Love working outside and making things with your hands? Want a career that will keep you in shape from one work week to the next?
If you are looking for a job that will satisfy all of these wants, then perhaps being concrete finisher is for you. If you hope to create concrete forms for construction companies like Stonemakers someday soon, you’ll need to follow a disciplined plan in order to land a position in this line of work.
In the paragraphs below, we’ll draw a thumbnail sketch of this profession so you can get started down the path that will lead you towards a career in the concrete trades.
What does a concrete finisher do?
In short, a concrete finisher takes concrete that has been poured from a truck or a mixing drum and uses the tools of their trade to smooth it into a finished form.
As easy as that might sound, it is actually a physically strenuous job, as it involves a great deal of bending over at the back and extended periods of time spent working on one’s knees.
Additionally, long days spent outside are all part of the job, which can become extended as a contract approaches deadline.
That being said, this line of work is often seasonal, making it a great career choice for those looking to travel during the slow part of the year.
As well, there is a low barrier to entry (other than physical fitness and a willingness to work), and openings are expected to increase faster than the national average over the next decade.
What education do I need?
While there are some companies that will take you on with little more than a high school diploma, those wanting to land better paying positions with respected companies should seek out certification by taking a diploma granting program through a vocational school.
These institutions will combine practical on-the-job training with time spent in class and labs. Most of the time, work placements within these programs are paid positions, giving students the ability to pay off their tuition and book costs as they learn.
How do I lay down smooth concrete forms?
While you will learn the intricacies of this trade as you proceed with your apprenticeship, it will only help your cause if you can get down the basics of this profession before you start work with your first employer.
Start by completing a simple project in your backyard such as a garbage can pad. Head over to your local hardware store and get the tools you’ll need to get the job done (e.g. a darby, trowel, groover, magnesium float, edger, screed board etc).
Once you have these special tools, build a mold for your pad, mix the concrete, and then fill the form to the top. Lop off the excess cement with a screed board, then use the darby to make finer adjustments.
After waiting for water to re-absorb into the concrete (some will bleed out when you are smoothing out the poured cement), finish off the ends of the slab with the edger, then use the groover to create patterns on the top of the slab that will help it resist cracking over time.
Anything else I need to know?
In hot climates, freshly poured cement slabs may need to kept wet a week or two after being formed to prevent premature cracking.
This is especially important if you are using concrete as a primary material for building, as opposed to applications like sidewalks or pool decks.