Once you decide you’re going to invest in a patio, your first thought is probably what shape you want to make it or what size you’d like it to be, not what season you should install it. As a concrete paving company, we’re constantly aware of what the climate is like around us – after all, we’re the ones who have to manipulate the ground.
So, in what season should you install a concrete patio?
Concrete is a composite material that’s made of cement, aggregate, and water. When mixed together, they become pourable and will later harden to a stone-like consistency. Both the ground temperature and outside temperature can play a role in how long the concrete takes to harden and the way it hardens. Ideally, concrete will harden to its strongest state in about 28 days with an outside temperature of 72 degrees. This allows the water molecules in the concrete to settle and evaporate correctly.
When the outside temperature is 40 degrees or below, it means that nighttime temperatures will probably reach below freezing. This can be a problem because if the water molecules in the concrete freeze, they’ll expand and most likely crack the concrete. If temperatures are cold but don’t reach freezing, it will still take more time than usual for your concrete to set.
On the other hand, if the outside temperature is very hot, say 85 degrees or above, you could also run into problems. While the concrete materials won’t be altered, the drying process could be. On hot days, the top layer of a concrete patio will likely dry before the bottom layers. Because concrete shrinks when it dries, a dried layer on top of a wet, expanded layer could lead to cracks and a compromised patio strength.
While it’s possible to pour a concrete patio in the winter (with the help of some straw insulation and some heating elements to keep it from freezing), it’s much easier to complete the project in the spring or fall when temperatures are ideal. By planning your patio installation for one of these times of year, you’ll enjoy a patio that hardens correctly and will be strong for years to come.