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A Few Concrete Suggestions

Up until a few years ago, my professional experience was in industries including retail, energy, health care, and fast food. In 1996 circumstances and opportunity led me into the manufacturing, marketing, and installation of products used for Floor Warming, Total Space Heating, Roof Snow and Ice Melting and Snow and Ice Melting of driving and walking surfaces.

Since three out of the four applications for my company's products may be installed into new pour cementitious material like concrete, I quickly determined two things: first, that anything embedded into cementitious materials is only as good as that cementitious material; and second, that the long term happiness and satisfaction of my many of my customers was dependent on the integrity and quality of the work of others. What I did not know, but I have since discovered, is that not all concrete work is of the same quality and that while my company's heating element carries a 25 year warranty, concrete warranties are generally relatively short. As a result of this discrepancy in horizons, I quickly determined that if I wanted to be successful I needed to learn more about concrete, its installation, and the preparation required to insure a high quality job.

Since making that determination I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to observe and evaluate many new concrete pours and examine a lot of very old, yet still perfectly good, concrete. As a result of these opportunities I have noted several things that exceptional concrete professionals routinely do and I am convinced that these things, along with high quality materials, result in superior concrete projects. For more information go to :

Please note that I am not a concrete professional and that my motivations for writing this article are limited to attempting to insure that:

a) your concrete will look as good as possible and last for many years in the future; and,

b) if you elect to install my company's snow and ice melt products, or anyone else's for that matter, it is able to serve its intended purpose for many years to come.

Now for a Few Concrete Suggestions:

Professionals: Always use professionals that have a proven track record and willingly provide creditable references.

Dry Base: Make certain that the ground below where the new asphalt, concrete or pavers will be located is as dry as possible. It is recommended that it be covered whenever there is a risk of a storm for one to two weeks prior to the pour.

Excavation: Be sure that your excavation is deep enough to accommodate the desired thickness of the cementitious material, the depth of a sand bed if the heating cable is being installed under the cementitious material, the thickness of the insulation, and the depth of the aggregate base necessary for proper drainage.

Compaction: Proper compaction is essential and must be given a great deal of care.

Make certain that the entire area to be covered by the cementitious material is completely and properly compacted.

Drainage: In order to have proper drainage and to reduce the likelihood of vertical shifting of the cementitious material, a minimum of 6 inches of high quality aggregate should be laid over the entire area, plus one foot around the perimeter.

Reinforcement: In order to enhance the integrity of the cementitious material, reinforcement materials must always be considered as part of the installation.

Examples of reinforcement materials include fibers in concrete, welded wire fabric, plastic lath, etc.

Insulation: Insulation under concrete and pavers is a two edged sword. On the one hand, it acts as a good moisture barrier, reduces the response time of your snowmelt or heating system, and saves money by reducing operating time. On the other hand, insulation does not allow the heat from the ground to get into the asphalt, concrete, or pavers.

Geometric Shapes: Concrete tends to break into a square geometric shape. As a result I recommend that concrete be poured in square sections no larger than 9.5 feet X 9.5 feet. Pouring other geometric shapes without additional joints almost always results in undesirable cracks at undesirable locations. Each square must always have a joint on each of its four sides.

Jumpers: It does not matter what kind of joint is in the concrete, the heating element should never be allowed to run through it. Always jumper under or around any and all joints.

Thickness: I recommend that the following thickness be observed:

Concrete 5 or more inches
Asphalt 4 or more inches
Pavers 4 or less inches

Suggested Mix: A six-bag mix with fiber or steel reinforcement should always be used when pouring concrete unless the structural or traffic profile requires a different mix.

I am confident that by following the above concrete suggestions you will be rewarded with concrete that looks good and lasts for many years. In the event you purchase a snow melting system and follow the above concrete suggestions you will increase the likelihood that the heating cable is able to perform for years to come by reducing the possibility that it will get damaged or broken by vertical or horizontal movement of the material in which it is embedded.

Larry Lentz

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