History of The Golden Trowel®

The Golden Trowel® Award was born unceremoniously more than thirty years ago as a joke over a working lunch in the offices of The Face® Companies in Norfolk, Virginia. The group of engineers and consultants had, by then, spent more than a decade developing what are now known as the F-Number System (FF/FL), Fmin, the first concrete floor profilograph, the Dipstick® and many of the placement procedures that were, even at that early date, resulting in substantially flatter and more level floor slabs.

It was the late 1980s and both ACI and ASTM were in the process of recognizing F-Numbers. Face’s flat floor technologies were becoming more widely employed. Suddenly, a thought came to one of the diners. “I’ve got an idea,” he said. “We ought to set up a competition for the flattest floors in the world and call it the Golden Trowel.” Everyone laughed, for about three seconds – then there was a pregnant silence. The merits of an objective, measurement-based contest for the highest quality flatwork were instantly obvious. It would give the best finishers a way to prove that they were in fact the best. The competition would drive up quality.

Fast forward to today. The Golden Trowel is the most sought-after award in the industry, drawing entries from around the world. The results from the 2019 competition, announced in February 2020 at the World of Concrete in Las Vegas, provide the best evidence ever that quality has improved to a degree never imagined three decades ago.

The best floor in the world back in 1990 wouldn’t even be considered for a Golden Trowel today. And North America no longer dominates the awards. Four World Records were set in this year’s contest, by contractors from Japan, China, Australia, and Brazil. North America was shut out of the world records.

Golden Trowels are awarded in several different categories, based on how the floor was initially struck off, how wide the floor castings are, how much shake-on hardener or steel fibers are used, and other factors that influence flatness and levelness. Golden Trowel Gold Plates are awarded to the winner in each category, while Golden Trowel Silver Plates recognize truly outstanding entries that did not win.

Why are floors so much better? People continue to learn how to use existing concrete placing and finishing tools to better advantage and are passing it on to the new generation of concrete finishers. Concrete floor consultants are learning what works and what doesn’t and are teaching the best practices. And not least, batch plants are being held to high standards on the concrete that they deliver to the field.

The tools available are better than they were, even just a few years ago. The Laser Screed, first introduced by Somero Enterprises, revolutionized the way concrete could be struck off. As laser screeds got better and better, and as people learned the best ways to use them, the flatness and levelness of floors improved significantly even as daily output was dramatically increased. The use of pans on power trowels, and tandem riding power trowels also were a boon. New devices for spreading shake-on hardeners were introduced, allowing floors incorporating dry shakes to approach the flatness and levelness of floors placed without dry shake. All have made a big difference. But so has striving for excellence and for the recognition that comes from being the best in the world – a winner of the Golden Trowel.

Golden Trowel® Asia

Over the first 25 years of the Golden Trowel® contest, we had winning entries from North and South America, Australia, and Europe, but not one from Asia.

Because we noted that floors in Asia were generally neither as flat nor as level as floors in the West, and because floors in the West were constantly improving, it appeared to us that Asia might never catch up to the rest of the world without some incentive.

For this reason, the Face Company inaugurated the Golden Trowel Asia contest in 2015. The Golden Trowel Asia is a special award available only to contractors in Asia, for producing the flattest and most level floors in all of Asia, excluding the rest of the world.

The first Golden Trowel Asia was awarded in 2015; three more were awarded in 2017, five in 2018, and seven more this year. Winners have come from China, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and Malaysia. It is apparent that the contest has had an effect, because as noted above, we had two world records this year from Asia, one from China and one from Japan.