pouring and leveling a concrete slab patio
I have the 'funny feeling' you hired the cheapest Pro. Perhaps now is the time to pay this one off (for at least framing the job), and hiring a NEW contractor.
You absolutely want gravel on the base. Anything from a driveway to a foundation needs to be drained. This is the MAIN purpose for the gravel. Also, consider some steel mesh to help 'hold' the concrete together. (It may be an extra cost but at that thickness, it's well worth it.) I hope he isn't tying the patio to the house. If it DOES want to move, it will pull the house w/it. I recommend no. DO READ the Post before your post on the Concrete WEB Page. In there, I speak of some same thoughts that would apply to you as well.
As for smoothing out the pour, there are a couple of way which I wouldn't be too worried about. Trowling or Skimming or Floating are just a few methods, among others. Do read the previous Poster's post w/my Reply. I think you'll find it useful.
My best to ya and hope this helps.
Jay J -Moderator
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