Spring has sprung! And the arrival of warm weather has us itching to head outdoors. It’s the perfect time to clear out the clutter and start fresh. Save the closet organizing for rainy days. Instead, tackle these outdoor spring cleaning and home maintenance projects to get your home ready for spring.
Decks, Patios and Porches
The first step to deck, patio and porch maintenance is a good spring cleaning. Sweep and power wash, clear weeds and debris and check for loose steps or railings. Once your patio is clean and repaired, consider protecting it from future stains and damage with a concrete sealer.
Concrete Sidewalks and Walkways
Concrete sidewalks can take a beating during the freeze-thaw cycles of winter. The first step to spring concrete maintenance is a good cleaning. Sweep away or power wash any debris so you can get a good look at the current condition. Next, carefully inspect concrete, checking for cracked or crumbling areas. Visit one of Intermountain Concrete Specialties’ six locations in Utah and Idaho for the products, tools and tips you need to repair concrete cracks before damage progresses.
Check concrete foundation walls, floors and slabs for cracking, heaving or deterioration. Some cracks are minor and can be repaired. If the crack is the width of a nickel, call a professional for assessment and repair.
Wintertime can take a toll on your roof, so perform a close inspection each spring. Check flashings and look for punctured, cracked, curled or missing shingles. Some are visible from the ground, but it’s a good idea to get a closer look to see if roof maintenance is required.
Gutters and downspouts need to be clear of obstructions to properly manage rainwater and to prevent moisture damage to your home. Clear leaves and other winter debris from gutters, reattach loose ones and make sure water runoff is directed away from the house. If there are leaks, dry the area and use a flexible outdoor caulk to seal.
Check for loose siding panels and ensure the flashing is in place. Clean siding with a pressure washer to remove dirt and debris. Take care of any necessary exterior siding repairs or painting.
Routine maintenance on your central HVAC unit can improve airflow, which in turn can lower cooling costs. If you have an outdoor unit, remove dust, leaves, grass clippings and any other debris that may be blocking airflow. Be sure to shut off the power to the unit before performing any maintenance.
This is a given when it comes to spring home maintenance. Clear dead leaves, branches and other debris; clean out garden and flowerbeds; prune and trim trees and shrubs; and reseed thin or damaged areas of the lawn.
Check for leaky valves and broken or clogged sprinkler heads. Clean or replace poorly performing sprinklers, check operating pressure and adjust sprinkler heads as necessary. Open the main water valve slowly to allow pipes to fill gradually and avoid bursting a pipe.
Windows and doors
Check screens for punctures or holes, and inspect windowsills and doorways for cracks and potential leaks. To protect from spring rains, remove eroded caulk and fill cracks with fresh exterior caulking. Repaint and seal for a beautiful home enhancement.
Your home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. Take care of it with a little home maintenance and spring cleaning so you can enjoy a safe and beautiful home for years to come. Don’t forget to check out our list of 7 Outdoor Concrete Projects for Spring and the10 concrete products you need to make them happen!
Admixtures are defined as any material added to a batch of concrete other than the required three ingredients: cement, water and aggregate. Admixtures alter the concrete’s quality, manageability, acceleration or retardation of setting time and other properties. They can help ensure a successful pour in both hot and cold temperatures. And admixtures can even help decrease cost and increase productivity in certain conditions.
While there are many different products available, concrete admixtures break down into two types:
Chemical Admixtures: Modify the properties of finished concrete—such as waterproofing it—and protect wet concrete during mixing, transportation, placing and curing.
Mineral Admixtures: Can reduce concrete’s permeability and increase its strength. They can be used with Portland cement or with blended cement individually, or in combinations, depending on the desired concrete properties.
Anti-Hydro International has helped harden concrete and masonry structures all over the world, from the Hearst Tower in New York to the Sears Tower in Chicago. Its Anti-Hydro® admixture is a combination of organic and inorganic chemicals that react with Portland cement to produce better hydration. And better hydration reduces water requirements, bleed water and shrinkage. The result is a denser cement paste that cures harder.
But Anti-Hydro® doesn’t only harden concrete. It waterproofs it, too. It can be used when pouring a concrete floor to make it totally waterproof. Plus, Anti-Hydro® is relatively affordable, making it a common-sense choice when considering certain concrete projects. Simply put, Anti-Hydro® can both strengthen and waterproof finished concrete, a bonus for, say, basement and garage floors.
Concrete exposed to freeze-thaw cycles can benefit by adding air-entraining admixtures. Entrained air improves concrete’s resistance to damage caused by freezing and thawing, as well as to deicing chemicals. Grace Construction Products has a line of air-entrainment products that work well in the often-tumultuous weather patterns of the Intermountain West.
Water-reducing admixtures do just what the name implies: reduce the amount of water needed to mix concrete. Using these admixtures increases concrete’s workability at the same water-cement ratio. And that makes for a product that’s easier to pour and stronger when cured. In fact, water reducers have been proven to increase compressive and flexural strengths in concrete. Using water reducers can also retard the set time of concrete, making it a smart choice in hot-weather pours.
Concrete poured in near-freezing conditions can benefit from an accelerator admixture. These speed the setting time and, thus, the curing time begins sooner. Using accelerators in conjunction with good curing procedures protects the concrete from freezing. And it’s been shown that concrete is actually stronger overall when accelerators have been used during a pour.
From adding accelerators to speed up the setting time in cold temperatures to adding water reducers to retard setting in hot weather, admixtures make concrete easier to work with and can increase its strength.
For all your concrete needs or questions, contact Intermountain Concrete Specialties. We have admixture products from Anti Hydro International, Grace Construction Products, Xypex and more. With more than 70 years of concrete expertise, you can count on us to give you the advice needed for a successful concrete project. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.
Only three things are certain in life: death, taxes and cracks in concrete. We can’t help you with the first two, but, fortunately, there are some steps you can take to postpone the inevitable cracks in concrete.
First, make sure to properly prepare the subgrade before pouring concrete. While it’s drying, concrete contracts and shrinks—which typically leads to its cracking. A smooth subgrade reduces the tension with the ground as the concrete dries, shrinks and hardens. Also, a subgrade of gravel or similar material allows for drainage, keeping those crack-causing, freeze-thaw cycles at bay.
Second, add steel reinforcement to your concrete. By its very nature, concrete has high compression strength, but low tensile strength. In order to offset its tensile-strength shortcomings, steel reinforcement should be added. Steel mesh or rebar (depending on the size of the slab) is the peanut butter to the concrete’s jelly—making a delicious, and strong, combination.
Third, and arguably the most effective way to reduce cracking in residential applications, is adding joints to concrete. Joints take the stress off of the slab, create a weakened area to help control where the concrete cracks and separates one cementitious surface from another—such as a home’s foundation from its patio. There are two types of concrete joints: control and expansion.
Since concrete is bound to crack, control joints are simply “planned” cracks. These cracks are added by tooling them into the still-wet concrete with a hand tool, or sawing them into the slab once it has cured enough to prevent chipping during the cutting process. These straight grooves create a place for the slab to crack during expansion and contraction. Sometimes these cracks occur on the underside of the concrete, completely out of sight.
Control joints should be cut into the concrete no less than two or three times (in feet) the thickness (in inches) of the slab. So, for a 4-inch slab (fairly standard for residential applications), control joints should be 8 to 12 feet apart. What about the depth? Well, they should be no less than one-quarter of the thickness of the slab. For that same 4-inch slab, control joints should be 1 inch deep.
Expansion joints, which are usually a pliable material such as cork or plastic, are installed in an adjacent surface before the concrete is poured. These joints create a type of “shock absorber” next to the poured concrete, to allow for the concrete’s natural expansions and contractions as it dries. Expansion joints should be inserted wherever a new slab abuts a building or an existing slab.
The material used for expansion joints should extend the depth of the slab and stretch its full width. Also, it’s a good idea to seal any exterior expansion joints with high-quality, flexible urethane caulk to keep water out.
Not much in life is guaranteed—except for cracks in concrete. Taking the steps to properly prepare the subgrade, use steel reinforcement material and strategically place control and expansion joints will go a long way in delaying the inevitable.
What else is guaranteed? Intermountain Concrete Specialties is here to answer your concrete questions and help with any of your DIY project needs. We rent specialty equipment and tools. We have years of experience, expertise and know-how. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls—all with friendly and knowledgeable staff members—help is never far away.
Stamped concrete is an easy and quick way to create beautiful, multi-dimensional walkways and patios that look similar to their more expensive counterparts, such as bricks, stones or pavers. But how long can you expect a stamped concrete surface to last?
The short answer? Provided it’s installed correctly and adequately maintained, stamped concrete will last just as long as non-stamped, or standard, concrete—about 25 years. That’s because the processes of installing stamped concrete and standard concrete are mostly the same.
The only additional step required for stamped concrete is . . . stamping the concrete. This is done when the concrete is slightly dried but malleable enough to create a texture on the surface with a preformed stamp. Coloring is commonly added to give the surface the desired appearance. From antiqued to modernized, there’s a concrete stain or dye out there for every application.
Lastly, a sealer should be applied to keep the elements at bay. As an aside, some will argue that stamped concrete actually lasts longer than standard concrete due to the use of a sealer. However, standard concrete can also benefit from the use of a sealer, so . . . let’s just call it a wash.
Now, we need to remind you that only three things are certain in life: death, taxes and, at some point, cracks in concrete. And stamped concrete is no exception.
The fact is that stamped concrete hasn’t always been as durable as standard concrete. When it first came on the scene, it was common to hear frustrated homeowners complain about cracks in their relatively new stamped concrete. Back then it was difficult to ensure uniform depth throughout the stamping process. The unevenness of those early stamped concrete surfaces resulted in a decreased lifespan. Fear not, modern concrete stamps have resolved this problem.
Even with this durability, stamped concrete isn’t meant to be used for any substantial weight-bearing surfaces, like an RV pad or driveway. Instead, it should be used as an inexpensive and easy way to enhance the aesthetics of landscapes and improve curb appeal.
Do you have a patio to pour? Great, look to stamped concrete. Have a walkway needed? Stamped concrete for the win! Do you need some garden curbing? Stamped concrete can really jazz those up. Just install it correctly (or hire a professional), avoid substantial on-surface weight, keep it properly maintained and you’ll have a beautiful, functional, finished product that will last longer than you thought possible.
Intermountain Concrete Specialties has all the products, expertise and equipment you need to tackle any DIY concrete undertaking. We even rent concrete stamps—because we know you probably don’t stamp concrete every day! Visit us at any of our seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls and talk to one of our knowledgeable concrete experts for help with your next project.
Whether it’s for a shed, stair landing, dog kennel or hot tub, a small concrete pad is an easy and inexpensive home improvement project. Turn that section of matted grass into a functional and practical surface with a little elbow grease and this know-how.
First, a disclosure: This guide isn’t meant to be a concrete-project encyclopedia. But it will set you up to complete a small weekend undertaking for any pad measuring 100 square feet or less.
Determine the size of the pad you need. Take into consideration any extra space required around a hot tub for steps or in front of a shed door to keep grass and dirt out. Mark off the area with stakes or spray paint. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but ensure the area you mark is square. Now dig.
Ultimately, for a pad to sit 2 inches above ground level, you’ll want to excavate down roughly 6 inches. And make sure to remove enough soil outside of your marks to accommodate formwork—4 inches should do the trick.
We know, we know . . . it’s a small project. But regardless of size, properly preparing the base material improves the lifespan of your concrete. Use a bow rake to level the dirt and remove any large rocks or debris. Dampen the soil with water. Now, use a hand tamper to compact the base. Go ahead, take all your frustrations out on that dirt. “Beat the devil out of it,” as Bob Ross would say.
Next put sand, gravel or crushed stone into the hole. It adds to the strength of the concrete and acts as a capillary break, stripping groundwater’s ability to wick up through the pad like a sponge. If you’ve dug down 6 inches and want the pad to finish 2 inches above the ground, you’ll need to add 4 inches of subgrade material. This will allow for a 4-inch pad, a typical and adequate thickness for most home-based uses.
For smaller pads, you can often prefabricate the form using 2x4s and lay it into the prepared area. Make sure you have nice, straight lumber. Cut your boards long enough so that the inside measurement of the form is the desired size of the pad—which will typically mean adding an inch and a half to each side. Now, screw the boards together at each corner.
Place the form into the prepared site and drive stakes 8 inches into the ground every 2 to 3 feet along the outside edges of the boards. After making sure the form is square and level, and accounting for drainage, attach the form to the stakes with screws or nails from the outside so that you can remove them after the concrete is poured. You can even make the stakes yourself out of spare lumber. The idea is simply to ensure the form is supported enough as to not blow out under the weight of wet concrete. Pro tip: Make sure the stakes are flush, or just below, the top of the form to simplify leveling, or screeding, the wet concrete. To avoid three common concrete forming mistakes, check out our other blog.
Here’s where all your hard work pays off . . . or just begins. Mix the concrete according to the manufacturer’s instructions either by hand in a wheelbarrow or with the help of a cement mixer. Pour half of the concrete in the form and roughly level. Now, put in concrete-reinforcing steel mesh cut just less than the size of the form. Do you really need reinforcing material? Does a Snickers really need caramel? Does a chocolate chip cookie need chocolate chips?
While opinions about using reinforcing steel vary online, the fact is that concrete has low tensile strength. To offset this, it’s essential to add a material with high tensile strength, a.k.a. steel. Concrete will crack. That’s inevitable. But using reinforcing steel mesh will help to keep the cracks smaller, allow the pad to carry more weight and increase its lifespan. For larger pads, a stronger reinforcement option is a lattice-work of steel rebar.
After reinforcing material is placed halfway through the concrete, finish pouring to the top of the forms.
Level (screed) the concrete in a back-and-forth sawing motion with a 2×4 cut plenty long enough to span the form. This is where ensuring the stakes are lower than the tops of the form will pay off. Continue working the surface until all excess concrete is removed and there are no voids. If there are low spots or voids, add concrete to those areas and relevel.
Water will appear after a short time, creating a sheen on the surface. Wait until this water disappears back into the concrete before edging, jointing and hand-floating. Aside from waiting for the gloss to vanish, pressing your thumb into the concrete near the perimeter will give you an idea of when it’s ready for the next step. When pushing hard only leaves a 1/4-inch deep impression, it’s ready. Note: Larger pads should be smoothed with a bull float immediately following the screeding.
Use an edging tool around the form to create a smooth, round edge. If the pad is large enough, use a hand groover and a straight edge to create straight joints about every 4 feet. Use a hand float in sweeping arcs to compact and smooth the surface. When it comes to choosing a hand float, you have to decide between magnesium or aluminum, which is a can of worms in itself. It may be worth a conversation with a professional or experienced DIYer to better understand what float may be best to use for your application.
After the concrete is partially hardened—this time varies on the mix and weather conditions—use a trowel to complete a smooth finish and lightly broom for a non-slip surface. If you’re trying to smooth with a trowel or rough with a broom and the surface is not forgiving, add a little bit of water to the top. That should do the trick.
As you work on your project, use rubber gloves, a long-sleeve shirt and safety glasses. Concrete can, and will, cause chemical burns. Safety first!
You’re undoubtedly excited to use your new landing or take a soak in the hot tub, especially after all that work! But removing the form too early can ruin your project. Instead, relax a bit. Leave everything alone for at least two days—and maybe longer, depending on the weather. Removing forms too early can cause concrete to sag, crack or collapse. But, even after the form is removed, it’s important to stay off fresh concrete until it has cured. What’s curing? Read all about the importance of curing in our past blog article.
Completing your own concrete project is rewarding. Done correctly, you’ll be left with a finished product that will withstand years of use. With more than 69 years of experience, Intermountain Concrete Specialties can help with your DIY concrete project needs. We rent specialty concrete equipment and forms. We offer all the hand tools needed for a beautiful project. And we have the expertise and knowledge to help with any concrete undertaking—big or small. Contact us at one of our seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls today to see how we can help.
Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and . . . cracks in concrete. Luckily, repairing unsightly or dangerous cracks in concrete is inexpensive and easy. And mending concrete fissures does more than improve the appearance of cementitious structures. Closing the door on water’s ability to penetrate driveways, walkways and patios improves their lifespan.
The recommended steps outlined here can mend cracks less than 1/4-inch wide. Anything much larger requires a closer look. And repairing crumbling concrete requires an altogether different method. To keep water from entering small cracks, and weeds from coming through, follow the easy steps below.
Repairing cracks in concrete improves both the lifespan and appearance of driveways, walkways and patios. Caulk keeps water and weeds away from those pesky breaks in concrete slabs. Intermountain Concrete Specialties has the products and expertise to help with any project. And with seven locations from St. George to Idaho Falls, help is never far away.
What is a Concrete Vibrator?
A concrete vibrator is a machine used for construction-based purposes. These machines can come in several different shapes and sizes. Some are small and run strictly on battery power, while others are much larger with a primary power source stemming from electric power cords. Choosing the right concrete vibrator can help settle your concrete for long-term stability and maintenance.
Why Use a Concrete Vibrator?
Using vibration to assist concrete during its settling period has proven a worthwhile method that aids in long-term durability. As wet concrete is poured, air bubbles become trapped within the mixture creating cavities or honeycomb-like spaces. Left untouched, “honeycombing” can compromise the cement’s longevity and strength. Vibrators force the trapped air out of the mixture leaving the final product a more compact and level slab. It is not uncommon to see small bursts of air surfacing from the wet mixture when the vibrator is being used correctly.
What Kind of Concrete Vibrator Do You Need?
The length and depth of your project determines what vibrator is best for your needs. There are many types of concrete vibrators, each with its own head size.
The practicality of internal vibrators makes them the most commonly used choice available.
Internal vibrators are typically better priced and offer unparalleled maneuverability due to their size and weight. High frequency concrete vibrators perform a power conversion of single-phase energy into three-phase energy, which is a beneficial feature due to the power consistency it provides for large-scale projects. These vibrators are generally used for commercial sites and for projects done by the Department of Transportation.
External concrete vibrators are an optimal choice for any vertical project, such as walls or other areas that require maximum reinforcement. They can also be useful for downsizing mistakes that can be caused by other types of internal vibrators.
Internal gas vibrators are clearly the best option when electricity is either not available or presents a safety hazard on the work site. They also work well for distinct locations such as curbing, gutters and construction joints that call for additional precaution.
Vibratory screeds are a suitable, user-friendly option due to the operator’s ability to remain standing in an upright position. Ease of use and a reputation for being lightweight makes the screed a good choice for large or small, indoor or outdoor projects, such as patios, driveways, and indoor or outdoor basketball courts.
The value of using a concrete vibrator for your next project cannot be overstated. While there are many components to consider in order to achieve a positive end-result, this is certainly not one to ignore. The outcome of any concrete pour is highly dependent upon the use of proper tools and at what stage they are used along the process.
Crumbling concrete can be such a frustration—especially when it is your own driveway! Not only is it unsightly but it also jeopardizes the longevity of the remaining concrete area. Many people will offer their advice on some quick, cheap fixes but when it comes to cement work it is important to be cautious and plan ahead. Having the proper tools and products will make or break your project experience and outcome.
What You Will Need
Each concrete repair is different depending on its location. Recommended products are based on whether the area is vertical or horizontal and what kind of repair is needed. Because driveways are typically horizontal, certain products excel for these types of flat surfaces. Our favorite repair mortars provide amazing results for driveway repair work:
* Lyons Patchcrete * WR Meadows Spectrum Rekote * Mapei Quickpatch
Primers or bonding agents are not necessary for every circumstance, but they are certainly recommended in order to successfully adhere the new repair mortar to the effected area. Our list of favorites include:
* Lyons P100 Primer * BASF A660 * Grace Daraweld C
An effective method to clean the crumbling area ahead of time is essential, so be sure to plan for that in advance. A nice power sprayer is a good recommendation, but not a deal-breaker.
Adequate preparation to the area is the essential first step when you begin any type of concrete repair. The products you use will only be as good as the conditions beneath them. Removing any crumbling debris is key, and while there is more than one way to do this, using a power sprayer can be a great help. Another important step is to eliminate anything that may hinder the adherence process of the mortar, such as grease, paint or oil that has previously been in contact with the area.
If you are using water to clean the area it is important to allow plenty of drying time before you apply the primer or bonding agent. If moisture is present, the primer cannot properly adhere to the surface. Be certain to follow the instructions for each chosen product, as they may vary slightly depending on brand.
To apply the primer or bonding agent, make sure to keep it well stirred. Preference in application techniques can range from brushes and brooms to rollers. The key factor is making sure you effectively work the product into the surface. Allow for the recommended drying time as provided in the product instructions; 2-3 hours is usually adequate but not all products are exactly the same so be diligent in reading and understanding the directions. It is worth noting that some products, such as Lyons P100 Primer, change opacity as the drying process is under way. Application often appears milky, but the end result will be a more clear-like coating.
Applying the repair mortar comes next and the goal is for a nice, smooth finish. It really is as simple as reading the product’s directions for correct water/mortar mixture ratio and using the recommended tools. Refer to our past blog 14 Concrete Tools and Products You Didn’t Know You Needed to learn which tools will work best for your individual repair project.
Why This Matters
Fixing a crumbling driveway is actually pretty simple with great products and a solid understanding of the process. Taking special care to prepare the area and using appropriate tools is the best advice anyone can offer for this type of cement work. In the end it really pays off to make these repairs in a timely manner after crumbling has started. Diligence in maintaining or replacing worn areas in concrete is crucial for overall strength and longevity of the overall cemented area.
That darn cold weather has crept up again and you still did not get your concrete poured this year—again. Summertime can be busy for many, and with fun activities and vacations, pouring concrete can get pushed to the back of the line. This may leave you pondering the possibilities of pouring your concrete in less than ideal weather conditions.
First of all, you have to know there are some unique challenges to pouring concrete in cold weather. It certainly can be done but it is not ideal. Cold weather can greatly alter several factors when pouring concrete. Knowing some best practices can go a long way in your chilly adventure. The hydration level, freezing risks and overall durability over time are just a few things to consider, so be prepared to baby your concrete until it’s cured.
Now that you know you may encounter some challenges, here’s the facts to help you prepare. First of all, the standard for pouring concrete in cold weather is not defined by your grandmother’s thermostat—it is three consecutive days of temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Concrete has many phases and each one is important. The phase in which concrete is moist is known as the plastic phase. During this phase it is crucial to control the temperature of the concrete. If outdoor temperatures fall below 25 degrees Fahrenheit the concrete will most likely freeze. A concrete popsicle is never a desirable outcome because it can compromise the overall durability and strength by up to 50%.
Protecting the concrete from freezing is the highest priority for at least two full days. Ideally, you want to maintain the concrete at a temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, this phase may take longer to fully set.
You should also understand how lower temperatures can affect the hydration levels in your concrete. Moisture creates a chemical reaction when it is combined with the cement mixture. This reaction causes heat and with it an acceleration in the setting process. The lower temperatures can alter the hydration levels, thus causing less heat and slower setting times for your project. Because you may encounter these delays in setting times, some of the normal finish work and removal of forms will also be delayed.
But fear not, there are additive options designed specifically for cold weather concrete conquests that can help the concrete set faster or retain heat to prevent freezing.
Calcium chloride can be highly effective in pushing along the setting rate. However, this additive should be limited to no more than two percent of the cement mixture itself. Insulating your concrete is a critical step that can aid in heat retention. Plastic sheets and enclosures are also popular and an effective barriers against the elements. Additionally, concrete heat blankets can be quite helpful during the cold winter months. Not only can they be used to help thaw frozen ground but they add a substantial amount of protection for newly poured concrete. Typically, heat blankets are made from durable polyethylene fabrics and insulating foam that hold up nicely in harsh weather conditions.
Depending on the project circumstances, a heater may help retain heat and prevent freezing. If you use a heater, you must be vigilant and take adequate precautions. A fossil-fueled heater should always be placed in a well-ventilated area to avoid carbon monoxide dangers and to avoid the carbonation of a newly poured concrete area, which can cause an undesirable result called dusting. Additionally, heaters can create a surface temperature that differs greatly from the center of the concrete. If this variation becomes more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit, cracking may result. Another potential risk with heating concrete is prematurely drying out the surface which creates shrinkage cracks. Corners and outer edges can be particularly vulnerable to these problems.
Pouring concrete in cold weather may seem like a daunting task to undertake and it certainly comes with risks. Whatever options you choose to protect your project will require your time and attention to detail. However, being deliberate in your planning, reviewing and implementing these recommendations will put you on the pathway to a successful, albeit chilly, concrete adventure.
So, you’ve decided to be industrious and do your own concrete work. You’ve done some research on what tools to buy, how much concrete you need and even scheduled a day off from work to bust out this project. Your friends and neighbors have chimed in with a mountain of tips and even offered up some helping hands. You’re ready to get rolling so you can have that patio you’ve always wanted for barbeques and entertaining friends. But wait—when can you actually use it? How long does it need to dry? Does climate affect it? These questions do need to be addressed before starting any concrete work in order to avoid problems.
Curing vs. Drying
Individuals who do not typically work in the concrete industry believe that once concrete feels dry it is ready for general use. This common mistake happens all too often, and unfortunately ruins a surface and its durability. Concrete can feel dry to the touch within hours of being poured, depending on the climate and time of year. However, concrete needs to do far more than just dry. For all poured concrete, big or small, a curing period is necessary to ensure strength and durability that will last over time and through inclement weather conditions.
So how long do you need to wait to get those patio parties rolling? Here are several factors that play into that answer:
With these factors in mind, the minimum curing recommendation is seven days—provided that the temperature is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Compressive strengths of concrete mixtures can vary and each one requires a different curing period so a good rule of thumb is to wait between 7–14 days.
What is the Process?
Do additional steps need to be taken during the hardening period? Indeed they do! Maintaining moisture while curing is key to the overall concrete strength and durability. You can leave the forms used to shape and hold the concrete in place to aid in moisture retention. You should also pay close attention to when and how additional moisture should be applied. If you pour your own small concrete projects at a residential site, a misting nozzle or some type of light spraying can help retain moisture. However, enough hardening must also be present to avoid surface damage. It is also recommended that water temperature be no more than 20 degrees cooler than the concrete itself, to eliminate chances of cracking—those pesky cracks! Some use large sheets of plastic to cover the concrete to discourage moisture loss. When used these sheets must be consistently saturated with water and can only be applied after the hardening stage is settled enough to avoid surface damage.
Temperature and Climate
Temperature and climate recommendations can vary and may need to be altered, depending on climate conditions in your area. Each climate has moisture variations that range from extra dry to very moist. Colder conditions can affect your concrete plan and the rate in which the curing takes place. The colder the conditions, the slower the cure rate. Curing agents and insulated blankets can be used when pouring concrete in less than ideal conditions. However, keeping the temperature regulated can be a tricky job. On the flip side, pouring concrete in extreme heat comes with its own set of risks; certain precautions must be taken to avoid rapid moisture loss. Wetting or spraying down the area before pouring concrete is recommended because it will aid in the curing process and help keep moisture from absorbing into the ground area. Once the concrete has been placed, it must be kept wet so it won’t dry out too quickly. Evaporation retardants are available for these circumstances and can certainly be of benefit when needed.
A Trial Run
For a project to look professional and hold up over time, knowing the curing process before pouring your concrete is a must. It may be a good idea to do a trial run on a very small mock area just to get some practice. You can familiarize yourself with the tools and the curing process—and how your climate will play a role in moisture retention. It might be extra effort on your part but can certainly make or break the outcome of your concrete experience