Concrete Curing Techniques
Overview of concrete curing technique
During the curing period, concrete is ideally maintained at controlled temperature and humidity. To ensure full hydration during curing, concrete slabs are often sprayed with "curing compounds" that create a water-retaining film over the concrete. Typical films are made of wax or related hydrophobic compounds. After the concrete is sufficiently cured, the film is allowed to abrade from the concrete through normal use.
Traditional conditions for curing involve by spraying or ponding the concrete surface with water. The picture to the right shows one of many ways to achieve this, ponding – submerging setting concrete in water and wrapping in plastic to prevent dehydration. Additional common curing methods include wet burlap and/or plastic sheeting covering the fresh concrete.
For higher-strength applications, accelerated curing techniques may be applied to the concrete. One common technique involves heating the poured concrete with steam, which serves to both keep it damp and raise the temperature, so that the hydration process proceeds more quickly and more thoroughly.
Techniques 1 : Shading
The object of shading concrete work is to prevent the evaporation of water from the surface even before setting. This is adopted mainly in case of large concrete surfaces such as road slabs. This is essential in dry weather to protect the concrete from heat, direct sun rays and wind. It also protects the surface from rain. In cold weather shading helps in preserving the heat of hydration of cement thereby preventing freezing of concrete under mild frost conditions. Shading may be achieved by using canvas stretched on frames. This method has a limited application only.
Techniques 2 : Cover
This is a widely used method of curing, particularly for structural concrete. Thus exposed surface of concrete is prevented from drying out by covering it with hessian, canvas or empty cement bags. The covering over vertical and sloping surfaces should be secured properly. These are periodically wetted. The interval of wetting will depend upon the rate of evaporation of water. It should be ensured that the surface of concrete is not allowed to dry even for a short time during the curing period. Special arrangements for keeping the surface wet must be made at nights and on holidays.
Techniques 3 : Water Sprinkling
Sprinkling of water continuously on the concrete surface provides an efficient curing. It is mostly used for curing floor slabs. The concrete should be allowed to set sufficiently before sprinkling is started. The spray can be obtained from a perforated plastic box. On small jobs sprinkling of water may be done by hand. Vertical and sloping surfaces can be kept continuously wet by sprinkling water on top surfaces and allowing it to run down between the forms and the concrete. For this method of curing the water requirement is higher.
Techniques 4 : Water Ponding
This is the best method of curing. It is suitable for curing horizontal surfaces such as floors, roof slabs, road and air field pavements. The horizontal top surfaces of beams can also be ponded. After placing the concrete, its exposed surface is first covered with moist hessian or canvas. After 24 hours, these covers are removed and small ponds of clay or sand are built across and along the pavements. The area is thus divided into a number of rectangles.
The water is filled between the ponds. The filling of water in these ponds is done twice or thrice a day, depending upon the atmospheric conditions. Though this method is very efficient, the water requirement is very heavy. Ponds easily break and water flows out. After curing it is difficult to clean the clay.
Techniques 5 : Membrane curing
The method of curing described above come under the category of moist curing. Another method of curing is to cover the wetted concrete surface by a layer of water proof material, which is kept in contact with the concrete surface of seven days. This method of curing is termed as membrane curing. A membrane will prevent the evaporation of water from the concrete. The membrane can be either in solid or liquid form. They are also known as sealing compounds. Bituminised water proof papers, wax emulsions, bitumen emulsions and plastic films are the common types of membrane used.
Whenever bitumen is applied over the surface for curing, it should be done only after 24 hours curing with gunny bags. The surface is allowed to dry out so that loose water is not visible and then the liquid asphalt sprayed throughout. The moisture in the concrete is thus preserved. It is quite enough for curing.
This method of curing does not need constant supervision. It is adopted with advantage at places where water is not available in sufficient quantity for wet curing. This method of curing is not efficient as compared with wet curing because rate of hydration is less. Moreover the strength of concrete cured by any membrane is less than the concrete which is moist cured. When membrane is damaged the curing is badly affected.
Techniques 6 : Steam curing
Steam curing and hot water curing is sometimes adopted. With these methods of curing, the strength development of concrete is very rapid. These methods can best be used in pre cast concrete work. In steam curing the temperature of steam should be restricted to a maximum of 750C as in the absence of proper humidity (about 90%) the concrete may dry too soon. In case of hot water curing, temperature may be raised to any limit, ay 1000C.
At this temperature, the development of strength is about 70% of 28 days strength after 4 to 5 hours. In both cases, the temperature should be fully controlled to avoid non-uniformity. The concrete should be prevented from rapid drying and cooling which would form cracks.