A flat, level floor is a good foundation for any cover, whether it is wood, carpet, or tile. What’s the best way to create a level concrete floor? Should you use self-leveling concrete? What is the alternative?
Self Leveling Compound or Concrete is a very fluid concrete blend with polymers that allow it to flow and level itself. While SLC is an effective way to create a flat, smooth, level concrete floor, it is expensive. In order to create a level floor without SLC, use a concrete sand blend, spread it out while it is dry, then add water. Wait for the concrete to dry completely before adding other flooring on top.
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What is Self-Leveling Compound (SLC)?
Self-leveling Compound or Concrete is a polymer/concrete blend with high flow characteristics. This simply means that it is more fluid than regular concrete, and spreads itself evenly for a level, smooth surface. When you first pour it, it almost looks like pancake batter, but it hardens into a solid, concrete floor.
Self-Leveling Compound for Concrete Floors
A concrete floor should be able to hold up to the weight of any SLC. I recommend LevelLite Self-Leveling Underlayment, LevelQuik RS Self-Leveling Underlayment, or LevelQuik ES Self-Leveling Underlayment.
Self-Leveling Compound for Wood Subfloors
Be careful about which self-leveling product you use over wood subfloors. Too much weight on the wood can cause bowing, or even break the wood.
Custom Building Products LevelQuik Underlayment is a good product to use on wood subfloors. Be careful to follow package descriptions, and don’t lay it on too thick!
- Levels Itself – This is the primary reason to buy SLC! Pour it, and it settles level all on its own. This saves time and labor.
- Lightweight Formulas are Available – SLC comes in formulas that can be applied to wood subfloors without the weight damaging the floor.
- Rapid Drying – Many SLCs come in a rapid dry formula that allows weight on the floor in as little as four hours after it is poured. This speeds up the floor installation process.
- High Cost – Possibly the biggest drawback of SLC is its cost. Currently, the top-selling brands are around $50-$60 per 50-pound bag. One 50-pound bag covers approximately 24 square feet if applied ¾ of an inch thick. For a large space, you will need multiple bags, which quickly adds up!
- Learning Curve – Most varieties of SLC dry fast! You will need to work fast in order to correctly apply it. This may take some practice.
- Hard to Find – Not all hardware stores carry SLC. You may need to order it online.
What is the Cheapest Way to Level a Concrete Floor?
There is a way to create a flat concrete floor without expensive SLC. The key is to choose a quality sand mix.
- Sand Mix
- A flat edge tool, such as finishing trowels or a concrete screed
- Hose attachment that can apply a light mist or sprinkle
- Utility brush
Here’s how to save money, and create a flat floor without SLC.
Use a Sand Mix
A quality sand mix will help you create a smooth, flat floor surface. Sand and concrete together will create the right consistency for a level application.
Spread the Sand Mix
Dump the sand mix in the area, and start spreading! Use the flat edge tool and the level to carefully spread the mix as evenly as possible. Take your time, and make sure there aren’t any gaps.
You may need to go back over it to look for uneven spots. Just add a little more sand mix and smooth it out, as necessary.
Turn your hose attachment to the setting with the lowest force. You don’t want to spray the sand! That may displace it and cause it to be uneven. You want to lightly sprinkle or mist the sand mix until it is all soaked.
Allow It to Dry Thoroughly
Now, you wait. Allow the concrete to dry thoroughly. This usually takes 24-48 hours, depending on the environment and the thickness of the concrete.
After 24 hours, gently place your hand on the concrete. If it still feels moist, check it again in 12 hours. Do not step on the concrete until it is completely dried. Once it is dry, it is fine to walk on the floor.
The concrete will be fully cured after 3-5 weeks. Once it is cured, all residual moisture will have evaporated, and it will be at its full strength.
Sweep Away Particles
There may be bits of sand on the surface of the concrete. Use the brush to sweep them up.
Self-leveling Compound is a great invention! If it fits into your home renovation budget, use it to easily create a level floor. However, it does come with a high price tag. Use a sand and concrete blend in order to save money on your floor project.