Created: 2014-05-18 22:17
Updated: 2018-11-20 03:39
License: mit

Laravel Integer SQL Dates

How to use INTEGER UNIX Timestamps for your MySQL dates in Laravel, while preserving the auto-update magic and Carbon API.

I have been using ints to store my date/time info in MySQL and really like not worrying about MySQL transforming dates and what timezone it is running in vs. what timezone the machine (PHP) is running in. I searched around for a solution and came up with this one, which was best for the purpose I needed it for.

Laravel Forums Thread

There is also a discussion on the Laravel forums.

Why use INTEGER (a.k.a ints) for Datetime?

  • You can keep 100% of your date manipulation, comparison and presentation in one place: PHP.
  • Because thinking of/considering/dealing with timezones complicate your application level (your code, third-party APIs, database servers, CDNs)
  • So you don't have to worry about what timezone MySQL is using vs. what your server is using or PHP is pushing
  • Because Stripe's API sends everything to you in UTC epochs. You do use Stripe right?
  • Because it might just give you the warm fuzzies instead a red face like MySQL DATETIME will
  • Plus:

Read these articles and see how complex it can be when you don't use INTs:


Basically, I approached it by creating a Base.php model and in it overriding the necessary \Eloquent\Model.php methods and one \Query\SQLServerGrammer.php method.

Then in your Models or Repositories you will need to extend the Base model to bring in the override methods.



class Base extends Eloquent {

   * Get a fresh timestamp for the model.
   * Overrides:
   * vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Database/Eloquent/Model.php
   * @return (int) timestamp
  public function freshTimestamp()
    return time();

   * Don't mutate our
   *  (int, UTC Epoch) 1400468556
   *  to (string, MySQL TIMESTAMP) '2000-00-00 00:00:00'
   *  on INSERT or UPDATE
   * Overrides:
   * vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Database/Eloquent/Model.php
   * @return (int) timestamp
  public function fromDateTime($value)
    return $value;

  // Uncomment, if you don't want Carbon API on SELECTs
  // protected function asDateTime($value)
  // {
  //   return $value;
  // }

   * Reset the format for database stored dates to Unix Timestamp
   * Overrides:
   * vendor/laravel/framework/src/Illuminate/Database/Query/Grammars/SqlServerGrammar.php
   * @return string
  public function getDateFormat()
    return 'U'; // PHP date() Seconds since the Unix Epoch

Intent, Requisites

  • Allow integer Unix Timestamps that are not converted or manipulated by Laravel, it's Carbon Date package or MySQL.
  • Preserve Laravel's cool helper functions that automatically update your created_at and updated_at (or any column names you add to the Laravel $dates() array). As you can see in the example file hello.php the code's SQL statements are not including any date columns, but letting Laravel provide them. BUT you can see in the output.html file (or by loading up the app and running / yourself) that Laravel is inserting (int) type timestamps into our date columns. Neat!
  • Allow you to use the Carbon API on any dates you get back from the database, so you can output nice human friendly dates using Carbon's clean API.
  • Tell Laravel about our new date format used in the SQLServerGrammer.php class, so it is knowledgeable about our preferred format if needed.

I've only included the relevant files for the example. If you composer create new project, just copy over all the files in the app directory. There is also a basic user.sql table schema so you can add a quick SQLite3 database if you want to test. Maybe someone can create the migrations and PR it.


It should work out of the box with the default Laravel "hello" route mapped to / on default installs.

NOTE: hello.php has a 3 second sleep() before the UPDATE is run so the timestamp can be different. Just sayin' in case you run the example and it seems to hang.


  • app/models/Base.php: Contains the override methods.
  • app/models/User.php: Just a simple model to show how it inherits the overrides and allows us to do the DB stuff for the example.
  • app/views/hello.php: INSERTs a record, UPDATES it, outputs a bunch of var_dump and QueryLog so you can see how the overrides work.
  • output.html: An xdebug dump of the before and after from INSERTING a new record and UPDATING it. Drag/Drop on your browser to see the whole process.
  • users.sql Simple db table schema for testing. Recommend SQLite3 for quick setup.


It would be great if someone could contribute a way to have the overrides be more global so you don't have to extend each Model. Would it be better as a Package?

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