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Curing to Create Durable Concrete Surfaces

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There are three keys to installing concrete driveways and sidewalks that will last.  Placing, finishing and curing each have specific requirements that must be followed to perform a quality job.  Cracking, spalling, and crumbling are all signs that the concrete may not have been cured properly.  Here we will discuss the importance and proper procedures in the curing process for your new home’s exterior concrete.

Concrete Curing  

I have found that most professional concrete finishers are great at placing and finishing, but fall short when it comes to the curing process.  Without proper curing, the concrete surface will be prone to deterioration.  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to determine whether proper curing procedures were followed once the project has been completed.  But since the quality of the finishing portion of the job is obvious to the consumer, this is where most of concrete contractor’s time is spent.

To see an example of how important the curing process is in creating durable concrete we can take a look at bridge construction.  Because bridges are so expensive and de-icing salts work to deteriorate the concrete, a major emphasis is placed on creating a durable surface.  When they complete the paving of a section of bridge pavement, it’s standard practice by many commercial contractor’s to cover it with burlap and plastic and apply a constant supply of water onto the surface.  The burlap/plastic keep the water from evaporating and allow the concrete surface to properly cure.  This low-tech process is one of the best methods for creating a surface that will last for years.    

So what exactly is the concrete curing process?  The Portland Cement Association explains concrete curing like this:  “Curing is one of the most important steps in concrete construction, because proper curing greatly increases concrete strength and durability.  Concrete hardens as a result of hydration:  the chemical reaction between cement and water.  However, hydration occurs only if water is available and if the concrete’s temperature stays within a suitable range.  During the curing period, from five to seven days after the placement of conventional concrete, the concrete needs to be kept moist to permit the hydration process.  New concrete can be kept wet with soaking hoses, sprinklers and covered with curing blankets or can be coated with commercially available curing compounds which seal in moisture.”

Curing Concrete in Your New Home

Most new home builders don’t have the resources needed to cover all of their new exterior concrete with burlap, plastic and water for the first week or two after pouring.  And even if they do have the resources, the home cost would be too much for many purchasers.  So another option to help the curing process is to apply a cure and seal product just after finishing.  This is basically a sealer that is applied just after the new concrete sets up.  The cure and seal can be sprayed or rolled onto the surface per the manufacturer’s directions.  The timing is key…it’s important to get the sealer on just after the surface sets up and not any later.  The longer it takes to get the product on, the greater the potential for premature drying which will weaken the surface.

The cure and seal product traps the moisture in the concrete so the material properly cures and is especially necessary when laying concrete on windy, warm sunny days.  There is an extra cost to apply this product, but most of the concrete contractors I have worked with will apply the cure and seal at no charge as long as I pay for the product.  A quality concrete job involves all three key steps, placing, finishing and curing.  By paying for the cure and seal product, you are essentially creating a win-win scenario making their job easier to complete for the contractor while ensuring you get a quality finished surface.  Essentially, it saves the concrete contractor from having to deal with service issues associated with deteriorating concrete. 


While the cure and seal product does help the concrete cure, it’s still a good practice to apply a sealer to all exterior concrete surfaces on a regular basis.  These sealers will help to protect the surface from harsh chemicals like anti-freeze, gasoline, deicers, and other common household products.

Michael Luckado

Michael Luckado has built, remodeled, and repaired thousands of homes across the U.S. He co-founded to help people save money and time creating their dream home.

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