You’ve already done all the hard work and poured your concrete, and now it’s a waiting game. But how long does it take for concrete to dry?
The answer to that question is a little more complicated than you might think.
While it can depend on the amount of concrete, most concrete is ready to be walked on after a full day, driven on after two full days, and ready for whatever else you might need in 28 days.
Don’t stress out about it though, just keep reading, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about drying concrete.
What Are You Using Your Concrete For?
Concrete drying times are directly related to one question – what are you using your concrete for? Are you building a sidewalk or steppingstones to your door?
Or are you building a driveway for your truck? You might even be laying concrete for a loading dock.
The one thing that changes for each of those situations, how long it takes your concrete to dry. Technically it doesn’t change the amount of time, but it changes the amount of time needed.
That’s because a person isn’t going to put as much pressure on the concrete as a truck – and it doesn’t need to be as solid to hold up.
Concrete Drying Times
Concrete drying times, also known as concrete curing times, vary from application to application. Furthermore, weather conditions can significantly impact the amount of time your new concrete needs to dry.
Drying Times for Sidewalks/Stepping Stones
If you’ve poured some stepping stones or repaired your sidewalk, you should be good to go after 24-hours.
But if you’re pouring concrete in the cold weather, you might need to wait for 48-hours, and sometimes even up to 72-hours.
Drying Time for Driveways
If your concrete will have more than pedestrians on it, you’re going to need to give it a little more time to dry and harden.
The minimum amount of time required for a driveway to dry is 48-hours, but if you’re pouring concrete in less than ideal conditions, you might need to wait up to seven days.
Drying Time for Other Applications
If you’re laying down concrete for a loading dock or another application that has a large amount of weight resting on it, you’ll need to give your concrete extra time to complete its chemical reaction and cure completely.
Typically, these kinds of applications need 28 days to dry, but it could take over 30 days in less than ideal conditions.
How Different Conditions Can Affect Your Concrete Drying Time
Are you pouring your concrete on a hot summer day? Or are you trying to fit it in after a snowstorm?
Both situations will drastically change how long it takes your concrete mix to dry. Keep reading, keep an eye on the weather, and pick the perfect day to pour your concrete.
If you see any of these weather conditions in the forecast when you’re planning on pouring your concrete, wait until a different day.
Whenever you pour concrete, make sure you have a tarp or cover handy in case of a freak rainstorm.
Even if the weather isn’t showing rain in the forecast, if it rains in the first 8 to 10 hours after pouring concrete, it can ruin the mixture.
However, if it does rain after the first 10 hours, it shouldn’t affect your concrete. The outer layers cure first, and this keeps the moisture from the rain out.
Meanwhile, if there is any sleet, snow, or ice around the area you’re putting concrete on, wait until it’s all melted away. If concrete cures around any of these frozen elements, it will usually crack.
This means that after all your hard work, you’ll need to repair your concrete slab.
Warm Days vs. Cold Days
If you have a choice, the hotter the day, the better. The chemical reaction used to cure the concrete accelerates on hot days. That means if you’re pouring your concrete in the winter, you’ll need to wait a little longer before you can use it.
Furthermore, if the temperature gets below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, your concrete won’t cure at all. That’s because 14 degrees is the magic temperature to get the reaction going.
Any point that the temperature drops below 14 degrees, the curing process stops, and it won’t restart again until the temperatures heat up.
So, if you’re counting down the days or hours until you can use your new concrete slab, make sure you stop the clock when the days or nights get ultra-cold.
Concrete Curing vs. Concrete Drying
If you’re an experienced cement mason or concrete finisher, you might be ready to throw this article through the wall. Why? Because concrete drying isn’t a thing. Concrete doesn’t dry. It cures.
What’s the difference? After you’ve laid your concrete out, you’re not waiting for it to dry. You’re waiting for the chemical process to complete, so you have a usable product. That’s not drying. It’s curing.
When your concrete is drying, you’re waiting for all the moisture to come off the concrete surface. Your concrete dries out after a summer rain. It cures after you pour it.
So, next time you have someone ask you how long does it take for concrete to dry, tell them it depends on how long it rains, or if you’re in a hot climate, how long it sweats! Instead, they should be asking about how long concrete takes to cure.
Despite that fact, many people use concrete drying and concrete curing interchangeably, even within the industry.
So, how long does it take for concrete to dry? You should be asking how long it takes for concrete to complete the curing process.
Of course, it depends on various factors, including the moisture content, the type of concrete mix, and all the other curing compounds you’re using.
There are tons of factors to consider with concrete curing, but with a little hard work, planning, and preparation, you’ll have your concrete up to full strength in no time!