The amount of required time for a new concrete driveway to dry or cure properly can range anywhere from a week to a month. It depends on the weather conditions, thickness of concrete, and number of vehicles you own and their combined weight. Curing concrete is a process to maximize material strength after its poured. Although it’s often tempting to dry your concrete surface quickly so it can be used sooner, drying concrete slowly increases its appearance, strength and longevity.
As well as not using the driveway, curing also involves maintaining an ideal temperature range and moisture level. This will allow the hardening crystals within the concrete to react properly with the cement. It’s recommended to install a concrete surface when the outside temperature is between 65 and 90 degrees. If the temperature should fall under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the wet concrete may not cure properly unless it’s mixed specifically to accommodate cooler temperatures.
It’s also important that you maintain a steady moisture level after the concrete is installed. Hydration allows moisture to penetrate into the concrete, which will encourage the inside particles to grow. The addition of too much water can create a sand-like mixture on the concrete surface that will chip and peel. Too little water may result in a weaker surface that ends up cracking or splitting.
The standard dry time for poured concrete to achieve its full strength is almost a month. However, after several days a concrete walkway is ready for foot traffic. For driveways, the wait is longer as driveways are much thicker, have exposure to heavier weights, and are used daily. Obviously, the hotter the outside temperature, the faster the concrete will dry. It might look perfectly fine and ready within a few days, but this doesn’t mean that it has fully set. Attempting to use a driveway surface too soon after pouring it could cause it to become stressed and break.
Many experts recommend slow drying concrete for best results. This is easy to do and will lengthen the dry time of your concrete surface by several more days. The best way to accomplish this is by laying down straw or some type of breathable material such as burlap on the concrete. Then lightly sprinkle the material with water several times daily in order to keep it nice and moist. Using plastic is not suggested as it doesn’t permit an adequate amount of air flow.