Pouring concrete in freezing weather conditions is never an ideal situation, but it can be accomplished by using particular care and caution. The American Concrete Institute defines cold weather as more than three days in a row with average temperatures dropping below 40 degrees and then staying below 50 degrees for at least half of one of those days. If you're in the midst of a project and winter comes early, however, your project doesn't necessarily have to wait until spring.
Things You'll Need
- A cold weather concrete mix that is heated and is drier with extra cement mixed in
- Heat lamps
The ABCs of Concrete
First, it's useful to understand why concrete is ideally poured in warmer conditions. Concrete needs heat to cure, strengthen and become water-resistant, and when the weather is cool, the material can weaken or fracture, leading to a host of future issues. As a matter of fact, if concrete freezes too soon (generally, within 24 hours) its overall strength and durability can be cut in half. The cold slows down the reaction process. Concrete should never be poured when the temperature is less than 20 degrees, and it should always be carefully protected from freezing to ensure that it develops adequate strength for your structure.
Get organized before you begin pouring. When you order the concrete for your project, you can request a drier (also known as a "low slump" mix to help reduce excess water that can lead to cracks) and heated mix that includes extra cement (which helps solidify and strengthen the concrete). Make sure you have heating lamps, if possible, as well as insulating blankets and plastic. And you should never pour concrete on frozen ground or snow.
Try to pour the concrete during the morning to take advantage of the heat that will be produced by sunlight during the day. If possible, continue to warm the area with heating lamps as you pour. After the concrete is poured, give it several days to cure and cover the area carefully with insulating blankets and plastic. Edges and corners are more vulnerable to freezing, so make sure you've covered all your bases.
After a week, you can remove the plastic covering, giving the concrete exposure to air without overexposing it to the cold temperatures. Remove the blankets a few day later and monitor the concrete for any fractures or other issues. If you have additional questions or concerns, you can also contact your local hardware store or a local builder.
Tips & Warnings
- Never pour concrete when the temperature is less than 20 degrees. Never pour concrete on frozen ground, snow or ice. Use precautions throughout the project to ensure the best and safest result.
- It is always advisable to consult with an expert before pouring concrete in cold weather conditions.
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