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pouring concrete in cold weather

Pouring Concrete in Cold Weather: Can You?

by | Nov 13, 2023

Pouring concrete in the Midwest during winter is like trying to ice skate uphill — a slippery slope of challenges. With Minnesota winters that can freeze lakes solid, trying to cure concrete is like expecting a snowman to sunbathe! You’re racing against the cold in a game where Jack Frost is the referee, making sure every pour is as much about timing as it is about technique. Just like Minnesotans adapt to their ‘cool’ surroundings, savvy construction must adjust its playbook.


What Counts as ‘Cold Weather’ in Concrete Work?

In the realm of concrete pouring, ‘cold weather’ is not just a term for comfort but a technical definition that affects how concrete cures. The American Concrete Institute defines cold weather as a period when the air temperature has fallen to, or is expected to fall below, 40°F (4°C) during the protection period. The protection period is defined as the time required to prevent concrete from being affected by exposure to cold weather.

Concrete can freeze before reaching a strength of 500 psi, which typically occurs within the first 24 hours. This is why the temperature range and weather conditions are critical factors in planning a concrete pour.


Challenges of Cold Weather Concrete Pouring

Cold weather affects concrete in two main ways: it can slow down the curing process, and it can cause the water in the concrete to freeze, which can expand and damage the material. When water in concrete turns to ice, it can expand by up to 9%, creating internal pressures that can result in cracks, reduced strength, and durability issues. This makes it crucial to protect concrete from freezing until it reaches a minimum strength of 500 psi.


Step-by-Step Guide to Pouring Concrete in Cold Weather

For those in warmer climates with less harsh winters, the steps below are for you! For those Midwesterners looking to replace or repair their driveway from November to March, you are unfortunately out of luck.


Step 1: Site Preparation

Begin with preparing the site by clearing snow, ice, and water, and pre-warming the ground if necessary.


Step 2: Choosing the Right Concrete Mix

Select a mix with air-entraining agents for improved freeze-thaw resistance and set accelerators to reduce the time it takes to reach initial set.


Step 3: Mixing Considerations

Use warm water to mix concrete to help with temperature management. Ensure that all materials are not frozen and are stored in a warm place.


Step 4: Pouring Techniques

Pour quickly and uniformly to prevent cold joints. Consolidate properly to eliminate voids and ensure close contact with reinforcement.


Step 5: Curing and Protection Strategies

Immediately after finishing, cover the concrete with curing blankets or use a heated enclosure to maintain a temperature above 50°F (10°C) for at least the first 48 hours.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How do you know if concrete is freezing?

Concrete is freezing when its temperature falls below 35°F (1.7°C) within the first 24 hours of pouring.

Q: Can you pour concrete in freezing temperatures?

Yes, with the right preparation and protection, you can pour concrete in freezing temperatures.

Q: How long does concrete need to be protected from freezing?

Concrete should be protected from freezing for at least the first 24 to 48 hours after pouring to ensure it reaches adequate strength.



Pouring concrete in cold weather is challenging, but with the right knowledge; tools; and warmer climate, these obstacles can be overcome. The key lies in meticulous preparation, careful monitoring, and proper curing practices. By following the outlined steps and best practices, you can ensure the structural integrity of your concrete project, even in the coldest conditions. For professional advice or further questions, reach out to experienced concrete contractors or consult technical guidelines from concrete associations.

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