Whether you’re removing coatings, fixing walkways or sidewalks or leveling or adjusting concrete floors, the best concrete grinder, planer or scarifier will make the work much, much easier. Yes, a concrete grinder can be expensive, especially the best concrete grinder, but it’s well-worth the cost in the end.
Although there are many different names for concrete grinder, including concrete planers, scarifiers, milling machines, surface planers, etc., they all perform the same function. Concrete grinders remove concrete quickly and efficiently. They’re also versatile, because many concrete planers have cutter assemblies that are interchangeable. This gives you more flexibility when jumping from one concrete job to the next.
Concrete Grinders: Why Do I Need One?
When that concrete slab was poured many moons ago, it was flat, level, unsloping, unscratched, unpitted and uncracked. But now, it’s a mess, and looks like an army tank ran over it. Or maybe another slab was poured next to it a few years later, and the two slabs don’t match up to each other.
What you need is a concrete planer, AKA scarifier. It’s like sandpaper for concrete, only it costs a bit more than sandpaper and it’s way heavier.
But which one? And which one is the best scarifier on the market? Well, it’s really job-dependent as to which is the best concrete grinder, but we have tried our best to compile a list of the best brands and models that should serve your needs well.
The Best Concrete Grinders, Planers, Scarifiers
1. Tomahawk 8-inch Gas Concrete Planer/Scarifier – Best Concrete Scarifier
Best Feature: Honda Engine
Whether it’s a lawnmower, trimmer, generator, pump or concrete planer, if you say it has a Honda engine, many buyers will say, “Take my money.” In fact, any good tool, especially the best concrete grinder, should have a good engine.
This Tomahawk (a brand name of no small reputation itself) comes with a 163cc / 5.5 horsepower Honda engine. We’re talking about the wildly popular GX160 engine here, which has been paired with a host of gas-powered implements that draw high praise from almost every construction worker who has used one.
With the Honda engine purring like a well-fed Tiger cub, the Tomahawk can scarify 350 to 500 square feet of concrete per hour, reaching a depth of 1/8 inch in just one pass.
That kicks up a sizeable cloud of dust, which brings up an important point. OSHA regulations set forth strict standards for dust and particulates that are generated by power grinding and cutting equipment. The Tomahawk meets OSHA standards by means of a vacuum port that drives most of the dust into a collection bag, or a hose connected to an industrial vacuum cleaner. The port fits nearly all the bags / hoses on the market.
Even the best concrete planers can’t contain all the dust, so it’s imperative that operators wear approved dust masks while using them.
They call them blades, but it might be more accurate to think of them as the “grinders.” Whatever you call them, the Tomahawk has some good ones – carbide tipped teeth on a hardened steel drum that will give long service. When they wear down, replacement is easy – not exactly fast, because you have to replace a lot of blades and the spacers between them, but it’s a good way to kill some time when it’s raining outside.
While the Tomahawk can remove material at a depth of up to 1/8 inch, you don’t have to go that deep. This unit includes a simple crank to set the depth at whatever you want. The weight of the engine is positioned directly over the drum, which helps it maintain contact with the surface.
Machines like this are notorious for noise and vibration, but this one breaks the trend – at least in the vibration part. Rubber spacers at stress points absorb a good portion of the shock waves, sparing the person using the machine. Now, as to the noise: well, the engine runs fairly quietly, but there’s not a whole lot that can be done about the blades slamming into solid concrete. But you can take heart in knowing that you probably won’t be all afternoon using the planer.
None of the concrete planers / scarifiers on our list can be called flyweights. They have to have some heft, considering what they do. The Tomahawk weighs 135 pounds, but with the front-mounted lift handle, it’s easy to team-lift on and off the work trailer or pickup truck bed.
All thing considered, this is an excellent machine and one of the best concrete planers on the market this year.
2. XtremepowerUS 10-Inch Concrete Floor Grinder – Best Concrete Grinder
Best Feature: Versatile
For a planer that runs on standard house current, the XtremepowerUS 10-inch floor grinder cuts an impressive swath across the concrete. The 1.5-horsepower motor turns freely (without a load) at 1730 RPMs. With the unit pressed down on the concrete surface actually doing work, the RPMs would be significantly less, but 1730 RPMs for a plug-in machine with a 10-inch width is a good starting point. It draws 14.5 amps, so make sure nothing else is drawing power from the same circuit.
A little explanation is needed about the term grinder as opposed to planer or scarifier. A planer / scarifier is like 40-grit sandpaper and a grinder is more like 80-grit sandpaper. The planer / scarifier is faster but coarser, and the grinder is slower but finer. With a grinder – in this application a floor grinder – you can finish the concrete to marble-smooth perfection.
This grinder can do the work of the bigger machines, such as leveling uneven slabs and flattening bumps and rough spots, but it will take more passes and slower passes. But once the surface is relatively even all the way across, a couple more passes will shave the concrete to the point where it can be sealed and polished. The bigger machines can’t do that.
The XtremepowerUS concrete floor grinder is suited for small to medium areas, and it can work around obstacles like posts and pillars with ease. The single speed motor ensures more consistent results. And consistency is what you would expect in the best concrete grinder.
A machine capable of putting the finishing touches on a concrete surface is going to have to do something about the dust, and this one does. Its dust extractor head is adjustable and floats just above the surface to pull up the maximum amount of silica dust, benefitting the project and the operator at the same time.
The handles on this grinder are squishy soft and ergonomically designed. Not only that, the height can be adjusted from 34 to 46 inches as needed.
You might consider this next revelation as a bummer, but hear us out. This unit does not ship with a grinder blade. That is because they’re assuming that the purchaser will want to buy a grinder blade that best suits his intended purpose.
There are three basic types of attachments to invest in:
- Silicon-carbide stones are used to level rough finishes and grind down high spots.
- Tungsten-carbide inserts are more for thorough cleaning of the surface, like erasing paint or markings and cleaning up general industrial gunk and whatnot.
- Diamond-segmented tools provide the lightest and smoothest finish. They can strip old sealants and prepare the surface for new ones.
This is a machine of significant substance, weighing in at 172 whopping pounds. You will need to team lift this. Though it’s heavy size also a good thing because it reduces the overall vibration felt to the user.
Comfortable to use and a high level of versatility easily makes this one of the best concrete grinders on the market.
3. Husqvarna PG 280 Concrete Floor Grinder – Best Concrete Floor Grinder
Best Feature: Powerful
First things first about this beast – it runs on 220 volts. That might knock it out of consideration for you, but if you can satisfy its craving for power, you’re going to end up with a very nice, dependable machine.
If you’re not familiar with the brand Husqvarna, you should be. The Swedish manufacturer known for tight bore and stroke tolerances on its gas power equipment, enforces similar standards on the fit and functionality of its electric-powered equipment, like this floor grinder. The PG 280 is rated at three horsepower, turns an 11-inch disc and draws 13 amps, so that tells you right there this baby has some mad grinding and polishing skills.
Unlike many of the other planer / scarifier / grinder machines, the Husqvarna PG 280 can do edge grinding as well as flat grinding. Conversion to edge grinding is easy – just remove the lid cover (or covers if you want to do edge grinding on both sides at once) and flip the blade disc to an upright position.
The company states that this machine is “lightweight,” and, compared to a school bus, it is, at 154 pounds. You might as well find someone to help you lift it, because you’re not going to find a concrete finishing machine that is truly lightweight (but this is as close as you’ll come).
That said, you do need enough weight to keep the blades down on the surface of the concrete and so this concrete planer has the perfect weight. The PG 280 also folds up for easy transport and can fit in the trunks of most cars, or easily thrown in the back of a truck.
You can order a variety of blades and cutters for this unit, each one designated for certain materials. Depending on the type of blade you select, the PG 280 can be used on four different grades of concrete, ceramic glues, vinyl glues, paint and two grades of epoxy. The blades are reasonably priced.
The machine is ergonomically designed for user comfort and safety. It’s meant to be used in medium and small concrete areas. Trying to use this for big areas on a regular basis will lead to compromised performance and a shorter lifespan.
This only ended up third due to the fact that most guys aren’t going to shell out the money for this concrete grinder. However, it could easily have been at the top of the list and price isn’t necessarily a con because it’s worth every penny. This is truly one of the best concrete grinders on the market.
4. Bosch CSG15 Concrete Surface Grinder – Best Portable Concrete Surface Grinder
Best Feature: Efficient Dust Collection System
Moving on to the hand-held planers, this is one of the best you can find – the Bosch CSG15. The Bosch brand is well known in the tool and construction industry, and most job sites will have any number of Bosch tools on the job.
The Bosch CSG15 creates a lot of dust when it works, but it also collects a lot of dust. It has a dedicated dust-collection shroud for a cleaner work environment. Often, using a concrete planer next to a wall can be an invitation to disaster, but the Bosch’s dust guard keeps it all under control, sending the dust packing through the vacuum hose port, where it connects to various types and brands of worksite vacuums.
The benefit of the dust collection system is extended to man and machine alike. Whatever dust escapes the collection system won’t harm the motor, switches, ball bearings and moving part of the machine, thanks to some tight-fitting seals in the right places.
For a hand-held device this model has plenty of power. It draws 12.5 AMPs and delivers up to 9300 RPM (without a load). It’s suitable for concrete grading, alleviating trip hazards, surface prep and other tough concrete applications.
Grinding or planing concrete consistently requires that the grinding mechanism – in this case a five-inch disc – rotate at the same speed regardless of what it encounters. Bosch calls its speed control system Constant Response circuitry, which means that this grinder’s motor can handle extended operational load.
As a hand-held device, the CSG-15 allows the user to reach areas that walk-behind units can’t get to. Its spindle lock allows for quick cutting wheel changes and it comes with what the folks at Bosch call “serviceminder brushes” that alert the user to upcoming preventative maintenance tasks.
The basic package includes:
- Auxiliary Handle
- Spanner Wrench
- Five-Inch Diamond Cup Wheel
- Surface Guard With Vacuum Connection
- Carrying Case
If you’re looking for a lot of bang for your buck, this is definitely the best angle grinder for concrete for those on a budget.
5. Metabo US606467800 Concrete Grinder – Best Concrete Angle Grinder
Best Feature: Extremely Easy to Use
For years, Hitachi was known for dependable, no-frills tools that performed extremely well and didn’t cost the farm. Well, Hitachi is no more, and is now known as Metabo. The tools, service and reputation are the same as before.
This Metabo concrete grinder includes a 2400-watt motor, which puts plenty of power on the job. It’s no small task, grinding and clawing through solid concrete, and the Metabo is up to it, with a no-load RPM rating of 6600. Keep in mind that it draws 15 amps which invokes the necessity of a dedicated circuit, because it’s no fun to be working with a power tool and have the whole thing go dead on you.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a really nagging malady affecting thousands of construction workers every year. Repetitive motions, using the same tools with the same grip points, are contributing factors. Vibration is another contributing factor, and in that regard, this grinder does its part in fighting back with Metabo Vibratech, a damping system that drastically reduces the amount of vibration that is transmitted to the user.
The side handle can be set in three different positions for user preference, and the main handle on top swivels. This another way to mitigate the repetitive actions that contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, but can also help with back and leg issues.
The seven-inch disc can accept a number of attachments for grinding, leveling, finish removal and final prep.
Another big health and well-being factor is dust collection. The Metabo has a tight-fitting shroud that channels dust into a port where it can be drawn away by a suitable vacuum via a standard hose. This shroud can be removed and reinstalled without the use of tools, but some users report difficulties getting it mounted properly because of the tight fit.
If you’re most interested in ergonomics, this is the best concrete grinder for comfortable use and many options for managing its operation.
6. Makita PC5000C Five-Inch Concrete Planer – Best Handheld Concrete Planer
Best Feature: Constant Speed Under Load
This concrete planer is so pretty in its aqua blue jacket and matching metal carrying case that you won’t want to get it dirty. But go ahead, because this bad boy can take it.
Makita enters the concrete planer marketplace with this 10-amp workhorse that can grind, level, remove paint and adhesives, smooth and polish concrete floors, plus clean up after itself. When you press the two-finger start button the motor revs up to speed smoothly, instead of roaring instantly to life. And once it gets to that speed (10,000 RPMs with no load), it maintains it, regardless of any impediments and rough spots in encounters.
A common problem with hand-held planers / scarifiers is that the manufacturers want to pack the tool with so much power that it overheats under duress. Maintaining RPMs under all kinds of workloads is a good thing, but having the tool melt into a pool of goo isn’t. The PC5000C has that issue taken care of with an electronic current limiter that protects the motor from overload.
The electronic current limiter responds to heat, not electrical impulses.
You have two choices on dust management.
One, you can use the included collector bag. The problem with that is, it’s not very big, so it will fill up fast. And if that happens, some workers who are in a good rhythm, getting things done, seeing results, etc., are going to be tempted to keep going, even though the bag is full. This, of course, is not what you want.
The second option on dust collection is to attach a vacuum hose to the port. This is the better option, as far as dust collection goes, but it is cumbersome. The switchover from collector bag to vacuum hose is very easy.
The handle on this tool is comfortable and padded, plus it swivels to allow the optimum positioning for the direction of the motion.
The PC5005 does not come with cutting / grinding discs, but it does come with a spiffy metal case in Makita’s iconic aqua blue theme color.
A great option for those looking for a durable tool with a powerful motor. One of the best concrete planers on the market.
What to Look For in the Best Concrete Grinder
By far, the most important part of a concrete planer / grinder is the grinding attachment. Whether a forward-rolling drum or a spinning disc, this is where the rubber meets the road, or rather where the steel meets the road.
All but one of the machines on our list ship without a grinding attachment. That’s a negative in many potential customers’ minds, but there’s a valid reason for that. The customers can choose among a number of grinding materials, including steel, silicon-carbide stones (called stones, but actually metal), tungsten-carbide and diamond-studded. Each type attacks the concrete differently and leaves a slightly different texture on the surface.
The bigger machines cut deeper. Our top recommended planer chews up material at a rate of 1/8 inch per pass. In terms of surface shaping, that’s a lot. But here’s where caution should be used diligently. If the operator spends too much time hovering over a section of concrete, he might be creating a low place, or worsening a slope that he had intended to flatten.
Handheld vs. Walk-Behind Concrete Grinder
If you’re a builder and your company pours a lot of concrete slabs every week, you should invest in a walk-behind planer. The ouch of the additional cost will lessen every time you walk away from a finished project and move on to the next one. If you don’t pour a lot of slabs, but the slabs you do pour are big ones, you should get a walk-behind.
For everyone else, a walk-behind is probably overkill.
Hand-held units go anywhere and are easy to transport. They still have considerable weight to them, though, averaging around 20 pounds. The closer you get to 5:00 p.m., however, the more those dang grinders weigh, for some reason.
But for ultimate control and a close-up view of the work, a hand-held planer is worth its weight in gold (or at least silver). The depth of the grind is less, so it’s more forgiving than its stand-up brother.
Not to ignore the obvious, the hand-held unit requires the user to get on his hands and knees. That’s a bummer and there’s no way of getting around it. However, you can mitigate the discomfort with knee pads or a kneeling cushion.
How to Grind Concrete
How-To: Angle Grinding Concrete
First, you’ll need a concrete angle grinder, that goes without saying. You’ll also want a quality dust extractor with a good filter on it, like a HEPA filter. We recommend the Bosch Dust Extractor because of its capacity and performance. You’ll also need to have a dust shroud. Most concrete angle grinders come with one, but if it doesn’t, you can easily purchase it from the manufacturer as an add-on item for your angle grinder. Or, you can also buy a universal surface grinder dust shroud.
Next, you’ll need a quality grinding bit or disc. We recommend a Thinset Bit for its high quality and the fact that it has a diamond matrix, which allows for fast and thin removal. You’ll also need a quality pair of quality safety goggles as well as an appropriate Niosh or N95 dust mask (you’re probably sick of hearing about those I am sure) or respirator. We recommend the Sundstrom silica dust respirator.
Then, you’ll want to remove any dust, particles, or any type of contaminant that is on the surface of the floor. Install your shroud, install your blade, get your vacuum ready and you’re ready to go.
It really doesn’t matter where you start but a lot of guys like to start with a corner, work the perimeter, and then work their way into the middle. Throughout this process, dust will collect on the surface of the concrete. Be sure to vacuum this dust up periodically before hitting the concrete again with your grinder. This prevents excess dust from flying into the air.
Your concrete angle grinder will also get hot during use. Be sure to allow for breaks in-between grinding sessions so your bit and tool can cool down. It’ll only take a few minutes for it to cool down so it won’t diminish your efficiency too much. If it gets too hot you can blow out the motor.
Always keep the disc as level as possible while grinding. Don’t rush the job. If you take your time it’ll save you time in the end. You don’t want to have to go back and essentially do the job a second time.
How-To: Walk Behind Concrete Grinder
For started, you’ll need all the safety equipment we mentioned above for concrete angle grinding. Additionally, you’ll also want a nice pair of steel toe work boots to protect your feet. You’ll also want ear protection, we recommend 3M H10A ear muffs.
Before operating the concrete grinder, be sure to adjust the handle so it’s about a 6-7 inches below your belly-button. It’s good to have it lower because you’ll need to force weight down onto the handles so you can take some of the pressure off the grinding disc. You can also buy some weights to attach to your concrete grinder near the handles. (Some companies carry these for their concrete grinders other do not).
Attach whatever disc or pads you’re going to be using to the grinder. Discs are mainly for grinding while pads are used for polishing. Always start with the most aggressive attachments and then work your way down to least aggressive.
Then, attach the dust extractor’s hose to the concrete grinder’s hose connection. You can also put water onto the surface to lower the dust level. However, this will create a slurry and a bit of a mess. If you’re using water, you cannot use the vacuum though (it should go without saying).
Make sure the floor is clean. Vacuum any dust, dirt, debris, etc. and be sure that there’s nothing remaining on the surface of the concrete. Look for the high spots first. Find the highest spots and grind the top down until it’s level. This is much better if done with a smaller machine. If you have a bigger machine (large single head concrete grinder), you’ll use it after the high spots are level.
Use a larger machine (if you have it) for the main surface. After you’re finished, use a smaller machine for the edges. Slowly move the machine over the concrete in a steady fashion. Be sure to vacuum between passes as it will help increase visibility as well as eliminate dust becoming airborne. If you have to get into smaller areas, use a concrete angle grinder for these harder to reach spots.
If dealing with walls and you need to get right on the edge you need to use an edge shroud. You’ll use the smaller concrete grinder with an edger shroud. This allows you to get the grinder right up against the wall. This will help give you a nice smooth and steady grind.
Concrete Grinding and Dust
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 forever changed the way we think about tiny, invisible particles floating in the air or resting on surfaces. The concrete grinding process creates a lot of dust in the form of crystalline silica, and the health hazards are serious (see sidebar article for details).
By law, concrete planers must provide a satisfactory method of collecting the dust and getting rid of it. All of the planers on our list meet – greatly exceed, in most cases – OSHA requirements regarding dust mitigation.
But there’s a second part of the equation that you must not trivialize. The concrete planers have a tight-fitting shroud that forces the dust to exit via a port on the side or top of the unit. You must connect a bag or a hose that runs to a vacuum (preferred). That vacuum must also meet OSHA standards for eliminating crystalline silica dust.
The problem is, sometimes these attachments get in the way when using the machine next to a wall. The shrouds can be removed for these situations, and the attached hoses can be detached, but now you have dust flying out everywhere. Opt for a planer with a pivoting handle that will allow it to be used on the opposite side.
The Dangers of Crystalline Silica
Silica is just another name for quartz, and it’s found in sand, concrete, masonry work, rock and other places on construction sites. In its natural state, it’s not terribly toxic to humans, but when it’s ground into dust by grinding, planing, drilling, abrading and cutting operations, it poses serious health risks.
Crystalline silica particles so small they can’t be seen by the unaided eye can easily be inhaled and distributed to the lungs and airways. The effect of repeated exposure to silica particles can be devastating. Silicosis is a disabling, irreversible and sometimes fatal disease that occurs when nodules trap the silica particles and fatty tissue builds around the nodules. Over time, this can lead to extreme breathing problems.
OSHA has strict rules for tools that produce silica dust. These rules, adopted in 2016 and enforced beginning in 2017, are for the benefit of workers. The abatement of crystalline silica is the only effective method of preventing associated lung issues.
Best Concrete Grinders: Summary
Finding the best concrete grinder is difficult but we hope we helped make it a little easier for you. As always, you’ll have to do your own research and make a determination as to which is the best concrete grinder for you. User comments, and the Q&A section on these product listings are invaluable, providing more information than the manufacturer does, in many cases. Just watch out for the whiners (people who can never be satisfied) and the cheerleaders (Yay-hoo posters who have a vested interest in seeing a certain product sell well.)
Looking for a good concrete cutting saw? We reviewed the best walk-behind concrete saws on the market.