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What Are the Different Types of Trowel Machines?

Lakshmi Sandhana
Lakshmi Sandhana

Trowel machines are finishing machines used in the construction industry to apply a smooth, hard skin or finish to concrete surfaces. Currently, there are two types — ride-on and walk-behind. As the names suggest, a ride-on machine is controlled by an operator seated on the machine itself, while the walk-behind version is controlled by an operator walking behind the machine. The type of trowel machine used to finish a concrete slab depends upon a number of factors.

Ride-on power trowels are cost-effective only when finishing large concrete floors. They save both time and labor as operators just sit on the machines and direct them where needed. It is easy to control a ride-on trowel because they come equipped with steering systems. They allow operators to be more efficient as not much effort is required to operate them. Ride-on power trowels are a lot easier and faster to use than walk-behind machines.

Power trowels are used to impart a smooth surface finish on freshly poured concrete slabs.
Power trowels are used to impart a smooth surface finish on freshly poured concrete slabs.

Formerly, operators used brute force to operate ride-on trowel machines. They had to manipulate mechanical levers to control the machines' movements. The machines were were quite difficult to maneuver and wore out the people who operated them. Thanks to innovation and further development, power-assisted models equipped with hydraulic or electronic steering can currently be found on the market. The latest models sport advanced features, such as variable speed clutches and torque converters.

Some trowel machines may also feature overlapping rotors, though they are becoming less common with time. Ride-on models are used on terraces, floors, and concrete roads to give them a superior finish. They are heavier, however, more expensive, and can be quite difficult to transport. Some operators prefer walk-behind trowel machines to ride-on models because it is easy to miss flaws on the finished surface. As the operator is focused on driving ahead instead of the finished surface, defects in the finish have to be corrected on the next pass.

Walk-behind trowel machines are ideal for smaller surfaces that cannot be tackled by a ride-on model, such as around protrusions or near edges. They typically require lower maintenance, and because they are much lighter, they are quite easy to transport. Their lighter weight also allows finishers to get onto the concrete surface much sooner than if they were using heavier ride-on machines. Some finishers prefer to work with manual models because they believe it allows them to get a better feel for the finish.

It takes a great deal of strength to push walk-behind trowel machines, making them harder to operate, and it also takes longer to complete the work. The great advantage here, though, is that the operator can see the concrete being finished and can address mistakes in the finish immediately. While these machines are cheaper in comparison, they do give the same quality of finish. The engine in a walk-behind model is also much smaller as it only needs to power a single rotor.

Not just a simple machine, walk-behind models can be pretty sophisticated, and some sport a variety of features, such as enclosed gearboxes, vibration-dampening handles, and adjustable handles. Other models come with belly bars, automatic blade pitch control, extension poles, and variable speed clutches. Both these types of trowel machines may be powered by diesel, gas, or electric engines.

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Discussion Comments


Rundocuri, I think that the difference between these types of concrete trowels is that the machine operated kind is best for larger jobs. If you are referring to the finish on the concrete that both types of trowels create, I believe the result is similar. I have done work with a hand trowel, and have also seen the finished product of a concrete area that was completed using a concrete troweling machine. The finishes look very similar to me, though I'm sure it is much easier to use a machined operated trowel when you are working on a large surface area.


I wonder what the difference is between using a traditional hand trowel compared to using a troweling machine?

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    • Power trowels are used to impart a smooth surface finish on freshly poured concrete slabs.
      By: Kadmy
      Power trowels are used to impart a smooth surface finish on freshly poured concrete slabs.