The amount of time a new driveway needs in order to cure or dry properly ranges from seven days to a month, depending on the thickness of the concrete, weather conditions and the weight of your vehicles. Curing concrete refers to the steps taken in the first few weeks after concrete is poured to maximise the strength of the material. While it may be tempting to dry the surface out quickly so you can use it sooner, slow-drying concrete increases its strength, longevity and appearance.
In addition to not using the surface, curing involves maintaining the right temperature and moisture level so the hardening crystals in the concrete will react with the cement. Wait to install the driveway until temperatures are between 15.6 and 32.2 degrees Celsius. If temperatures drop below 4.44 degrees Celsius, wet concrete will not set-up correctly unless it is tailored for a cold weather pour.
Once the driveway is poured, it's important to maintain a consistent level of moisture on the surface. Hydration is a process in which moisture seeps into the concrete and encourages the particles within the mix to grow. While adding too much water creates a sand-like consistency on the surface that can peel and chip, too little water causes a weak surface to chip and crack.
Slow-drying concrete is simple to do. It extends the drying time of a typical 5 to 8-inch thick concrete driveway by several days. The best way to slow-dry is to lay straw or a moist, breathable material like burlap or concrete over the surface, and sprinkle the material lightly with a hose a few times a day to keep it moist. Plastic is also used, but it can cause blotching on an outdoor surface because it doesn't allow for air flow.
Standard Dry Times
Poured concrete develops half its strength after 10 days and complete strength after 27 days. It takes about two days for a 4 inch concrete walkway to dry enough to support foot traffic. The drying time for a driveway is longer because driveways are thicker and exposed to heavier weight loads and daily use.