How Concrete Curing, Temperature, and Strength are Related
by Nicole McCormick on May 8, 2021
Combining Important Factors During Concrete Development
Developing concrete takes far more work than simply combining water, cement, and an aggregate. For concrete to be strong and safe to use, it needs to be carefully developed. Factors like timing, temperature, moisture, and strength all need to be considered carefully.
How are these concepts linked? We’ve explained it all below. Learn more about concrete curing – the process in which concrete’s temperature and moisture are kept at reasonable levels as your concrete progresses – and how you can ensure your concrete project produces the most durable, long-lasting result.
Concrete Curing, Explained
Curing is one of the most important parts of making concrete. To cure is to ensure that the temperature of the concrete is maintained correctly, and that the amount of moisture is kept at a proper level.
In order to cure properly, you must consider the concrete maturity curve. This allows you to chart the progress of your concrete as it is developed. It uses a mathematical formula that ensures all ingredients are interacting correctly to allow the concrete to be completed. Specifically, it involves considering temperature, time, and strength.
READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About The Concrete Maturity Curve
Concrete and Temperature
Most experts say that concrete should be cured at a temperature between 50 F and 70 F. If you cure at a temperature that is too high, the concrete will start off strong but lose its strength later on. If you cure at a temperature that is too low, the concrete might harden but not achieve the physical properties it needs to in order to function in a stable way.
Concrete and Strength
As you cure, your concrete’s strength will increase. Most experts recommend aiming to achieve 70% strength, which can be done over the first seven days of curing. A full period of 28 days is typically needed for additional strength, and most of the development is done early on in the curing process.
Why Curing is So Important
Curing is important because it can allow you to work through issues as your concrete develops. The concrete might have too much water, or its temperature might be too high or low.
Here’s an example showing why curing is important. Water is meant to help the cement and aggregate settle. If you add too much water, though, the other ingredients would become weak, and there would be too much space in between the materials’ particles. That’s why careful curing is important.
READ MORE: How to Make Coloured Concrete
Techniques For Curing
Reduce Loss of Water
It’s easy to lose water early on during the curing process. Unfortunately, this can sabotage the quality of your concrete – it needs moisture in order to settle properly. If your concrete is losing moisture while curing, consider these techniques:
Protect your concrete with paper or plastic sheets: these lightweight materials can be placed on wet concrete, and will keep moisture in while the concrete hardens.
Use curing compounds: you can place membrane-forming curing compounds on your concrete. These are particularly useful in hot and sunny climates, as they reflect solar radiation. These should be applied after finishing.
Speed Up Your Strength Gain
You don’t want to cure at too fast of a pace, or your concrete won’t be durable. Still, you can consider these tips to improve your concrete’ strength as it cures.
Try steam curing
Place heating coils near the surface of the concrete
Use electrical heated pads or forms
Insulate with a concrete blanket (particularly helpful in freezing temperatures)
Ensuring that moisture is kept at a consistent level is crucial. Too little or too much water can create havoc for your concrete. Consider these tips to maintain moisture as you cure your concrete.
Ponding: this strategy involves placing earth or sand around the concrete to create a pond of water.
Spraying or fogging: for concrete projects that take place in warmer temperatures, this method can keep moisture at a consistent level.
Saturated coverings: these coverings are saturated with water and made from materials like burlap or cotton. These should be placed when concrete is hard enough to withstand surface damage.
READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Concrete Setting
Whether your concrete project is for professional or home use, one thing is certain: you can’t afford to waste time and money or concrete that won’t serve you. That’s why it’s important to consider the tips we shared above. By developing an understanding of how moisture, time, strength, and temperature are related, you’ll be better equipped to produce great concrete every time.
At TRP Ready Mix, we have years of expertise as one of the Ottawa area’s top suppliers of concrete. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your next concrete project.