A Beginner's Guide To Curing Concrete

by Derrick Gordon

Without proper curing, a concrete surface stands a greater chance of developing unsightly cracks and breaking down long before it should. Unfortunately, many people still fail to appreciate the importance of the curing phase. If you are planning to install a concrete surface at your home or business, read on. This article will arm you with valuable knowledge about the role and practice of concrete curing.

The Importance of Concrete Curing

Concrete that is not cured properly will end up being structurally much weaker. That's because curing promotes stability through the formation of special crystals within the concrete slab. These crystals increase the rigidity of the concrete, while also acting as a much more efficient binding substance. This keeps the sand and gravel that make up the concrete from breaking apart as easily as they otherwise would.

The key factor in crystal formation is water. Maintaining the correct moisture level leads to the cement in the concrete mixture undergoing a chemical change called hydration. Unless the concrete is kept at just the right moisture level, an insufficient amount of crystals will be formed through hydration. This puts the concrete at a much greater risk of suffering damage in the future.

Curing has another distinct benefit where concrete is concerned--it reduces the risk of shrinkage cracks forming. These cracks develop at the surface of a concrete slab due to the greater rate of evaporation that happens there. As the surface dries out, water is drawn upward from the concrete below. This generates a good deal of internal stress, often resulting in networks of unsightly hairline cracks.

The Curing Process

Curing can be accomplished in one of two ways: water curing and plastic sheet curing. In water curing, the surface of the concrete is kept perpetually wet. This may be done either by flooding the concrete under a layer of water or by installing misters around the perimeter of the concrete. Not only is water the oldest method of curing concrete, but it also one of the best, as it can increase the strength of the concrete by as much as 50%.

Plastic sheet curing involves quite a different principle than water curing. Rather than applying additional water onto the surface, it uses large plastic sheets to prevent water from evaporating out. In order to achieve effective results, however, great care must be taken when laying out the sheets. Any bubbles or wrinkles present will likely lead to the formation of discolored patches as water evaporates upward and then runs back down the sides of the bubble. 

For more information about working with concrete, contact a company like Pyramid Concrete & Consulting Ltd.