How To Cure Your Concrete When The Weather Turns Cold

Posted on: 12 November 2014

As fall and winter rapidly approach, if you are like most homeowners you are starting to wrap up your do-it-yourself outside projects, because of the unpredictability of the weather. If your projects involve laying any type of concrete, or bricks and mortar, you know that a run of cold weather will cause your concrete to not properly set up or cure.

The good news is while this may still be a concern, there are products on the market that can help to ensure that your concrete will cure in record time. These products will give you the results that you are looking for.

Why Cure Your Concrete?

When you pour fresh concrete, you are looking to create a chemical reaction between the sand, cement, aggregate and water. The longer you can keep the proper amount of water in the concrete, the better that the chemical reaction, which will make your concrete much stronger. It is this chemical reaction that causes your concrete to properly harden, and not just the evaporation of moisture.

Unfortunately, the natural cycle of water works against you. As hard as you work to keep the water in your slab, nature works to evaporate it.  As the water evaporates, your slab shrinks. If your concrete has not become strong enough to withstand this shrinkage, it will develop cracks which will weaken your project.

Curing your concrete will achieve two basic purposes:

  • It will help to keep the moisture in the slab longer, so that your slab will be stronger.
  • It will delay the drying of your concrete long enough for it to set up. This will allow your slab to resist the cracks that can come from the shrinking. 

How To Cure Your Concrete

There are various methods that can be used to cure your concrete. You will often choose your method based on how much concrete you have, as well as how much time you have to get the concrete cured. The time it takes for a slab to cure will vary, as curing time is based on the amount of water that is in the concrete mixture, the thickness of the project, and the weather. 

When the weather is very hot, you run the risk of evaporation taking place at a rapid pace. You will have to continually add water to keep your moisture consistent. When the weather is very cold, you run the risk of your water freezing, which in turn will still not produce the moisture that your slab need to cure.

For optimal results you will want to keep your concrete within a certain temperature range and under the right moisture conditions.  You can do this by utilizing one of the following methods:

  • One of the most effective methods for curing concrete is a water cure. To utilize this method you must simply keep your concrete flooded,  or mist sprayed.

To flood your concrete, you will use the soil that you have evacuated out of the area in which you are laying your slab, to build a soil dam around your project. This will surround your project with walls that are several inches higher than the top of your concrete. Pack your soil tightly so that it will resist the seepage of water. Once you have constructed your soil dams, take the water hose and literally fill the area with water. This will keep water sitting on your concrete. You will have to refill the area with water as it dries out.

The easiest way to mist your project is by setting up, and turning on lawn sprinklers that are directed at the slab. Set them to a level that will deliver a fine mist to your project. By leaving these on, you will ensure that your slab stays continuously wet.

  • Another way to cure your concrete is to use water retaining materials to keep your concrete moist during the curing period. You may use burlap, straw, or sand. Once you have applied your materials, you will need to ensure that they are kept wet. 
  • Covering, or wrapping your project in paper or plastic film will also help to reduce the amount of moisture that your project will lose which will allow it to continue to cure. 
  • If cool weather may be a threat to your project, you may want to consider using a curing blanket to help to cure your concrete. These specially designed tarps will not only help to maintain the moisture of your project, but since you can plug them in, and set the temperature, they will also serve to help keep your project between the optimal degrees. 

It does not matter which method you choose to use, as long as you keep your project wet and at the right temperature. Knowing that you have options, may allow you to extend your do-it-yourself season a little further. Click here for more information on curing concrete.