Finishing Concrete – Top tips

I do like working with a wide range of materials but there’s a few that I don’t know that much about. One that I’d like to experiment with a bit more is concrete. Priority Plant a top tools manufacturer to the DIY and construction industry kindly offered some hints and tips to get a quality results.

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Avoiding cracks

When concreting some paving or a driveway, it is integral that you leave a smooth, level finish. This is important as the finish doesn’t just look tidy; it stops the concrete from cracking, which can then cause the concrete to tear. Getting a good finish is not something which is easily done; it is something which is mastered through practice, trial and error. Here we go through some of the basics:

Pouring

Pouring the concrete onto your prepared surface seems like an easy job, but it is pivotal that you get this part right. Once you have mixed your concrete, pour it into a wheelbarrow, and push it as close to its’ final position as you can get it. Pour it onto the surface, and use shovels and rakes (or even a ‘come-along’ rake used for raking concrete) and push it around the surface. It is important that the concrete is distributed evenly to avoid cracks or air pockets damaging it.

Levelling the concrete

This is the first step towards getting that perfect finish. Once you have poured the concrete and you are happy with it, you need to level it off or ‘screed’ it. This involves taking a large, straight piece of lumber (a 2×4 usually works best) or any solid, straight edged metal or wood board.

Concrete screeding

It is important that whatever you use you make sure it is longer than your surface area is wide. Take the plank and starting from one end and with a friend, lay the plank on the concrete’s wet surface and use a sawing motion to push the excess layer of concrete off. This will remove any excess and leave you with a nice level surface.

Smoothing

Once you have given the concrete chance to dry out slowly, it is time to smooth off the finish. This is done to smooth out any bumps in the concrete. Once you have screeded it, leave the concrete the dry for around 30 minutes (or longer depending on the size of the area).

Concrete leveling

Then take a metal trowel, and lightly smooth out the surface. Don’t spend too long on this, it is easy to obsess over this part, but it is best not to if you are just relatively new to this process as it can cause more problems if you try to get it totally smooth. This step is really important as if it isn’t done correctly, cracks may appear and weaken the surface. After this, let the surface dry out for anything between 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on your surface’s size.

The Final Finish

Now that you have smoothed out any bumps and let it dry out, you can take the final step to finishing it off. Take a soft broom, stand in front of your concreted surface, and pull the brush towards you from one side to another, making sure you always brush in the same direction. This step will only need to be done once or twice, just review once you have gone over it once and assess whether or not you need to go over it again.

Maintenance

Concrete3Once your paving or driveway is finished make sure you keep it slightly moist over the next few days whilst it is drying through. This really is integral to the health of the concrete as you need it all to dry at the same rate, If the top dies out whilst the bottom is still moist it will crack & tear. To do this, lay a sheet of cloth or burlap over the concrete and lightly spray water onto it.

The material laid on top will lock the moisture in. Keep an eye on the material laid on top of your concrete, making sure it doesn’t dry out totally. This process is known as ‘curing’.

A big thanks to Priority Plant who obviously know all about using construction tools as well as making them.

5 thoughts on “Finishing Concrete – Top tips

  1. Kyle Ross says:

    These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to let the concrete sit for thirty minutes before smoothing it. I put a patio in my backyard several years back, and I didn’t the concrete was supposed to sit for a while before this step. Things were kind of messy, and it didn’t work very well, so I’ll definitely keep in mind to let it dry for a little while before smoothing next time. Thanks for the great post!

  2. Drew says:

    Good reminder to keep your driveway moist after pouring concrete. It will dry much more smoothly that way and it should help avoid cracks.

  3. Aria Wellington says:

    I’ve actually never heard of keeping the concrete moist after paving your driveway. Our current driveway is really cracked and we want to redo the job in the next few weeks. I am wondering if they didn’t keep it moist when they first poured it. We will have to be sure to do that in the future, thanks!

  4. Ivy Baker says:

    This is some really good information about how to finish concrete well. I didn’t realize that you could use a good 2X4 to level off the concrete. I don’t have a steady hand and I would want to have a professional do this for me. That way, I don’t have to worry about dips in the concrete.

  5. Your blog is good and gives the best description about concrete services. Thanks for publishing it.

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