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Placing & Finishing Concrete
Time: 6:03
Watch concrete being poured. This video includes tips on integrally colored concrete ready mix. See the process of placing, screeding, floating, and finishing a concrete slab.

Concrete tools, or cement tools, used for placing and finishing concrete correlate with each part of the finishing operation. They are listed in order in this section. You will learn the key quality components of each operation and what is critical to be done right.


Despite all the high-tech power trowels, screeds, vibrators, and other super-charged equipment available today to facilitate placement and finishing of concrete, simple no-frills hand tools for finishing are far from obsolete. To smooth and level small residential slabs, perform delicate detail work, blend in surface color, or maneuver in tight areas, such as step surfaces or next to walls, there is no substitute for a trusty handheld float or trowel.

While concrete finishing tools don't vary significantly in design from manufacturer to manufacturer, they can vary in quality. The finishing tools you choose will also depend on the type of decorative concrete you're placing (such as stamped concrete versus an overlay) as well as the characteristics of the concrete.

Essential Concrete Tools
Concrete Screed Used for the intial leveling of freshly placed concrete
Concrete Floats Used for eliminating ridges, filling voids and smoothing the surface
Groovers Used for jointing concrete to prevent unwanted cracks
Trowels Used for closing up the slab at the end of the finishing process
Power Tools for Concrete Grinders, saws, polishing machines and other equipment
Concrete Finishing Tips How to place, spread and finish a concrete slab

In Bob Harris' Guide to Stamped Concrete, the veteran decorative concrete pro says it's essential to match the tool to the job. "The work you do immediately following concrete placement is critical, since this is when you must create the perfect canvas for decorative stamping," Harris emphasizes.

For example, he notes that you're likely to need different tools for finishing exterior concrete that's air entrained because the high air content can make the concrete sticky. Harris finds that a magnesium bull float works best because it won't stick to the concrete. For non-air-entrained concrete, on the other hand, he recommends using a laminated wood bull float because it does the best job of smoothing and leveling the surface. The extra heft of the wood float makes it effective at cutting high spots, filling low-lying areas, and consolidating the aggregates to bring more paste to the surface. Harris also prefers to use steel trowels or fresnos for final finishing of exterior concrete flatwork prior to stamping because they produce a smoother, flatter surface.

Understanding these nuances and knowing which finishing tools work best under certain conditions should be the key factors guiding your purchasing decision. To get the results your new tools were designed to achieve, it's also important to hone your finishing skills so you wield the tools properly. Harris recommends that decorative concrete contractors get trained and certified by the American Concrete Institute as concrete flatwork finishers and technicians.

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Featured Products
Blue Steel Hand Trowel Kraft Tool via Amazon
Kraft Concrete Float 24" x 3.25" Lightweight magnesium float for small areas.
Stainless Steel Groover Allows for sharp grooves with leading edge.
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