The most common question about concrete is about its setting or hardening time. How long before you can walk on concrete? How long does it take before you can drive on it? There is really no right time, just recommendations.
It also depends on a few factors, which we will talk about in a minute. Generally, you should wait at least 24 hours for the concrete to be hard enough for walking.
Curing concrete is the process of providing or maintaining sufficient moisture or water and providing a conducive temperature for the concrete to achieve a certain quality and strength.
Insufficient moisture means the concrete will dry too quickly and the overall quality will not be as strong as desired. On the other hand, too much water can weaken the whole mixture and product. It also increases the chances of flaking and cracking.
Factors that affect the concrete setting
Water is a huge part of making concrete. You should follow the ratio that the manufacturer recommends so you will not get a mixture that is too runny or too dry.
If the mixture has too much water, you will get a runny mixture that may take longer to set. It might also be a weaker and flakier product.
On the other hand, if it has too little water, the concrete will cure too quickly and will not be as strong or durable as desired.
Hot temperatures allow a faster setting time because it promotes evaporation. Wind also accelerates the setting time.
However, the more important thing is that the concrete mixture itself is not too hot or is not too cold. Cure concrete properly to achieve the desired strength.
The last thing that affects the setting time is the mix of the concrete. It also depends on the brand or the chemical content of the mixture.
Setting times vary depending on the factors above, but there are general recommendations for when you can walk on them.
After 24 hours, the concrete will be solid. However, it will not have achieved its full strength. It will still be prone to taking marks and damage. The damage at this stage will be a permanent one.
That said, we recommend that you keep off the concrete during this time. If you have pets, you should also try to keep them off the concrete.
After 48 hours, the concrete may be hard enough for you to walk on. It will be hard enough not to take marks from your steps. However, we recommend that you do not allow biking, driving, scooting, skateboarding, and other toys on the concrete.
For driving, you may have to wait 4 weeks before you can drive on the concrete without causing it to break, crack, or leave marks.
After 1 week, you may drive on your new concrete. It will be hard enough to drive on but avoid the edges and corners because they are still prone to breaking. Avoid skidding and sharp objects as well.
One month after, your new concrete is almost at its optimum strength and hardness. You can go back to your daily life and not worry about it anymore.
What happens if the concrete dries too quickly?
If the concrete dries too quickly, it will not be as strong and durable as desired. Cracking is common, but when water evaporates too quickly, it has higher chances of cracking.
Extreme temperatures play a huge role in this. Things like concrete blankets that will help your concrete cure properly in hot or cold conditions.
Other tips for a great result
- Mix your concrete properly, following the water ratio recommendations.
- To know how much concrete you need, you need to know how big the area is. Usually, this is in cubic feet.
- Check the weather before you do your project. Avoid extreme temperatures to allow your concrete to cure properly.
It does not take long before you can walk on concrete without damaging it. We recommend you wait at least 48 hours before walking on it.
However, in this time, you should still not use bikes, scooters, rollerblades, and other toys on the fresh concrete. After about a week, it will be strong enough to drive on, but avoid edges and corners that might not be at its greatest strength yet.
Thomas Roberge is a Pro himself, who has been in the business of home renovation and construction, working with various tools. He used to be the owner of 2 local construction companies with over 18 years experience. His works also include writing inspiring Do IT Yourself Tips and Tricks.