Each year volunteers meet in Las Vegas the week before World of Concrete to put down a protective membrane over the 3-dimensional pitched parking lot, build level and square forms, and place and finish approximately 1000 square feet of concrete for the Artistry in Decorative Concrete demos. The Convention Center requires that their asphalt parking lot be returned in its original condition, creating a challenge for setting up formwork quickly and accurately. But when experienced contractors come together with their ideas, the group learns from the collective experience and the work gets done. Everyone also has an opportunity to try out state-of-the-art tools. Following are some tips and comments about tools that can help you with your work.

Laying out the pads

Chalk lines are more and more becoming a thing of the past, replaced by laser levels and layout instruments, which can quickly provide square and plumb lines to guide formwork. The team used an instrument to quickly establish square lines for each pad. A small laser level with a magnetic mounting bracket was used to level the formwork.

Securing forms to asphalt

An old finisher trick is to drill 5/32- or 3/16-inch holes in concrete or asphalt, insert a piece of tie wire, and pound in a 16 penny double-headed nail. A crowbar is required to pull it out afterward. To drill holes fast, we used a 36-V lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery-operated hammer drill—avoiding a long extension cord tethered to a generator—and the tool performed well.

Switching from nails to screws

Using screws to join forms has benefits. They don't jar or loosen forms when you screw them in and adjustments can be made easily afterward. Screws also can be used over again. The best way to use them effectively is with an impact driver—not a drill driver. Though contractors aren't very aware of them, they may never want to place screws with a drill/driver again. Very little force is needed to hold an impact driver against the screw, they never strip the head of the screw, and you can't stop them—sinking a 3-inch screw in wood isn't difficult at all. The forming crew used small 12-V Li-ion impact drivers that fit easily in their pockets.

Cutting forms

Going cordless makes work go easier. We used of a lightweight 36-V Li-ion circular saw that could easily be moved anywhere. High-voltage batteries store more energy so they don't need recharging as often.

Check out the 2009 Artistry demonstrations.