Factors Affecting Cement Drying Time
Cement drying times vary depending on a handful of key factors. One of them is moisture. If the concrete is mixed with less water, it will cure more quickly. Another involves the temperature—or rather, the weather. Sensibly enough, hot concrete is going to dry faster. Some contractors even use specially designed concrete blankets to place over an uncured surface; like a newborn baby, that surface is kept toasty warm and dries faster. Last but not least, we have a little thing called mix design. An accelerant can be used to speed things along if you’re impatient for concrete to dry faster.
Difference Between Cement and Concrete
We’ve used the word concrete quite a bit (there it goes again!), while the title of this article specifically refers to cement. So what exactly is the difference between cement and concrete? They are not interchangeable, as some would have you believe. Rather, cement is a key ingredient of what makes up the whole—that being concrete.
Concrete is made up of sand, gravel, water, and Portland cement. By way of hydration, the cement and water harden together to bind everything else into a solid mass. That mass is then tagged with the name concrete. Let us also note here that Portland cement is not a brand name but a generic term that covers its broad usage to form concrete.
So then. Your brand new driveway, patio, or pool deck is never specifically cement, but concrete, assuming, of course, that’s the material you chose to build it with. Adding more cement makes the final product stronger, plus reduces concrete drying time.
Concrete Drying Duration
How long does concrete take to dry? In a nutshell, you’re looking at 24 to 48 hours. That, at least, gives you the freedom to walk upon it without leaving footprints. By then, you can also forget about imprinting your initials for future archaeologists to marvel over. After a full week, the surface will be okay for heavier traffic, such as cars (you homeowners with new concrete driveways take heed). After a month, your concrete application will be cured to its full strength. Land an airplane on it. Stack industrial air conditioners end over end. The sky’s the limit.
But here’s something important you should know: There is honestly no such thing as concrete drying time. That’s because the material in question never fully gets done with its curing process. Remember that concrete hardens by way of the reaction of cement to water, and vice versa.
The cement will continue to bond with water particles in the mixture forever and ever. Even five years after you’ve had that amazing pool deck poured and stamped, it’s still getting stronger. How many of us can make such a claim for all eternity?
The poet William Langland once told us that patience is a virtue, but using what we’ve learned so far, there are some methods to employ that will help your concrete cure faster. Consider the following:
- Pour out during hot, sunny weather; the heat will intensify the drying process and get things ready to use sooner
- Be careful with troweling and sealing; don’t overdo either one, as this can clog pores that affect moisture evaporation
- If you’re indoors, keep the room closed off and use fans to keep the air in motion
- If you’re okay with using the accelerant mentioned above, try adding calcium chloride to the mix while it is still wet; be sure to follow its instructions carefully
- Set up a heater near the concrete or...
- Cover the area with a plastic sheet, which has been proven effective for trapping moisture, reducing how long it takes for cement to dry
Professional concrete contractors also have a few tricks up their sleeves. One of them is concrete pumping. Concrete pumps are powerful machines that, yes, pump concrete into a designated area stronger, faster, and safer than wheelbarrows and buckets. And because pumps use less water in the cement mixture, everything tends to dry faster. Concrete pumping is an effective way to decrease concrete dry times.
Duration of Cement Cure
And there we have it. How long does cement take to cure? After 48 hours, it’s safe to walk on. Could you park your car on it after a week? Beyond a month, the drying process is as complete as one could ever hope for. We hope you’ve been duly informed, and wish you the best of luck on all your concrete pouring projects.
Reach Concord Concrete and Masonry for more details about cement drying and other construction needs at (925) 329-3594.