Every general contractor should give importance to the effect of moisture on concrete. Since concrete forms the structural foundation for most of the project, moisture testing is also a critical step to ensure that no problems are encountered down the line.
Water is a primary component of a concrete mix. Hydrating cement and aggregates is still the most practical way to create the right blend. Even with all the advancements in using new additives, there is still no substitute for water. But despite how essential moisture is in mixing and curing concrete, it is also one of the most common reasons why concrete fails.
Concrete curing and drying times are critical steps
Moisture testing is the technical method of determining the moisture content of concrete. On-site measurement devices and tools can provide accurate readings so that the contractor can guarantee that the concrete is suitable for finishing, especially in floor installation.
Eyeballing whether or not concrete has adequately cured or dried is not advisable as there are several factors which can impact the presence of moisture even in seemingly dry concrete.
Moisture inside concrete shifts
From the time you prepare the concrete mix, it begins to cure or release moisture. During the drying process, a significant amount of water should ideally rise to the surface and eventually evaporate. But the movement of water can take time. Since water initially settled at the bottom of the mix, there is higher moisture content deeper in the concrete slab.
However, the process of drying or water evaporation can change drastically if the humidity level around the surface is high. Instead of water simply rising to the top of the layer, the concrete slab can also start absorbing moisture from the atmosphere.
You cannot rush drying and curing
The general rule of thumb in drying concrete slab is to allow at least a month per inch. But realistically, there are many external factors that can either shorten or lengthen this time frame. Nowadays, manufacturers recommend using additives to hasten drying time. In addition to additives, you can also manipulate external conditions to help speed the process along. For example, you can decrease the water content of the concrete mix, use dehumidification equipment, and control the ambient temperature around the slab.
Just as there are ways to speed up the curing time, there are mechanical factors that can also prevent concrete from drying fast. For example, overworking the mix can prevent the concrete from developing natural pathways for moisture evaporation.
Moisture measurement is a key step in the process
In addition to making sure that you follow the proper steps and procedure in mixing and applying concrete, another key step in the process is moisture testing. As mentioned previously, you cannot eyeball the dryness of concrete. Using the right moisture testing method will ensure that you get accurate results and the right reading to signal when it is time to proceed with finishing. Concrete suppliers can help and consult with your contractor regarding the appropriate method to use based on specific factors and requirements of the project.