Basics of Concrete Finish Work

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In this intractable you will learn the basic on how to use the proper tools for finishing concrete and boost confidence to move from this small scale project to a larger scale project.

Step 1:

First step is to gather all the tools and materials that will be needed.

For this small scale project we are going to use the inside dimensions of 12'x 16" (I know a weird measurement but for practice purposes this will work).

Tools

  • Concrete Mag
  • Concrete trowel
  • Edger
  • Broom
  • hammer/screw gun
  • tape
  • Speed square
  • hand saw/power saw

Materials

  1. Concrete mix
  2. Double headed nails/screws
  3. 2x4 stud to cut
  4. bucket and a container to mix
  5. Cardboard to place under (optional)
  6. water

Note: the difference between the trowel and the mag is that the trowel is a lot thinner and sharper.

Step 2:

Step 2: Determining dimensions and assembling the frame of where the concrete will be poured.

Part A

For this small demonstration we are going to use a 12' X16" inside dimension. The first step to move forward is to either cut the 2x4 exactly 12" or 16". For this case I'm going to cut two boards at 16". Next we have to add three inches to our 12' board, so we end up cutting it at 15 inches. This is because each 2X4 is 1.5 inches and to have a perfect 12' 16" dimension on the inside we add these extra inches so we can have a surface to nail or screw all the boards together. Afterwards, we end up with 2 16" boards and 2 15" boards.

Part B

Assemble the 4 boards together to make a perfect square use (nails or screws). In this case we are going to use nails that are double headed and when we take the boards apart it will be easier to remove the nails. when assembling the boards together put two nails/screws on each board.

Step 3:

Step 3: Prepare concrete

To prepare the concrete you will need a container, (example of container is pictured in first step with tools), water, concrete mix, and something to mix it all together with. Begin by pouring a little bit of water in the container so concrete will not stick to the bottom. Afterwards, add the concrete mix and start off slow with the first bag and see approximately how much surface you can cover with one bag. For this example I have measured it up to be around 3/4 of the bag. After the mix has been added, move forward and add some water. Note that the more water you add the longer it will take to dry. The amount of water really depends on the persons preference, some individuals like it to be run down while others like a stiffer harder material, but be careful not to add too much water. After the water has been added begin to mix. I used my mag because I was short on tools but anything really works as long as the two substances get mixed together. Mix until you acquire desired texture (my desired texture is pictured above).

Step 4:

Step 4: Pour a level of concrete

In this step you will pour the concrete mix into the frame we built earlier. You can add a cardboard underneath so you won't ruin your apartment complexs' nice grass. Fill up the frame and don't be afraid to over pour. After the concrete is in the frame gently tap on the sides of the 2x4 with a hammer or any hard material. This will create smoother edges and allow the concrete to be flat against the 2x4 surface. After tapping all four sides you will then scrape and flatten out the surface and remove the extra mix.

Step 5:

Step 5: Smoothening the surface and adding an edge

Next we will smooth out the surface by using our mag. Once the surface is smooth and leveled you can begin to give it an edge by using our edger tool. This step will be repeated many times so don't worry if it doesn't look perfect the first time. When using the edger try not to role it, instead try to keep it as flat as possible, you also want to keep it tight up against the board. When finished, remove the tool in a moving upward motion. This will be the same technique that you will use when removing your mag. Repeat this step after 5 minutes have gone by. This will cause your product to have a smooth and clean look.

Step 6:

Step 6: Patience

After the fifth step is complete, you have little time to play with it. It can take up to 15-30 minutes, sometimes even longer. You can leave the project alone for a minute but keep an eye on it to ensure that it won't get too hard to work with.

Step 7:

Step 7: Edge, burn, and broom

Once the concrete has had time to harden, we want to give it our last edge. Remember the harder the concrete the more pressure you can apply. Next step is to burn the concrete and give it a really smooth finish. We accomplish this by using our trowel and use it the same way we would use our mag, but be careful not to leave lines in the concrete. When we finish burning it we determine if its ready to broom (broom finish is optional). This is done by feeling the concrete to see if it is still soft or if it has hardened all the way. We want to broom the concrete when its almost completely hard. Once we determine if it's ready to broom we get the brussel's of the broom wet. This will allow water to soak into the concrete and leave the broom finish we desire. The direction we broom is decided by determining the direction that an individual will walk. The broom finish will be done vertical to the direction that will be walked upon.

Step 8:

Final step: Let it dry and remove outer frame

The final step is to let the product dry and harden. After it has dried completely you will remove the nails and gently tap the board off to reveal your first concrete pad. This little intro to finish work will give you the confidence to move on to big scale projects like sidewalks, patios, driveways, and much more, which can save you a lot of money. If the outcome wasn't as you expected, don't put yourself down. Concrete requires a lot of repetition to be able to have an outstanding finish and with time and practice you will acquire the right technique to be able to execute it flawlessly.

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    13 Discussions

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    MikeW44

    9 months ago

    The cement cures into concrete through a chemical process, evaporation is only a small part of that process. Additives are used in weather below freezing to speed the required curing time, a recommendation is to protect the new pour for at least the first 48 hours and preferably to place the cement on unfrozen ground. Batch plant representatives are a good source for specs and additive possibilities. Well compacted and well-drained sub straight, adding reinforcement wire, rebar and fiberglass fibers to the mix will make the material stronger. Color can be trowled in or mixed in.

    1 reply
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    JohnC430MikeW44

    Reply 9 months ago

    Thanks for your post although it seems to be ignored. I had read about this before. Concrete
    hardens under water although the initial mix must be made according to the
    instructions. Once it seems to have
    cured even after a few hours it should be covered with wet burlap or something
    that will hold moisture.

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    JohnC430

    9 months ago

    Ohhh maaannnn!!!! why did you show the carpet. I thought you made on the carpet. I did everything like you described and my living room carpet is totally messed up. I can't even wash the concrete off from it and my wife now wants to have new carpet throughout the house. sheeesh!!!! I will wait for it to dry and try again. the carpet was totally soaked so I used some towels to soak up the water and cement. maybe when it is dry I can vacuum the concrete dust from the carpet(?)

    4 replies
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    NachoZ1JohnC430

    Reply 9 months ago

    common sense is not that common

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    JohnC430NachoZ1

    Reply 9 months ago

    yeah thanks. rub it in. feeling good now?

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    israel09JohnC430

    Reply 9 months ago

    oh dang i took pictures of the frame inside because when i was putting it together it was night time then i poured it outside. i didn't mean for it to be poured inside. if you didn't let it hardened i think you might me fine with cleaning out the dust and washing the carpet with some cleaner. in work we use pieces of carpet to clean off our curb forms and the if we clean the carpet piece they come out pretty clean. i hope this helps

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    JohnC430israel09

    Reply 9 months ago

    yeah. thanks. I copied your suggestion so I can follow it.

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    Southerner

    9 months ago

    What is a concert Mag? Should that be a concrete mag?
    Do I use a weed burner to burn the concrete or will a torch work?
    What are brussels of a broom? Do you mean bristles?

    You also do not mention how to determine how many sacks of
    concrete mix you need or what volume of concrete you ultimately need for the project.
    Most of the bags of concrete mix I have bought are 1/2 cubic foot but they seem to hide that number and make you really look for it. I was also told that one cubic yard of concrete
    at a 2x4 (3.5 inches tall) depth is needed for each 81 square feet of area as in a patio.

    How should the concrete be cured? Wet burlap covering for a week? Or perhaps spray on sealer? If sealer, what is it called and where do you get it? Or do nothing for curing?

    1 reply
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    israel09Southerner

    Reply 9 months ago

    this is just a simple pour to get familiar with the technique required to finish concrete. And the term "burn" doesn't mean to actually burn the concrete its just a term we use to describe the smooth look of the concrete and is achieved by smoothening out the concrete with a trowel. Also i didn't go into depth of how much bags you will need for a bigger project because the purpose of the instructions is to obtain some basic skills of finishing. And personally i would cure the concrete by spraying it out the next day after the concrete has been poured. and yes i did mean bristles and concrete mag

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    definingsound

    9 months ago

    Following a broom finish; I expect the top surface to show a grain. But your example has grain only inside a smooth frame around the perimeter. How is the smooth frame achieved? I imagine there is a final step following the broom?

    1 reply
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    israel09definingsound

    Reply 9 months ago

    if you want to achieve a smooth finish just skip the brooming step and keep burning the concrete with your trowel

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    israel09DIY Hacks and How Tos

    Reply 9 months ago

    um in my experience i would say that it definitely a lot easier to cure in warmer temperature than in cold. Curing is all about timing you want to cure it when the moisture has evaporated form the concrete and for warmer weather this will happen a lot quicker within 24 hours, while in colder weather it may take longer .