The moment a contractor pours freshly prepared concrete, the most common question arises. How long does the concrete need to dry before someone can walk on it? It is essential to take proper care of newly laid concrete during the drying phase.
If a concrete structure gets sufficient time to settle and cure, it will bring good finishing and strength in the long run. Now the question is how long one needs to wait before new concrete is ready for foot traffic.
This article presents a clear timeline to figure out when concrete is safe for walking and other applications.
Timeline For The Protection Of New Concrete
One must always keep in mind that the longer a concrete gets to cure, the stronger it becomes. The curing process starts after a few hours when the concrete is poured.
It usually takes around 24 hours before a concrete structure is strong enough to bear the weight of a human.
In environments where the temperatures are extremely hot or cold, the curing and setting process of concrete will be different. A concrete structure will never attain its full strength until it dries completely. So fresh concrete should be protected throughout the drying and curing stage.
There are no apparent differences on the surface if the curing process is fast, but it will damage the structural integrity. Likewise, it also reduces the usable life of a concrete structure by around 50 years. Therefore, you will be required to perform frequent replacements and repairs in the future.
Walking can be permitted on newly prepared concrete structures after seven days. Read the following guide to learn about the right concrete drying time before walking on concrete paths and structures.
Factors Affecting The Hardening Time Of Concrete
The Ratio Of Concrete And Water
Water is an essential component for preparing the concrete mix. One must use the right amount of aggregate, water, and Portland concrete for preparing the perfect consistency of concrete. If the mixture contains excess water, the concrete will become too runny and will take longer to harden.
It also loses its strength and the outer surface becomes flaky. Similarly, too little water will cause the concrete to settle fast; as a result, it will have poor structural strength.
Warm temperatures facilitate faster setting and quick evaporation of water. The wind also accelerates the curing process of concrete. However, one must avoid pouring concrete in extremely hot or cold climates.
Another critical factor that affects the setting and curing time of concrete is the brand and chemical composition of the cement.
The setting time of concrete is affected by factors like water content, chemical composition, and size of the structure, surrounding temperature, and intended purpose.
After A Few Hours
The freshly prepared concrete structure starts curing immediately and needs proper hardening to bear some weight. The workers can stand on the structure shortly after pouring it. This also allows them to finish the concrete properly along with the application of decorative elements and sealants.
The concrete is still in a fragile state during this period. At this point, the surface may appear dry, but underneath it is still wet and weak.
Marks may appear on the exterior surface if proper care is not taken. Hence, an average person is prevented from walking on the concrete surface during this time.
After 24 Hours
After 24 hours, you can walk on a concrete surface. It is the minimum time required for hardening the concrete so that it can bear the weight of a human. Experts recommend waiting for a longer time if there is heavy rain or decorative elements on the surface.
Standard concrete structures can take the weight of foot traffic a day after it is poured. Always exercise caution when working around a new concrete path. Prohibit these items from damaging the concrete:
- Bikes, Strollers, And Skateboards
The small wheels of these vehicles can damage the exterior layer of concrete. It can result in the formation of grooves and lines on the concrete surface.
The claws of a dog can leave scratch marks on the concrete at this stage. However, it will not have any effect on the structural integrity of the path.
After A Week
You can allow all kinds of traffic on the path or surface after seven days. The surface can even take the weight of heavy vehicles. When concrete is still in its curing stage, there will be no noticeable difference in the external appearance of the surface.
After A Month
For a freshly prepared concrete surface, it takes almost 28 days to cure and dry thoroughly. At this point, the concrete structure attains its maximum strength.
If proper care is taken right from the time of pouring and during the curing state, it will last for more than 50 years without any repair or replacement.
How To Speed Up The Drying Process For New Concrete
24 hours of drying time may feel a bit long, particularly in busy commercial and industrial locations. Customers may look for alternatives that will speed up concrete drying time before walking on newly laid concrete. It helps in resuming foot traffic without much delay.
However, contractors must be cautious about using chemical agents as it interferes with the structural integrity and chemical composition of concrete.
Concrete structures become durable when they have sufficient time to cure. It not only increases the structural integrity, but also helps in attaining a perfect finish. Slow and gradual curing gives the concrete the much-needed strength and prevents cracks from appearing on the surface.
In the first week, the concrete structure should be kept wet so that the concrete drying time before walking on it takes place slowly. This process is referred to as damp curing; however, chemical agents are added to speed up the curing process in areas with high foot traffic.
Always consult with a concrete expert before using chemical agents in concrete structures. It may help in speeding up the concrete drying time, but eventually affect the durability of the structure.