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I have gone through several iterations of screeding across laser-leveled wood forms. The results have not been pretty: i've had to rake down high spots and do have some low spots that will subsequently need to be filled by the self-leveler compound. But the latter is very expensive and the overall time and product are not acceptable.

It seems that screeding by oneself is actually not considered to be particularly easy. Here is one resource Masonry and concrete Screeding

Screeding With an Assistant

Working with an assistant is critical for perfect screeding. If not, you're kneeling in the sand layer ahead of the screed tool. The screed tool will help to smooth out your knee and shoe depressions. But it's best not to kneel in the sand in the first place. When you work with an assistant, both of you can remain outside of the project area.

In addition, screeding tools can be hard to handle. Screeding a 3-foot-wide walkway is manageable by one person. But when the screeding tool is a full-length two-by-four (8 feet or even longer), it is very difficult for one person to effectively handle the tool. You'll need two people—one at each end—to control this heavier, larger tool.

Now I've seen videos of folks doing an excellent job by themselves. But my opinion is that they're gifted at this and their approach is not directly replicable by myself.

Some of the things I've tried:

  • use a wetter pour. This helps but then it is also not recommended due to the possibility of excessive water molecules being embedded into the concrete thus weakening it.

  • level level level again as the concrete is laid out. This just did not go well: I was not able to achieve a consistent level even giving an excessive amount of attention to it

  • [not tried]: Use small width forms, say 36 to 40 inches (about a meter). This would certainly make the screeding easier but that's too much work.

  • The 2x4 (possibly with attached handles that I screwed in) could not stay flush with the forms. I just could not make it happen. Probably mostly due to asking myself to apply more force (across 6+ feet / 2 meter or so) than I can muster. But there must be more to it here; I'm missing something technique-wise

  • There ends up being waves in both directions (parallel and perpindicular to the forms)

Another aspect of the challenge is that in the heat of battle - with the concrete surrounding me in all directions - I get nervous about making a mess of it. I have tried out those spiked concrete shoes - which don't help almost at all vs regular boots (and add to the situation constant opportunities to twist an ankle when carrying/lifting 60 lb / 27kg bags and manuevering 300+ pounds / 135kg of concrete in the wheelbarrow). Throwing thin plywood floating sheets on the concrete works better but the waves tend to take advantage of that situation to hide themselves underneath.

My current thought is: "well I'm basically giving up on the single-person-hero approach to screeding" so then the options are:

  • insist on finding a partner to work that 6 or 8 foot (2 to 2.6m) screed with me on either end
  • get a moderately pricey power screeder to help out

I would like not to depend on having someone else around so I've identified a moderate priced screed/vibrator tool. But even with that in place I suspect things will go better but still not "smoothly". I'm missing something here, and am soliciting tips on how to force the concrete fix into "behaving" level wise.

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    You practice it everyday for ten or twenty years even you can make a video that makes look easy to do by yourself. There are cement floor finishers, that their only job is to come after the cement is pour and finish/level the top of the cement.
    – crip659
    Jul 17, 2023 at 23:52
  • I'll also have videos ripe for plenty of unintended entertainment Jul 17, 2023 at 23:53
  • They are the good ones. The blooper reels.
    – crip659
    Jul 17, 2023 at 23:56
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    Your quote appears to be about screeding sand, (as for a paver base) while your question seems to be about screeding concrete, so you might want to look more at concrete resources. Or a different chapter, anyway. If you're going to one-person the job, you can (and probably should, especially if it's one person and a mixer, which it appears to be since you're lifting bags) adapt the way you form and pour for being more do-able by one person, rather than form it up as if you had a crew and a concrete truck...
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 18, 2023 at 0:56
  • I have watched several dozen videos, most of them concrete with an occasional sand/screed. Jul 18, 2023 at 2:38

1 Answer 1

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Watched a bunch more youtube vid's. Couple of additional things I noticed:

  • top off a a larger area with mud
  • screed a "pad" on either side of a section and possibly in the middle that is completely to the correct level
  • use the pad to drive the screeding

The pad can be used to divide an overly wide section (for one person anyways) into more manageable sections.

The challenge will be to get enough mud down in time that it does not harden. I will need to find some plasticizer to allow more time for it.

Update to plan

  • I think there is an issue with the way I've been placing the wet concrete. I have been laying it out in approximately 30 inch x 90 inch square sections (since my screed lengths are 90 inches). Instead I will try out doing 18 inch x 90 inch sections . I can cover that entire 18 inch depth with the screed board (a simple 2x4) from "dry ground" for the required sawing motion. I will need to then be able to pour a few of those 18 inch sections before subsequently beginning the float.

I believe part of the issues I have had is not being able to manipulate the 8 foot screed-board with full force due to being on my knees in the mud. Let's see if standing/kneeling outside the mud will provide sufficient additional leverage.

Footnote Alternatives to DIY were well researched:

  • I have a small-load (three yards) and that's not a truck sweet spot: $495+ just for the truck to arrive and then they're $240/hour overtime after 30 mins. In addition I do not have reliable help so I might end up on my own _and with a lot of placing and finishing to do under the gun
  • The basement location requires to wheelbarrow down a ways and then navigate inside: so there is a significant additional time component to ready-made (I'm not paying the additional $600 or so for a pumping company).
  • There are u-haul's but they come in a trailer that is not a mixer. At 45 mins away (and no mixing) they're already mostly set at the moment they arrive at my driveway.
  • I did try a high-end mixer rental but it did not work even though I was meticulous on following the instructions. The process of renting a vehicle just to haul the mixer and then returning it all was time consuming [and not free]. I'd rather lift bags of concrete than repeat that process ;)

I did not arrive at doing three yards of concrete myself with a big smile on my face but due to the alternatives - including getting reliable help - being even more risky (and/or much more expensive)

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  • More concrete is very easy to get - you have a concrete truck deliver it. You can even have them put air-entrainment admixtures in so it's easier to move without losing strength to being too wet. If you're mixing small batches, you should form and pour small sections.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 18, 2023 at 1:11
  • I'll address this in my answer as a footnote Jul 18, 2023 at 1:24

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