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How to Choose a Hand Trowel


How to Choose a Concrete Hand Trowel

For successful project completion, you need the right trowel for the job. But how do you know which concrete hand trowel to use? It depends on multiple factors – the size of the trowel, the scope of the job itself, and even the trowel’s specific handle can make all the difference.

Let’s look at the different attributes of concrete hand trowels and how to choose the one that’s suitable for your project.

Shape, Size, and Handle Material

  • Shape – The demands of the project, as well as user preference, can dictate the shape of the trowel you use. Grooves are more likely to happen with square end trowels because their sharp corners can dig into the concrete. Round end trowels have less of a chance of leaving grooves due to their lack of sharp corners. Another option is a round front/square back trowel. These trowels can help prevent gouging of the surface due to their rounded front while the square end is great for edge work.·     
  • Size – The size of the trowel makes a difference. While large trowels are heavy, bigger, and can hold more mortar, it doesn’t mean they offer better productivity. It all depends on how the contractor uses it. A larger trowel means more effort, while a smaller trowel reduces the amount of effort over time. The general rule for selecting a size for a trowel is how it fits in your hand. Does it feel comfortable? Does your arm hurt after you use it for a few hours? If so, get a smaller trowel.

  • The trowel handle – Don’t overlook the handle size and material of your trowel. While handle sizes only vary by an inch or so, it can help with fit and overall balance. Tapered handles offer a varied grip size, which may be more comfortable and allow for pinch grip. The material of the handle matters too, as it can impact your safety and overall work. Leather and wood provide better grips than rubber or plastic handles; however, they’re more expensive. Leather handles may also absorb sweat, making it more difficult to manipulate the trowel.

Balance, Durability, Flexibility, and Value


  • Balance – Trowels that have their balancing point on the blade as close to the shaft as possible are preferred by many bricklayers and masonry contractors. If a trowel’s handle is too heavy, it will be tiresome to use.

  • Durability – While all trowels wear eventually, the slower it happens, the better. Steel quality has a lot to do with the durability of the trowel (see 5 Types of Steel Trowels).

  • Flexibility – Good flexibility offers less strain on your wrist while cutting bricks or spreading mortar.

  • Value – Concrete trowels range in price from 10 bucks well into the hundreds. That being said, generally you get what you pay for.


Common Types of Hand Trowel Blades


  1. Stainless Steel - stiffer and heavier than carbon steel. Used for concrete and plaster. 

    a)     Golden Stainless Steel - Similar to stainless, but thinner blades for fine edges. Used mainly for plaster work, and concrete. Highly rust resistant.
    b)    Swedish Stainless Steel - Similar to golden stainless. Used for concrete and plaster work. Highly rust resistant. 

  2. Standard High Carbon Steel - strong, lightweight, and flexible. Harder than stainless steel. Used for concrete and plaster work. 

  3. Blue Steel - hard durable metal with some spring and flexibility. Good for concrete and pool work.

The Type of Work Being Performed


Brick Trowel – Use a brick trowel for laying bricks in wall construction. Brick trowels are like big pointing trowels. The shape of the blade gives you a lot of control of the mortar when picking up and spreading it. 

Common types include Philadelphia, Narrow London, and Wide London. A Philadelphia trowel is best used for blockwork since it can hold more mortar on the blade. The Narrow London trowel is ideal for standard brickwork and has a diamond shape. A Wide London trowel has a rounded heel and is mostly used for blockwork, even though it can be used for brick. 

Finishing Trowel – If you need to smooth out cement or plaster, use a finishing trowel. A round end finishing trowel has a square back end and a rounded front edge, which allow for tight corner access and a smooth surface.

Fresno Trowel – A steel trowel that’s attached to a bull-float handle, a fresno should be used just as a hand-held steel trowel. It allows finishers to trowel without walking onto the slab. While they produce a smooth finish, fresno trowels don’t provide the same compaction that a hand trowel achieves.

Margin Trowel – Used mostly for detail work, margin trowels fit in small spots and are good for scraping corners and edges. They’re useful when laying tile, installing hardwood flooring, and working with concrete. 

Pool Trowel – Made for curved, smooth surfaces, a pool trowel has a flat blade and rounded edges. Used in finish coats, pool trowels are generally made for applying coatings to concrete on swimming pool decks.
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