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Chris Sullivan
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Question:

I have a colored and sealed walkway that is at a slight incline. I love the color, but every time it rains or gets wet the walkway becomes very slippery. Is there anything I can do to make it less slippery without affecting the color?

Answer:

Sealers for decorative concrete provide protection and enhance color. But the same thin, plastic layer that provides this protection and color enhancement also becomes very slippery when wet.

When dry, most sealers pass the national standards set by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) for slip resistance. When wet, however, most fail these standards or are borderline. The texture of the concrete also plays a big part, which is why most walkways, pool decks, and driveways are broom finished or textured.

In the case of the walkway that is at a slight incline, the surface is not doing much to create slip resistance, and the sealer is making it worse. There are two ways to solve this problem. The first is to strip off the sealer and leave the concrete surface bare. While this solves the problem, it defeats the purpose and you no longer have the benefits of sealer protection and color enhancement.

The second, and more viable, solution is to combine a grit additive with the final coat of sealer to increase the grip of the sealer. Many years ago, silica sand was used to create grit in clear sealers. The sand did solve the slip issue, but it made the sealer cloudy. Some years ago, a clear plastic (polyethylene) grit additive was introduced. It is made from the same plastic used to make 2-liter soda bottles, ground into a fine powder. If you look at the powder under a microscope, the particles look rough and jagged like sand but are clear. When added to a clear sealer, they disappear to the naked eye. When the sealer dries, they create a rough surface underfoot, especially when wet. You can buy clear plastic grit in different sizes, depending on the level of traffic exposure and how much surface traction is needed. In the case of the slippery walkway, simply re-applying a thin coat of sealer with polymer grit additive should do the trick. Be aware that you can't spray apply sealers containing grit, and over time the sealer will wear and require maintenance.

Learn more about slip resistant concrete.

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Author Chris Sullivan, ConcreteNetwork.com technical expert and vice president of sales and marketing for ChemSystems Inc.

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