How to Level Off a Concrete Floor using a Bullfloat
Making it flat
So, you are ready to take on the job yourself. You know exactly what you "want" done. You know exactly where you are going to put it. You have it all laid out, now for the fun part leveling off the concrete floor yourself.........
After installing concrete in West Virginia for many years, I know being prepared for the job can mean the difference between an easy nice finish and the hardest work imaginable. Seriously, not finishing the job in a timely manner could easily mean you are tearing back up your concrete floor and starting from scratch
First you are going to need a basic set of hand tools for the job. These tools will help you place and begin the actual finishing process of concrete itself, besides the shovel, hoe, rake etc. The finishing process requires two simple tools, easily and readily available at most any hardware store.
For the flat work you are going to need:
- Strike Off Board (the SOB, lol)
- Bull Float
The oldest and probably the most commonly used today by do it yourselvers yes I said yourselvers, is a trusty ol 2x4. The 2x4 should be straight with smooth surfaces and you could even paint or seal it to help keep the water out.
The choice of most contractors today is an aluminum strike off board. An Aluminum SOB (lol) is preferred because the consistent straightness which keeps it far more accurate of course. It's less likely to bend or warp because it doesn't absorb water either.
Now the fun begins. The smooth surface some finishers always achieve yet some never accomplish, is a daunting task!. Performing a good strike off is really a higher art. Even after years of practice some people just don't get it.
In order to be good strike off artist you must visualize how your board is going to move and spread or place the concrete. "wet screeding" is also part of this process being able to screed off the concrete without hitting those elevation marks or the form takes practice and will make or break your job.
In order to accomplish a good strike off, the leading edge of your SOB should be just above the actual finished plane of the floor. This allows excess concrete to flow under the strike off board and fill in the un even gaps like a grader would even out the road. Because of this, several small passes will be more effective than one hard pass. Hard passes that move a lot of concrete causes concrete below the finished plane to be moved too. This will result in your finished floor being to low or un even.
When you're finished striking off, you should have a fairly flat or plane surface with a few minor ups and downs that can be easily corrected with a bull float.
Now for the Bull Float
Time to finish smoothing out the surface and make it nice and flat. That's exactly what the Bull Float was made for. Imagine that! Those small ups and downs you left behind while using your strike off board will come out of your concrete floor easily with a bull float. (providing you haven’t let the concrete sit to long already)
Bull Floats are commonly available at most any hardware store and come in a variety of different styles, lengths and materials. More commonly available in aluminum and magnesium with rounded. squared edges. And handles that easily adjust or stretch. Most contractors prefer the 45 in float with squared edges for concrete floor situations.
Immediately after striking off, start using your bull float. Keeping the float at a very low angle (almost flat to the surface) otherwise you will ruin your strike off by pushing concrete ahead of your float.
If an area is just a tiny bit low you can "juke" some concrete over by gently shaking the float over the concrete at a fast rate. This will cause the concrete to sort of liquify and move towards the lower area.
Once you're done with the initial bull float pass you are going to have to touch up those edge marks from the bull float with a second lite pass after the concrete floor as some what stiffened. The stiffer concrete will help keep the surface smoother as you float it out.
The next steps will be
Waiting for the Initial Setting and the "Bleed Water" to surface and evaporate. So you can trowel, edge and joint.