Concrete has a long and prestigious history in the construction industry. Ancient forms or equivalents of concrete date back thousands of years. It is a fundamental construction material and a basic skill for anyone interested in building.
If you are a domestic builder or a professional you will already have some experience in using concrete. Using the right tools combined with experience is vital in the successful use of concrete.
In this article, you can add a trowel machine to your repertoire of skills. We will review the basics and how to get started while avoiding common mistakes.
Concrete: Foundation Knowledge
Sometimes, when you learn to use new tools it is very easy to forget the fundamentals of what that tool is designed to do. With that in mind, it is helpful to briefly review the basics of concrete formation.
Concrete has three basic ingredients. They are water, cement, and aggregate. The cement is the binding agent for the aggregate.
Aggregate can comprise gravel, sand or other similar materials. Concrete will set in about 24 to 48 hours depending on the mix ratio and size of the concreted area and other conditions such as ambient temperature, etc.
Principles of Smoothing Concrete
When the concrete is firm but not completely set, you need to float and smooth the surface of the concrete. Traditionally, this involves the use of a wooden or metal flat tool. Using long arcs you should sweep over the surface of the concrete using a shallow edge.
This will pack the concrete down and smooth out ridges and edges on the surface of the concrete. Long sweeping motions will help create consistency and smoothness in the concrete’s surface.
After this has been completed, the concrete surface can be further smoothed by repeating the process with a hand trowel. This tool has a finer finish and gives you more control. The key to success is the texture and feel of the concrete in terms of how hard or soft it is.
Getting Started With a Trowel Machine
If the area you are concreting is too large to do by hand or you are under time pressure, then a trowel machine is a game-changer. The key to using this machine is not to forget the basics of concrete formation and in particular the importance of timing.
So how do you know when is the right time? At the very least the concrete should be poured several hours before and will have already set, although not completely. The best way is to carefully test the concrete by stepping onto it and then off again.
Check the depth of your footprint. The impression you leave should have a depth of about 0.5 cm.
Ride, Push, and Hybrid
These are some options you will have to decide between. Some larger machines you can sit and ride. If you are working on a relatively small area, perhaps less than 1000 square feet, you can opt for a pushable machine.
A small machine may sound like hard work but it is usually more flexible and maneuverable. You will also need to decide on the blade length. If you are working on a large area use the biggest blades available.
When working the difficult areas such as corners or awkward shapes switch to the smaller blades of 24 inches. Remember, troweling and floating is not the same thing but follow the same process. You can combine these 2 steps by using some hybrid blades that will both smooth and finish.
Use the Right Technique
The trowel machine applies pressure to the surface of the concrete to help flatten and level the surface. To do that effectively, you will need to work across the concrete in one direction several times and then adjust the direction so you are working perpendicular to the first action.
Repeat this technique until you achieve the desired smoothness or finish you are looking for. Using the right machine and the right technique will allow you to achieve a glossy finish if that is what you want.
Should I Buy or Rent?
Great question. It is up to you, but know this: a secondhand trowel machine for sale need not be expensive. Many machines on the market are very affordable.
This is because many people have bought equipment to do a job rather than rent and then at the end of the job sell the equipment on. This is a very cost-effective option. If you have a lot of work to do and this will be a regular part of your work, it may make sense to buy and not rent.
Either way, there are plenty of choices. Remember to make sure you have both sets of blade types or at the very least you have some hybrid blades. Consider also purchasing blades of different lengths as discussed above.
Ready to Get Started?
In this article, we have reviewed the basics of the trowel machine and how to use it. We have also emphasized the importance of understanding how concrete is formed and hardened.
No matter what equipment you use, and no matter how good it looks, if you do not get your timing right when working on the concrete, you will end with a less than desirable finish. Do your homework and you’ll do well.
If you have questions about the equipment or the process, then you can get in touch with someone who knows using our “ask an expert” section of the website.