Las Vegas’ brutal summers can sear your skin and cause dehydration or heat exhaustion, sometimes even death.
Construction crews know the hazards of working outside during the summer as well as anyone. They also know that, besides posing health risks, the relentless heat can cook concrete too fast.
With the World of Concrete in town — the conference runs through Friday at the Las Vegas Convention Center — the Las Vegas Review-Journal asked around to see how this crucial building material holds up in Southern Nevada when it feels like a turned-up oven outside.
Neil Opfer, associate professor of construction management at UNLV, said construction workers start pouring concrete as early as 2 a.m. during the summer so they can finish “by the time it gets to be really hot.”
They also use plenty of so-called curing membranes to keep moisture in the slab, he said.
If concrete is too hot, it will dry too fast, Opfer said, and work crews “don’t really have enough time to get out on the slab and get a good finish.”
He was taught that it takes maybe three hours for concrete to set when it’s 60 degrees outside, and 1½ hours when it’s 80 degrees.
In July, the average high temperature in Las Vegas is 106 degrees, according to travel site Vegas.com.
The valley is “absolutely” a more challenging place for construction in the summer, said Curt Briggs, director of operations for ART Concrete Solutions, a Las Vegas concrete-repair firm.
Its workforce usually starts at 10 p.m. or midnight during the summer.
“It’s much easier to do at night than it is versus being under the extreme heat of the sun,” Briggs said at the convention center on Thursday. “You get dehydrated quicker, you lose more production.”
High temperatures can also lead to a faster production time, according to Krista Waddell, ART’s president.
“You’re pushing through,” she said at the convention. “We’re trying to beat the clock on the resin drying.”
Sona Shah, national project integrator at Semco Modern Seamless Surface, a Las Vegas surface engineering company, said her team usually starts at 2 or 3 a.m. on outdoor projects during the summer.
“I’ve seen people passing out. … It’s too hot to be there unless you work into the contract a tenting space or a cooling space,” she said.