How to Master the Art of the Finishing Trowel

finishing trowel

A finishing trowel is an important tool for many types of construction. It’s used to smooth out materials like mortar, plaster, and concrete. It has a very straight, angled blade designed to fit precisely into right angles and smooth out the surface of the mixture in straight lines.

Choose the Right Trowel

This tool isn’t designed for cutting but over the course of use the straight edges of the aluminum or steel blade can become rough and sharp. It’s important to wear gloves and apply any pressure to the handles only. A finishing trowel comes in various sizes, usually about 10″ but by as much as 50″ long. Smaller sizes can be used to get into tighter spaces and angles or finish smaller surfaces.

How to Use a Finishing Trowel

Wait until the “bleed water” on the surface of the concrete is reabsorbed but before the concrete dries to get to work with your finishing trowel. If you can press hard with your fingertip and leave only a slight impression, you can start using your trowel to smooth the surface. If you’re leaving marks of 1/8″ in depth or more, it might be wise to wait a little longer and apply less pressure.

You grip the tool firmly to hold the flat edge of the blade tight against the surface. Begin with running along the perimeter of the slab to slightly round and compact the edges. It can take some effort to force aggregate back into the concrete. Smooth the surface with back-and-forth strokes in long straight motions.

Lift up slightly with the lead edge to avoid dragging the material. Any concrete that becomes caked onto the blade can be wiped off with a wet rag. For a really smooth surface, let the concrete dry a little more before returning for a second or third pass.

If you’ve done it correctly, when you’re finished the concrete should be vertically and horizontally smooth with no visible lines or grooves. Cover it with plastic so that it can cure properly over the next several days.

finishing trowel

Practice Makes Perfect

Spending too much time on one area can leave another unfinished when concrete begins to harden. Smoothing bigger slabs of 100 square feet or more should be a job for at least two people. Smoothing out concrete quickly and evenly is a skill that takes a little time to master.

You can’t develop this skill except on actual concrete. You might want to start on smaller practice jobs. Bear in mind some jobs call for non-slip textures you can achieve with a broom.

The Del Zotto family has been providing quality products to the concrete industry for more than 50 years. Whether you’re new to the trade or operate an established construction company, you’ll find we make it our mission to provide the best tools and equipment available. If you have any questions, please contact us and let us know your needs.