We understand that DIY concreting can be daunting, which is why we’ve put together this guide on how to finish concrete to ensure optimum performance.
Ensuring that you finish your freshly poured concrete correctly is an important step that should not be neglected. Skipping these steps will result in a concrete floor or sub base that is more prone to cracking, lacks strength and is not level. Follow our concrete specialists' guide to perfect concrete finishing.
Tools you will need for concrete finishing:
- Gravel sub base
- Tamping tool
- 2x4 beam
- Bull float / hand float
- Potentially hire a concrete pump
- Joint cutting tool
- Edging tool
- Garden hose
- Plastic sheeting
1. Pre-pour preparation
Before pouring your concrete mix, you should have your forms and gravel sub base already prepared. The forms, most commonly wooden beams, act as a barrier to contain the concrete as it sets, whilst the gravel provides a solid sub base to help prevent erosion and provide a level surface for the concrete to sit on.
- Once your forms are set up, lay 4-8 inches of gravel and spread evenly before compacting the surface using a tamping tool.
- If your concrete is going to cover a larger area or is intended to be heavy load bearing (like a driveway) then you should add wire mesh or rebar over the gravel in an overlapping structure.
- You should now be ready to pour. Use a hoe or shovel to evenly spread the concrete over the entire area. The surface should be relatively flat and lie slightly above the form.
- You may want to consider hiring a concrete pump to deliver concrete efficiently, especially if your site has access problems.
2. Compress the concrete (if necessary)
Many modern concrete mixes are made using certain admixtures that make compacting or ‘tamping’ an unnecessary step. You should check with your ready mix concrete supplier if compacting will be required. If compacting is required, then you can use a tamping beam or roller tamp tool to press down on the concrete.
3. Begin to level the concrete
You’ll likely need someone to help you with this step. Use a 2x4 wooden beam that is long enough to span the width of your form to level the surface of the concrete and remove any excess.
- To do this, with one person holding each end of the 2x4, start at one end of the form and move the beam along the surface of the concrete in a sawing motion.
- Tilt the beam slightly away from the direction you are moving to create a slight cutting edge.
4. Continue to level the concrete
Following step 3, use a bull float (for larger projects) or magnesium/wooden float (for smaller projects) to further level and smooth the concrete surface.
- Move the bull float back and forth across the surface of the concrete perpendicular to the way you moved the 2x4 beam.
- Push the tool from low down and pull back towards you from higher up.
Magnesium or wooden float
- Smooth the surface of the concrete by moving the handheld float in overlapping arcs.
- Cover the surface at least twice.
5. Cut control joints
Control joints are cut into fresh concrete in order to prevent cracking from having a major impact on appearance and functionality. These control joints should be cut 25% of the way through the concrete’s depth. A 4-inch thick concrete slab will require control joints at a minimum of every 10 feet.
6. Tidy the edges
For a cleaner overall look, you can use an edging tool to create level edges and corners to your concrete. This will result in a better overall appearance. It’s important not to press too deeply in to the concrete, as you could leave impressions that are difficult to remove.
7. Apply a brushed finish
If you want a non-slip surface, you can apply a brushed finish using a broom. You’ll need to wait until the bleed water has evaporated from the concrete’s surface before you do this. Judging the best time to make this step takes some experience, but as a rough guide, the concrete should no longer have a wet sheen.
Run a stiff-bristled broom forwards and backwards across the surface of the concrete. The concrete should be wet enough for the bristles to leave an impression, but not too wet that the concrete sinks back into the impressions.
8. Allow concrete to cure
The curing process will take several weeks. In order to ensure that the concrete cures at the best rate, a common method is to wet the concrete’s surface using the mist setting on your garden hose and covering the surface with a weighed down plastic sheet.
9. Apply concrete sealer
Once the concrete is fully cured, you should apply a concrete sealer to make the concrete resistant to water damage and easier for you to clean and maintain. The concrete should be completely dry before you do this.
If you are considering a DIY concreting project this year, our team of concrete specialists can help. We can suggest the best concrete mix for your requirements, and deliver it directly to you on site. Don’t hesitate to contact the team today on 0117 958 2090 for tailored ready mix concrete in Bristol, Newport and the surrounding areas.