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What's it like working as a concrete finisher?

Learn more about the aptitudes, skills, day-to-day tasks, and projects involved in commercial concrete construction.

When comparing trades, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a trade that has been around longer, or is more essential to the foundation of a building than concrete finishing. 


When you work with concrete, you not only help build the foundations of a structure, but you also get to take part in creative aspects, like polishing work.


When you work in concrete, your tasks are as dynamic as the projects you get to help build. Read on to find out what being a concrete finisher really means.

“Since most structures start with it, concrete is literally the foundational skilled trade of the construction industry. It's integral you get it right as all the other work in a project sits on top of how precise and high-quality your product is.”

You’d Love Working in Concrete if…

All in a day's work

The world of concrete construction extends far beyond the everyday sidewalk, involving precision and technical skill at every turn. Because of the permanence of concrete, working with it requires careful planning ahead of any project. Once in progress, timing and attention to detail are essential. For some real examples of what this all looks like, here are some concrete construction tasks that you might encounter as a concrete finisher:

terrazzo floor pattern

Terrazo Floor

This not-your-average-floor is often the work of a concrete finisher with a creative flair. For this particular floor, marble chips of different sizes and shapes swim in a base of cement, epoxy, or resin to create a colorful finish. According to Burgess, “you have the deep grinds and inlays that enhance the beauty of [terrazzo]” and therefore an artistic eye is crucial.

Outside View of the Tanger Outlets Grand Rapids

Flatwork

Chances are if you take a step outside, you’ll walk on flatwork. Flatwork refers to “any work that is…horizontal,” says Randy Bergakker, Job Superintendent at Kent Companies. Constructing sidewalks, curb and gutter, and pavement requires a high level of expertise because “not only do they have to place it correctly, [but] they [also] have to reinforce it correctly and finish it properly,” says Bergakker. Because of the permanence of concrete construction, any errors in this process lead to risk of demolition. Pictured here is Kent Company's Grand Rapids Tanger Outlets project: 23,000 lineal feel of curb and gutter, 195,000 square ft of sidewalks, 64,000 square ft of pavement.

A warehouse floor where the ductilcrete process has been applied - credited to Lithko Contracting LLC of West Chester OH

DuctilCrete Process

One of many concrete construction tasks requiring precision, the DuctilCrete process addresses the issue of curling concrete slabs over time. Using a specialized concrete mix means “you’re able to move stretch floors so their high-lows aren’t going over joints as much,” says Bergakker. A floor with less joints likely equates to less need for maintenance in the future.

Example of a frost wall installed under a structure

Frost Walls

Of high relevance to the extreme Michigan winters, frost walls ensure that building foundations remain sound year-round. With a deeper base, frost walls keep the soil below buildings from freezing and thereby preventing a slew of winter headaches from occurring.

foundational structure with waterproofing and sealant practices applied

Waterproofing/Sealants

To preserve those beautiful builds, an important part of concrete construction is waterproofing and restoration. In order to protect new buildings and restore ones that need some attention, a wide variety of concrete construction tasks are required. This includes sealing crack and expansion joints, waterproofing, expansion cover plates, working on unsound concrete, and more.

Award Winning west michigan concrete projects

West Michigan is home to some of the best commercial concrete companies in the state. Look no further than the Lake Michigan harbors, university stadiums, music amphitheaters, and the city skylines. Below we’ve highlighted some Excellence in Construction award winning work from Kent Companies, Burgess Concrete, and VanLaan Concrete Construction

 

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

A 2019 Excellence in Construction Award Nominee, this project encompassed many moving parts with a timely finish by Burgess Concrete Construction. The $2,032,000 project included a 8,000 square foot kitchen, 13,000 square foot learning center, a transportation center, and a new and improved amphitheater.

Grand Haven Harbor

Concrete restoration and replacement on the South Harbor Pier resulted in a 2019 Excellence in Construction Award Nomination for VanLaan Concrete Construction. Preserving a structure on Lake Michigan involved special planning for transportation of various materials as well as accounting for changes to plans.

601 Bond Apartments

Kent Companies completed this project at neck-breaking speed, earning a 2019 Excellence in Construction Award Nomination. With 16 floors including residential and garage space, the construction required expertise in areas such as baseman foundation and cast-in-place suspended slabs.

Are You Ready?

With concrete, it is definitely possible to get your workout during work hours. Not only that, but concrete also provides a way to combine strength with precision, ambition, and adaptability. With a plethora of labor-intensive tasks and rewarding outcomes, a career in concrete is as dynamic as they come. “Every day is different,” says Burgess. “[The work is] not easy, but it’s not monotonous.”

If you’re interested in learning more about a career in concrete and/or connecting with top West Michigan concrete construction companies you can check out our concrete training courses or connect with us directly for any specific questions. 

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