23 Tools Every Concrete Contractor Needs
Updated: Jul 20
Is there any feeling worse than being in the middle of a project and suddenly realizing you don’t have the proper tools for the next step?
Work on the job either stops or slows down while you figure out a way to borrow or purchase the correct tool.
It's inefficient, it wastes time, and it's frustrating, especially if you have to worry about your ready-mix concrete drying while you try to get the right tools!
We wrote this article to give you a list of the 23 tools every concrete contractor should have with their crew. This list is not exhaustive, but it covers most of the tools you need when working with ready-mix concrete.
Table of Contents
Let’s start with the general tools you should always have on the job site. Most of these tools are probably already in your tool trailer, but it’s always good to double-check!
Wheelbarrows are important on most outdoor construction sites, but for a concrete crew, they are the actual lifeblood of the project! Make sure you have plenty of them to move the stone, sand, or concrete needed for your projects. (For more info about stone, read our Beginner's Guide to Crushed Stone and Gravel.)
It is also good to inspect, repair, and replace your wheelbarrows as necessary so they are in good working condition. If bolts or attachments are loose, your wheelbarrows will wobble and become unsteady, so keep a close eye on them. The tires should be full of air and in good shape.
If your wheelbarrows are starting to wear out, don’t hesitate to replace them. Nothing makes workers more irritated than operating rickety wheelbarrows!
Even though larger jobs usually have the concrete delivered directly by a ready-mix concrete plant, you always want a reliable portable mixer ready on hand.
When mixing the concrete, make sure you have the correct mixture of cement and water, and also make sure the concrete is thoroughly mixed before pouring it.
You need a good assortment of hand tools and accessories to ensure the job goes well. Many hand tools are used more on the preparation side of the job, but they also come in handy during the pour.
Common hand tools are shovels, garden, and concrete rakes, hand levels, and more.
Some types of shovels and rakes work better for preparing the concrete base, and others work better during the pour, so make sure you have several kinds available.
Like wheelbarrows, don’t be too slow to replace hand tools that are not reliable and wearing out!
Concrete Saws & Grinders
Having safe, effective, and powerful cutting equipment for your crew is a must.
Whether it’s cutting concrete, rebar, or forms, you need reliable concrete saws and grinders.
Make sure these tools are properly maintained. Weak blades, missing parts, and other defects quickly become more than an irritant to workers—they actually become safety hazards.
Power Drills & Hammers Drills
Common uses for these types of power tools are placing anchors in the concrete, drilling holes for future construction or attachments, or testing for relative humidity in the poured concrete while it dries.
When people think about a cement job, they usually assume that levels are more important than tape measures.
Are tape measures necessary?
Before you pour the concrete, you need the concrete forms and rebar to be set at the right height, the right lengths, and square. Tape measures help with each of these.
Also, it is better to measure something twice and cut it once. You can always cut off more, but you can never add on!
Nothing is more important on any job site than the worker’s safety.
A mistake in the construction can usually be corrected, but you can never bring back a life or fully replace a lost limb.
Concrete crews don’t regularly deal with the most dangerous construction work, heights, and electricity, but they still face many dangers.
Whether they're using a concrete saw or working in the wet cement, here is the safety gear your crew needs during the job.
General Protective Gear
No matter your construction work, your truck and job trailer should be well-stocked with general protective gear.
This includes quality safety glasses, breathing masks, hearing protection, suitable gloves, and any other specialty safety equipment needed to run your tools.
Standard gear also includes a fully-stocked first aid kit kept readily available. You should have several fire extinguishers accessible as well.
Rubber Gloves & Boots
While neither ready-mix concrete nor dry concrete mixes are necessarily toxic, many mixtures contain chemicals and high pH levels that cause skin irritations.
But it can be worse than simple irritations.
Having wet cement on your skin for long periods can cause burns and reactions and, in extreme cases, may even require amputation.
How can you avoid this?
Long rubber boots and gloves are the best protection. Rubber is easy to clean and prevents wet cement from getting on your skin or clothes.
When buying this rubber protection gear, make sure everything is waterproof and won’t be affected by the acid in the cement.
Crew members should regularly inspect their boots and gloves and replace them when they begin to show signs of heavy wear, tearing, or fraying.
Dust Collection or Water System
After the concrete has dried, you'll still have a good bit of cutting, edging, and grinding to do before the job is finished.
This can create a lot of dust, so take precautions to limit the dust people inhale! Too much dust can cause lung and breathing issues.
While wearing dust masks is critical during these operations, it is also good to have vacuums and equipment specially made to collect and minimize dust when cutting concrete.
When preparing the site for ready-mix concrete to be poured, there are tools to make the preparation process easier and provide a solid base before the concrete arrives.
If you want a level concrete pad, you need to make sure the base and forms are level and set correctly before pouring the concrete.
The best way to ensure the forms are level is by using a laser level.
While large hand levels technically work, they are not as precise and may be affected by human error.
Hand levels are also time-consuming when setting and leveling all the forms, especially on large projects.
A laser level, on the other hand, allows a crew to be confident they have the correct depths, levels, and measurements throughout the whole project.
While a vapor barrier is not used on every project, it is good to have this material in your trailer for times when an engineer or the drawings require it.
A vapor barrier is any material that prevents moisture from entering the concrete slab. When used, it is installed before pouring the cement.
Why are vapor barriers important?
If water enters the concrete and pools, it begins breaking down the pH levels over time, which damages the cement adhesives and weakens the concrete.
Installing vapor barriers before the concrete is poured helps keep moisture from the concrete and improves the long-term life of the concrete.
Plate Compactor and Tampers
Having a solid, firmly tamped stone base is one of the most critical parts of having your concrete work stand the test of time and remain stable.
Make sure you have high-quality compactors and tampers. These tools will ensure that the stone base is sufficiently tamped and ready before you add rebar.
And while compacting and tamping is necessary, remember that it is also essential to have the correct thickness in the stone base. Depending on the thickness and conditions, you may also need to apply and tamp the stone base in several layers.
If you go to a job site and aren’t sure what the base thickness or compaction should be, always check with a local engineer. Taking some precautions before pouring the cement helps establish you as a trusted contractor who does the job correctly the first time!
Hopefully, you won't need this tool much, but every contractor has experienced the frustration of having the foundation dug and nearly complete when a rainstorm hits the job site.
No one likes digging through mud or waiting a few days for the job site to dry out. If you have a water pump in your trailer to pump out excess water after a rainstorm, it speeds up the drying process and helps keep your job on schedule.
During the Concrete Pour
Before you start pouring the concrete, make sure you have the correct tools ready and available.
No contractor wants concrete flowing and drying only to realize they are missing a float or screed!
Some of the following tools are not necessary for every job. For example, smaller concrete jobs can be leveled and troweled by hand without using power equipment.
For larger jobs, however, a concrete contractor wants as many power tools as possible to speed up the job and make sure the concrete slab is beautifully finished before the concrete dries.
There are several types of floats, but their primary purpose is to make the first pass in leveling the ready-mix concrete as it is poured.
Using floats helps eliminate low spots and allows the following screen and trowels to be more productive.
Concrete vibrators shake the poured concrete to ensure there are no trapped air bubbles or pools of water in the cement.
Trapped air bubbles or water may not be a significant concern initially, but over time they lessen the concrete’s strength and stability.
A screed is anything that helps make the concrete level before it is troweled.
People often use a piece of lumber or a rake as a screed. However, for large areas, most contractors prefer laser screeds for their precision.
No one wants a concrete slab with small bubbles or uneven surfaces, and a laser screed helps provide this level surface.
To create a smooth finish, trowel concrete is troweled before it dries.
You can use a hand trowel, but having a power trowel speeds up this process and helps create a smoother surface over large areas.
Power trowels are great to have if the cement is drying quickly and needs to be troweled faster than normal.
Atmospheric conditions affect how cement dries. Temperature, air pressure, and relative humidity all influence how quickly ready-mix concrete dries.
A thermo-hygrometer monitors atmospheric conditions and helps a contractor know how the cement is drying and if it will dry quickly or slowly.
Kneeling boards allow you to kneel on concrete while it's still drying without leaving footprints or other marks on the concrete. The boards support your weight, allowing you to do the finishing work by hand before the concrete dries.
This makes touch-up work much easier.
After the Concrete Dries
Once the concrete has dried, there is little you can do to change its shape or form. However, if you used the tools and processes correctly, your slab should be level, strong, and firm!
While the concrete is curing, you need a few final tools to bring the final curing and aesthetic appeal to the concrete slab.
Vapor Retarder While Drying
Similar to the vapor barrier placed beneath the concrete, a vapor retarder is placed over the finished concrete as it dries and cures.
This barrier is not always necessary, but if there is a concern about the concrete losing too much moisture due to sunlight, excessive heat, or low humidity, then a vapor retarder is used to protect the concrete’s moisture as it dries.
If the concrete loses too much moisture as it dries, it negatively affects the cement compounds and weakens the overall strength.
If concrete slabs are outdoors, they are typically sprayed with a final curing compound after they have thoroughly dried.
If you do this using a hand sprayer, the curing compound will spread evenly over the whole concrete area.
Directions on mixing the compound with water and properly applying it are found with the curing compound.
Contractors make cuts or grooves in large concrete slabs. This creates joints to help control cracking as the concrete finishes drying.
The depth and spacing of these grooves vary from slab to slab, but they must be done correctly for the particular job.
While hand-held concrete saws can be used on smaller concrete slabs, there is always the possibility of making uneven, crooked, and incorrect cuts when cutting by hand.
A walk-behind saw solves these issues and makes a straight cut consistent in both depth and width.
After the concrete slab has dried and the forms are removed, edgers are used to round off the corners and create the finished look.
If the concrete is in a high-traffic foot area, such as a patio or walkway, it is nice to have rounded edges to reduce the tripping and falling hazard.
On projects where dirt or stone is brought to the edge of the concrete, such as most driveways, it is not as essential to make sure it has rounded edges.
As a concrete contractor, you don’t use every tool for every job, but it's always good to have a well-stocked truck and trailer.
This is especially true as you get ready for the concrete delivery and pour. Once you start pouring, you no longer have time on your side, so you better have the right tools!
Along with a well-stocked trailer of quality tools, you also need a concrete provider who is dependable and provides a consistent, quality cement product.
If you are looking for a cement provider in North-Central Indiana, contact Gra-Rock Redi Mix today. We are a family-owned ready-mix concrete provider, and our team works hard to provide the concrete you need to make your job a success!
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Contact us today for your next concrete project!
We look forward to working with you.