Concrete construction equipment includes an incredibly diverse range of tools for pouring, perfecting, and finishing quality surfaces. Different projects require various machines, but there is a set standard of tools that can be found on any expert’s worksite. Equipment Trader has looked at the 12 types of concrete construction equipment needed to create a quality surface.
The first stage of most construction projects involves dealing with wet concrete. This requires a unique set of tools compared to working with dry concrete because it can behave irregularly. These tools will help control the wet concrete and get it poured and leveled just right.
1. Concrete Mixer
One of the essential pieces of wet concrete construction equipment is a mixer. A portable mixer is highly useful, especially for small jobs around the site. Various models are available to fit different types of projects, both large and small.
2. Concrete Pump
Many medium to large projects also use a concrete pump that makes pouring an extensive area much easier. However, managers should carefully research what type of pump is best suited for their specific project before investing. The two main types, boom pumps and line pumps, each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Boom pumps tend to have a longer reach and faster distribution, making them ideal for larger projects, such as constructing multistory buildings. Line pumps are much more flexible, even if they distribute concrete slower. They are often the best option for projects in smaller spaces.
Construction workers will also need gear for tending to wet concrete before and after it’s poured. Vapor barriers are crucial for preventing moisture from seeping into the ground or evaporating into the air. It is important to investigate the ground underneath where you’re pouring the concrete in some climates. The underlying land may be dry enough to suck moisture from the wet concrete, so a vapor barrier should be laid both above and below if this is a concern.
A few tools help ensure wet concrete sets well through a process known as curing. Water is the most common curing tool. It can be sprayed on, or the pond method can be used to flood the wet slab with water.
Additionally, curing compounds are often used on wet concrete as a finishing treatment that prevents cracks. Spray bottles or industrial sprayers are used for application. Many ready-mix concrete companies and hardware stores keep curing compounds in stock, so they are usually easy to find. Make sure to read the directions for curing compounds carefully. Some need to be scrubbed off after a certain amount of time.
Concrete Vibrating and Pumping
Water pumps and vibrators are also useful tools for working with wet concrete.
4. Concrete Vibrator
Concrete vibrators remove air pockets from slabs to stabilize them.
There are a few different types of concrete vibrators for various compacting methods, and most are fairly easy to use. Internal vibrators consist of simply submerging the vibrator tip into the slab of wet concrete. A single operator is enough for this process. Make sure to check that the slab hasn’t already been vibrated before going ahead with the process.
5. Water Pump
Additionally, a water pump can remove excess moisture from drying concrete. This tool may be utilized when heavy rainfall floods a drying slab of concrete.
Wet concrete must be leveled after it is poured. Leveling is fairly straightforward, especially with the help of a few specific pieces of concrete construction equipment. The key tools required include screeds, floats, and a laser leveler.
A screed is a straight, stiff material, such as a board or tube, used to roughly flatten out a concrete slab. For smaller projects, you can even use a long piece of lumber. Screeding is the first step in the leveling process, so the focus isn’t on polish but simply achieving an even surface. Screeds need to be longer than the width of the surface being flattened.
Screeding is easy to do, but it is helpful to have two people on the job, with one at each end of the tool. They can work together to drag the screed over the wet concrete, smoothing it out and pushing uneven or excess concrete into any gaps.
Construction workers use a float after screeding to precisely smooth the surface. This is often a piece of metal or wood on a long stick, but hand floats can be used for smaller spaces. The float slides over the wet concrete and gently lifts it to create a smooth surface. Floating is done after surface water on the concrete has dissipated. Simply sweep the float in arcs across the concrete surface—it helps to slightly lift the leading edge.
8. Laser Level
Laser levels are used to check slabs’ elevation throughout the concrete construction process. These tools are convenient because a single person can operate them. The thin laser beam doesn’t actually touch anything, unlike traditional string versions. It won’t get stuck in wet concrete and can extend accurately over long distances.
Simply mark where the level needs to line up, mount it on a tripod if necessary and power it on. Some laser levels also come with a helpful square or corner option for lining up two edges of a concrete slab at the same time. Just make sure to wear eye protection when using this tool.
Construction workers use various tools to cut and shape the concrete once it’s dry to complete the final finishing steps. These tools tend to vary the most from one project to another but can include power hammers, power drills, groove cutters, and concrete polishers.
When using all of these tools, be careful about wearing protective equipment and keeping the work area clear of passersby. You should also pay close attention to detail since tasks in the final steps often require precise measurements.
9-10. Power Hammers and Drills
Power hammers and drills are often used for tasks like fastening or mounting things in poured concrete, such as installing a railing into a set of steps. Pay attention to measurements when installing any railings. Consider the spacing of mounting holes and how straight they are parallel to the edge of the concrete. Installing railings or similar items into concrete is usually a multi-person job.
11. Groove Cutters
Groove cutters are specialized power tools used for etching groove detailing into concrete, such as the lines found along sidewalks. A single operator is usually sufficient for this job, but it does require precision. A laser level may be helpful to ensure grooves stay straight while they are being cut.
12. Concrete Polisher
A concrete polisher is similar to a power sander and acts as the final step in the smoothing process. If you’ve used a power sander before, you should be able to quickly learn how to use a concrete polisher. It’s typically best to sand from one edge of the concrete slab to the other in rows, using a circular motion. You can also use normal sandpaper to grind down any tight spots or imperfections.
Specialty Concrete Construction Equipment
Some projects will use specialty or niche concrete construction equipment in addition to the commonly used tools covered above. These additional tools aren’t strictly necessary, but they are helpful in many circumstances.
For example, some projects may utilize a thermo-hygrometer, a tool that monitors air conditions like temperature, pressure, and humidity. Some types of concrete can be highly sensitive to changes in the ambient air and impact drying times, which is where a thermo-hygrometer comes into play.
Walk-behind trowels and power screeds are also examples of niche tools. These don’t have a unique function themselves but are often more convenient to use than their conventional counterparts. A power screed would be helpful on a project with a large surface area of concrete to cover. Many find walk-behind trowels more comfortable to use as well, and they can be a good investment if you’re looking to reduce back and muscle strain.
3D printing is a more advanced, cutting-edge construction technology. Engineers have developed huge construction-grade 3D printers that can create whole buildings using various concrete mixtures. This tech is gaining popularity for next-generation housing construction worldwide.
Experts will certainly be needed to help refine and operate these advanced pieces of equipment. Concrete 3D printers are not yet widely used, however, 3D printing will likely be used for automating many concrete projects as the technology develops and gains popularity.
Concrete construction requires a specialized toolset that can vary extensively from one project to another. Finding the right combination of tools for a specific project is all about outlining exactly what must be accomplished. A simple residential driveway will need less equipment than a large set of stairs. Workers need to wear proper safety gear and choose the best quality equipment possible for optimal results.
And, if you’re searching for heavy equipment to complete your concrete construction projects, browse the nationwide inventory on EquipmentTrader.com.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years experience covering stories in the construction and heavy equipment industries.