concrete ages and cures, it will become less permeable and chemicals will not penetrate as easily.

It is important to remember that the use of deicing chemicals in general is not recommended. The safest way to remove ice and snow is to use a plow. Sand can also be used to increase tire traction on the deck, but be sure to protect the drainage system when washing down the deck after its use.

Editor’s Note: Garage maintenance tips have been taken from the American Concrete Institute’s guide for structural maintenance of parking structures.

About the Author

Matt Ziesemer and Adam Gdowski
Matt Ziesemer is a project manager at Western Specialty Contractors' Concrete Restoration office in Chicago. Adam Gdowski is a project manager at Western Specialty Contractors' Chicago branch.

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