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    Installing your own pattern imprinted concrete driveways in cold weather

    As the winter draws in, you might think of packing up your tools and leaving any pattern imprinted concrete driveway and pattern imprinted concrete patio work until next year, when spring starts to draw in. After all, the cold weather can have a lot of negative effects on concrete projects, making it hardly worth it?

    We would say yes and no. The cold weather does present you with some challenges when installing concrete, but it is by no means impossible. Let’s look at some tips for beating Jack Frost back from your concrete!

    When planning your winter concrete driveway installation, make sure you have everything ready to go. This includes all your materials, a properly prepared installation site, and weather protection such as insulation materials and heaters. The critical objective is making sure the concrete does not freeze, or get too cold for it to cure properly. This can happen if your concrete loses heat and moisture too quickly at the early stages.

    Planning tips:

    * Using a lower slump concrete is good for cold weather, as it will reduce the necessary setting time and cut down on bleed water.

    * Consider using accelerating admixtures or Type III Hi Early cement. These will get through the critical setting/curing periods quicker, so need protection for less time.

    * Request a preheated mix of concrete from your supplier.

    * Don’t use flyash-containing concrete if at all possible, as it will take longer to set/cure.

    Next up, let’s look at the placement stage. To start with, make sure all snow and ice is removed from the concrete and sub-base. Use heaters to keep the sub-base above freezing temperatures, and try to keep the concrete itself between about 13 and 23 degrees centigrade.

    After placement, don’t start finishing the concrete until bleed water has dispersed. At the same time, you should make sure that the concrete doesn’t dry out complete while curing. And never let ice form on your concrete while it is curing! Ideally you should keep the template of the concrete above 10 degrees centigrade using heated enclosures and/or insulating blankets for about three days to a week after pouring, and then keep it up to at least 5 degrees for four days after that.

    One last tip — when you remove the heating/insulation, do it gradually, so the concrete doesn’t cool too rapidly (by 5 degrees or more per 24 hours).

    What you should ask pattern imprinted concrete driveway installers

    At CD Designs, we pride ourselves on being professional, reliable and helpful, and possessing the right skills to ensure that every customer, whether domestic or commercial, we work for comes away more than satisfied. I’m sure you’ll agree that our pattern imprinted concrete driveway testimonials and our pattern imprinted concrete driveway case studies speak for themselves.

    However, when hiring any concrete contractor, you need to ask the right questions to start with, not only to make sure that you think the contractor is trustworthy and will do a good job, but also to make sure that you and the contractor understand exactly what it is you want, so that the end result lives up to your expectations.

    Before hiring:

    1. Ask the contractor for a certificate completion of trade, references and a portfolio. A reliable contractor will be more than happy to prove their worth.

    2. Ask them if they have suitable compensation and liability insurance that will cover them if they are injured on your property, or cause accidental damage while carrying out work.

    3. Ask to see a work schedule and payment terms before they start, so you have a good idea of when the work should start and finish, and how you should pay for it.

    4. Ask what warranty they will give the work, and what they will charge for future maintenance of the drive when the work has gone outside the warranty period.

    Planning/During/After the work:

    1. Discuss the plans in detail: the area to be concreted, concrete mixture, patterns, colours, sealing, finishes, paint, etc. Make sure no detail is left unclear once the work starts.

    2. Tell the contractor what vehicles are likely to use the driveway regularly, and ask what depth the concrete should be, as a result. The average concrete driveway is four inches deep, but regular usage by heavy vehicles may require more.

    3. Ask for concrete, not cement, if you want concrete! The two differ.

    4. After the work is finished, ask the contractor for instructions on how to look after the concrete in the short term and long term.

    How much ice do you need…before you call in an ice breaker?

    We’ve already talked in previous concrete driveway blogs about methods you can employ to de-ice your pattern imprinted concrete driveway or patio. These are easily manageable for a small residential setting. But think about what it would be like if you had to keep a whole road system de-iced and operational?

    For example, a twenty mile section of the M8 Motorway in Scotland was completely frozen under compacted snow and ice last winter, leaving hundreds of motorists stranded. This kind of problem becomes more commonplace in the UK each year, with increased numbers of cars on the roads, and harsh winters to contend with.

    The two maintenance firms that deal with the majority of Scotland’s roads, Amey and BEAR Scotland, have stockpiled a total of 52,000 tonnes of salt and other de-icing material to ready themselves for this year’s winter. So you know if you leave your pattern imprinted concrete driveway this winter and head out on to the roads of Scotland the agencies should have you covered.

    And it doesn’t stop there — a gargantuan icebreaker machine has been been shipped over from Scandinavia to join the hundreds of snow ploughs, gritters and other vehicles that will wage war on Scotland’s ice problem this winter. We’ll be rooting for them!

    Curing concrete is more than just good health

    When working with concrete for any length of time, either as a casual hobbyist involved in DIY projects, or as an obsessively dedicated professional like the good people of CD Designs, you’ll sooner or later run into the term “curing”. For the curious out there, let’s explore what this means in the context of concrete, and why it is so important.

    Simply put, curing is a vital part of the concrete process — it is the period during which the cement mixture loses moisture and hardens to develop the strength of concrete. This process is dependant on the rate of moisture evaporation, which in turn is dependant on the heat and humidity of the surrounding environment, and any measures the implementor has taken to control the process artificially.

    It is very important to make sure the curing process does not happen too quickly — otherwise the concrete will not be strong enough, and the appearance may be affected in the case of decorative concrete, such as in pattern imprinted concrete driveways and concrete patios, resulting in a patchy or uneven look. The curing should take place immediately after finishing the implementation.

    The amount of time of time you should let concrete cure ranges — at least 72 hours is good for all uses of concrete, although concrete will continue to cure and gain strength after that, and allowing up to 8 days is often recommended. For structural concrete, experts advise figures more like 28 days for full strength.

    To control curing, you should:

    * Consider using an evaporation inhibitor, a chemical mixture added after the concrete has been laid that will slow down the process. Make sure you don’t over-apply the mixture, and consult the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure the one you choose is right for your situation.
    * Protect your concrete on bright sunny days — cover it over, and/or cover over neighbouring walls and windows that may reflect heat and light onto the concrete. This is particularly important in the case of coloured decorative concrete, as excessive heat/light during the curing process can affect your colouring dramatically.

    Design award for a concrete bunker?

    Doubtless, few of you would expect a concrete bunker to receive such an accolade, in recognition of great design work. But initial perceptions can be misleading! The Hepworth Wakefield, which overlooks the River Calder, has beaten four rivals in a public vote to be given the Best Architectural Achievement award at the British Design Awards. This award comes as a surprise to some, as many locals to the area say that it looks like a concrete bunker.

    But aside from detractors, the 35 million pound building has many fans too — the grey brutalist structure has attracted over a quarter of a million visitors since it opened in May 2011, making it the most visited gallery in Britain this year. The gallery includes exhibits by many famous artists including Henry Moore, LS Lowry and David Hockney, and also boasts a 100-seat auditorium and a beautiful restaurant.

    As a bit of background, the gallery is named after famous sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who grew up in Wakefield. It was designed by David Chipperfield Architects, the same company that built the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate. This goes to prove once again that concrete can be beautiful, and the function of a building can contribute to a building’s perceived beauty just as much as its form.

    Complete Driveway Designs Ltd

    The Yard, Stubbins Lane, Ramsbottom, BL0 0PT
    E:info@northwest-driveways.co.uk
    T: 01706 827180

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