Curing is the process by which concrete hardens, transitioning from a liquid state to the hard and durable surface that will make up your floor. Although this is often called drying, this is somewhat of a misnomer. While there is some drying occurring in the sense that moisture is evaporating, the process by which a cement mixture hardens into concrete is a chemical price reaction.
Understanding how curing happens in concrete will give you a better idea of what to expect if you are installing a concrete floor at your property. The curing process will enable concrete to reach its full strength and determine when you can begin using your new floors.
Concrete Curing Process and Timeline
There are a few different types of curing methods used with concrete, such as water curing or membrane curing. Regardless of which curing method your installer is using, a similar chemical reaction is happening within the concrete as it cures.
The concrete mixture consists of water and Portland cement, as well as other additives. The water and cement interact, a process known as hydration, to form crystals that are extremely hard. As these crystals solidify and grow throughout the entire layer of concrete, the cement mixture hardens until you get a strong concrete surface.
Evaporation is still at play during concrete curing to a certain extent as water in the mixture will evaporate into the surrounding air. For this reason, the curing process needs to be carefully managed so that there is still enough moisture for the concrete to cure but not too much moisture that would prevent concrete drying.
During this process, the temperature and humidity levels in the installation environment need to remain within the right ranges. If the curing chemical reaction happens too quickly or too slowly, it can cause cracking, flaking, weak concrete, and other problems that will affect the quality and lifespan of a surface.
The curing process is an ongoing one. It begins from the moment that water and cement are mixed, which is why fast and expert installation techniques are necessary to achieve a flat, smooth, and long lasting floor. An installer must complete all of the necessary work before a new pour hardens past the point of workability.
Once poured, the curing process continues throughout the lifetime of the concrete. This means that even concrete that was poured several years ago is still hardening a little bit at all times, but the process significantly slows down after the initial cure.
The curing time that you need to plan for depends on how much strength your floor needs for your purposes and the environment. In general, concrete will finish curing on approximately the following timeline:
- 24 Hours to 48 Hours – After 1 to 2 days, it is safe to walk on a new concrete floor without any risk of leaving footprints.
- 1 Week – Concrete is at approximately 70% of its full strength after 1 week. At this point, it can support lightweight vehicle traffic.
- 1 Month – Concrete is considered fully cured and safe for heavyweight vehicle traffic after 1 month. Normal operations can resume entirely at this point.
Different factors can slow or speed up curing. For instance, a cold temperature will slow or potentially even stop the hardening process. The level of moisture in the air and moisture in the mix will also change the timeline as more moisture will slow down the speed at which water evaporates. Additives in the concrete mix can change drying time as well. Certain additives can make concrete dry faster while other additives will slow concrete drying time down, making concrete more workable or ensuring there is time for concrete to reach its required strength.
Understanding the curing process for concrete and managing it correctly is an essential part of installing the best possible concrete floor at a commercial property. For commercial concrete flooring in Denver and the surrounding area, Colorado Concrete Repair can install a high quality concrete floor.
Our full range of concrete services includes polished concrete, epoxy coatings, and other commercial flooring options. We plan our installations to maximize the strength of the final product through the correct curing time while also avoiding unnecessary disruption to your workplace. To get started with concrete installation, contact our team today to discuss your project and get a quote.