The Ultimate Guide To Using A Power Trowel

A power trowel is an essential tool for any home or commercial construction project. The versatility of this machine makes it perfect for many different jobs. Whether you're a professional or just doing some home renovations, the right power trowel can make your work easier and more efficient.

How do you know which one to buy? How To Use One? Or The Safety Precautions For Operations? Here's everything you need to know about the power trowel:

What is a Power Trowel?

Sometimes referred to as a power float, a power trowel is a piece of equipment used in construction for applying smooth finishes on concrete slabs. Power trowels are available in two versions; ride and walk-behind trowels. The power trowels are operated differently despite serving one purpose.

For instance, you operate a ride on a power trowel by sitting on its seat and controlling it. On the other hand, you can operate a walk-behind power trowel by walking behind it, as its name suggests.

All in all, this equipment is important in concrete pour troweling as it allows the concrete to fully undergo the finishing process while squeezing out any residual water. By removing the water guarantees, the concrete slab lowers the chances of cracking.

Types of Power Trowels

The two types of power trowels are operated differently. Below is the working mechanism of each:

Ride-on power trowel

The machine is very economical when you want to finish a large concrete area. It helps save time and labor since the operator has smoother operations than the walk behind the power trowel.

Most of these powered trowels are developed to use electronic and hydraulic steering. Some even more advanced models feature variable speed clutches and torque converters.

All ride-on trowels should be used on terraces, floors, and concrete roads as they provide a superior finish. However, it is more difficult to spot a flaw when using a ride-on power trowel. Therefore, most operators prefer working with walk-behind models.

bartell global ride on power trowel

Bartell Gloval Titan 78 Power Trowel

Walk-behind power trowel

The machine is ideally used where a ride-on model cannot reach. For example, near a surface edge or around a protrusion. It is lighter compared to the ride-on model, thus much easier to transport. Some finishers prefer the manual models of walk-behind trowels as they are the best when observing the surface.

However, the equipment is quite challenging to operate, considering you have to use a lot of strength to push it. The best thing about this equipment is that it produces the same finish quality as its ride-on counterpart despite being cheaper.

In addition, its engine is smaller as it requires a single rotor to power up. It contains other parts, such as vibration-dampening handles and enclosed gearboxes.

power trowel walk behind


Bartell Global 36" Power Trowel

How Does a Power Trowel Work?

The various power trowels work differently depending on whether you are floating or finishing the concrete surface. The two methods are explained below:

Walk-behind - Steering this pushable trowel is quite simple as it is similar to a floor buffer. If you pull on the handle, the machine will move to the left. Consequently, it will move to the right when you push the handle down.

Ride-on - Steering a riding trowel is also simple but not as simple as steering a walk-behind model. After sitting on the machine, you will see two control levers for steering the machine, one on the right and the other on the left.

The left lever moves forward and backward while moving the machine in the same directions. The right one moves forward, backward, left, and right directions while steering the machine in the same direction.

The various control levers are crucial in providing a wide range of movement flexibility. They ensure that the operator covers the whole concrete slab area without leaving spots.

See our range of Bartell Global Power Trowels.

How to Use A Power Trowel To Finish A Concrete Slab

Test the Slab

The slab should be poured a few hours before troweling. Thus, consider doing a footprint test. A footprint test involves stepping on the concrete and measuring the depth of the imprint. You should only continue with troweling if the imprint is at least ⅛ Inch deep.

Choose the Suitable Equipment Variety

The two types of trowels, ride-on, and walk-behind are designed for the same purpose but differently. For instance, you would require a walk-behind trowel to finish a small area, let's say 1000 feet squared, as you can push around the concrete floor.

Rooms with larger slabs require ride-on power trowels so that you do the finishing much quicker before the slab dries out. You can either use floating blades and finishing blades or combination blades. In addition, choose a ride-on trowel that can carry your weight around.


It involves leveling the concrete slab. It reduces the uneven spots. The technique requires the machine to have float blades or combined blades.

Float blades are used in smoothening all the hollow areas, bumps, and uneven zones. When floating, consider running the machine at three-quarters of its full speed to keep the blades flat.

Flat float blades will prevent the trowel from digging and ruining the concrete. After moving the trowel all over the concrete floor on a flat float blade, turn the blades perpendicularly. Move the trowel all over the concrete again to finish any spot you might have earlier missed.


Finishing concrete is the last step of using a power trowel. It requires you to install finishing blades on your trowel, whether a ride-on or a walk-behind. Still, you can use combo blades. However, this time, unlike in the case above, you will turn the blades to full pitch and run the trowel at its full speed.

Always remember that you are finishing and sealing the concrete's pore. Thus, consider applying high pressure on the slab when finishing. In addition, run the machine over the concrete several times to remove any spots. You may consider further finishing depending on your concrete finish requirements, whether matte or glossy.

Other concrete tools you may be interested in including concrete floor grinders and concrete sarifiers.

Safety Tips

The first precaution to observe when operating a trowel is wearing the right gear. I.e., steel-toed boots, safety goggles, and ear protection. In addition, use the equipment for its right purpose and always turn it off when interchanging the blades. When operating the machine at corners, reduce its momentum to avoid tipping it.

Choosing The Right Power Trowel Blade

Power trowel blades come in four types. The varieties are explained below:

1. Float blades; are used during the first pass for leveling out small bumps and ridges. The blades usually slide over the finishing blades,

2. Finish blades; are made of either plastic or steel. Finish blades are used after floating to smoothen and burn the floor surface.

3. Combo blades; consist of a combination of both floating and finishing blades. They can be continuously used in both floating and finishing processes without having to change.

4. Float pans; Float pans are used instead of float blades during the first pass.

The various trowels come with a special feature for controlling the blade pitch. Some have rotating pitch control knobs that can either increase or decrease the blade pitch.


Understanding and operating a power trowel will not be a difficult task if you follow the instructions properly. This ensures your safety and protects yourself, those around you, and the equipment itself from damage or malfunctioning. However, the critical part you should always remember when working with a power trowel is HOW much to use it, and WHEN to use it, on your concrete.

It'll take experience and fitness to efficiently use it and learn all the related troweling nuances of "how much and how long."

Following the recommended techniques and equipment operating manual and becoming familiar with how your machine works and behaves on a concrete surface will make you one of the professional artisans who can finish quality concrete.