During Concrete Placement
During placement, the concrete is consolidated to compact it within the forms and to eliminate potential flaws, such as honeycombs and air pockets. For slabs, concrete is left to stand until the surface moisture film disappears. After the film disappears from the surface, a wood or metal hand float is used to smooth off the concrete. Floating produces a relatively even, but slightly rough, texture that has good slip resistance and is frequently used as a final finish for exterior slabs. If a smooth, hard, dense surface is required, floating is followed by steel troweling.
Curing begins after the exposed surfaces of the concrete have hardened sufficiently to resist marring. Curing ensures the continued hydration of the cement and the strength gain of the concrete. Concrete surfaces are cured by sprinkling with water fog, or by using moisture-retaining fabrics such as burlap or cotton mats. Other curing methods prevent evaporation of the water by sealing the surface with plastic or special sprays (curing compounds).
Special techniques are used for curing concrete during extremely cold or hot weather to protect the concrete. The longer the concrete is kept moist, the stronger and more durable it will become. The rate of hardening depends upon the composition and fineness of the cement, the mix proportions, and the moisture and temperature conditions. Most of the hydration and strength gain take place within the first month of concrete’s life cycle, but hydration continues at a slower rate for many years. Concrete continues to get stronger as it gets older.