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Curing Methods

Essential for Good Concrete
Curing is the process or operation which controls the loss of moisture from concrete after it has been placed in position, or in the
manufacture of concrete products, thereby providing time for the hydration of the cement to occur. Since the hydration of cement does take
time, days, and even weeks, rather than hours, curing must be undertaken for some specified period of time if the concrete is to achieve its
potential strength and durability. Curing may also encompass the control of temperature since this affects the rate at which cement hydrates.
This period will depend on the properties required of the concrete, the purpose for which it is to be used, and the ambient conditions, that is
the temperature and relative humidity of the surrounding atmosphere.
Since curing is designed primarily to keep the concrete moist by preventing the loss of moisture from the concrete during the period in which
it is gaining strength, it may be done in two ways:

By preventing an excessive loss of moisture from the concrete for some period of time, e.g. by leaving formwork in place, covering
the concrete with an impermeable membrane after the formwork has been removed, or by a combination of such methods; or

By continuously wetting the surface thereby preventing the loss of moisture from it. Ponding or spraying the surface with water are
methods typically employed to this end.

Methods
There are three basic ways of curing concrete.
1.

The first - involves keeping the surface of the concrete moist by the use ponding, spraying/sprinkling, damp sand or damp
hessian.

2.

The second prevents the loss of moisture from the concrete by covering it with polythene sheeting or leaving the formwork in
place.

3.

The third involves the use of spray or roller applied curing compounds.

Water Curing
Water curing, if properly carried out, can be the most efficient - and the most appropriate for some types of work, e.g. floors, and include
ponding, sprinkling, and wet coverings.
Ponding
On flat surfaces such as pavements, footpaths, and floors, concrete can be cured by
ponding. Earth or sand dykes around the perimeter of the concrete surface retain a
pond of water within the enclosed area. An efficient method for preventing loss of
moisture from the concrete, ponding is also effective for maintaining a uniform
temperature however, the method is often impractical except for small jobs.
Ponding the concrete surface

Sprinkling
Continuous sprinkling with water is also an excellent method of curing. If sprinkling is
done at intervals, care must be take to prevent the concrete from drying between
applications of water. A fine spray of water applied continuously through a system of
nozzles provides a constant supply of moisture. This prevents the possibility of crazing
or cracking caused by alternate cycles of wetting and drying. A disadvantage of
sprinkling may be its cost. The method requires an adequate supply of water and careful
supervision.
Wet Coverings
Wet coverings such as hessian or other moisture retaining fabrics are extensively used
for curing. Such coverings should be placed as soon as the concrete has hardened
sufficiently to prevent surface damage. Care should be taken to cover the entire surface,
including the edges of slabs such as pavements and footpaths. The coverings should be
kept continuously moist so that a film of water remains on the concrete surface
throughout the curing period.

Sprinkling the concrete surface

Hessian requires frequent wetting

Sheet Curing
Sheet curing methods may not be so efficient but are usually satisfactory for all except very special work, and they have the big plus point
that they can be carried out more easily on both horizontal and vertical surfaces.

a standard grade having a curing efficiency of 75%. The top of a wall. not as efficient as sheet curing methods. and the concrete is hard enough. Membrane Curing Membrance curing methods are likewise. Spray-on Compounds Curing compounds are sprayed on the surface . The top will prove more durable if it is sprayed with a high grade-curing compound. or a continuous wall thorough and uniform curing is essential. When concrete will receive a final applied decorative treatment. Even where the formwork is left in place. 4m wide x25m long Polythene sheet is lapped. and thus allows curing to proceed. of course. Formwork gives some protection. on slabs as soon as the concrete is hard enough to prevent surface damage or marking. there might be no need for further curing even in dry weather.such as a texture . and provided that the formwork has been in position for at least four days.hand-held garden spray is suitable for most jobs . for example. Those with a dye allow you to check at a glance that a uniform. exposed top surfaces must be cured in the normal way. but tops of walls and columns still need to be cured. They dye then quickly disappears without causing stains. The white or Paved areas are cured with a super grade white. the compounds consist of a resin in a solvent that evaporates after it has been applied. plaster or paint. yet effective. in conditions of mild exposure (inside a building.of columns. Sheeting should not be used over pigmented or pattern stamped concrete as it can cause discoloration of the surface. When the surface of the slab has a special finish . A roll of 125 micron polythene. stops the polythene sheet from blowing about. for instance .Polythene Sheet A simple. but not so long that the concrete starts to dry out. thus keeping the concrete cooler. or luminised. continuous film or membrane that seals-in most of wind and sun after about for weeks. Both are usually available with either a white or aluminised pigment. If you have to use more than one sheet. Use tapes or string for tying around beams and columns. Polythene sheet is a material that is easy to handle and store. Wait until the water sheen has evaporated. It is only after it has been struck that further curing . . taped and tied around beams and columns Protect the finish of a textured slab by raising the polythene on a frame Formwork Protection While it is in position. Formwork gives some protection.may be necessary. or course. for instance) further curing may not be necessary. andtape the joins. but this is something you should check first. all-over layer has been applied. leaving behind a thin. curing other concrete at a later date. the curing can start immediately the slab is finished.the polythene should be spread over light frames above the concrete. or with a fugitive dye. Using Polythene The polythene should be placed in position as soon as possible . such as rendering. It is essential always to choose the correct type of compound. but have the advantage over the previous two methods in that they do not need any further supervision once applied. The polythene should be well taped to the top of the formwork.the top surface of the concrete should be covered with polythene sheet pressed into place over the ends of the bars. and a super grade with 90% efficiency. provided it is not applied to a dry surface. overlap them by at least 300mm. it will assist the curing if you spray on water before placing the polythene. aluminised pigmented compounds are for external paved areas because they reflect spray-on pigment he sun's rays. But in a mild. Mostly. Otherwise wind and draughts get underneath and create a wind-tunnel effect that would dry the surface of the concrete. Most of the compounds come in two grades. no matter how early the formwork is struck. formwork protects concrete against loss of moisture.as in the case of a row of columns. will be exposed to more severe weather conditions than the face. Where steel reinforcement projects from the top of a wall or column . However you should check this point with the engineer or clerk of works. walls and beams. Concrete that is in an exposed position must be thoroughly cured even after prolonged protection by the formwork. way of keeping moisture in the concrete is to cover it with 125micron (500-gauge) polythene sheeting. and afterwards it can be re-used for so many other purposes on site including. and the surfaces are designed to be a need to be cured uniform colour . protected environment. but tops of walls and columns still If the formwork is struck in less than four days.through a horizontal construction joint . It is important that the exposed edges and corners of the sheet should be well fixed down. Good fixing also. If there is no chance of frost. With such finishes there is no need to wait for any bleed water to evaporate before you position the polythene.and can be used on both vertical and horizontal surfaces.on vertical surfaces within half an hour of the removal of the formwork.

say half an hour . say half an hour . You should hold the spray about 300 to 500 mm from the surface. and staining or discoloration may result. In tropical climates. and whether the day on which it is struck is dry or wet. and certainly no later than half an hour after the sheen caused by the water has gone. Using the Compounds There are various points to watch when you are applying a curing compound. However. Curing compounds do not work if sprayed on top of water. has recently been developed. . since dirt will not collect so easily. Make sure you read and understand the manufacturer's health and safety notes so that you will know what to do if anything goes wrong. since the pigments tend to settle at the bottom of the Equipment for applying a spray-on compound drum. If the surface has dried out. including white and coloured concrete.Stir the compound before use. This is best achieved by using a fine fogging mist spray with the concrete enclosed in a tent-like structure. the roller application illustrated to the right is the preferred option.and whenever you break off spraying for more than. When to Spray The compounds should never be applied to dry surfaces since these will absorb the compound. especially if it is a pigmented one. it is claimed.you will need about a litre for each 4 of surface area . can be used in these situations. Polythene sheeting can be used. but a spray-on curing compound is usually more convenient. Before you start.paying particular attention to the nozzle and hose Clean out the equipment with solvent after you have finished . then applying the remainder by moving the nozzle at right angles to the initial strokes. plus special architectural finishes created by abrasive blasting or tooling. wetting and drying. these compounds are not of highest standards of workmanship. Hold the spray close to the surface and work in two directions Exposed Concrete All concrete that will be permanently exposed to the weather needs to be cured with extra care. On slabs.and whenever you break off spraying for more than. Clean out the equipment with solvent after you have finished . and for at least seven days. apply the compound as soon as possible after any bleed water has evaporated. This is particularly important for visual concrete. You should avoid getting the compound on your skin. If the surface is dry. the higher efficiency grade should be used in every case. so at this stage caution in their use is advised. rendering.and sufficient cleaning solvent. It will also have a better long-term appearance. On vertical surfaces. This includes screeds. This is best ensured by first moving the nozzle back and forth to apply half the quantity required. for it might cause harm. but much less on a dry day.A super-grade compound with white or aluminised pigment it advised for external paving.standard or high-grade-almost immediately after the formwork has been stuck. Fugitive dye shows whether the application has been thorough Curing compounds are generally non-toxic but approval should be obtained before using them on structures that will be holding drinking water. wet it down with clean water then spray while it is still moist. apply the compound . Surfaces that will be exposed to bright daylight should not be treated with a curing compound if they are to receive any additional material that requires a positive bond. although its use may be subject to approval in the case of special visual requirements for colour and uniformity. that is a sign that the curing has been left too late. When using water spray techniques on special finishes it is very important to avoid water streaking. Fill the spray reservoir with the compound. Wet-cured concrete will be more impermeable and better able to withstand freezing and thawing. gloves and mask. make sure that you have enough stock in for the job in hand. A range of compounds that. in your eyes or in your mouth. In damp conditions the water may take a few hours to disappear. too. Always wear protective goggles. It is vital that you cover all the concrete. and with a uniform layer. preferably even closer when there is a wind In windy conditions. but a lower. Colour Uniformity The colour of concrete can vary according to how long the formwork is left is position after placing. non-pigmented grade is satisfactory for structural concrete. This is more appropriate for special pre-cast concrete panels. then you can start work.paying particular attention to the nozzle and hose. paint type finishes or a further layer of concrete.

or treated with a curing compound. Removing stains and dirt at a later stage is both time-consuming and expensive. fair-faced and textured surfaces. even if only temporality. you might find it more convenient to use polythene sheeting. for this might affect the bond. you should either leave the formwork in position for four days. Cover the concrete as soon as any water sheen has evaporated. Always use a white pigmented or aluminised super grade of compound. cover or wrap the concrete in polythene sheeting for at least another three days. or taping plastic sheaths. if you are using polythene sheeting. Some loss of moisture may occur at the edges and joints of the sheets. You can prevent these rust stains by applying a neat cement grout wash. You could use a curing compound but only if you are sure from site trials that it will not cause staining of the concrete. especially if they will have to stand up to foot or vehicular traffic. when the stream of compound could easily be blown off course If the road is fairly wide. if left in place. However. Paths and Drives A curing membrane. a special spray-curing compound should be used rather than polythene. Major concrete roads are usually cured by a membrane sprayed from a machine that is part of the paving train. Always start the curing soon after the water sheen has disappeared. Minor Roads. if available. to the exposed reinforcement. you will not be able to reach far enough to spray the middle. where it is struck in less than that time. Cement grout or plastic sheaths prevent rust stains Paving and Floor Slabs It is essential for most horizontal surfaces to be well cured. The screed should be kept continuously damp for seven days. However. They are not considered in this article. the surface should be firm enough to be covered with polythene sheeting or similar. Keep the sheet in place for at least seven days. when coloured surfacing has been used. You will therefore need to work from a movable walkway that spans the road. or a granolithic or other topping. because this will reflect the suns rays. preferably by being covered with polythene. This will form stains as it is washed down the face of the concrete. Polythene has the advantage that. Cement-Sand Screeds Curing compounds are not recommended for cement-sand screeds. and might leave some uneven staining. White and Coloured Concrete The polythene sheeting method of curing white or coloured concrete needs to be used with care since direct surface contact at an early stage can lead to discoloration. for continuity with concrete that will be placed later on . where there is a tendency for the concrete to dry out more quickly. applied by a hand-operated garden-type spray. Direct Finishes and Toppings Special attention to curing is essential for power floated and granolithic finishes. or. for example with as-struck. uniform coat of the membrane is applied. walkway As discussed before. particular care being needed in windy weather. so that the surface will not be marked or damaged as the sheet is placed on top of it. and this is just as good. You must also take care to ensure that an even. Curing compounds might discolour the concrete. allow the concrete to stiffen slightly first. and the surface is stiff enough not to be damaged or marked by the polythene. and it will then be necessary to turn them back and spray the surface with water every other day. Polythene should be kept in place for at least seven days. Do not use a curing compound. Rust Staining The action of rain on reinforcement left projecting from the tops of walls and columns for example. Concrete Base Slabs It is best to choose polythene sheet for curing a slab that is later to receive a screed of cement sand. is most convenient for small paved areas built by semi-manual methods of construction.can create rust. Immediately after the final trowelling. . and make sure it is well fixed In order to cover the entire surface you might need a moveable at the edges. it will protect the concrete from dirt caused by activities on the site.Where uniformity of colour is important. which have to be so hard wearing. A stout plank well supported at both ends will be sufficient.