Why Soak Concrete During The Curing Process? (Reasons and Benefits)

You’re looking to replace your driveway that has existed since before you bought your home. The concrete is cracked, unlevel, and doesn’t look good. You also understand you won’t be able to use your driveway immediately. 

You’ve looked up how long it takes to dry concrete and see another word about the process:

Curing

Curing? It’s not as though concrete has a disease that makes it weak. Doesn’t concrete just dry? How does concrete cure?

At Dalinghaus Construction, we’ve inspected over 10,000 homes around Southern California and Arizona, assessing concrete of various shapes and sizes. We understand the difference between letting concrete dry or cure. We also understand why curing concrete is pivotal to the overall hardening process. 

What it means to cure concrete

The powder and water cause concrete to harden over time. The curing process is when the concrete is provided moisture adequately – ideally in mild temperatures – and is intact over time. A chemical reaction of hydration is happening, where the paste hardens and gains strength to form a mass similar to rocks known as concrete.

Concrete drying too fast will inevitably cause it to crack. That’s very counter-intuitive after putting in new concrete to replace the bad-looking pieces. The dried concrete will still be your concrete, it will just be cracked and damaged. And you could deal with concrete spalling sooner than later, especially if moisture gets through cracks and affects rebar. 

Curing concrete is like working out. When you work out, you strengthen your muscles, burn fat, and become more toned – even if not at your desired pace. You don’t sit down and do nothing until your next workout; you eat food, have a protein shake, watch your carbs, and, most of all, drink water. That’s how you benefit from your workout. Improper hydration and lack of nutrients will weaken and destroy your body. You won’t look good. 

Concrete maintains structural integrity and is more cosmetically appealing (especially without hairline crack) when soaked in water. You want to give the concrete time to develop strength and durability.

Soak the concrete similar to how you would water a plant

At least water the concrete more than a cactus. Of the many plants in the world, cacti can last a while without water. Think of watering a plant like an Iris, which can handle a good amount of water to sit and dry up.

Thankfully you’re not trying to grow concrete.

Why weather matters

Hot days

The higher the heat, the faster the concrete will cure and dry out faster. Hotter temperatures compromise the concrete structurally and visually, especially with cracks. 

Cold Days

The curing process shouldn’t take longer than it needs to. Colder temperatures don’t allow the natural curing process to happen compared to mild temperatures. If you’re in snow and want to lay down concrete, we recommend waiting until a later date. The curing process becomes more of a hassle. Thankfully, this is a limited option for Southern California and Arizona.

Colder temperatures cause the concrete to expand due to moisture. Water expands by about 9%. If the concrete is installed on a cold day and left there until mild temperatures come back, the concrete will contract. 

With weather, or neglect from watering certain other areas, you will often see control joints applied to some concrete projects, especially sidewalks. 

Control joints

The lines separate the concrete and make it more difficult for kids to use their skateboards. You see the small gaps, or control joints, on sidewalks that are separated every five or so feet.  The main purpose of these joints, especially as the earth naturally moves, is to allow some area for the concrete to move so these cracks aren’t formed. If there is a crack, it’s contained between control joints. 

The magic number for concrete drying is 27 days

Of course, this can always vary depending on the thickness of the concrete. However, you can expect your concrete to be “nourished” and “healthy” fully by this time when curing your concrete. This is usually when concrete will be at its full potential in terms of strength.

You don’t always need to wait the full 27 days

Depending on the weight, you can have things on top of concrete at different times. 

Walking:

-There isn’t a special number where you can walk on concrete. From personal experience, you can wait five hours if the concrete is both obviously and completely dry. The concrete needs to at least be dry at the touch. That way it’s strong enough to hold a person without leaving footprints. 

If you’re concerned five hours is too soon, wait around 24 hours.

Note: if the weather is a cold winter day, wait for a longer period since the concrete won’t be fully dry at the top. 

Driving:

-While there is a magic number for the concrete to be hard enough to bear heavier loads, there isn’t a definitive one to drive your Honda Civic, Subaru, or whichever car you own. We would give it a minimum of about a week. The thickness of the slab will determine when your car can handle your newly furnished concrete, but it is generally seven days you’ll need to wait

Parking on the street is inconvenient, but it’s better than your personal vehicle sinking and swimming only to never escape the concrete. 

Heavier Loads (Semis or Heavy Equipment):

-To play it safe, we recommend waiting a minimum of 27 days. Better to be safe than sorry. 

You wouldn’t work out as you used to while your broken arm is in a cast, would you? Let your arm heal. Waiting that extra time sucks, but you’ll avoid long-term damage. 

Does concrete completely cure?

Concrete never completely cures, though it does maintain its full strength after 27 days.

Curing Compounds

These are good to use. You use these with a spray to apply a thin film that goes on top of the concrete to allow it to cure at a slower rate. You want the curing to go as slow as possible to maintain structural integrity. 

Now you know about the curing process

Curing is a little more of an interactive process than you may have thought. You know how curing maintains the concrete’s structural integrity and prevents cracking. And as you cure your concrete, you’re, oddly enough, bonding with a part of your home to see it strong enough to handle almost anything in the future. Concrete cures so fast.

If you’re unsure about what to do with your home’s concrete, schedule a leveling and lifting inspection free of charge! You can schedule an appointment by giving us a call at (877) 360-9227, or click the button below!

WRITTEN BY

Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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