How to Lay a Concrete Floor and The Tools You’ll Need
Laying a concrete floor and doing it well depends significantly on the tool hire and the methods you use. You too can lay a concrete floor with a professional finish, if you follow the following ten steps:
- Prepare the area
- Prepare the subbase
- Install a wooden border
- Add wire mesh to the form
- Pour the concrete
- Screed the top of the concrete surface
- Float the concrete surface
- Make control joints
- Create traction
- Cure and seal the concrete
Prepare the Area
The first step in laying a concrete floor is to prepare the area by clearing the space of any objects or materials that could get in the way of the pouring process. This includes any loose debris – including dust and dirt. Clearing the area in preparation for laying the concrete ensures the final look will be smooth and professionally finished.
Prepare the Subbase
The subbase is another word for the material on which the concrete rests. Most domestic concrete floors have a subbase of a hardcore layer, made of sand and gravel and the concrete is then poured over the top to create a durable floor covering. Always lay a 4-8 inch subbase of your chosen material and prepare it with a hand tamper, ensuring it is properly compacted to allow for smooth concrete laying.
Install a Wooden Border
To allow for effective concrete pouring, it is best to prepare a form, otherwise known as a wooden border. A well-built structure will help you achieve a much better finish to your concrete.
Add Wire Mesh to the Form
It is important to add wire mesh to the inside of your wooden form to offer much-needed support. Wire mesh also helps to reinforce your concrete flooring, a benefit that is especially helpful for any heavy load-bearing structures, such as driveways or garages. Well-placed wire mesh will help give your concrete flooring greater structural integrity will also guarding against small cracks from growing and spreading.
Pour the Concrete
Pour the ready mixed concrete into the mold by using a cement truck or by loading the concrete into wheelbarrows and pouring it onto the wire mesh. While pouring the concrete, it is best to enlist some helpers who can work to spread the concrete over the whole floor using shovels. The surface doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth as you will level the concrete later. For now, all the concrete needs is to be evenly spread over the floors surface.
Screed the Concrete Surface
Once the concrete has been laid, it is important to screed the surface. Using a screeding tool helps to flatten out the wet concrete and create a flat and smooth surface. When creating a screed layer, it is best to work your way from the top to the bottom so that you have a concrete floor surface that looks professionally finished.
Float the Concrete Surface
This step must be done quickly as the concrete will set fast so it’s important you get to work. Using a large floating device, press down the concrete to help the cream (gravel-free concrete) rise to the surface. You can do this by moving the float away from you and then moving it back towards you, keeping the edge slightly elevated for the perfect finish.
Make Control Joints
Line up a wooden plank to use as a straight edge and make periodic joints in the concrete. These joints will help the concrete withstand cracking when temperature changes occur. Cut all the joints about a quarter of the thickness of the concrete.
Create Traction on the Concrete
Use a broom to sweep across the surface of the concrete to create designs and provide traction on the concrete so that it’s not slippery when wet. For a smooth concrete surface that still has a pattern to it, you can use a trowel to slide over the surface in a circular motion.
When creating traction, it is important to ensure any grooves are not so deep that water stands on the surface. Standing water can be damaging to concrete floors, compromising the integrity of the concrete.
Cure and Seal the Concrete
The final step is to cure and seal the concrete. Curing concrete takes around 28 days, with the first day being the most critical. As soon as the concrete has been poured, professionals tend to recommend sealing the concrete as sealants help the concrete cure, preventing cracking and discolouration in the process.
Maintain Your Concrete
Once you’ve completed laying your concrete floor, it is important you carry out the proper maintenance to ensure it is properly cared for and remains durable for years to come. A simple brush down and wet mop every few days will keep your concrete floors looking their best – it really is that simple!
Tools You Need to Lay a Concrete Floor
If you would like to lay your own concrete floor, there are a number of concrete and compaction tools you need to use for a professional finish.
Construction workers laying concrete floors need screeds to help smooth the concrete shortly after it is poured. Screeds are available in a variety of different sizes and are stiff tubing or boards that can even be project-specific.
Vibrating plates are used to help settle and compact concrete on-site. There are four popular types of vibrating plates ideal for laying concrete floors and they are as follows:
- Internal: this includes a vibrating probe that is immersed in the wet concrete.
- Form: attaches itself to the outside of the concrete form.
- Surface: attaches to a screed to vibrate the concrete surfacing during screeding.
- Table: vibrating metal table for vibrating concrete inside a mold.
Ideal for most jobs on construction sites, wheelbarrows are needed to move small amounts of concrete from one area to another or to help carry tools around the site.
A portable concrete mixer allows you to mix small amounts of concrete at the job site for ease of transportation and accessibility. Concrete mixers come in handy when you’re laying a concrete floor and are far more efficient than mixing concrete by hand in a wheelbarrow or mixing tub.
If you’re handling concrete, it is essential you wear rubber gloves. Concrete contains admixtures and chemicals that can irritate the skin, and is well-known for drawing moisture from the skin, causing extensive damage over time. So, it is imperative you wear hand protection when you’re working with concrete.
Vapor barriers are used to prevent moisture from evaporating from concrete surfaces. Evaporating moisture can weaken concrete, so vapor barriers are needed to be placed below the concrete when it is poured to prevent surface water from mixing with the concrete, weakening it, or even pulling water out from the concrete.
If you’re laying concrete, it is essential you invest in a quality shovel. Shovels are essential for moving small amounts of concrete around a pour to help fill any voids or depressions and those hard-to-reach areas. Shovels also help remove any excess concrete from overfilled forms. People who lay concrete professionally recommend using square-ended shovels rather than rounded, to allow for better functionality.
Used to smooth and level the surface of concrete immediately after it is screeded, the bull float is a must-have when laying concrete. A Bull Float typically includes a long pole for reaching across the form, while smaller floats are used for filling those small molds or smoothing areas close to form edges.
A laser level or spirit level is the preferred tool for levelling forms and setting their elevation. Laser levels send a beam of light to provide a straight level. Unlike other levelling options, the laser level never gets in the way of your project and remains true even over exceptionally long distances.
A curing compound is applied directly to wet concrete surfaces to help reduce cracks and help concrete set at the desired rate. For residential concrete floors or small commercial projects, the compound can be sprayed onto the concrete with a hand sprayer for ease.
Hire Concrete Flooring Tools Today
If you’re undertaking a concrete flooring project of your own, why not hire all the tools you need for the job? Tool hire provides you with all the tools you need to lay your concrete floor successfully without having to worry about expense, storage facilities, and purchasing the right equipment. What’s more, if you follow our step-by-step instructions, you’ll be able to lay a concrete floor you can be proud of.