This ride-on trowel allows the operator to go over the edge of the slab, ensuring a consistent, smooth finish.
Joe Nasvik This ride-on trowel allows the operator to go over the edge of the slab, ensuring a consistent, smooth finish.

A new certification program from the American Concrete Institute (ACI), called the “ACI Specialty Commercial/Industrial Concrete Flatwork Finisher/Technician,” will take place at the World of Concrete 2008, Jan. 21–25 in Las Vegas. The program is open to concrete flatwork finishers and technicians.

This program targets the flatwork finisher or technician who wants to demonstrate his or her ability to prepare high-quality flatwork for larger applications, such as large-scale commercial or industrial slab construction in the neighborhood of 100,000 square feet or larger.

The Commercial/Industrial Certification Program was launched in part to respond to the high quality of work that owners and general contractors now demand from finishers and technicians constructing big box-size floors. For the past 10 years, there has been a trend toward lower quality flatwork in large-scale commercial/industrial applications. Ultimately, an initiative was spearheaded by ACI to upgrade flatwork workmanship by implementing a certification program for commercial/industrial flatwork.

“This level of certification is what Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Kroger, Lowes, and similar owners have wanted all along, there just wasn't a program offered that met the real on-the-job qualifications required to build big box floors,” says Dan Dorfmueller, president of D.P. Dorfmueller Co. Inc., Lebanon, Ohio, and chairman of the ACI C640-Craftsman Certification committee that developed the program.

Ultimately, the goal is to establish a higher standard for all commercial/industrial concrete flatwork applications. As an indication that they are working toward this goal, big box contractors will no longer employ flatwork crews without at least one ACI Commercial/Industrial certified finisher.

Here an operator hand trowels along the edge of the slab where is ride-on trowel can't reach, due to the formwork in place.
Joe Nasvik Here an operator hand trowels along the edge of the slab where is ride-on trowel can't reach, due to the formwork in place.

“Architects and engineers can have a great affect on the future of commercial/industrial flatwork by having a number of people on a flatwork crew that are ACI certified,” says Jerry A. Holland, director of design services for Structural Services Inc., Jonesboro, Ga. The rationale behind the certification is that concrete flatwork contractors will require that their finishing crew has the knowledge and expertise to properly achieve the quality work necessary for large-scale flatwork applications. Otherwise, large flatwork contractors risk having to cover the costs of removing and repairing substandard flatwork.

How to Get Certified

Finishers who currently have the ACI Concrete Flatwork Finisher/Technician Certification have taken the first step toward becoming certified as a commercial/industrial finisher. That initial phase of certification is a prerequisite for commercial/industrial certification.

The first Commercial/Industrial Certification Program will be held at World of Concrete 2008. To gain certification, a finisher will be required to pass a written exam and perform floating and finishing operations with a riding trowel.

The written exam consists of 80 multiple-choice questions based on the publication ACI 302.1R-04, “Guide for Concrete Floor & Slab Construction.” In comparison, the initial level exam includes only 50 questions. “The exam includes more technical questions related to high tolerance floors, concrete characteristics, placement procedures, subgrade tolerances, curing procedures, and more,” says Dorfmueller. Applicants must score at least 70% to pass the written exam.

The final requirement involves a hands-on performance evaluation. This includes the ability to properly operate a double-trowel. Demonstrating hands-on the ability to finish high-quality flat-work is the one significant requirement that differentiates the new Commercial/Industrial certification from the present ACI finisher certification.

“We wanted to make sure that anyone being certified under this program had the skills needed to perform at this level,” says Bill Palmer, who will be an instructor for the training course at WOC, along with Dorfmueller. “Having the book knowledge is important, but the hand skills are essential. The finishers who get this certification will have proven that they are in the upper echelon and can be counted on to produce the highest quality work.”

Applicants who successfully pass the written exam and performance evaluation can be certified as Commercial/Industrial finishers. Additionally, three specialty levels of slab construction certification are available. These add-on certifications are:

  • Surface manipulation to achieve high-tolerance floors (superflat)
  • Application of surface treatment hardeners
  • Finishing of silica fume concrete

Each of these add-ons will require the craftsman to correctly respond to a set of written questions and to demonstrate the needed hands-on skills. To obtain a high-tolerance floors certification add-on, an applicant will need to know how to manipulate fresh concrete to achieve floor tolerances in the range of FF50 or Fmin 75 and above.

The second certification add-on for surface treatment hardeners (shake-on hardeners) requires applicants to demonstrate the ability to properly apply and embed hardeners over a desired area.

The silica fume add-on certification requires the applicant to place, finish, control evaporation, and cure silica fume (also called micro-silica) concrete.

Program Scheduled

Currently, the Commercial/Industrial Certification Program is scheduled only for the upcoming World of Concrete 2008. But the goal is to take the certification program to a national level next year. “Eventually during the 2008 calendar year, I believe the local sponsoring groups will pick up the program and offer it on a local/regional basis,” says Dorfmueller, who can train and administer both finishing certification programs.

This second-tier Commercial/Industrial certification for flatwork offers big box owners and general contractors confidence in the finisher's ability to produce high-quality flatwork. As owners and general contractors continually demand higher quality flatwork, a requirement for Commercial/Industrial certification will become the norm.

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This article is part of our October "Tools for the Concrete Pro" series. You can read other articles in the series by clicking the links below