It’s Not Finished Until It’s Finished. Here Are 7 Kinds of Concrete Finishes You See In The Construction Industry.

Pouring the concrete into forms is only the first step to a job well done. To wrap the project up right, you’ll want to make sure to pick the perfect finish. When it comes to concrete finishes, there are quite a few options that will look great and perform well.

Concrete finishes make your work look good, but they also have a purpose. Some are enduring, some are eye-catching, and some promote safety.

To learn more about different types of concrete finishing for your concrete projects, check out this great list.

Concrete Basics

To understand finishes, it’s helpful to have a refresher on the basics of concrete.

There are many variations in concrete. However, all concrete contains three main parts. These are:

  • Portland cement, a fine powder made from a burned, ground limestone and clay mixture that chemically reacts with water and hardens
  • An aggregate (usually sand and rock)
  • Water

Mixing water with the Portland cement creates a paste that encases the aggregate. Concrete forms when this paste hardens.

Several factors can influence concrete strength and ease of finishing. Ratio is important. Concrete usually consists of about ten to fifteen per cent Portland cement, sixty to seventy-five per cent aggregate, and fifteen to twenty per cent water.

A higher proportion of water can make finishing easier but compromises concrete strength. A higher proportion of aggregate strengthens concrete but can make finishing a bit more tricky.

Once you’ve chosen your aggregate and have your ratio worked out, you can decide which finish will work best for your job.

1. Troweled Finish

When the poured concrete has been flattened with a screed, it can then be worked with a trowel to create a smooth, fine concrete surface. This can be done by hand or by machine.

Hand trowels have a flat blade with a handle. They’re used in a pull and push fashion over the surface of the concrete. The worker repeats this motion until the surface is smooth.

Bigger jobs, especially industrial and commercial projects, will need power trowels. These are like a fan of blades that sit on the concrete. They come in riding and walk-behind models.

2. Broom Finish

Broom finish concrete is trowel finished concrete taken a step further. With this type of finish, the concrete surface is first levelled, then “closed” by troweling or a similar smoothing method. After this, workers drag a special broom across the surface.

The dragging creates a rougher texture than troweling alone. Not only does this look nice, but it also provides more traction for areas that could get slippery when wet. Both trowel finish and broom finish require a sand and rock aggregate.

3. Exposed Aggregate Finish

Exposed aggregate finish reveals the aggregates that are mixed into the concrete. Aggregates used for this finish are usually chosen for the way they look, unlike with other finishes where they aren’t really seen.

Exposed aggregate finish is accomplished by washing away the top layer of cement to allow the aggregate to show through. Aggregates can be attractive stones, sea shells, coloured glass, granite, and other sturdy materials.

To accomplish this interesting finish, concrete is poured, levelled, and troweled. It is then treated overnight with a chemical that slows the hardening of the surface cement. The surface is then washed with water to remove the top layer, exposing the aggregate that was below the surface.

Exposed aggregate finished concrete provides a safe, non-slip surface. This makes it both functional and attractive. It’s great for sidewalks, porches, and breezeways between buildings.

4. Salt Finish

Salt finish on concrete is frequently used around swimming pools or other wet areas. The application of rock salt to the surface of wet (uncured) concrete creates this finish.

After the rock salt has made tiny pits all over the surface of the concrete, it’s washed away, leaving behind a finely textured, slip-resistant surface.

5. Stamped Concrete Finish

Some concrete finishes give a special, decorative texture to the concrete surface. Concrete stamping is a popular way to add texture and visual interest.

A stamped finish is made by placing panels with designs onto the uncured cement. This transfers the design of the panel, giving the concrete a textured look.

Concrete stamps come in many different designs. These include stone, brick, tile, or other patterns. The goal of many stamping techniques is to make the concrete look like another building material. This look is especially convincing when you add a colour stain.

6. Stained Concrete

Stained concrete is concrete that has colour added after it is levelled and cured. Most concrete stains are subtle or earthy colours, but many colours are available. Stains take ordinary concrete and give it depth and appeal.

These stains can be applied to older concrete, but colours tend to be richer and last longer when applied to new concrete. Colour preservation is even better with the application of a protective, quality sealer after the staining process.

7. Polished Concrete

For extra protection, easy cleaning, and an appealing look, you can finish cured concrete with a nicely polished surface. Professionals use floor grinders to polish concrete surfaces.

These floor grinders have heavy duty diamond abrasives embedded into their grinding disc. Different discs have varying grades of abrasives, from fine to coarse. Coarse abrasives result in a rougher surface, while fine abrasives result in a smooth, fine surface.

During this process, sometimes chemical hardeners are applied to the concrete for water protection. An interior or exterior sealer applied to the product after grinding protects it further from chemicals, oil, and stains.

Note: When grinding concrete a very fine dust is created. Be sure to consider your safety and take precautions to ensure you don’t breath it in. Connecting grinders to industrial vacuum cleaners, and wearing personal protective equipment. You can find safety eyewear and a range of protective masks here.

Concrete Finishes for Every Project

No two projects are alike, so it’s helpful to know what types of concrete finishes will work the best for each one. Every finish offers its own unique look and set of benefits.

Are you looking for top quality concreting products that you can trust to get the job done well? We have everything you need for your projects, from start to finish. Please explore our great selection of tools and supplies or feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.


How to do exposed aggregate concrete finish

Exposed aggregate finish is accomplished by washing away the top layer of cement to allow the aggregate to show through. Aggregates can be attractive stones, sea shells, coloured glass, granite, and other sturdy materials.

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