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Concrete driveways offer many advantages over asphalt including a longer lifespan, easier maintenance, and endless decorative options. But one of the unavoidable downsides is that a new concrete driveway can’t be driven on a day or two after placement. In fact, depending on the weather conditions and concrete mix, you should wait a week or longer for the concrete to cure before you can expose it to traffic.

When will your new concrete driveway be ready for your vehicles? And can you damage the concrete by walking or driving on it too soon? Here’s what you need to know.

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Why does concrete need to cure?

Fresh concrete sets within hours after it’s poured. But despite its rock-solid appearance, it hasn’t yet developed the strength needed to resist impact and weight. Properly curing the concrete improves its durability and wear resistance by retaining moisture in the slab so that the concrete continues to gain strength.

After pouring a concrete driveway, most concrete contractors will apply a liquid membrane-forming curing compound to the surface to slow water loss. Other curing methods include covering the concrete with wet curing blankets and continuous sprinkling with water. The entire curing period for a concrete slab takes about a month, but your concrete will be ready for most foot and vehicle traffic sooner.

Learn more about the importance of curing concrete and how it's done.

Timeline for a New Concrete Driveway
  • The first 2 days: This is the time when your concrete driveway is the most vulnerable, especially the first 24 hours. Cordon off the fresh concrete to prevent people, pets, and vehicles from entering the area.
  • After 48 hours: Concrete is okay to walk on, but it’s still curing and gaining strength. Keep all wheeled traffic, including cars, bicycles and skateboards, off the surface.
  • After 7 to 10 days: At this point the concrete has gained enough strength to support a car. Avoid driving near or across the edges of the driveway, since those areas are still weaker.
  • After 30 days: Your concrete driveway is now strong enough to support all normal foot and vehicle traffic, with the exception of heavy commercial vehicles, like garbage trucks and moving vans. This is also a good time to seal the concrete because enough time has elapsed to allow evaporation of the mix water not required for hydration.

When can I walk on a new concrete driveway?

You should wait at least 24 hours before walking on a standard trowel- or broom-finished concrete driveway. For decorative stamped concrete, you will need to wait an additional day or so to allow the excess release agent to be rinsed off. Any foot traffic before then, especially scuffing or twisting of your feet on the surface, must be avoided because it can leave permanent marks. Keep your pets off the concrete, too, because their claws can dig into the surface. Wait at least three days before allowing bicycles, scooters, or skateboards on the driveway because the wheels are more likely to damage the still-curing concrete.

When can I drive on a new concrete driveway?

Typically, you’ll be able to drive and park on a new concrete driveway seven days after placement. By that time, your concrete will have attained about 70% of its potential strength. Still, you’ll need to take some precautions until the concrete has reached full strength. Before driving or parking heavier vehicles on the driveway, like RVs and large trucks, you should wait at least 28 days. Also avoid driving near or across the edges of the driveway, since those areas are more vulnerable to damage.

What factors affect concrete curing time?

Weather conditions and the concrete mix design have the greatest impacts on curing time. Concrete cures best at air temperatures above 50° F. At colder temperatures, the curing time will lengthen significantly or curing may stop altogether (see Why Is Cold Weather a Problem When Pouring Concrete?). Ideally, schedule your concrete driveway to be placed when temperatures will range between 60° to 80° F.

The water-cement ratio of the concrete mix is also a factor. Contractors will sometimes add more water to a mix at the jobsite to improve its workability. However, a mix with too much water can have a negative impact on concrete strength and durability and prolong the time it takes for your concrete to cure and dry. Water-reducing admixtures are a better alternative to keeping concrete workable during placement without the need for extra water.

Is it possible to speed up the curing process?

Because curing is a necessary chemical reaction important to the strength development of concrete, you should give your concrete driveway all the time it needs to fully hydrate. However, if you have no option other than to place your driveway during a period of cold weather, there are several ways to speed up the curing time, including the addition of hot water to the mix and the use of a nonchloride accelerator. Learn more about curing concrete in cold weather.

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What happens if I drive on concrete before it cures?

You can damage your concrete driveway, both structurally and aesthetically, by driving or walking on it too soon. At a minimum, you may leave tire tracks, footprints, or scuff marks in the surface. At worst, the concrete will crack and its strength will be compromised. Unfortunately, this damage will be permanent, which is why it’s critical to be patient and follow the guidelines recommended by your concrete contractor, especially during the first week after concrete placement.

Is it worth the wait?

Not having anywhere to park for a week or so as your concrete driveway cures can certainly be an inconvenience, but when you consider that the life expectancy of a concrete driveway is 40 years or longer, that short wait is a small price to pay for decades of service. Plus, when compared to asphalt, concrete driveways require less downtime for routine maintenance over their lifetime. If the ability to use your new driveway soon after placement is a priority, consider installing a concrete paver driveway, which can driven on immediately after installation, unlike poured-in-place concrete.

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