Concrete finishers place, finish and protect concrete surfaces. They work on a variety of vertical and horizontal surfaces and structures such as concrete floors, walls, sidewalks, stairs, driveways, curbs and gutters, stairs, dams, bridges and tunnels. They also texture, chip, grind and cure finished concrete work and are responsible for the repair and restoration of damaged concrete. They apply various finishes to concrete surfaces such as architectural, exposed, acid-stained, patterned, stamped, broomed overlays and smooth finishes. They install expansion joints and edge the concrete surfaces and install fixtures such as anchor bolts, steel plates and door sills. They also apply membranes and other waterproofing products to concrete. Concrete finishers must possess a sound knowledge of the properties of various types of concrete and how mixes, proportions and additives affect concrete strength, setting and curing times, finish and durability. Materials that concrete finishers work with include concrete, grouts, site-cured plastics, exotics, epoxies, polyurethanes and acrylic.
Much of concrete finishing has become mechanized with power screeds, power trowels, mechanical vibrators and pumps. Hand trowelling is still required for small jobs and to finish hard-to-reach spots in corners, edges and around obstacles such as pipes.
Concrete finishers work in the construction sector in both indoor and outdoor conditions. Outdoor work is weather-dependant and there may be less work available in the winter. Conversely, overtime is often required when the weather demands it.
Specialization in this trade is common. Concrete finishers may specialize in working with specific materials such as colored concrete, exposed aggregates and various epoxies, or specific techniques such as power trowelling and finishing curbs and gutters.
Key attributes for people entering this trade are stamina, spatial perception and hand-eye coordination. Artistic skills are also helpful in this trade. Some physical activities of this trade are heavy lifting, climbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling and reaching. There is some risk of injury from working on uneven footing and from other construction site hazards.
Concrete finishers work with a variety of other tradespeople. Heavy equipment operators may prepare the sub-base for concrete, ironworkers may prepare and place the reinforcing material and carpenters may place the formwork. It is the concrete finishers’ responsibility to inspect this work and ensure that it is suitable for receiving the concrete. They also interact with plumbers and electricians when pipes and wires are embedded in the concrete.
With experience, concrete finishers may move into supervisory, management or instructing roles.