A concrete driveway will enhance your property, but the installation process means you won’t be able to use your driveway for a while. Read on to learn more about how long to drive on concrete and why your concrete driveway needs enough time to cure.
How Soon Can You Drive on Concrete After Pouring?
After pouring a concrete driveway, your contractor will let the material cure. Concrete driveway curing time is a process that allows the material to harden and gain strength.
With the average car weighing a little over 4,000 lbs. and pickup trucks weighing as much as 7,000 lbs., it’s best to wait at least a week for your new concrete driveway to have enough tensile strength to support a vehicle.
What Is the Average Cure Time for a Residential Driveway?
Several factors can influence a concrete driveway curing time. After pouring a concrete driveway, chemical reactions need to happen so that the concrete can develop its full tensile and compressive strength. During this process, the material generates heat, which creates a risk of the concrete drying too fast.
Your contractor will need to use a curing method to keep the concrete hydrated as it cures. Sprinkling water on the surface or using the forms to maintain a pool of standing water on the concrete are common methods of water curing.
Water curing is the most common option for residential driveways, but it’s possible to speed up the curing process by using thermal methods instead. With this approach, a contractor will apply heat to speed up the chemical reactions happening in the material.
If your contractor is using water curing, the type of concrete used, weather conditions, and the thickness of the concrete slab can affect the concrete driveway curing time.
Type of Concrete
How long to drive on concrete depends on the type of concrete used. Concrete is a mix of cement, water, and aggregates like crushed stones, pebbles, or gravel.
You can opt for other options, such as rapid-hardening cement to speed up the curing process. These characteristics help the material develop tensile strength faster, and it can be safe to use your concrete driveway in as little as three days.
Ordinary Portland cement or gray cement is the most common option for residential driveways. This material is typically safe to drive on within seven days.
Some contractors use Portland Pozzolana cement, a material that contains ashes or calcined clay to improve its resistance to extreme weather. You’ll have to wait at least 10 days before driving on this type of cement.
Weather conditions can impact the curing process. High humidity levels can add a few days while dry heat or direct exposure to the sun can speed up curing after pouring a concrete driveway.
Why Does Concrete Need to Cure?
Concrete is an incredibly strong material. To give you an idea, a four-inch slab can support 17,560 lbs/sq ft. However, concrete doesn’t have this amount of tensile and compressive strength in its liquid form.
After pouring a concrete driveway, the strength develops as the material dries thanks to a chain of chemical reactions. During this process, tricalcium silicate and dicalcium silicate bond with water molecules to form calcium silicate hydrate and calcium hydroxide, the two compounds that give the concrete its tensile strength.
Since these chemical reactions generate heat as a byproduct, there is a risk for concrete to dry too fast as the water content evaporates. If there aren’t enough water molecules to bond with the cement compounds, the concrete will not cure completely and will never reach its full tensile strength.
Plus, shrinkage typically occurs as concrete dries since the evaporation of the water content reduces the mass of the material. If the concrete doesn’t have enough time to develop its tensile strength, the material can crack due to shrinkage.
The full concrete driveway curing time takes up to a month to complete. At this point, all the cement compounds have bonded with water, and the material has reached its full strength.
However, concrete usually has enough strength for a person to walk on it after 24 to 48 hours and can support a vehicle within seven to ten days.
What Happens if You Drive on Concrete too Soon?
Driving on concrete too soon can result in tire marks imprinting in your driveway. It’s an aesthetic issue, but there is also a risk of the weight of your vehicle displacing enough concrete to create an uneven surface or even cracking the concrete slab.
Take the Next Step for Your Concrete Driveway Project
Now that you know more about how long to drive on concrete, you can start making plans for your concrete driveway installation project. With over 70 years of experience, Richfield Concrete can create a beautiful and convenient concrete driveway adapted to your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more.