The Concrete Finisher's Guide, 2006, published by the Portland Cement Association (PCA), is a basic primer for concrete finishers and offers instruction and technical information to anyone involved with concrete—engineers, architects, specification writers, or homeowners. The updated guide is expanded to 73 pages from its 22-page predecessor, Cement Mason's Guide, printed in 1995. And it was “... written in plain language so the message doesn't get lost in technical jargon,” says author Terry C. Collins, who revised the guide along with William C. Panarese and Bentley J. Bradley.

The Concrete Finisher's Guide has sections that define quality concrete, materials selection, water-cement ratio and its effect on strength and durability, and air-entrainment for freeze/thaw climates. It includes a helpful preconstruction checklist beginning with the necessary tools for concrete work and proceeding to subgrade preparation and drainage for exterior and interior slabs. The reinforcement section includes rebar, welded wire mesh, and a discussion on various fiber types. It reviews joint design and the kinds of joints to use for different functions.

The guide's preconstruction checklist discusses protection for interior slabs. It explains to finishers and specifiers who might be considering an overlay concrete floor installation that concrete is a porous material, and vapor transmission through the slab is possible. It talks about the need for vapor retarders such as sheet materials under concrete slabs to reduce vapor transmission that affect the success of adhesives used in flooring. This type of practical explanation makes the guide helpful on all levels.

The guide's placing and finishing sections include placing schedules for small and large installations and step-by-step instructions for coarse, medium, and fine texture finishes. There are instructions on how to build steps, including free-standing stoops, and setting false forms at perimeters to be backfilled with aggregate to allow a consistent concrete thickness. Hot and cold weather placement are discussed, too. A section on preventing surface defects covers everything from dusting and scaling to popouts, discoloration, crazing, and more.

Throughout, technical information is in both metric and inch-pound formats. The guide's technical information is based on current recommended practices. The appendix answers frequently asked questions drawn from PCA's hotline. It includes tables for easily estimating the volume of concrete and gives building tips for installing trouble-free concrete slabs. “People who make decisions that impact the finished product need to understand how the material behaves in different environmental conditions rather than relying on ‘this is what I did in the last situation so it should work now,'” says Collins. Concrete is a simple material that is infinitely complex. It requires a good understanding so that workers can make informed decisions resulting in quality finished concrete. Having the Concrete Finisher's Guide in your personal collection is a step to excellence. For more information and to order, visit