How Long Does It Take for Concrete to Dry?

Have you ever come across a fresh patch of concrete? Did you keep on your way or did you grab a stick and write in your initials? It’s pretty rare to encounter wet concrete, in large part because concrete dries quickly, but how quickly? How long does it take for concrete to dry? And if concrete needs time to dry, how can they pour it underwater?

There’s more to concrete than meets the eye and concrete’s drying has less to do with weather and more to do with chemical processes. Let’s learn how long it takes for concrete to dry, the misconception about drying and how concrete can harden just about anywhere.

How Long Does It Take for Concrete to Dry?

How Long Does Concrete Take to Dry?

Wondering how long concrete takes to dry is a common question, but it’s a difficult question to answer because concrete doesn’t dry, at least not in the way we think. If you’ve ever wondered why concrete gets stronger over time or why it can be poured underwater it’s because concrete doesn’t dry – it cures.

Concrete is made of aggregate like sand and crushed stone, a few other ingredients, and Portland cement. When water is added to the concrete mixture, the Portland cement begins a chemical reaction that cures the concrete into hardness. It’s not a physical reaction of drying, it’s a chemical reaction of curing. Curing takes place for the rest of the concrete’s serviceable life, so while concrete can be dry or cured enough for normal foot and vehicle traffic in only several hours – it will be curing forever.

There is a drying process in that the concrete must evaporate the excess water leftover from the pouring process but not drying in the way we imagine. Like curing, this drying can take several weeks. A good rule of thumb is that concrete takes approximately 30 days to dry for every one inch of poured concrete.

How Long Does It Take for Concrete to Cure?

So, asking how long does concrete take to dry is a bit of a misguided question, but how long does it take for concrete to cure? Well, concrete cures indefinitely but a more accurate question is low long does it take for concrete to cure until you can use it? Let’s take a look at curing factors and what you can expect for most new concrete installations.

Factors in Concrete Curing Time

Note: You should never attempt to pour concrete during temperatures below freezing. Though concrete cures, outside temperature can play a large part in the quality of the pour and finished product.

Temperature and Humidity – Outside temperature and humidity play a large role in the drying and curing process. Concrete will cure and dry faster in higher temperatures and slower in low temperatures. Quicker cure and dry rates make spring through early fall the best times to pour concrete.

Moisture Content – Concrete with a high water content will take longer to cure than low water concrete. A concrete professional will add the appropriate amount of water for drying that’s not too slow or fast.

Concrete Type – Different concrete mixtures have different drying and curing rates. Quick-dry uses low water and a mix of cement for quick drying while industrial concrete mixes might take longer.

While the above factors can add or subtract a few hours from curing and drying time generally:

  • Most new concrete pours can handle foot traffic in about 24 hours

  • Most new concrete pours can handle vehicle traffic in 48 hours

  • You can treat your concrete as “fully hardened” with any expected max weights approximately 30 days after the pour.

Using a Professional for New Concrete

Concrete isn’t as simple as pour it and forget it. Though there are many applications where a homeowner can pour their own concrete, large-scale concrete repairs or replacements should be addressed by a local concrete professional. Large-scale concrete installations are formulated, built out, and expertly poured to last for several decades but you can’t get that same expertise in a DIY concrete installation.

Figuring Concrete Dry Times

Concrete doesn’t dry – it cures. While many factors play a role in the curing process, outside conditions, water content, and mix type play the largest roles in curing. Withstanding extreme conditions, most concrete is ready for foot traffic within 24 hours, vehicle traffic within 48 hours, and all other needs within 30 days.

If you’re ready for new concrete repair or replacement reach out to Colorado Pavement Solution, a local concrete company for the perfect pour, the perfect warranty, and all the information you’ll ever need on your project’s curing time.