Consider the broom finish. Because steel trowel finishes are “slippery when wet,” the broom finish has been used for years to create nonskid surfaces on driveways, garage floors, sidewalks and loading docks. It’s not necessarily pretty, but it works — it’s a utilitarian texture.
But what if you want texture and style too? Can a broom finish provide both?
“A broom finish isn’t unattractive,” says Gary Bolden, president of Marion Brush Mfg. “Most contractors tend to go at right angles, and that can be, well, kind of boring. An approach as simple as dividing the substrate into sections and brooming them with opposing diagonal patterns can create a more aesthetically pleasing look. It’s a subtle alternative, but it can make the difference between a driveway or sidewalk that looks like all the rest and one that people notice.”
What about as a means to spread a secondary coating, like a stain or sealer? Can a broom do that without leaving telltale marks? Yes, according to Anthony Jones, business development manager at Riviera Brush Co.
“We realized a long time ago that brooms and brushes can be used for much more than to create a simple nonskid surface,” he says. “Contractors can use brooms to apply water-based solid colors, acid stains and some sealers. You may choose to use a broom that leaves a distinctive bristle mark and alternate directions for an interesting pattern, or you can use a specialized broom that leaves no lines to massage the product into the concrete surface.
This technique can be particularly useful in stamped or other rough applications where the secondary coating tends to pool in the lower areas. Smaller brooms, like a 4-inch round hand-held, can be used to achieve a faux finish.”
Choosing the right broom for your needs requires some thought. The kind of push broom you might pick up at the local home improvement or hardware store will almost never work well for laying down a quality broom finish on concrete. They tend to be too heavy and too stiff. They have more body than a finishing broom — five or six rows of bristles versus the two rows that are typical of most finishing brooms. As a result, they tend to pull away the cream and exposing the aggregate. Generally, finishing brooms for concrete have softer bristles than do standard construction brooms.
Brooms with stiffer bristles may be appropriate when a truly rough nonskid surface is desired — for example, in areas where ice is a persistent concern.
Finishing-broom bristles may be made from a variety of materials, ranging from horsehair to plastic fiber to an array of synthetic fibers.
Contractors should also consider the handles on their brooms. Unlike standard brooms, many finishing broom handles bolt to the broom head, allowing the operator to adjust the angle at which the bristle meets the concrete surface. Some brooms are designed with no handles at all, the idea being that the operator will pull them across the surface with a rope. These are useful on concrete pours that are too large to reach with a typical broom handle or in tight areas where a handle would be difficult to manipulate.
With some simple care, a finishing broom can last a long time. Bristles should be thoroughly cleaned after each use (a good hosing should do the trick) to keep excess concrete paste from accumulating. After cleaning, the broom should be allowed to dry completely.
To risk stating the obvious, the key to being satisfied with your finishing broom lies in doing a little research and choosing the broom that fits your needs.
Bon Tool Co. — The Weigh-Less Concrete Finishing Brush
Weigh-Less Finishing Brushes from Bon Tool Co. provide a simple and efficient way to texture concrete. The brushes are available with bristles that are either medium in thickness or coarse, and they come in a variety of widths from 24 inches to 60 inches. Brushes with smaller widths are easier to manipulate and will give the user more finishing options. Replacement bristle fiber strips are available in all widths.
Kraft Tool Co. — Concrete Aluminum Finishing Broom
This lightweight aluminum broom offers three styles of bristles to choose from: medium/general purpose, extra soft, and natural horsehair and poly blend. It’s available in five sizes ranging from 24 inches to 72 inches. All bristles are epoxy-glued for strength and straightness and have lightweight aluminum heads.
This lightweight curb brush has a built-in comfortable wood handle for finishing newly laid concrete. It’s 12 inches long with soft poly horsehair-blend bristles.
Kraft Tool Co. — Pool Finish Brush
This lightweight 12-inch brush is designed specifically for pool finishes. It has a comfortable wood handle, custom Nylex fiber bristles, and is billed as being good for exposing aggregate on areas surrounding pools.
Marion Brush Mfg. Co. — Auto Glide with Brush Inserts
The Auto Glide is designed to be used with handles. It automatically tilts on both push and pull passes, eliminating the need to lift your brush across your pour. Available in 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-foot widths, it offers five separate color-coded texturing brush inserts, with textures ranging from soft-bristle to coarse.
Marion Brush Mfg. Co. — The Chameleon Single Brush
The Chameleon Single features a unique adjustable push-pull design that allows you to adjust the degree of angle on both push and pull passes. It uses the sides of the bristles instead of the ends to produce a superior brush finish. It’s available in 4-, 6- and 8-foot widths and with five separate texturing color-coded brush inserts.
Marion Brush Mfg. Co. — The Chameleon Trac II Kit
This handleless concrete finishing system (which features the Chameleon Trac II rope brush) is designed to be pulled across a concrete surface, leaving a uniform textured finish in its wake. The rope brush converts easily from its handleless twin-brush form into two individual brushes to be used with the Marion Multi-Use adapter and handles. It also converts into a bull float with brush or a fresno trowel with brush by adding Marion adapter bar kits. It’s available in 4-, 6- and 8-foot lengths. A standard kit includes: Chameleon Trac II soft (black) brush inserts, two medium brush inserts (orange), two stiff brush inserts (green), Multi-Use adapter and carry case.
Both kits come with one complete brush, two refills and a lockable carry case.
Riviera Brush Co. — Orange-Crete Applicator Brushes
Orange-Crete brushes are designed with the optimal combination of fibers to withstand the harsh environment inherent to the decorative concrete industry. Unlike conventional brushes, an Orange-Crete brush features more uniquely configured fibers and a more exacting manufacturing process. The fibers are less likely to fall out onto a concrete surface due to wear or bend permanently, losing flexibility.
The blocks come in three sizes, all of which feature standard thread holes and flagged fiber bristles 2 1/2 inches in length. The blocks come in 8-, 9- and 10-inch widths.
The blocks feature two threaded holes for use with multiple angles. They are billed as being ideal for faux and small-area applications.