Professionals like to leave their signature on a job well done – a perfect dovetail joint on a cabinet drawer, a streak-free stain on an oak mantel, a smooth-as-glass concrete driveway or a “stack of dimes” TIG weld on a steel frame that wouldn’t necessarily even be seen by the customer.
When it comes to concrete finishing, often the last thing to touch the surface of the still-wet concrete is a power screed. In the hands of a skilled operator, a power screed can give you that done-by-a-professional look you desire while ensuring proper function and form. Even if you do only occasional concrete work, and even though there are cheaper, manual-use screeds available, you should consider a power screed as a necessity.
In most cases, owning your own power screed would pay for itself in about half a season over rentals, especially if you factor in your time or an employee’s time in picking it up and returning it to the rental store.
So, what kind of power screed? What brand? What size? There are more options, more after-market add-ons and more quality grades than you might expect. But fear not, we have perused said options and now bring you the definitive list of Best Power Screeds.
Best Feature: Easy Blade Change
The big advantage all power screeds have over hand-screeding is, of course, the engine. With a 37.7 cc engine, the Tomahawk can work a section of concrete up to four times faster than doing it manually. Or if you want to think of it in these terms, one man using this power screed can do the work of four men pulling a manual screed across the surface.
A 37.7 cc engine represents the median standard for the power screeds on our list – neither leading the class nor lagging behind. There isn’t a wide range between top and bottom anyway. What you want is an engine that starts easy and runs smoothly. Don’t become obsessed with getting the biggest engine on the block. You’ll find it won’t make that much of a difference.
The engine on the Tomahawk vibrates the bar at 7000 RPMs, which helps disperse the wet concrete in predictable patterns and keeps the unit in an easy-to-control glide over the surface. This is far more important than overall power. You want to be able to pull this thing across the surface with just the lightest of touches.
While the engine is producing vibrations on the business end of this unit, the operator is largely shielded from the vibration, with shock mounts on the blade mount bar and cushiony rubber hand grips at the handles. The throttle control provides precise vibration for the various consistencies of wet concrete you’re likely to encounter.
The screed itself is very lightweight – 20 pounds with just the engine and 35-40 pounds overall with a blade in place. Speaking of blades, this product listing is for the unit with a 14-foot high grade aluminum blade. You can order smaller blades – 12-foot, 10-foot and eight-foot – for proportionately less money.
Changing out blades is a piece of cake. You simply loosen three bolts on the blade mount, remove the blade and put the new one on, aligning it to the same holes as the first blade. This can be done in two minutes or less, so they say.
The framework is strong, but lightweight, with cross-bracing used to its greatest advantage. There is a rod that attaches to the handle and serves as a “kick stand,” so that when the catering truck arrives at the jobsite, you can prop the screed on the kickstand, and it won’t fall over in the concrete.
Proper concrete finishing does not mean perfectly flat. You must create a “crown” that is higher than the rest of the slab so that rainwater rolls off to the side. With the Tomahawk, the ease with which the operator can glide the blade over the wet concrete makes different slope orientations much easier to do. It still takes a bit of practice, and developing the ability to do this is a rite of passage for greenhorn concrete workers, but this is the tool to have for that.
- Blade Size: Ships with 14-foot blade, with options for 12, 10 and eight-foot blades.
- Engine: 37.7 cc (1.8 horsepower)
- Maximum RPMs: 7500
- Shipping Information: Must ship as freight.
Best Features: Honda Engine; Magnesium Board for Use With Forms
Another excellent screeding tool from Tomahawk, this one comes with a 1.8 HP Honda engine and light-but-strong framework that allows workers to lift the unit from the surface and set it down again without disturbing any smoothed-over wet concrete.
The magnesium blade is more geared toward concrete finishing inside of a form, but can be used for wet screeding as well. As shown, this model ships with a 12-foot mag board, but you can also order 10 and 14-foot lengths, either as primary attachments or as add-ons.
It generates plenty of hop, with 7000 RPMs, and you can change boards in two minutes or less. The hand grips are soft and pliable, and absorb a lot of shock from the vibration going on at ground level.
There’s a three year warranty on the engine, and a one-year warranty on the vibrator assembly. The warranty on the engine is one of the better ones of the power screeds on our list.
Tomahawk may be an unfamiliar name to you in the field of construction equipment. First off, it’s not the same company that produces hunting knives. Tomahawk Power was founded in 2012, with a goal of manufacturing quality tools for professionals; tools that had the durability for daily use. They manufacture concrete finishing tools, concrete saws, water pumps, welders and generators.
They are headquartered in San Diego, CA, and was recently named to the city’s top 100 fastest-growing companies.
- Blade Size: Ships with 12-foot blade, with options for 14 and 10-foot blades (though it can also accommodate an 8-foot or 20-foot blades too).
- Engine: 1.8 horsepower
- Maximum RPMs: 7000
- Shipping Information: Free shipping.
Best Feature: Honda Engine
If you own – or ever owned – outdoor power equipment that included a Honda engine, you were probably impressed at how easily it started and how efficient it was. Generators, power washers, pumps, paint sprayers, compressors and whatnot – if the manufacturers of these devices should definitely make a big deal of the fact that they use Honda engines in their products.
Echelon is proud to make a big deal of the little four-stroke Honda dynamo that powers their power screed. It weighs next to nothing, but it delivers some serious concrete-thumping RPMs. The whole thing weighs only 59 pounds with the 12-foot blade attached and just 33 pounds with the blade detached. So whether using it, transporting it from one place to the other, or storing it at the shop, the Echelon is no burden.
They don’t really call the blade a blade, but rather a board. It’s an L-shaped flank of aluminum alloy that works for wet and form-to-form screeding.
The Echelon’s throttle can be left open, so the user can concentrate on managing the motion of the unit across the concrete surface. That would be easy enough anyway, but the stay-open throttle makes it that much easier. A kickstand keeps the unit upright when not in use.
The bulk of the framework on this power screed is down low, around the engine and blade. This gives it a low center of gravity and ease of control, yet plenty of support and durability for a device that often has a work shift as long as the person using it.
- Blade Size: 12 foot, L-shaped board
- Engine: 35cc
- Maximum RPMs: Data N/A
- Shipping Information: 64 pounds. May ship as freight.
Best Feature: Easy to Maneuver
Sometimes, a 14-foot screed blade is way too much. Some times you need David and not Goliath. Depending on the size of the concrete slab you’re working on, and how many obstacles you have to negotiate around, a super-wide screed blade will actually just get in the way.
That’s why this pint-sized power screed might be just the thing for many contractors. If you have tight turns to make, odd shapes to adhere to or if you’re working a spot that’s hard to get to, you’ll appreciate the fact that this baby weighs only 40 pounds, including the 40-inch hardened aluminum blade.
Adding to the maneuverability of this screed is the design of the blade. The ends are rounded off, making it easy to dodge around obstacles or fit inside weird angles.
Powered by a 1.6 HP Honda GX34 engine, the Pony Power Screed is ready to go on the first or second pull of the starter rope. You would assume that this would be easy on gas, and you would assume correctly.
The framework is powder-coated steel, cast as one solid piece, attached to the blade with rubber cushion mounts in between. This helps offset vibration and keeps it away from the handle. The powder coating is important because the paint adheres to the steel more vigorously, and therefore prevents chipping and the potential for rust.
For those times when you want to feather a pretty finishing stroke, the handle-mounted throttle gives you complete control over the rate of vibration. This screed is so easy to use, you’ll be tempted to use in for areas that are better suited for a larger blade!
Speaking of a larger blade, you can add an eight-foot aluminum float pan blade at an additional cost.
- Blade Size: 40-inch, L-shaped aluminum board
- Engine: 35cc
- Maximum RPMs: Data N/A
- Shipping Information: 41 pounds
Best Feature: Four Stroke Engine
Some folks may get the wrong idea as to what a power screed does with all this vibration going on, and how it is better than manual screeding. With power screeding, the blade doesn’t flatten out imperfections on the surface by smashing and bashing them down into the mix. It eliminates air bubbles and lets the wet concrete level itself.
Manual screeding more or less forces the concrete into submission, while power screeding and its bouncing action facilitates the natural tendency of water (or wet cement) to find its own level.
But here’s one thing: you don’t want level concrete. Not perfectly level, anyway. You want a scarcely-noticeable crown on the surface that allows rainwater to run off to the side, or into a drain. This is crucial for applications like driveways, sidewalks and patios, less so for interior concrete floors that will likely never have water on them (If you do have standing water on them, then you have bigger problems than having concrete slab that’s too level).
Creating sloping surfaces is easy with this 9Trading power screed. The eight-foot (included) aluminum tamper blade allows the user to pitch the blade at whatever angle he desires to create a slight variance in height during the final pass. The task still requires acquired skill, but this lightweight aluminum tamper blade makes learning easier.
This unit is powered by a 31cc four-stroke engine that starts by the second pull and purrs smoothly throughout the screeding process. Manual throttles help the user get just enough bounce in the vibration to achieve the perfect finished surface.
The framework is sturdy, yet lightweight, and a kickstand allows you to leaving the unit in an upright position during breaks.
- Blade Size: 8 foot, L-shaped tamper board
- Engine: 31cc
- Maximum RPMs: Data N/A
- Shipping Information: Data N/A
Best Feature: No-Frills Design Allows for Balanced Operation
The first thing you’ll notice about this power screed is that there isn’t a confusing network of steel bars, cross members or braces or odd-shaped junctures. The design is streamlined and solid, and even if you knew nothing of physics or load-bearing, this would appear to be more than capable of handling the job.
This item ships with a medium-sized engine (31cc) and medium-sized blade (seven feet) for jobs that are, well, medium-sized, but you can push the boundaries a bit. It’s so lightweight, you’ll want to use this in small spaces and it won’t be overwhelmed by the occasional heavy job.
It’s easy enough for a greenhorn or DIYer to use, yet provides the kind of results that a professional would be more than satisfied with. The seven-foot blade is small enough to fit in tight spots within a form, yet large enough to get big sections done without tedious, multiple passes.
- Blade Size: 7 foot, L-shaped tamper board
- Engine: 31cc, 1.5 HP
- Maximum RPMs: 7000
- Shipping Information: 150 pounds
Best Feature: Creates Slopes with Ease
Screedmatic Durascreed: Say that five times really fast.
Well, it might be difficult to pronounce, but the K1000 Screedmatic is easy to use, and produces amazing results. It really proves its worth in demanding situations, such where slopes, v-shapes, high-slump, low-slump, shapes and swales all demand special treatment and even creativity.
Part of this power screed’s versatility is the dual blades (user-supplied) allows the user to strike-off wet concrete next to adjacent concrete that is higher in elevation. This is also helpful in situations where a building footer or other object restricts the user’s operating space.
The K1000 levels, compacts and screeds concrete in one operation, and it’s not limited to flatwork. The double-blade system makes it easy to create v-shaped waterways, gutters and oddball shapes, as well as long, gradual slopes.
The unit uses wood or aluminum strike-offs 2 x 6 x ? (whatever length you desire) and it’s this unique arrangement that allows the user to shape the concrete in ways that other power screeds can’t easily do.
You can shape the boards the way you want to shape the concrete. Do you want a v-shaped valley to run down one flank of the parking lot? Use wood boards with a v-shaped notch. Or a swale with a gentle swoop? (Say that five times really fast!) Simply use boards with graceful notches cut out on either end of the board. The possibilities are virtually endless.
The K1000 doesn’t scrimp on the power plant either. The K1000 employs the ultra-dependable Honda GX160 engine – a five-HP bruiser that’s going to start easily and run smoothly all day long, letting the user concentrate on the work at hand.
Kelly Screedmatic has been around a lot longer than most people realize. Its original design went into production over 50 years ago.
- Blade Size: Attaches to 2 x 6 boards of varying length. Also accepts aluminum boards.
- Engine: 5.0 HP
- Maximum RPMs: 5200
- Shipping Information: 150 pounds