Concrete Curing and Concrete Sealing are both processes that are crucial in ensuring your concrete driveway, basement or garage floor stays beautiful and strong enough to last a life time. But what exactly are these processes and how important are they really? That’s exactly what we’ll be exploring in this article. Let’s start with Concrete Curing.
What is Concrete Curing?
When first laid out, concrete is very sensitive and delicate. It needs our care and attention to set properly. So if we take good care of it in this initial stage, our concrete will turn out strong and last us a lifetime but if we neglect it, it will turn out weak and damaged needing constant repair meaning lots of money wasted.
The process of giving freshly laid concrete everything it needs to turn out strong and healthy is called Concrete Curing. This process takes about a week or so and full cure is 28 days. Keeping the concrete at the optimal temperature and dampness is paramount. In a commercial setting, they usually use presoaked burlap bags and run water over the slab for 7 days consecutively.
The ideal situation would be to submerge the concrete but since this cannot be done in a residential setting, a “cure” is usually sprayed on the surface right after the concrete is installed. This helps maintain the proper moisture levels in the concrete for the first 28 days. This hydration process allows a chemical reaction to occur between the cement particles and water and the result is a stronger substrate.
Concrete curing might not seem important initially and could be quite tempting to skip but that will have a huge impact on your finished concrete. This is especially true for concrete driveways, concrete basement floors and concrete garage floors. Concrete that has not been cured can develop a pattern of fine cracks called ‘crazing’. It will also be weak and will therefore get damaged easily.
The goal with concrete curing is to ensure the freshly laid concrete stays damp and at the right temperature which is usually between 50 and 85 F. Once set, exposure to water over a long period can do a lot of damage to concrete but when freshly laid out, the right amount of moisture is crucial. Concrete that is not properly hydrated when freshly laid out can turn out scratched and dusty.
The duration of the curing process depends on many factors such as the environment, evaporation rate, type of concrete (decorative or plain) and location (driveway, sidewalk, basement floor, garage floor, etc).
What is Concrete Sealing?
If done properly, concrete curing will ensure you end up with a beautiful, scratch and dust free concrete floor. But even healthy concrete is porous, meaning it has lots of tiny pores in it. Over the long term this could become a problem since liquids can easily enter these tiny pores leading to ugly stains that are nearly impossible to clean.
But once set, exposure to water can weaken your concrete since water expands by 9% when frozen. Unsealed concrete has a lot of tiny pores in it through which water can enter the concrete. Once inside, the water expands when frozen and shrinks back to normal when unfrozen. Here in Columbus, Ohio, this can happen several times in a single day. When you add salt to the equation, salt water expands by 18% when it freezes. This will give you an idea of how bad salt is for your driveway. This constant expansion and contraction will end up leaving your concrete weak and damaged.
Sealing your concrete will fill in these tiny little pores and will minimize deterioration from the elements and stains . To know about Concrete Sealing take a look at this article here.
So there you have it, Concrete Curing is a process which ensures that fresh concrete sets properly and Concrete Sealing is a process which protects your concrete from water intrusion. Think of it this way, curing helps keep the water in and sealing helps keep the water out.
Did you get your concrete driveway sealed? Do you have any questions about curing your concrete? Do you have any questions about concrete in general? Do let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
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