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How to make concrete more durable

Concrete is a popular choice when it comes to construction materials. It’s durable, cost-effective, and flexible, plus modern finishes can make the material look aesthetically pleasing too. However, even though concrete has great qualities, it’s still vulnerable to wear and tear from extreme weather conditions and other environmental factors.

This article will discuss how you can create durable concrete structures that last longer and remain attractive for years to come.

Mix Design for durable concrete structures

Concrete mix design durability starts with the combination and proportions of materials used in the concrete mix. Here, we’ll take a look at what goes into making a mix that will extend your design life.

1. Aggregate Selection

The aggregate selection can impact the strength, workability, and durability of the concrete mix. Using high-quality aggregates such as gravel, crushed stone or sand will improve your overall structure by providing additional support beneath the slab and reducing shrinkage caused by temperature changes.

2. Water Content

Proper adjustments to the amount of water used in your mixture are also necessary for ensuring durability; too much water can make your concrete weaker with higher permeability and too little water can prevent homogenous curing or hardening. Generally, you want a balance between optimal workability and a dense structure. When calculating how much water should be added, it’s useful to keep in mind that slabs may lose half their moisture content within 24 hours after pouring so adding around 60 liters per cubic meter should achieve an ideal water-cement ratio without overhydration.

3. Admixtures

Admixtures are additives used in concrete mixtures to modify their properties such as setting time, curing time, and strength without changing their composition significantly. The most common admixture is a superplasticizer which helps reduce cement content while improving workability; other types like pozzolanic additives or reinforcing steel bars help control alkalinity. Retarders slow down setting times for hot climates. Be sure to consider any necessary admixtures during your mix design process for enhanced quality control. 

4. Construction Joints

oints are crucial for constructing durable concrete surfaces. They provide support and protection to walls, floors, and ceilings while allowing them to expand and contract in response to temperature changes or stresses due to wind and traffic loadings. Two types of joints can be used in concrete construction: isolation joints and control or movement joints.

  1. Isolation Joints – Isolation joints are designed to separate adjacent elements that have different movements due to environmental conditions or structural loads. The distance between such elements can vary depending on the size of the structure, but a safe bet is around 15mm-50mm in width.

  2. Control/Movement Joints – These joints are designed to allow building materials to move without disruption during their lifetime when exposed to changes in environment or loading forces without cracking or causing other damage. Control joints need not be wider than 1/4th-1/5th of the existing slab thickness and you should also include a watertight filler material like mineral wool or foam rubber strips within it.

In addition, you should take into account a joint waterproofing system at this point because water carries chemical contaminants that can affect the ultimate durability of your concrete structure.

5. Prevent Premature Moisture Loss During The concrete placement

To ensure concrete remains durable over time, it’s important to take precautions during the placing process to minimize moisture loss and achieve the right water cement ratio. Increasing the surface temperature by using hot water or steam helps reduce moisture evaporating from the mix before it cures, while also improving its workability and compaction.

It’s important to be aware of the rapid drying that can occur on exposed surfaces in direct sunlight so you should consider methods such as applying curing compounds or wet burlap sacks/plywood boards for maintaining moisture levels in those areas. You should also make sure to keep fresh concrete away from windy conditions as this will further accelerate evaporation and weaken your structure.

Finally, use a thermal blanket or insulating materials such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) blocks if there’s a risk of frost during the first few days after pouring. Taking these steps when placing can help extend your structure’s life expectancy substantially!

6. Proper Curing practices

Curing is a process that helps extend the lifespan of a concrete structure by ensuring they are strong and durable when exposed to environmental conditions. To do this effectively, it’s essential to maintain an evenly moist surface on concrete and prevent windy or hot conditions that can accelerate drying. You should consider a concrete cover for the curing area such as plastic sheets, wet burlap sacks, or plywood boards for at least seven days after pouring.

Another strategy is to use a water-retaining material such as polyethylene film which acts as an impermeable layer and keeps moisture within the concrete for a longer duration. You may also apply to cure compounds, which are chemical solutions that can be easily spread on the surface using brushes or sprayers and form a protective film over the slab, thus preventing moisture evaporation from it.

Once you’ve applied these techniques, keep monitoring your curing environment every few days until it is completely cured (usually after 28 days). This will help ensure no cracking or other structural damage occurs due to temperature fluctuations or heavy loading conditions in the future.

7. Protect Concrete From De-icing Salts After Curing

Once your concrete is properly cured, it’s important to take measures to protect it from damage when exposed to de-icing salts. These salts are commonly used during winter months for melting ice and snow on roads and walkways.

To prevent this from occurring, you should apply a water-repellent sealer over the slab soon after curing is complete (ideally between 28-35 days). Once applied, this sealer provides a protective barrier that helps reduce salt penetration into the material by up to 50%.

In addition, you should consider choosing a reliable waterproofing system ensuring there are no areas where large amounts of water accumulate around the concrete as this will accelerate salt damage in those locations.

Finally, regular maintenance such as pressure washing with mild solutions can help keep your concrete safe from harsh winter conditions. By following these simple steps, you can make sure your structure lasts longer without any significant structural damage!


All in all, proper curing and protection of concrete is essential for long-term structural stability and durability. With the right techniques and regular maintenance, you can ensure your structure will last longer and remain strong under harsh environmental conditions. So take these precautions before pouring concrete and keep your construction project safe from unexpected damage in the future!