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image of a man troweling concrete to achieve a smooth finish

Concrete Troweling: How to Achieve a Smooth Finish

Concrete troweling is a step on the way to producing a complete concrete construction project. Troweling is an art. Using proper technique when troweling is important for ensuring that your concrete project will look its best. Using the right tools is also important for concrete troweling.

Discount Contractor Supply sells a range of concrete trowel tools to help you through your troweling projects. Our tools are high quality but also affordable. Whether you're installing concrete as a part of a commercial construction project or performing a DIY project in your home, our tools can help.

What is Concrete Troweling

Concrete troweling is the process of using a trowel to smooth wet, recently poured concrete. Concrete troweling can be done by hand using a manual trowel, or it can be performed with a power trowel. Both types of trowels can be used to create the same effect, but power trowels are often larger and more appropriate for bigger projects. Troweling creates a rich, beautiful, smooth finish.

A hand trowel looks like a wide, flat surface with a handle. To trowel concrete, the contractor holds the handle and places the trowel flat against the concrete. The contractor uses the surface to smooth out any ridges or bumps in the concrete. The trowel fills any voids, compacts the concrete to create a smooth surface, and levels the concrete to ensure that it's even.

This makes the concrete look more attractive and also improves its durability. Ultimately, the trowel helps to prevent future damage to the concrete by creating a smooth, durable surface.

When Should You Trowel Concrete

Troweling is done after the initial setting of the concrete, but before the concrete gets too hard to manipulate. Once the troweling is finished, the concrete is allowed to cure, and then it's sealed.

Timing troweling properly is one of the most important steps in pouring concrete. Concrete needs to reach the right hardness before beginning the troweling process, but if the concrete is too hard, troweling becomes almost impossible.

Just how long concrete needs to set before troweling occurs depends on factors like humidity, temperature, concrete type, and more. Overall, if the concrete will support the weight of the troweling equipment, but can still be shaped and smoothed by the trowel itself, then it's the right time to trowel.

When concrete is ready to be troweled, industry professionals sometimes say that it's in the "plastic state." This means that the concrete can be troweled without causing damage to the concrete slab. Another way to tell when it's time to trowel concrete is by walking on the concrete. If stepping on the concrete produces a bootprint that's between 1/4 and 1/8 inch deep, and the concrete itself doesn't stick to your boot, then you're ready to trowel.

Trowel Equipment Options & What You'll Need

Gather the tools that you'll need for troweling before getting started with the troweling project. The type of equipment that you'll need depends on the method you're using to trowel, but generally speaking, here's what you'll need:

  • Steel hand trowels - Cement trowels are essential for troweling if you're doing the work by hand. Discount Contractor Supply sells a range of trowel types including single round end cement trowels and full round cement trowels with durasoft handles.
  • Kneeboards - Troweling by hand requires you to get on your hands and knees before the concrete surface. Kneeboards protect your knees and help you avoid knee injury.
  • Safety gear - Always use rubber gloves, safety goggles, and rubber boots when you're troweling or working with fresh concrete of any kind.
  • Power trowel - Power trowels are better for bigger troweling projects. If you're using a power trowel, check the troweling machine blades and other parts of the tool before getting started.

Check out our other masonry supplies for everything you need for your concrete troweling project.

Steps to Troweling Concrete

Once you've gathered all the troweling and safety equipment, then you're ready to get started. On its face, troweling concrete is a relatively simple process. People who are inexperienced at troweling and who try it for the first time will likely confirm that troweling is not the easiest process, even though the steps are straightforward.

  1. Clear the wet surface of the concrete of any debris. Remove any leaves or twigs that may have blown onto the concrete since it was poured.
  2. Hold the trowel at a slight angle. Position yourself on your hands and knees at one end of the concrete slab.
  3. Apply pressure to the concrete using the trowel, then push the trowel forward with a smooth motion.
  4. Move the trowel over the surface of the concrete, overlapping each pass of the trowel with previous passes of the trowel. This helps ensure an even finish.
  5. Wipe excess concrete off the trowel periodically. This helps eliminate buildup.
  6. Repeat the troweling process several times to achieve a smooth, even finish. Reduce pressure on the concrete with each new pass.

Over-troweling can weaken your concrete and may even lead to surface defects. Take care to stop troweling when the process is finished. Step back from your troweling project periodically to ensure that you're on track.

Is Troweling a DIY Job or Should You Hire a Professional

Troweling a small slab of concrete can be performed by a capable DIYer, however, big projects are better completed by someone with experience and the right equipment. If you're a homeowner who has limited experience laying concrete, consider hiring a contractor to get the work done, particularly in the following situations:

  • The construction project is very large and requires extensive troweling
  • You lack the proper tools and do not wish to purchase or rent
  • It's very important for the job to be completed correctly the first time
  • A flawless finish is essential for the success of the project

Discount Contractor Supply Has You Covered

Do you need a concrete trowel for your upcoming concrete construction project? Discount Contractor Supply can help. We offer a range of concrete construction tools that can help you through your construction projects, including concrete and mortar projects. Contact us.

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