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
Utah’s home market is hot right now. It’s a seller’s market for sure. But it doesn’t matter how high the market is – if your home lacks curb appeal or is in obvious need of repairs, potential buyers may not give it a second look.
Curb appeal can raise property value as much as 12 percent and increase resale value up to 14 percent. It also decreases the amount of time your home spends on the market. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Before you go crazy planting flowers to make things look pretty, let’s take a look at some ways to see actual return on investment.
Most buyers have a hard time seeing past messy landscaping, cracks in concrete patios and a cluttered home or yard. Savvy sellers know how to make their home appealing to buyers. This includes cleaning up landscaping, staging the interior, and making necessary repairs.
Concrete cracks raise a red flag for Utah homebuyers. If you notice cracks in concrete patios, sidewalks or walkways it’s important to repair them before they get worse. Also check for cracks in the foundation and remember, if the crack is wider than a nickel you’ll need to have it looked at by the pros.
A kitchen can make or break a sale. Potential buyers look for updated floors and countertops, and an outdated kitchen can affect overall home value. But you don’t have to spend all of your potential profits updating a kitchen you won’t be using once you sell. A minor kitchen remodel can result in 114 percent of costs recouped.
Concrete countertops are an affordable and creative way to update a kitchen for a completely customized look. The average cost of a standard thickness concrete countertop is actually less costly than granite, engineered quartz and other high-end materials.
This is another space that’s important to potential home buyers, and improvement dollars can yield a strong ROI. Materials will affect the price of the patio but using higher grade materials won’t necessarily give you a higher ROI. Decorative concrete is an ideal option for getting a high-end look without using materials that take more money out of your pocket than they will put back in it.
Fluids such as oil, gas and transmission fluid can leave stains on garage floors, driveways and patios. Whether a stain is new or old, it can usually be removed or lightened, depending on the surface.
To remove oil from concrete, an enzymatic multi-surface cleaner like Grime Monster can help breakdown oil and grease without leaving a halo effect. New stains can be covered with cat litter or baking soda prior, to absorb excess oil. Other stains may require a different process and products. An ICS concrete specialist can help you determine the best method to remove your particular concrete stain.
There are plenty of options to choose from to improve the value of your home. A little research on the best investment for your neighborhood and budget could pay off in nicely when it’s time to put your home on the market.
Outdoor concrete is an investment – and one that is often at the mercy of the elements. Protecting this valuable investment is essential to preventing trouble down the road. With proper curing, sealing and maintenance, concrete is an asset that can last for years to come. We’re sharing 7 tips to help you maintain your outdoor concrete.
1. Know your environment
Here in Utah, we have extreme temperature variables throughout the year. Outdoor concrete surfaces can take a beating, especially in summer and winter. Snow run-off and spring rains can cause damage if it sits on the surface too long. Be sure to slope concrete away from the home to prevent water damage to the surface and the foundation. Rain, snow, ice and heat can affect concrete curing times.
2. Pouring and curing
The ideal temperature for pouring and curing concrete is between 50 and 90 degrees. Extremes in either direction may compromise the final product. Too cold and the freeze-thaw cycle can cause concrete to expand and contract, creating cracking and spalling. Too hot and the concrete will set faster but may compromise strength. In other words, concrete must be cured properly to achieve maximum durability.
3. Sealing concrete
Choosing the right sealer for your concrete project is an integral part of finishing the job right. This final layer of protection can enhance the appearance of decorative concrete; block against moisture, dirt, oil and stains; and protect against excess wear. The type of concrete sealer used will depend on the type of project. Two of our most commonly requested sealers are W.R. Meadows for commercial and industrial application, and ICS High Gloss Sealer for decorative concrete applications. Find the right sealer for your project here.
4. Keep it clean – basic maintenance
Practice basic maintenance by cleaning concrete surfaces immediately of spills and debris to minimize staining or other damage. This includes weeds and grass, oil, tire marks and more. Frequent cleaning keeps outdoor concrete surfaces looking their best. Once your patio is clean and repaired, protect it from future stains and damage with a concrete sealer.
5. Apply a fresh finish
A clean surface is key to properly staining or painting concrete. Before applying a top coat, stain or other decorative concrete, sweep and pressure wash the concrete surface. Recoat concrete every three to five years to protect the surface, especially in high-traffic areas like driveways, walkways and patios.
6. Check for cracks
Check concrete foundation walls, floors and slabs for cracking, heaving or deterioration as part of routine maintenance. Some cracks are minor and can be repaired. If the crack is the width of a nickel, it’s time to call a professional.
7. Consult an expert
Intermountain Concrete Specialties has locations in Utah and Idaho where our concrete experts can help you make the most of your investment by providing maintenance and protection solutions for your specific concrete needs.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep these 7 tips in mind when pouring, curing, cleaning and sealing concrete for a concrete investment that lasts.
Spring has sprung in Utah and the arrival of warm weather makes us want to head outdoors. It’s the perfect time to clear out the clutter and start fresh, but 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. If you notice cracks in concrete patios, follow the same steps we recommend below for sidewalks. Once your patio is clean and repaired, protect it from future stains and damage with a concrete sealer. Consider beautifying with decorative stamped concrete to enhance home value and appearance.
√ Concrete Sidewalks and Walkways
Concrete sidewalks can take a beating in winter. The first step to spring concrete maintenance is a good cleaning. Sweep away 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 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, it’s time to call a professional.
Winter 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 rain water 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 caulk or epoxy to seal.
Check for loose siding panels and ensure the flashing is in place. Clean siding with a pressure washer to remove winter’s 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 heating and cooling costs. If you have an outdoor unit, remove dust, leaves, grass clipping and any other debris that may be blocking airflow. Be sure to shut power to the unit before performing any maintenance. HVAC spring maintenance is definitely something you want to tackle before Utah’s summer heat kicks in.
√ General landscaping
This is a given when it comes to spring home maintenance. Clear dead leaves, branches and other debris; clean out garden and flower beds; 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 Utah home is one of the biggest investments you will ever make. Take care of it with spring cleaning and home maintenance 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 the 10 concrete products you need to make them happen!
The arrival of winter in Utah has the potential to wreak havoc on your outdoor concrete projects. Even mildly cold temperatures can affect curing time. That’s why winter is a great time to focus on those projects you can do indoors. Learn how to use concrete for your indoor projects with these DIY products and tips.
Installing a concrete floor is a common basement renovation, and an ideal project to take on during winter. Once the concrete has been prepped, poured and leveled, use a trowel to smooth any rough areas, then level the surface using a float. A self-leveling floor topping and underlayment like FLOOR-TOP STG can help smooth out uneven or rough floors, while curing to a hard surface suitable for foot traffic. A benefit to this underlayment/overlayment product is that it can be mixed with integral colors, stains, dyes and sealers. More on this below.
Concrete countertops are a durable, affordable and rewarding DIY projects for homeowners. Smooth surfaces, plain edges and simple cutouts are recommended for rookies. Don’t despair – when you factor in the endless possibilities of stains and dyes you’ll end up with a pretty spectacular decorative finish. Quikrete Countertop Mix is a great starting point, creating a durable, economical finish that can be created to suit almost any décor style.
When introducing concrete floors and countertops to home interiors, there’s a vast array of decorative stains, dyes and finishes that can turn concrete from a gray slab into a statement piece with a wow factor. Pattern and texture set the tone, and color enhances the overall design. Innotech stains and dyes are available in a variety of options including integral colors, chemical stains, acid or water-based stains, color hardeners, antique releases and more to create just about any decorative concrete finish you can imagine.
Taking it outside
Still determined to pour outdoors in winter? While cold temperatures, snow and ice can disrupt outdoor concrete pouring and curing, you can still get some concrete projects done with the right conditions and products.
Concrete blankets will be your saving grace in any cold weather concrete pour. Moisture and temperature are the top causes of curing and sealing problems. Concrete blankets help prevent freezing and cracking while providing optimal insulation for your outdoor concrete projects. The blanket helps block out moisture and cold to help the curing process. Concrete blankets like those from Midwest Canvas provide the thermal resistance (R-factor) and protection necessary to prevent newly poured concrete from freezing in winter. In cases of cracked concrete, Ultrabond 365CC Cold Weather Epoxy comes to the rescue, delivering a full cure in just 45 minutes.
Winter is a great time for interior concrete projects. Don’t put a hold on your renovation plans. Intermountain Concrete Specialties showrooms are a great place to find out about the latest and most reliable concrete products. Stop by any one of our six locations to speak with a product expert!
Stamped concrete is a creative and affordable way to enhance any exterior or interior space. Also known as textured concrete, the process replicates the high-end look of stone, brick, tile, cobblestone, pavers and even wood, often at lower cost than the materials it mimics, making it especially popular with homeowners.
The wide variety of decorative concrete options knows no bounds when it comes to pattern and color. Stamped concrete is often used to beautify patios and pool decks, front porches and entryways, walkways and driveways, just to name a few. Many homeowners and businesses even use stamped concrete to make a dramatic statement on interior flooring and accent walls.
With so much potential for customization, stamped concrete has a high “wow” factor. Aesthetically, stamped concrete is hard to surpass when it comes to customization of pattern and color. Pattern sets the tone for the overall design so it’s important to choose one that achieves your design goals. When done well, stamped concrete can be indistinguishable from the real thing. Most stamping mats are molded from the actual materials they mimic, adding a realistic element. Click here for tips on choosing texture, color and pattern.
Prep and Maintenance
Preparation is always key to any concrete project. Maintenance is typically low, requiring only occasional reseals. A high-quality sealer can protect your investment against efflorescence, moisture and the elements, keeping it beautiful for years to come. Another benefit? No grouted joints for weeds to sprout through, which can require tedious maintenance when it comes to traditional stones and pavers.
Time and Cost
Decorative concrete can be less costly than high-end stones and pavers, depending on the complexity of the project. A single color and pattern can be more cost-efficient than multi-pattern and color designs. Simple stamped concrete can be poured in less time than it takes to place stones or pavers. While the process can be labor-intensive, it’s a different type of labor than the heavy and tedious placement of stones. Time is money, so even in cases where the materials break even, there’s often savings in labor.
Integral color is one of the most popular color enhancements for stamped concrete. The admixture infuses concrete with rich, long-lasting color. Layering colors, color hardeners, and chemical concrete stains can add natural variations to more realistically replicate natural surfaces.
Concrete Stamp Promo
Through the end of 2017, Intermountain Concrete Specialties is offering a great deal on stamped concrete. Get a free stamp rental when purchasing two of these three decorative concrete products: color, release and/or sealer.
We carry a complete line of high-quality stamping tools and seamless texture skins, borders and touch-up tools from trusted brands like Innotech and Brickform. For more information on the products, tools and equipment needed to achieve a high-end stamped concrete look, visit one our six showrooms in Utah and Idaho.
Self-leveling concrete is a polymer-modified cement that helps even out floors and create a flat, smooth surface. When properly applied, it has a similar compressive strength to traditional concrete. Depending on the type of self-leveling concrete used, it can be applied prior to applying a decorative finish or installing interior flooring.
Different self-leveling concrete formulas are recommended for different applications, finishes, and types of substrates. Here are three of Intermountain Concrete Specialties’ top recommendations for self-leveling concrete products.
MAPEI NOVAPLAN EASY PLUS
This easy-prep, self-leveling concrete underlayment and repair mix creates a high-strength surface for interior concrete and engineer-approved floors. NOVAPLAN’s high-strength formulation is ideal for direct application on clean, properly primed and securely bonded substrates. NOVAPLAN EASY PLUS can be used over radiant-heated floors, and is recommended for interior residential, commercial, and institutional locations.
W.R. MEADOWS FLOOR-TOP STG
This single-component, self-leveling floor topping and underlayment is ideal for smoothing out rough, uneven concrete surfaces or slightly deteriorated interior concrete floors. It can be enhanced with integral colors, dyes, acid stains, and sealers. FLOOR-TOP STG cures to a hard surface suitable for standard foot traffic and light rubber-wheeled traffic. We recommend FLOOR-TOP STG for residential, commercial, retail, and office applications.
When you need a job done fast—and correctly—FLOWCRETE’s cement-based, self-leveling concrete formula is designed for rapid leveling of interior concrete floors. Use FLOWCRETE to level and smooth concrete prior to installing carpet, wood floors, tile and more within just 12-16 hours. FLOWCRETE is mixed with water, hardens through hydration, and does not require any troweling or curing.
We can help you choose the best self-leveling concrete for your next interior concrete project application. Visit your local Intermountain Concrete Specialties location for the expert advice, high-quality products and equipment you need to make your next concrete project a success!
Mixing, curing, and sealing concrete properly is especially important when it comes to winter concrete projects. Concrete may be safely placed in cold weather, as long as necessary precautions and best practices are used. Here are some of Intermountain Concrete Specialties’ top product recommendations to help avoid surprises in your winter concrete projects.
1. Anti-Hydro® Admixture for Cold Weather
Anti-Hydro Admixture provides increased workability with lower water requirements, enhances internal curing time, and produces high strength concrete early in the curing process. This helps prevent damage due to frost and other cold weather hindrances. When added into concrete, Anti-Hydro Admixture produces dense, durable, water and damp-proofed concrete, while improving workability and reducing shrinkage and cracking. Fortify your concrete with Anti-Hydro® Admixture for cold weather. Learn more!
2. Concrete Curing Blankets
Even mildly cold temperatures can affect concrete curing time. Concrete blankets provide warmth when Mother Nature can’t. Temperature is actually the number two cause of concrete sealing problems, second only to moisture, so cold weather protection is critical to winter concrete projects. Concrete blankets offer the R-factor necessary to prevent winter concrete projects from freezing, which can strengthen finished concrete. Click to learn more about protecting exposed concrete with concrete curing blankets.
3. FLOOR-TOP STG Concrete Floor Topping
If you’re moving indoors to work on winter concrete projects, here’s another ICS favorite from W.R. Meadows. FLOOR-TOP STG is a single-component, self-leveling floor topping and underlayment designed to smooth out uneven or rough interior concrete floors. FLOOR-TOP STG cures to a hard surface suitable for standard foot traffic and light rubber-wheeled traffic, and can be enhanced with integral colors, dyes, stains, and sealers.
4. CS309-25 Non-Yellowing Curing and Sealing Compound
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, W.R. Meadows CS309-25 is one of our all-time favorite exterior concrete sealers. This industrial-quality workhorse sealer is specially formulated with acrylic polymers that cure and seal freshly placed concrete for a durable, long-lasting finish.
Visit your local Intermountain Concrete Specialties location in Utah or Idaho for the best tips and product recommendations for your winter concrete projects!
As fall turns to winter, temperature plays a critical role in sealing concrete. In fact, temperature is the number two cause of concrete sealing problems, second only to moisture. That means taking extra precautions to make sure concrete sealing is done right in cold weather.
When it comes to properly concrete sealing, both air and surface temperature play a role in proper sealing. Why? Once applied, sealers create a chemical reaction and the outside temperature decides how fast that reaction occurs—or if it happens at all. Most manufacturers recommend 50 to 90 degrees as the ideal temperature range for applying concrete sealer.
So what happens if you apply concrete sealer outside of that 40-degree range? Extreme temperatures will cause the sealer to apply too fast or too slow. Sealer reaction can also be affected by humidity, wind chill factor, and even time of day sealer is applied.
High temperatures cause sealer reactivity to increase. That means the hotter it is, the faster you’ll have to work to get the concrete sealer applied. High temperatures can result in “spider webs” when the solvent flashes before the sealer can form a film, or bubbles when the solvent flashes too fast and traps air.
Alternately, if the temperature is below 50 degrees, the chemical reaction slows and the time needed to properly seal concrete increases. Every concrete sealer has a minimum film-forming temperature (MFFT). This is the minimum temperature needed for the sealer to form a film, cure, and harden. If too much time passes, due to a too-cold surface temperature, you’ll end up with a weak sealer. If the temperature is significantly below the MFFT, curing stops completely, and a white residue will be left behind on the concrete surface. This is why it’s important to seal concrete properly before cold weather sets in.
As we transition from fall to winter and temperatures continue to drop, consider using concrete curing blankets to make sure concrete is properly cured and sealed. Remember, the colder the temperature, the longer it takes to cure and seal concrete. Proper curing and sealing of any concrete surface is critical to the projects long-term durability.
Click here to learn about different concrete sealers, or visit Intermountain Concrete Specialties for expert tips and the best concrete sealers in the industry.