All About Concrete Tools & Materials!
Learn all about concrete tools and materials and how they play a part in shaping a masterpiece! Updated Frequently!!
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CONCRETE STAMPS:

are used to make regular concrete look like other premium materials like pavers, brick, slate, tile, stone, and even wood! They provide a cost effective alternative that is more durable and requires less long term maintenance than most of the materials they replicate. Stamps are made out of polyurethane or semi flexible rubbers with the texture embedded into the design and come in a variety of different shapes and designs. Each stamp usually weighs 20-30 lbs but larger stamps can weigh more! These stamps get pressed into freshly finished concrete to imprint the texture and ridges onto the surface before it fully sets and hardens. This is a very time sensitive operation so having a professional who knows what they are doing is crucial! Too soon and the stamp will look like mushy baby food, too late and your contractor will be fighting hard to get any impression into the surface. Stamps must be laid down and picked up in a very specific manor to avoid ripping the sensitive concrete surface underneath. Stamps can also stick to the concrete and destroy the surface unless you use a release agent made for concrete stamps! If done correctly, stamped concrete can perfectly mimic any other material available with twice the durability and usually at a more affordable price point.

Slate Concrete Stamps
seamless texture concrete stamp
workers placing a large concrete stamp
herringbone brick concrete stamp

CONCRETE SCREED: 

The screed is arguably one of the most important concrete tools. It is used to flatten and level freshly placed concrete. The primary requirements of a screed are FLAT and LONG. The screed generally is placed on the required slope of concrete or all the way across the forms, and dragged in a backwards motion to pull down any high spots and manipulate the surface of the concrete into a flat and even plane. Doing this ensures that proper slope is maintained and water runs away from your house or pool and in the appropriate direction. Screeds come in many different styles, sizes, and materials, and they can be as simple as a straight piece of lumber or they may use lasers and hydraulics and cost over $100,000. A popular feature of some higher end screeds is vibration as this works the larger aggregates below the surface and leaves behind the cementitious paste layer that is used to put a finish on. It also has many different names that can vary depending upon the location and preference of whoever is using it. Screed, Strike off, and Darby are all different names for the same thing! (in America the "darby" generally is a long hand float)

image of a standard concrete screed and its names kangaroo screed, combo screed, or darby
workers using a standard concrete screed
aluminum screed
power screed or vibratory screed
worker using a power screed with vibration to level concrete

COLOR HARDENER:

Concrete Color Hardener is a powdered pigment specially formulated to color concrete surfaces. It also densifies the surface and and makes it significantly more resistant to abrasions and freeze-thaw cycles. It is a cement based material made with gap-graded silica quartz aggregates, synthetic iron oxides and plasticizer. It gets broadcast (thrown) onto freshly poured concrete and finished into the surface to change the color. These colors can be made darker or lighter depending on the amount thrown, or even mixed to create entirely new blends of colors. It is UV resistant and can increase the compressive strength of the surface to over 8,000 psi! We recommend color hardener applications on all concrete for its enhanced durability and resistance to discoloration. It is one of the artistic elements that makes stamped concrete unique and beautiful!

worker throwing broadcast color hardener on the surface of concrete
concrete contractor edging color hardener
concrete professional finishing color hardener into the surface of concrete
beautiful colored concrete from sika color hardener

MAGNESIUM HAND FLOAT:

Often called a "mag" for short, this is probably one of the most famous and widely used concrete tools. Its primary function is to smooth out imperfections in the concrete after it has already been poured and leveled with a screed or to quickly set grade on freshly poured concrete for the screed to work off of. It also serves to push down aggregates and bring water and the cementitious paste up to the surface. It creates a smooth finish without totally closing up the pores of the concrete allowing it properly evaporate excess water and cure better. They come in a variety of different lengths and shapes and are available at almost any hardware store!

magnesium hand float finishing concrete
magnesium hand float close up

STEEL TROWEL:

Steel trowels and any steel concrete tools differs from last weeks tool (magnesium hand float) in a major way because of the way the material manipulates the surface of the concrete. Steel provides a smoother finish than magnesium or other materials and can actually seal up the pores of the concrete giving it that ultra smooth factory floor finish. Steel trowels are NOT recommended for outdoor use in freeze thaw climates like ours because they can trap bleed water below the surface without allowing proper ventilation which can lead to spalling and delamination as the moisture inside of the concrete expands and contracts. They also produce such a glass smooth finish that the concrete can become slippery when wet which is why steel is primarily used on indoor jobs or in places without freezing winters (California loves to steel trowel everything). The finish achievable with steel tools is beautiful and flawless and ultra smooth to the touch. Concrete finishing machines are usually equipped with steel blades that pass over the surface repeatedly to make the finish as prefect as possible. Steel trowels come in a variety of different shapes and sizes depending on the finish desired with stiffer and harder tools producing a more polished and smooth look. Alternately there are more flexible steels like blue steel that produce a slightly less closed surface while still still providing a smoother surface than magnesium.

steel trowel close up
steel pool trowel close up
concrete contractor using a finishing machine with steel blades
smooth steel finished concrete indoors

BULL FLOAT:

Bull floats are very large concrete floats that are used after the screeding process to make the concrete smooth, push down aggregates, and to remove any imperfections. They are usually affixed to an articulating bracket that allows them to be tilted as they are pushed and pulled across the surface of the concrete. The bracket is then attached to poles with a simple push button mechanism allowing the user to stack poles and maneuver the bull float all the way across the surface without needing to step foot in the freshly leveled concrete. There are many styles of articulating brackets but they all work in the same fashion. When you twist the poles, one side of the float will lift upwards allowing you to push it forward, and when you twist it the opposite direction, the opposite side will lift allowing you to pull it back towards you. Both directions will smooth the surface as it passes over. Bull floats come in many different sizes, shapes, and material choices like wood, composites, magnesium and steel depending on the intended application.

Concrete Bull Float picture
Blue Steel Concrete Bull Float
Concrete contractor using a bull float to smooth out the surface of concrete
Various types of bull float articulating brackets

Integral Color:

Concrete integral color is a highly concentrated pigment that is added into the concrete during the mixing stage to change the color of the entire slab from the inside out. Unlike surface-applied methods such as color hardener and stains or paints, integral color fully penetrates the concrete, ensuring uniformity of color throughout the structure. One of the most significant advantages of integral color is its durability. Since the color is an inherent part of the concrete matrix, it won't fade, chip, or peel over time, ensuring that your project maintains its beauty for years to come. It can be combined with other forms of surface applied colors to create unique contrasts and variations.

variety of concrete integral colors
awesome blue integral colored concrete
red integrally colored concrete
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