Professional builders usually try to avoid pouring concrete footers in the cold, but sometimes waiting isn’t possible. Concrete requires water to cure properly. So, how do the pros handle pouring footers near or below freezing?

Here, we’ll share tips used to successfully place concrete in cold weather.

Is Pouring Footers in Cold Weather OK?

With planning, concrete footers (or footings) can harden fully despite cold temperatures. But cold weather footing pours need site prep, soil checks, and concrete adjustments. Useful techniques include using heated mixes, accelerants, insulation blankets, and enclosures.

Using one method helps, but combining several works best. For large-volume pours, call the concrete supplier about your cold-weather plans. Some plants can heat water and aggregate to help in curing. They may also offer accelerants to let cool concrete harden like warm concrete. Most suppliers will accommodate cold pours with appropriate measures taken.

Will My Footers Be Weak If Poured In Freezing Cold?

Without extra steps, footers placed while freezing may well crack or crumble when loaded. However, winter pours often fail due to ground instability rather than the concrete itself. Other factors like excess water or low cement content can also weaken the result.

Freezing soil moisture expands, loosening surrounding dirt. Continual freeze and thaw cycles progressively destabilize the ground. Footers need firm, non-shifting support, or they’ll likely crack under load. Rebar and fiberglass reinforcement may help but can’t compensate for inadequate soil prep.

Given these factors, you should dig your footers below frost depth. If you expect seasonal ground movement, the bearing surface won’t reliably support concrete. No footing lasts long atop a constantly heaving and settling earth.

To place concrete during cooler times, schedule the work based on weather forecasts. Plan around a predicted period of daytime temperatures of 50°F or higher for around two weeks.

In advance, blanket the site using insulating media like hay or pads to conserve warmth in the ground. Retained heat keeps the soil thawed despite cooler air temperatures that come later. Further boosting ground temperature through tenting and space heaters can be done if needed leading up to placement day.

Ventilate temporary enclosures properly when heating with propane or kerosene since byproducts like carbon monoxide are dangerous. Also, confirm stable generator or utility electrical connections for safer electric heaters.

How Long Does Concrete Take to Set When It’s Cold Out?

Final concrete curing time depends on mix design but typically needs five hours above 70°F. Approaching 50°F, setting time roughly doubles to 10 hours. Near-freezing temperatures may require over 24 hours of total hardening. Accelerating admixtures and heated aggregate can help reduce setting time in the cold.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

For best results pouring in cold weather, use accelerated cure mixes alongside ground insulation and warmth. But if ambient temperatures hover at or below freezing, postpone the pour. Failed concrete work wastes money and time.

Concrete footer installation in the cold, while never easy, is possible with enough planning, soil thermal stability, concrete curing adjustments, and protection systems. But error risk rapidly grows as temperatures drop below 40°F.

For small residential jobs, the extra effort could make sense to keep projects moving. However, large commercial slabs requiring extensive rework if damaged merit delaying until daytime highs reliably exceed 50°F for two weeks. 

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FAQs - Pouring Concrete Footers When It’s Cold Out

Is pouring footers in freezing temperatures OK?

It’s exceptionally tough. Lots of measures are needed to prep, insulate, heat, and enclose the site and concrete. Success is still uncertain once ambient cold passes 30°F.

What's the coldest advisable pouring temperature?

With enough precautions, you can technically place concrete at any temperature. But risk sharply rises as the mercury falls below 40°F. Near or below freezing is extremely prohibitive.

How long is cold weather concrete cure time?

Rather than five hours in the summer, setting time of double or triple that amount may be needed when it’s cold. When it’s near freezing, over a day could be required for full hardening. Accelerants and heated aggregate help, but only to a point.

Can frozen concrete be restored?

No. Once concrete is frozen, its chemistry is irrevocably disrupted. Preventive insulation and warmth are imperative since re-pouring is the only remedy after freezing.

What's the best concrete mix for cold weather?

Specialized cold-pour mixes use accelerants to hasten curing along with hot water for quicker reaction initiation. Heating the sand and gravel can supplement internal concrete warmth, reducing early freezing.

Editorial Contributors
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Jonathon Jachura


Jonathon Jachura is a two-time homeowner with hands-on experience with HVAC, gutters, plumbing, lawn care, pest control, and other aspects of owning a home. He is passionate about home maintenance and finding the best services. His main goal is to educate others with crisp, concise descriptions that any homeowner can use. Jon uses his strong technical background to create engaging, easy-to-read, and informative guides. He does most of his home and lawn projects himself but hires professional companies for the “big things.” He knows what goes into finding the best service providers and contractors. Jon studied mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana and worked in the HVAC industry for 12 years. Between his various home improvement projects, he enjoys the outdoors, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with his family.

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Lee Ann Merrill

Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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