Whether you’re building a new home, doing some renovations, or adding features to your backyard, it’s highly likely that at some point, you will need to work with concrete.
Concrete is a very versatile material that can be used as the base for many different home improvement projects but it’s very important that freshly placed concrete is given enough time to adequately dry.
Although solid and durable when fully cured, fresh concrete is very delicate and can be easily ruined if you don’t take care of it properly.
In this article, we will look at how long it takes for concrete to dry and what can be done to ensure your concrete dries properly.
How Long Does It Take For Concrete To Dry?
Drying, or curing, concrete, is a process that never really ends. Concrete will constantly become drier and harder as the days pass.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait forever for your concrete to be dry enough to continue with your project. To better explain why this is the case, let’s begin by looking at how concrete cures.
How Does Concrete Dry?
Concrete is made by mixing cement particles with water to make a thick liquid that can then be poured wherever it is needed.
As time passes, the cement particles bond with the water molecules, and the mixture slowly becomes harder.
However, the moisture bubbles in the mixture don’t need to completely disappear for the concrete to be considered cured. This is why we say that concrete will continue to become harder.
The moisture bubbles that are still within the mixture will slowly continue to be eliminated as the years and decades pass and will make your concrete even harder.
So when we ask how long it takes for concrete to dry, we don’t mean how long it takes for it to completely dry. Instead, we mean how long until it is dry enough for its purpose.
Concrete Drying Timescales
After learning how concrete is made and dried, you might be thinking that it will take a long time for your concrete to cure enough to be usable. Thankfully, this isn’t the case!
There are many factors that can affect exactly how long your concrete will take to cure, but the following timescales can be taken as a general idea.
We would always recommend that you test your concrete to ensure it is dry enough before continuing with your project or allowing anyone to walk on it, however.
- 24 To 48 Hours From The Initial Set
After around 24 to 48 hours have elapsed from the concrete being poured, you should be able to remove any forms you have in place. It should also be safe for people to walk across the surface.
- 7 Days From The Initial Set
At this point, the concrete should be cured enough to hold more weight. It should be safe for vehicles and heavy equipment to be placed on top of the concrete.
- 28 Days From The Initial Set
This is the stage where concrete can be considered to be fully cured. It will still continue to harden as the years pass, but it is far enough in the process that the differences will be minimal.
What Factors Affect How Long Concrete Takes To Dry?
The timescales we just gave are general timescales but there are several factors that can make the drying process either quicker or longer.
If you know about these, you can adjust the timescales to suit your circumstances.
Let’s look at some of these factors.
Concrete dries as the cement bonds with the water it’s been mixed with. This means that ratio of water to concrete will have a great effect on how long it takes the concrete to dry.
If you use less water, then the concrete will dry more quickly. However, less water means that the concrete has fewer bonds to make and it can make your concrete weaker and less strong.
In contrast, too much water means your concrete takes longer to dry simply because it is moister.
If you use too much water you may also see some flaking on the top layer of your concrete as it dries.
Temperature And Weather
Like any other wet mixture, heat will make concrete dry more quickly. Hotter temperatures help the water in the mix evaporate faster and encourages the bonds to be made quickly.
If you need to speed along the drying process, you can look into using a concrete blanket. These are specially designed blankets that make the drying concrete hotter and thus reduce the drying time.
These blankets are especially useful in wet and cold conditions as concrete will naturally take longer to dry in these circumstances.
You should, however, be careful if you’re laying concrete in extremely hot conditions. If the concrete gets too hot as it dries and dries too rapidly, it can lead to cracks in the concrete.
The bonds aren’t given enough time to fully form in conditions of extreme heat so you need to find the right balance to get the strongest concrete possible.
As well as cement and water, there are other ingredients that you can add to your concrete mix.
There are some accelerants available on the market that are designed specifically to make the drying process quicker.
Unfortunately, they can have the adverse effect of making your concrete less strong when compared to concrete that doesn’t have any accelerant included.
You will need to judge the importance of time versus strength yourself to see if this is worth including.
In this article, we learned that concrete never really dries completely.
However, within around 48 hours it should be safe for humans to walk across and after a week it should be strong enough for vehicles and machinery. There are also several factors that can affect how quickly concrete dries.
We hope this article answered all of your questions about how long it takes for concrete to dry.