As winter trudges on and the ground stays covered in ice, it’s important to understand something that many people don’t realize: salt is bad for brick and stone structures! Throwing rock salt on patios, driveways, and sidewalks is a great way to make sure that no one slips and gets hurt during the winter, but if you have brick and stone masonry, you’re doing more harm than good. Rock salt is menacing and aids in the increased deterioration of masonry. To better understand why, it’s important to first look at the science behind deterioration.
When you understand the science behind the deterioration process, it starts to make sense why rock salt is destructive. First and foremost, the regular deterioration process of masonry is excelled during extreme temperatures, especially winter. When it either rains or snows, and the temperatures continue to drop, the water that has accumulated in mortar joints begins to expand. As the temperatures fluctuate over the season and throughout the course of a day, things heat up and the moisture contracts again. This cycle of expansion and contraction repeats all winter and takes a toll on your masonry—the materials are continually being forced out then rescinded back in.
As you can see, even without the added side effects of rock salt, winter is tough on your masonry. However, rock salt is even worse than a regularly occurring freeze-thaw cycle. Think about it. Rock salt is used to melt ice, but where does this melted ice go? It seeps into your mortar joints, just like a regular cycle. However, now it’s more than just water… it’s salt water. Over time, as the water evaporates out of your mortar during the freeze-thaw cycle, salt stays behind.
What’s so bad about a little salt in your mortar?
Well, the salt acts as an absorbent and the next time it rains or snows or ice melts, even more water will enter into your mortar joints, thus intensifying the effects of a regular freeze-thaw cycle.
Simply put, rock salt exponentially increases the damage from the harsh cycles of winter due to the increasing amount of water that finds its way inside.
With winter still in full swing, we understand how dangerous ice covered pathways are to you and your family. Luckily, there are safe ways to melt the ice without ruining your brick and stone structures.
A popular alternative to use instead of rock salt is aggregates such as sand, gravel, or even kitty litter—you can use any substance that give grip without melting. Aggregates will decrease the likelihood of someone having an accident while maintaining the integrity of your brick and stone structures. Plus, most aggregates attract the sun, which will naturally warm up the ice surrounding them and lead to faster melting time.
With the added traction that aggregates can give, you’ll be able to safely navigate your ice-covered steps. However, the downside to this method is that once all the snow and ice has melted, you’ll be left with a bit of clean up. Grab a broom and a dustpan, collect the aggregates you used, and save it for the next time you get a nasty ice covered walkway!
If aggregates aren’t helping, the next best thing is using a salt-free product. There are a few on the market that are safe for bricks, stones, and even pets. Morton® Safe-T-Pet® is our favorite choice. This option can be more expensive than rock salt and won’t be as powerful, but you’ll avoid costly damage to your masonry while keeping your furry friend safe.
Yes, this is still salt, but it’s much less damaging than rock salt and it works just as well. Worst-case scenario, you can use this as alternative.
Finally, if the above options just aren’t cutting it for you, you can continue using rock salt… but in highly reduced quantities! Try to use the least amount possible to reduce any possibility of damage.
Your brick and stone structures are beautiful additions to your home, but can be costly to repair every single year. Instead, keep the deterioration process natural and avoid using rock salt. If spring comes and you notice any major damage, don’t hesitate to call the professionals at Chicago Tuckpointing. It’s always better to stay proactive about your tuckpointing than to wait until the damage gets extreme. All of our professionals are certified masonry contractors and are here to help you maintain the beauty of your brick and stone masonry. Call us today at (708) 942-1951 or visit our website at https://chicagotuckpointinginc.com.