You poured a concrete walkway in your backyard over the weekend. Now you’re wondering: How long does it take a concrete sidewalk to cure?
Let’s find out!
Curing is continuous and allows hydration to take place until the concrete achieves its maximum strength. Hydration is a chemical reaction between water and cement that dries and sets the concrete while releasing heat.
That said, a newly poured concrete sidewalk takes about 28 days to cure, but you can use it much sooner.
Here’s a timeline of what happens as a concrete sidewalk cures and how soon you can walk on it:
The concrete sidewalk hardens and sets as the water in the mixture reacts with the cement. It should be safe for light foot traffic.
The concrete sidewalk continues to harden and rapidly gain compressive strength, which is the amount of load the surface can bear.
The concrete sidewalk reaches 70% of its compressive strength.
The concrete sidewalk should be fully cured. At this point, the compressive strength increases to 95% and more and can withstand the expected loads and stresses placed upon the concrete.
Note that the load capacity of the sidewalk will depend on various factors, such as the slab thickness and composition.
You should leave the forms on a concrete sidewalk for 24–48 hours before removing them.
In any case, never pull the forms on the same day as pouring concrete to avoid chipping the corners and edges.
Let’s explore the factors that affect the curing time and strength of a concrete sidewalk:
Under normal weather, the primary concern for curing is maintaining a moist environment around the concrete.
Hot weather can lead to excessive moisture loss. You can protect the surface from drying out by hosing it down for 7–10 days after pouring.
In contrast, curing in cold weather involves keeping the ideal temperature for hydration. To trap the heat, you can cover the concrete with a tarp or insulating blanket.
The amount of water in the mix design affects the strength and durability of the concrete.
Too much water weakens it, while too little water makes it difficult to work with.
There are several ways to ensure the proper curing of concrete, such as:
- Fooding or mist-spraying the concrete
- Covering the surface with canvas, tarp, burlap, or sack and keeping it wet
- Using waterproof paper or plastic film as soon as the concrete hardens
- Applying curing compounds
The ratio of cement, sand, and aggregate in the mix design also has an impact on the strength of concrete.
So, how long does it take a concrete sidewalk to cure? While you can walk on newly poured concrete after just a few days, it takes about 28 days to get fully cured.
Keep in mind the factors that affect the strength and curing time of concrete, and plan accordingly.
With a little patience, you’ll have a walkway that can withstand heavy use and foot traffic for years to come.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.