Concrete Finishers - What They Do

Concrete finishers smooth and finish freshly poured concrete, apply curing or surface treatments and install, maintain and restore various masonry structures such as foundations, floors, ceilings, sidewalks, roads, patios and highrise buildings. They are employed by construction companies, cement and concrete contractors and manufacturers of precast concrete products, or they may be self-employed.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Check formwork, granular base and steel reinforcement materials and direct placement of concrete into forms or onto surfaces according to grade
  • Fill hollows and remove high spots to smooth freshly poured concrete
  • Operate power vibrator to compact concrete
  • Level top surface of concrete according to grade and depth specifications using straightedge or float
  • Impart desired finish to concrete surfaces using hand and power tools
  • Install anchor bolts, steel plates, door sills and other fixtures in freshly poured concrete
  • Apply hardening and sealing compounds to cure surface of concrete
  • Waterproof, damp-proof and restore concrete surfaces
  • Repair, resurface and replace worn or damaged sections of floors, walls, roads and other concrete structures.

Job titles

  • precast concrete finisher
  • cement finisher apprentice
  • cement mason
  • concrete finisher
  • concrete mason
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of a two- to four-year apprenticeship program or Over three years of work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry courses in cement finishing are usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
  • Trade certification for concrete finishers is compulsory in Quebec and available, but voluntary, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.
  • Trade certification for cement masons is available, but voluntary, in Ontario.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified concrete finishers upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.

Essential Skills


  • Read brief notes from co-workers, e.g. read notes from co-workers to learn about equipment faults. (1)
  • Read directions and handling instructions, e.g. read mixing instructions on the labels of products, such as cement curing retardants, concrete sealing compounds and colourants. (2)
  • Read memos and notices, e.g. read memos to learn about changes to worksite procedures and notices to learn about upcoming meetings. (2)
  • Read workplace safety materials, e.g. read Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to understand the safe use and storage of products, such as sealants. (2)
  • Read text entries in a variety of forms, e.g. read work orders to learn about job tasks and work sites. (2)
  • May read magazine and website articles to keep current on industry trends and broaden their knowledge of concrete finishing techniques and materials. (3)
  • Read a variety of operating manuals, e.g. may read manuals to learn about the set-up, operation and maintenance of equipment, such as power screeds and trowels. (3)
  • May read regulations and bylaws, e.g. read regulations and bylaws governing the installation of sidewalks and concrete patios. (4)

Document use

  • Observe symbols, icons and signs, e.g. scan signs at new job sites to identify workplace hazards and to locate emergency exits and safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers. (1)
  • Locate data on labels, e.g. locate product names, mixing ratios, drying times, ideal application conditions and coverage rates on labels of concrete finishing compounds. (1)
  • Locate data in lists and schedules, e.g. locate specifications, product identification numbers and quantities in suppliers' product lists. (2)
  • Locate data in forms, e.g. read work orders to locate addresses, clients' names and the dimensions of floors, sidewalks and driveways to be poured and finished. (2)
  • Complete forms, e.g. enter amount of concrete used, set-up and finishing times and the number of wall panels produced into production reports. (2)
  • Interpret and locate data in scale drawings, e.g. interpret scale drawings to determine the location and orientation of door and window openings in precast wall panels. (3)


  • Write reminders and short notes to co-workers, e.g. write notes to inform co-workers about worksite hazards. (1)
  • Write text entries in forms and log books, e.g. describe equipment malfunctions in equipment inspection forms and log books. (2)
  • May describe project details on estimate sheets, e.g. describe job tasks on estimate sheets and work orders. (2)
  • May write reports to describe events leading up to workplace accidents, e.g. write about injuries and events when completing reports for workers' compensation boards. (2)


  • May receive cash, debit and credit card payments and make change. (1)
  • Measure distances, angles and volumes using measuring tools, such as tapes, measuring wheels and graduated containers, e.g. measure the dimension of door openings using tape measures; and the volumes of aggregate materials, cement and additives needed for walkways using graduated containers. (1)
  • Compare measurements to specifications, e.g. compare lengths, widths and depths of foundation footings to dimensions specified in construction drawings. (1)
  • Estimate distances and slopes, e.g. estimate slopes for floors around drains, given upper and lower benchmarks. (1)
  • May prepare delivery schedules, e.g. schedule the deliveries of concrete to coincide with the availability of workers to rake and level. (2)
  • May calculate time intervals and set timelines for pouring, finishing, curing and protection tasks. (2)
  • Calculate the volume of concrete and quantities of finishing products for jobs, e.g. calculate amount of cement, sand, gravel and water needed for specific volumes of concrete. (2)
  • Calculate average cure times for various types of concrete. (2)
  • Estimate times to complete tasks using past experience as a guide, e.g. estimate finishing times for concrete floors, given the size of the job, the number of workers available and prevailing weather conditions. (2)
  • May calculate amounts for estimates and invoices. They multiply hours worked by labour rates and add amounts for materials, supplies and applicable taxes. (3)
  • May take precise measurements of concrete products and job sites using specialized instruments, e.g. measure stress on strengthening cables using tools, such as stress gauges. (3)

Oral communication

  • Speak with suppliers to learn about delivery schedules. (1)
  • Exchange information about job tasks with co-workers, general contractors and clients, e.g. speak with clients to clarify changes to project specifications. (2)
  • Discuss technical details of concrete finishing, e.g. discuss required adjustments to concrete mixtures and finishing techniques with general contractors and supervisors. (2)
  • Participate in group discussions, e.g. discuss safety, goals, procedures, job timeframes and projects during staff meetings. (2)
  • Explain concrete finishing techniques to apprentices and labourers, e.g. explain how to gauge the look and feel of concrete at critical stages in the finishing process. (3)


  • Find that late, missing and poorly coordinated deliveries of concrete threaten the quality of concrete finishing jobs. They find extra labourers to help pour, rake and level the concrete and encourage their co-workers to work quickly to finish the over-mixed concrete, which sets more rapidly. (2)
  • Find that preparatory work on job sites is inadequate. They ask labourers to carry out preparatory work according to specifications, to ensure that forms are level and that gravel is deep enough. They notify site supervisors of delays. (2)
  • Discover that work sites are inaccessible and concrete deliveries cannot be made as planned. They inform their supervisors and call for pump trucks. They contact suppliers to send retardants to slow down the setting process. (2)
  • Experience equipment breakdowns during finishing jobs. They try to repair equipment before the concrete becomes unworkable. If repair efforts fail, they work with available hand tools and call supervisors to request additional workers. They may also attempt to delay the setting and curing processes by using retardants. (2)
  • Choose tools, methods and products for concrete finishing and repair, e.g. consider the consistency of the concrete, weather conditions and the availability of time and labour when selecting concrete finishing techniques. (2)
  • Decide on the order of tasks and their priorities, e.g. decide the order in which to pour concrete footings. (2)
  • Decide to report unsafe work conditions, e.g. act on requirements to report unsafe work conditions by discussing their concerns and decisions with co-workers and supervisors. (2)
  • Evaluate the safety of work sites. They observe elements, such as available space to manoeuvre around large vehicles and the presence of proper ventilation units, guard rails and safety cones. They consider the stability of access ramps for trucks. They take note of potential hazards, such as improperly stored tools and broken equipment. (2)
  • Evaluate the preparedness of job sites for pouring and finishing concrete. They consider adequate access for deliveries of concrete and aspects, such as sufficient lighting and protection from air currents for finishing. They also assess elements, such as the accuracy and solidity of formwork, the proper placement of rebar and depth and evenness of gravel beds. (2)
  • May plan finishing tasks on several work sites, taking into account the time for concrete to set and cure. Their job task plans may be disrupted by weather conditions, rush jobs and unexpected repairs. They provide supervisors with time estimates for job rescheduling when necessary. (2)
  • Find information about concrete finishing jobs. They speak with supervisors, site managers, other tradespeople and clients to learn about project specifications and work sites. They review work orders and technical drawings to locate information, such as dimensions and the locations of drains and underground cables. They may read tenders and worker orders to learn about upcoming projects. (2)
  • Find information on the operation and maintenance of new equipment by reading instruction manuals, viewing videos and by talking to co-workers and equipment suppliers. (2)
  • Learn about job hazards by inspecting job sites, reading Material Safety Data Sheets, participating in safety briefings and speaking with co-workers. (2)
  • May select equipment and suppliers, e.g. decide which brand and type of equipment to use on projects by considering specifications, costs, ease of use and personal preferences. (3)
  • Assess the quality of concrete finishing jobs. They take measurements, observe the appearance and consistency of concrete, check for hairline cracks and evaluate the aesthetic appearance of decorative concrete work. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use calculators and personal digital assistant (PDA) devices to complete numeracy-related tasks, such as calculating material requirements. (1)
  • May use word processing software to prepare job estimates and invoices. (2)
  • May use spreadsheets to tally costs for job estimates and invoices. (2)
  • May use databases to retrieve forms, such as change orders. (2)
  • May use databases to retrieve and print construction drawings. (2)
  • May use bookkeeping, billing and accounting software to input and track sales, produce invoices and estimates and print reports, such as income and expenses statements. (2)
  • May use communication software to exchange emails with clients, suppliers and co-workers. (2)
  • Access online information posted by suppliers, manufacturers, unions and associations to stay current on industry trends and practices. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by apprenticeship trainers, suppliers, employers and associations. (2)
  • May use computer-controlled layout equipment, such as total stations and smart levels, to determine the location, slope and angles of foundations and precast concrete panels. (2)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Concrete finishers coordinate and integrate job tasks teams with other finishers and labourers to complete jobs rapidly. They also coordinate job tasks with drivers, surveyors and other tradespeople on work sites.

Continuous Learning

Concrete finishers typically learn on the job. They watch members of their work units demonstrate new finishing techniques and they discuss concrete finishing and workplace safety with them. They may read product labels and forms to learn the handling and use of new products to treat and cure concrete. They may occasionally take health and safety workshops and trade skills training provided by their employers.