If you’re just starting out, you might be wondering why you’d ever need a trowel, when you could just use a float instead.
The answer is that you don’t need both. You only need one or the other. They’re both used for laying concrete, but for different stages of the process.
The key difference between trowels and floats is that trowels are used for finishing concrete, and floats are used for the initial smoothing out of the surface.
Using a Float
Using a float is simple. It should be used whenever you’re not quite ready to finish your concrete with a trowel.
When you’re levelling out your concrete, you’ll notice that it’s not exactly smooth. That’s where a float comes in.
The first thing you’ll notice is that floats have a handle, unlike trowels. They’re also made out of wood or magnesium, rather than steel.
The idea behind using a float is that it levels out your concrete to the point where it’s actually ready to be trowelled. You could say that it’s “pre-trowelling” your concrete.
Floats are especially useful for using on wet concrete, because you don’t want to trowel your concrete until it’s drier.
That’s why you’ll see that the concrete trowel blade is flat. It’s designed to be used with drier concrete, whereas the float is designed to be used with wet concrete.
Using a Trowel
Concrete trowels are used to smooth out concrete that has already been levelled out with a float.
They’re also used for finishing off the edges of the concrete after you’ve used a float, to make sure that they’re properly smooth.
You’ll notice that concrete trowels have a curved blade. That’s to make it easier to “drag” the trowel across the concrete in a smooth, sweeping motion.
Trowels are especially useful for the final stages of finishing your concrete, because they help to remove any small imperfections that are left after you’ve used a float.
You’ll notice that when you use a float, you’ll be left with a rough texture on the surface of the concrete. That’s because the purpose of a float isn’t to provide a smooth finish, but to actually level out the concrete in the first place.
Trowels, on the other hand, are designed to smooth out your concrete to the point where it’s almost like glass. That’s why you’ll see that trowels have a wooden handle, rather than a metal one. It’s to make the handle more comfortable to hold, because trowels are used for longer periods of time than floats.
That being said, using a float on a large area of concrete is hard work too, because you’ll be using it in a sweeping motion. It’s just that trowels are designed to be used in a way that’s more ergonomic, so that you can use them for longer.
You’ll notice that a lot of trowels have a handle that’s angled upwards. This is to make it even easier to use them. The angle of the handle makes it so that you don’t have to bend your wrists as much, so you can keep your wrists straight while you’re using a trowel, rather than having them at an awkward angle.
That’s why trowels are more comfortable to use for longer periods of time than floats. It’s because of the combination of the curved blade, the wooden handle, and the angle of the handle that makes them so ergonomic.
Which One Should You Get?
In all honesty, I’d get a trowel over a float if I had to choose. Trowels can be used for both the initial smoothing out of the surface and the final finishing of your concrete.
Floats, on the other hand, can only be used for the initial smoothing out of your concrete. You’ll still need a trowel if you want a properly smooth finish.
However, if you’re on a budget, then I’d recommend you start with a float. You can always upgrade later on if you want a smoother finish.
The thing is, unless you’re a professional, you won’t really notice the difference. Floats do a good enough job for the casual user. It’s only if you’re doing this for a living that you’ll really notice the difference.
So, unless you want the absolute best possible finish, just start with a float. It’s cheaper, and it’ll save you a lot of effort for the initial smoothing out of your concrete.