Most people think there’s an equivalent to antifreeze to keep concrete from freezing. There is no such thing as concrete antifreeze. What helps concrete set in winter is water, which causes heat of hydration that prohibits freezing.

As the temperatures outside fall, Consolidated Concrete heats up the water used in the concrete mix mimicking the process in summer. The concrete doesn't know how cold it is outside.

Accelerators can also be used to help it set. The best news is once concrete is set, it cannot freeze. Mission accomplished no matter what the weather.

Whether you are a commercial contractor building a winter project, or a homeowner improving your property outdoors, the cold New England weather doesn't have to hold you back from working with concrete. Of course, the winter months are atypical for completing concrete projects in general, but building doesn't come to a halt just because the temperatures plummet outside.

Temperature does play a large role in the usability and strength of concrete. Consolidated is well-versed in finding the right mix of concrete for the cold temperatures of winter and even early spring because the company has been doing this for decades.

Cold weather techniques are needed when the air temperature dips below 40°F. In fact a drop of 20°F can double the time it takes concrete to set. Fortunately, temperature issues can be overcome by adjusting the mix to match the prevailing conditions.

We ensure that everything that comes into contact with our customer’s mix is heated so the concrete leaves our plant at 65°F, keeping in mind that the temperature will drop 25% of the difference between the temperatures of the air and concrete during a one-hour delivery time. Consolidated Concrete’s large heated water tank ensures that we can provide customers with as much warm concrete as they need.

Another important factor in working with concrete during the colder weather months is the quality of the concrete mix itself. The right “recipe” is needed in order to ensure concrete will perform properly.

"We prepare a wintry concrete mix of the right ingredients to work with the expected weather conditions to help it pour well and set more quickly,” notes truck loader Tommy Noyes. “This includes using setting accelerators and water reducing additives, avoiding fly ash or slag cement in cold weather as they set more slowly and generate less internal heat, and adding extra cement to the mix to generate its own additional heat.”

Accelerators can help prevent any frost damage by speeding the setting time so the curing can happen faster. “We have a lot of experience in having worked through many cold winters here in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts, and having created many mixtures for various purposes,” Tommy continues “By reducing the amount of water, the cement paste will have higher density, thus adding to the strength and weather-resistant qualities. We can also add accelerators to the mix to help speed up the start of finishing operations which is important in cold weather.”

Reducing or avoiding fly ash in the mix can also help reduce surface scaling, or peeling, when exposed to deicing chemicals once the concrete is cured. “Many people think the terms ‘cement’ and ‘concrete’ are interchangeable, but cement is technically the binding powder that’s used to make concrete,” notes Tommy. “We can change the amount of cement used in order to create the right mix for the cold.”

With expert planning from Consolidated Concrete, you can ensure that your commercial and residential projects this winter and early spring will be successful, laying a foundation or base that will last for decades to come.

TIP: Although concrete sets more slowly when the air temperature is colder, concrete can still be quite workable if you follow these essential steps in preparing the curing site:

  • Never place concrete on frozen ground, ice or snow
  • Thaw the ground for a couple of days using heat pipes and blankets or electric blankets
  • Triple wrap corners and protrusions
  • Remove standing water; bleed water needs to evaporate or be removed by a squeegee or vacuum
  • Keep setting concrete covered until it is cured – consider a temporary enclosure

Written by Bob Pesce, owner/president of Consolidated Concrete Corp. Established in 1957, Consolidated Concrete Corporation is a family-owned and operated business headquartered in East Providence, R.I. It has grown to become one of the largest ready-mixed concrete companies in Southern New England, specializing in expertly mixed cement, flowable fill, and concrete landscaping blocks.