When working with concrete, the right tools make all the difference. It could be argued that the most important quality for surfaces like foundations and patios is that they are perfectly level. This is why there is more than one type of tool made specifically to level concrete once it is poured. Choose the correct tool, or variety of tools, to ensure a perfect concrete surface each time.
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A bull float is a thin, flat rectangular wooden board or piece of magnesium attached to a long handle. The handle enables you to work the concrete from a distance, utilising a push-and-pull motion with the bull float over the surface. Besides levelling the concrete, a bull float also presses the aggregates for a smooth finish. These floats are available in a variety of sizes.
Magnesium and Rubber Floats
Both magnesium and rubber floats are generally smaller, hand-held models. Magnesium floats are, obviously made of magnesium; the surface of rubber floats has a rubber coating. Magnesium, or "mag" floats are better for highly aerated concretes. Rubber floats are used to create super-smooth and level surfaces and also to finish grouts and fillers. Both types of float are used in large, arching motions over uncured concrete.
A straight steel trowel can be made of high-carbon, stainless, or blue steel. These have a solid, even face that can be dragged over the surface of concrete to raise low areas and compress high ones. These trowels range from 10 to 24 inches long and from 3 to 5 inches wide. Steel trowels can also help release trapped moisture to the surface so it can evaporate.
There are professional screeds available on the market, but a completely straight 2-by-4 board will work just as well. The screed should be longer than the form for the concrete on both sides. The tool is worked from one end of the form to the other in a back-and-forth sawing motion to level the concrete to the same height as the form and to bring aggregate to the surface as necessary.
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