Working with concrete does not require numerous expensive, high-tech tools, as basic hand tools allow you to lay and finish concrete effectively. The essential concrete-working tools include devices that help you create straight edges and a smooth surface. Straight edge tools, floats, and trowels are three of the most important tools you require for working with concrete.
Straight Edge Tools
A straight edge or screed rule allows you to remove fresh concrete to level a slab before finishing it. Straight edge materials include wood and metal such as magnesium or aluminium. Wood tends to warp under pressure, especially if it does not come treated to resist moisture. Aluminium and magnesium straight edges are corrosion resistant, seldom warp or bow, and are lighter than wood straight edges. Metal tools are hollow; opt for straight edges with capped ends to avoid filling the tools with wet concrete. Choosing a straight edge with an integrated spirit level allows you to establish the slope of a concrete slab at a glance. Straight edges with kerfed edges are more comfortable to use, and rounded tops make for easier gripping.
You use a concrete float to level and smooth the surface of a slab, to fill voids, and to work dry-shake colour hardener into the slab. Working the concrete with a float does not close the surface and allows water to bleed out. In addition, a float pushes coarse aggregate to the bottom and brings paste to the surface of the slab. Floats come in a rage of shapes and sizes. A bull float is suitable for large surfaces and attaches to a long handle. A hand float is suitable for smaller areas. Look for a float with a round end for working in corners and avoiding lap marks. Common float materials include wood, aluminium, and magnesium.
A concrete trowel is a concrete finishing tool you use to create a hard surface after working with the float. Although a trowel resembles a float, it has a thinner blade and an open handle. Most trowels consist of steel, such as high carbon steel, blue steel, or stainless steel. Stainless steel blades offer improved corrosion resistance and are less likely to stain concrete surfaces. Blue steel is lightweight and thin, and tends to flex under pressure. Consider buying several trowels in different sizes if you plan to complete several projects. A larger trowel improves efficiency when finishing a large area, but a small trowel allows you to access tight areas and complete small patching jobs. Trowel blades tend to become slightly curved and develop bevelled edges through continued use. This makes them less likely to gouge the surface of concrete. Look for a used trowel or a pre-ground blade to accelerate this process. Choose trowels with comfortable handles that are easy to grip and securely fastened to the blades.