To understand how bull-floating concrete works, we first need to know what bull-floating is. Bull floating is a construction method used to smoothen and level concrete that is still fresh.
A bull float is a tool used to carry out the function of smoothing and leveling fresh concrete. A bull float is large and flat to aid in spreading new concrete until it is smooth and level.
A bull float is often used after the surface has undergone screeding. Screeding is yet another method of leveling and smoothing concrete. Bull floating comes after, reaching places screeding did not and perfecting the job.
Most bull floats are constructed from wood, aluminum, or magnesium. The bull float is then attached to a long handle that makes it easy to use.
A finished bull float can perform a push-and-pull movement over the concrete surface. The action is supposed to eliminate high and low spots, creating a smooth, flat, and even surface.
Importance of Finishing Concrete Properly
Finishing concrete is highly beneficial and provides a vast array of advantages. These benefits include:
When completed properly, concrete paving allows the formation of mesmerizingly smooth surfaces that are further customizable with various hues and textures. With its beauty and versatility, it is no wonder why this material is at the very heart of many modern constructions.
Finishing concrete is a process that makes it more resistant to damage, rust, and stains. This imparts a longer lifespan to the concrete structures, making them more impervious to the ravages of time and external pressures.
Increased Water Resistance
Smoothly finished concrete will not absorb water and moisture as quickly as rough-textured concrete, helping to reduce problems caused by flooding or excessive ground moisture, such as foundation deterioration, mold growth, and other hazards.
The uniform finish on concrete slabs helps to reduce the risk of slipping for visitors or employees when walking on their surfaces. This is especially beneficial for businesses looking to create safer environments for their customers and employees.
Finishing your concrete correctly can eliminate potential repair costs associated with an uneven or weak surface due to improper installation flaws such as grading or cement layer discrepancies.
Equipment Needed for Finishing Concrete
Finishing concrete needs specialized equipment to provide the smooth and level surface we crave. Below are some tools used to give a flat and smooth concrete finish.
A bull float is a tool that possesses a handle and is used to level fresh concrete with its flat, efficient surface. This tool is usually manufactured using either wood or metal.
A concrete mixer is a device that combines water, cement, and aggregates made up of sand or gravel uniformly to create concrete. The mixing of these components in equal parts creates concrete.
A screed is a tool to level concrete and ensure it is evenly spread over a desired surface.
The trowel is a small hand tool usually used to reach and clear small and difficult-to-reach areas, like corners, to create a smooth, even finish.
An edger, like a trowel, is typically used to access areas that may not be easily accessible such as the edge. Furthermore, the edger creates an even surface by smoothening and leveling the edges of the concrete, thereby providing the entire area with an even and smooth finish.
A broom in concrete finishing is made from hard or bristle parts that are swept across the concrete. This motion helps create marks on the concrete, giving it a textured look. The textured surface prevents slips.
Concrete sealers are the last part of concrete finishing. It ties the concrete finish together, protecting it from the elements. Sealer preserves the freshness of concrete and protects it from external damage by creating a barrier between the concrete and the elements.
The groover is a concrete finishing tool designed to contain concrete joints that can cause cracking if not appropriately controlled.
This tool forms a channel in the concrete that allows for the necessary expansion and contraction of joints, thereby reducing the risk of cracks.
Proper Technique for Bull Floating Concrete
As discussed earlier, bull floating is a technique used to flatten a surface. Here are five steps to achieve that smooth finish:
Ensuring the concrete surface is clean and debris-free and the bull float is
correctly attached to its handle. You can begin by pouring the concrete into the already laid-out forms. Then with the help of a shovel, spread the concrete to every part. The next step is to use a screed to level the surface.
You will have to wait for 30 minutes for the concrete to set. The concrete setting enables it to withstand the weight of the bull float. Once it is set, you can start the process.
Standing at one end of the concrete surface, holding the bull float at a slight angle, and placing it on the concrete surface. Ensure you are in a steady position to avoid falling into the wet concrete.
Moving the bull float back and forth across the surface in long, sweeping strokes, gradually
working your way across the entire surface. It is advised to sweep in side-to-side motions. This ensures that the bull float reaches all corners of the concrete.
Ensuring that each stroke overlaps slightly with the previous one to avoid leaving
gaps or ridges in the surface. Overlapping creates a smooth and flat finish on the concrete. Also, check for low or unlevelled areas and smoothen them out.
Remove any remaining ridges or imperfections using a light touch to finish the surface. Using a broom, create markings on the concrete or any other designs you see fit. Broom markings prevent slipping or skidding on the surface.
Benefits of Bull Floating Concrete
Below are some benefits of bull-floating concrete.
Improved Appearance of Concrete Surfaces
Bull floating gives concrete a more uniform and smoother finish than other methods. As you drag the bull float across the wet concrete, it knocks down high spots, fills in low spots, and brings up a fine layer of cream.
This allows for a better-finished look. This is especially useful when surfaces are exposed, such as in a driveway or patio.
Increased Durability of Concrete
The bull float helps to bring water to the surface of the concrete, which helps increase the strength of the concrete. The added water helps to strengthen the concrete by increasing its cohesion and preventing air pockets from forming.
Strength is significant when it comes to concrete floors, as the strength of the concrete will determine how much weight it can hold.
Resistance to Cracking and Spalling
Bull floating concrete helps to prevent cracking and spalling by providing a smoother and more even surface than traditional methods. This reduces the risk of superficial cracking caused by laitance buildup, trapped air, or other irregularities in the concrete’s surface.
This technique can also reduce or eliminate random cracks or fissures within the slab that develop over time due to uneven curing or shrinkage of the concrete.
Bull floating also helps to create optimal compaction levels, reducing the potential for upthrust from aggregates beneath the surface, thus minimizing any risk of spalling.
Limitations of Bull Floating Concrete
Although bull floating is a good technique for leveling a surface, it does some setbacks.
Unsuitability for Certain Types of Concrete Surfaces
Bull floating is primarily used on fresh concrete that has yet to be wholly set or cured. Therefore, it is difficult for this technique to produce the desired results on; stamped concrete, exposed aggregate concrete, colored concrete, and high-strength concrete.
Alternative Finishing Techniques for the Above Surfaces
It is possible, in certain circumstances, that bull-floating cannot be used on particular types of concrete as it carries a risk of damaging the surface; thus, other options must be considered. This article provides an overview of these alternatives.
This is a type of concrete made to look like it is made from other materials, such as brick. For it to take this shape or look like other material, it should be done on very flexible concrete, which cannot be handled on a bull-floating concrete surface.
An alternative to stamped concrete is stamping or impressing, which essentially uses stamps to create designs on the concrete.
Exposed Aggregate Concrete
This technique needs to thoroughly mix the gravel and sand so that the finished look provides the aggregate’s natural texture and appearance. Bull floating damages the finished look because it tries to level everything.
An alternative to use is trowelling. Trowelling gives the surface a finished look without damaging the natural material.
Bull floating cannot be achieved on cured concrete, and colored concrete has dyes, making it less pure. To complete the look of leveled-colored concrete without bull floating, you can choose to use integral color, which entails the addition of color to pure concrete, dry-shake hardeners, or chemical stains.
Bull floating is a method of making concrete leveled and smooth in construction. The technique provides an even working surface on which other construction activities can be performed.
The technique is beneficial when leveling a surface; however, it has limitations like needing to be more vital to handle high-density materials; overall, this is a good technique for surface leveling that beginners can do.