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10 Tips for Pouring Concrete in Cold Winter Weather

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Pouring Concrete in Cold Winter Weather

It would be nice if projects stopped (or at least went indoors) during the cold winter months, but that’s not how this profession works.  We have to be outside in the good and the bad to complete a project.

Whether you work with concrete on a daily basis, or every few weeks or months, our sponsor QUIKRETE gave us some helpful tips for your next cold winter weather concrete pour.  Cold weather conditions occur when the average daily temperature is less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit; and the air temperature is not above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 12 hours during any 24-hour period.

pour-concrete-cold-winter-weather

Image from stixnstones.com

10 Best Practices for Pouring Concrete in Cold Winter Weather

  1. Beginning with site preparation, any snow, ice or standing water needs to be removed from the work area prior to pouring. And do not pour concrete over frozen ground.
  2. Place concrete early in the day to take advantage of the heat produced by the sun during daylight hours.
  3. Use an air-entrained, fiber reinforced and crack resistant concrete for your cold winter weather concrete pour. The special formulation of the concrete has superior freeze/thaw durability to help reduce cracking from drying shrinkage and spalling concrete. Alternative options are concrete designed for higher early strength because of its high volume of cement or concrete that sets quickly.
  4. Keep the concrete in a warm area prior to mixing.
  5. Incorporate the minimum amount of water necessary to achieve a workable mix. Use warm (less than 140 degrees Fahrenheit) water for mixing with the concrete.
  6. The temperature of any items to be embedded in the concrete (rebar, wire mesh, etc.) needs to be above freezing before coming into contact with the fresh concrete.
  7. Once poured, protect the concrete from freezing for a minimum of three days through the use of insulated blankets, heaters, insulated forms, enclosures or loose straw layered between waterproof covers. Pay close attention to cover all edges and any protruding rebar.
  8. After this protection is removed, apply a waterproofing concrete sealer to the concrete as a curing compound. The sealer will eliminate the need for water curing.
  9. Following initial placement, prevent any snow, ice or standing water from accumulating on the new slab for at least seven days.
  10. A little tender loving care goes a long way. As the concrete cures, a hydration reaction generates internal heat. The longer the temperature is maintained, the stronger the concrete becomes, so cover the job for several days with insulating straw and thermal blankets. Powerblanket is a good way to maintain internal heat. And once the concrete’s hard, do not use de-icing salts, which will corrode the surface and allow water to permeate, freeze and eventually crack your fine work.

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Other articles from QUIKRETE:

Now we want to hear from you.  What best practices would you add to this list based on your experience pouring concrete in cold winter weather.

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About

Joe Sainz (Google+) is a union carpenter with experience in concrete construction, landscaping, carpentry and electrical mechanics. He currently works at Bosch Power Tools... Read more

17 comments on “10 Tips for Pouring Concrete in Cold Winter Weather

  1. Jeff

    great tips joe!

    something we like to do for icf’s is to cover over the form once the concrete is placed with some extra rigid foam to keep the heat in and make sure no snow gets in there over night if it snows

  2. Kurt

    This is an issue we deal witH on an annual basis in Minnesota. These are all very good tips to achieve durable concrete in bad weather. Our redi mix used to have a breakfast to review these every fall.

    Proper precautions greatly improve the quality of the final product. Thanks Joe.

  3. John S

    Thanks for the tips Joe, though I personally hope to avoid having to deal with this considering the weather we are having right now in Minnesota. It is stupid cold up here right now…

  4. Kameron

    Great tips. I was almost going to start a thread about this. I saw a crew of guys replacing a section of sidewalk in my neighborhood and I just couldn’t help but think they were doing things wrong-They looked unprofessional, but I dont know much about setting concrete in the cold. Now I know a little more.

    Thanks Joe.

  5. Sergey

    Joe, thank you for this great collections of tips and tricks. It is always good to know the better way of doing things, whether it is pouring concrete, installing a fence, or hanging drywall. I am always willing to learn new things, and this forum gives me great opportunities to learn from seasoned professionals like yourself. Please keep up the good work.

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  7. James Bergman

    Thanks for your post. I will be sure to wait until summer before I do anything with concrete around my house. Trying to keep the concrete above freezing for three days seems like more work than I want to deal with. What happens to the concrete if it does freeze?

  8. Andy Harrison

    Great advice! With construction, it never stops and will go on during the worst possible weather, even during the cold of winter. What would happen to the concrete if it came in contact with rebar or mesh that was below freezing?

  9. Zequek Estrada

    The preparation to pour concrete in the winter must be time-consuming. Though it makes sense that all snow and standing water must be removed. What are the consequences of pouring concrete over frozen ground?

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  11. Jackie Oliver

    My husband and I really want to pour concrete in our back yard, so that we can make a little patio area. However, it’s really cold right now, but I want it done as soon as possible. That way, once it warms up, I want to be able to use it. It’s good to know that once it’s poured, we need to keep it covered for at least 3 days. As soon as it dries, we will also be sure to put a waterproof sealant over it.

  12. Jack williams

    in cold weather pouring. can you cover with plastic. Then use R-21 insulation on top and sides. then cover with plastic again. thanks

  13. Ivy Baker

    This is some really good information about concrete supplies. I liked what you said about keeping the concrete warm before mixing it up. I didn’t realize that could affect how the concrete turns out.

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