It takes a special talent to work successfully with concrete in harsh winter weather. Pouring concrete in the winter is a delicate process; the cold temperatures can cause the concrete to freeze before it completely sets. Concrete also sets more slowly in colder temperatures, which requires more maintenance and special care until it finally sets. When the concrete itself, not the air temperature, reaches below 50 degrees fahrenheit, the concrete will set very slowly. Below 40 degrees and the hydration reaction stops and it doesn’t set correctly. There are a few things that you can do when pouring concrete in the winter to make sure that it sets correctly.
Step 1: Check the Ground
A strong foundation is essential for a good concrete job. Check the ground to see if it is frozen or covered in ice and snow. Concrete poured on frozen or snowy ground will crack as the ground thaws and becomes soft. Because cold temperatures cause concrete to set slowly, the frozen ground can sometimes cause the bottom of the concrete that is in contact with the ground to stay soft while the rest of the concrete hardens. This is a process called “crusting”. To make sure that your concrete sets correctly, first remove any snow and ice from the ground. Then, use heaters and blankets to thaw out the ground if it is frozen. After your ground is thawed, you are free to begin pouring.
Step 2: Check Concrete
There are ways that you can prepare your concrete for cold weather as well. Ready mix concrete can be made with hot water to keep it warm during cold weather. The concrete should be around 65 degrees when it leaves the plant. Accelerators added to the mix can also speed up the time it takes to set. However, be careful when using accelerators; steel that is set in concrete with accelerators can corrode, and colored concrete with accelerators can develop a mottled surface.
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