Factors Which Affect How Quickly Concrete Sets and Cures

One of the biggest questions surrounding concrete is how quickly it sets – and it isn’t just when it appears to be dry. Madmix, one of the leading concrete companies in the Cambridge area, look at the key factors that affect how soon you can start using or putting weight on your new concrete surface.


The Type of Admixture

The admixture is the type of concrete you choose. At Madmix, we offer a variety of admixtures – so pumpable is advisable if you need to get to upper stories of buildings, reinforced if it’s going to have to cope with heavy weights, waterproof if it’s going to have to cope with a lot of moisture (dams/tunnels and culverts carrying waste), and a lean-kerb mix for small scale domestic projects where strength isn’t a top priority.

Broadly speaking, the wetter the consistency of the admixture, the quicker it will set.


The Weather

The more sunshine or heat concrete is exposed to, the quicker it will set as well. This is also why it is advisable not to pour concrete when the ambient air temperature is either at or below freezing. This is because the water in the admixture (and it is present in every type) will freeze and expand, potentially rendering it unfit for use.

When temperatures are very low, the concrete will take longer to develop its strength. At the opposite extreme, if you pour concrete in very hot weather, then the hydration process happens too quickly, and there is a danger of shrinkage and cracking.


The Importance of Curing

The distinction between setting and curing is that the latter is the control of the loss of moisture from the admixture and is a process that continues even after the concrete has set or is no longer workable.

It is just as important as setting because if curing happens too quickly or too slowly, then the concrete will never reach its optimum strength. Again, the weather is a factor in how quickly this happens – the warmer the weather, the quicker the process will happen.

At Madmix, we believe that you should leave protective polythene sheets in place above the surface for seven days in summer and 10 days in winter to prevent the concrete from being cured too quickly. At the moment, it may be worth leaving an air gap because of the risk of the air temperature freezing.


Why Does This Matter?

It matters because you want your concrete to be as long-lasting and strong as possible. Therefore, you need to know how long you have to work with it (such as smoothing it out so that the surface is completely level) before it is properly set. At the same time, you also want the concrete to be fully cured.

Time is an important factor at the other end of the equation, too, because you don’t want to have to wait any longer to start on the next stage of a project than is absolutely necessary. This applies particularly if you are working to tight deadlines on a construction project, but it can also be important for small-scale domestic projects as well when you only have a limited amount of time.


Ready Mix Concrete from Cambridge-based Madmix

At Madmix we supply both domestic and commercial ready-mix concrete across Cambridgeshire and further afield. This means that you don’t have to waste any time doing it yourself, which is especially important when the weather is very hot or cold. The fact that all of our concrete is accredited also means that it is guaranteed to be of high quality.

As one of the top concrete companies in Cambridge, we supply a range of different admixtures that are suitable for every type of project and environment. If you need any advice on setting and curing times, talk to us when you place your order, which you can do by calling us on 01954 212212 or by following this link.

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