In the field of large-area concrete slab construction, the concrete bull float is an unquestionably essential tool. But do you have a deep understanding of it? In this article, we will provide a comprehensive explanation, detailing:

  • What is a concrete bull float
  • When and why to use it
  • How to use

Reading this article, you will clearly understand all the crucial points regarding the concrete bull floating work!

Concrete bull float is working

Concrete bull float is working

What is a Concrete Bull Float

A concrete bull float is a type of tool used for spreading and smoothing the top layer of poured concrete. It is designed with a long handle, allowing workers to operate the tool while standing and avoiding the need to kneel on the surface.

The bull float is often made from materials such as aluminium, magnesium, steel or wood and is attached to telescopic or button-handled poles to allow users to reach into the slab from a distance without stepping onto the recently-levelled surface.

The bull float hovers over the surface, levelling high spots and filling low ones, thus preparing the slab for finishing operations. This is a critical step in eliminating small defects or holes and ensuring the end product has a smooth, uniform appearance. Concrete bull floating is a significant part of achieving a professional quality finishing on a concrete slab.

Different Types

There are different types of bull floats on the market, each designed to cater to different needs. Some come with rounded ends to prevent the tool from digging into the concrete, while others have square heads that can finish the forms directly.

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When & Why to Use a Concrete Bull Float?

A concrete bull float is typically used immediately after spreading and compressing the concrete, making it the first tool to be used in the finishing process. Specifically, it is used right after screeding.

The smoothing process leaves minute ripples on the surface of the concrete, which can be smoothed out with a bull float. For some applications, this is acceptable, as the texture can add effective slip resistance on slopes and ramps.

Post-vibration of the concrete surface with a vibrating concrete screed might cause an undesirable effect. For example, over vibration of concrete can lead to separation of aggregate and cement. Heavier particles, including sand, can sink below the surface, leaving a brittle layer of cement. This is referred to as “laitance” or “bleed water,” and a magnesium alloy bull float can be used to spread this overly wet cement.

During the plastic state of concrete, a lighter steel bull float can also be used to remix the surface and even out irregularities.

So, the primary purpose of a bull float is to smooth and level the surface while the concrete is still wet, a process called “floating”. Importantly, this operation should be completed before too much moisture or “bleed water” appears on the surface. This helps compact the concrete, push down the aggregate (large concrete particles), and bring the “cream” (a mixture of cement paste and fine aggregate) to the surface to aid with finishing.

Fresno Broom Finishing

The concrete bull float can also be fitted with a broom attachment to achieve a uniform anti-slip brushing effect on the concrete surface. The broom attachment, made with steel blades, floats on the concrete surface. It’s pushed onto the concrete to enhance surface consistency and then pulled back to apply a brushed finish. Crafting a good broom finish product requires an artistic touch. You can even create decorative effects by manipulating the broom texture across various directions.

Fresno Broom Finishing Effect

Fresno Broom Finishing Effect

How to Use a Concrete Bull Float

As previously mentioned, you can start concrete bull floating work after it has been poured and while it’s still pliable.

The concrete bull float is very simple to use, and Youtuber – Odell Complete Concrete’s video explains it in detail, explaining to the viewer exactly how to do it based on experience:

When describing the operating experience Odell complete concrete made an interesting analogy when he said, “As you move the bull float in one direction, cock the side of the direction of movement, the same principle as you would when using a ski or surfboard”

Using the bull float on the newly poured slab, ensure the handle is raised at a slight angle with the front edge to prevent the edge of the bull float from cutting into the concrete.

Move the bull float back and forth across the surface. The motion should be from one end of the concrete slab towards the other.

Pull the bull float towards you in a way that it stays on top of the concrete surface, slightly raising the leading edge. The trailing edge should be slightly cut into the concrete to level it.

Continue moving over the concrete, overlapping the previous pass with each new one.

Note that the effectiveness of bull floating depends on its size. Standard bull floats are approximately 8 inches wide and range from 3 to 10 feet long. They are used for large areas that are unreachable with hand floats or trowels.

Conclusion

This article has provided an in-depth understanding of the concrete bull float. Generally used during the wet state of the concrete slab construction process, the bull float smoothens and levels the surface. It helps to remove surface ripples and ensures the finished product has a smooth, uniform appearance. It’s crucial to prevent the edges from digging into the surface and correctly pull the float towards oneself to level out the surface during operation.

Now, we invite you to join the discussion on this topic! If you have any queries or experiences to share, please leave a comment below. Look forward to your participation!