Boardwalk decks are designed for exterior use, constantly exposed to the reality of harsh weather and the effects of nature. Most public walkways and trail systems require annual maintenance to continue to look nice, function correctly and remain safe. What maintenance is required for a concrete boardwalk?
Keeping the surface safe and accessible is a good place to start when considering maintenance. The walking surfaces must be free of tripping and slipping hazards.
Common tripping hazards found with wood boardwalk planks are eliminated with a precast concrete surface. These hazards include boards that twist and warp over time, as well as screws that pop up as the wood naturally expands and contracts. Precast concrete surfaces are designed and produced to be consistent from one tread to the next over the course of several decades. The consistency of the precast concrete material, without individual boards sticking up, provides a reliable surface for runners and bicyclists.
Concrete boardwalks are exposed to the same moisture, dirt, algae and mold as any other material. However, a precast concrete boardwalk surface includes a cast-in form liner finish that provides a long-term, anti-slip solution. A slip-resistance texture is available for areas where the boardwalk surface may be in a particularly wet location. The non-skid surface is a part of the concrete boardwalk tread (plank) itself – as opposed to being applied post-pour (stamped concrete). This enables the precast concrete producer to maintain a consistency for the non-skid surface on each tread.
Today miles and miles of concrete surround us: sidewalks, roads and bridges, both precast and cast-in-place. That concrete gets wet, accumulates dirt and algae, and still maintains a slip resistance that allows it to function for decades with little or no maintenance needed.
In preparing for this article I talked with some local maintenance companies in Baton Rouge and New Orleans – ones with experience on exterior wooden structures and concrete surfaces. They explained that as they clean a wood boardwalk or deck surface, the very action of the cleaning wears the wood away. Most commercial or public wooden boardwalks are not well maintained due to small budgets. The public agencies must decide: “Do we spend money on keeping the surfaces less slippery?” or “Do we spend money on repairing structural concerns?” These are real issues for owners.
The three cleaning companies I spoke with have rarely been hired to clean concrete. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, or that all concrete can go without any cleaning. In many cases, cleaning concrete just isn’t a necessary item. The clients that do use concrete cleaning services include hospitals, office buildings and a few high-end condominiums. The cleaning usually takes place at the front entrances and is strictly for aesthetics. Pressure washers are used or even rotary machines with short bristles. Once the cleaning is complete, there is little or no evidence of wear.
Concrete Boardwalk Maintenance
Most cities and counties with a concrete boardwalk in their park or trail system do not have any plans to spend money on annual boardwalk maintenance. We have received feedback that some owners will consider extending their sidewalk pressure washing programs to cover their concrete boardwalks as well. This is an option worth considering if the boardwalk is located in a shady area that fosters a lot of algae growth. In this case, a simple power washing to remove any algae growth or dirt buildup would be advisable. Other than the occasional pressure washing if necessary, we do not recommend any ongoing maintenance items for the boardwalk system.
Third photo by ACME POWERWASH