How to Pour Self Leveling Cement.

Even for those of us who consider ourselves to be pretty handy within the whole home improvement world, the thought of pouring self leveling cement IN OUR HOUSE is moderately terrifying. O.K., completely terrifying. Don’t worry. You can do it.

The floor I laid, on top of the cement I poured, over the heated floors I put down.

photo by donna griffith

First things first. I ate a whole can of Pringles today. They were Salt & Vinegar and now my tongue feels like I ate a ball of sandpaper. That might not seem pertinent to the task at hand – and it isn’t.

Second things second. I mean what kind of lunatic would add this to their repertoire of things to do? Me. And possibly you. Why would you ever want to pour self leveling concrete? 

To level an uneven concrete floor.

If you have a wonky basement floor that’s uneven you can use self leveling concrete to smooth everything out and get it nice and flat. It’s even handy if your concrete floors are just filthy. A thin layer of this will give you nice, clean concrete floors.

To prep a floor for laying down tile or to encase radiant floor heating.

The reason I poured it in my kitchen, bathroom and mudroom was so I could put down radiant floor heating. There’s no basement or crawlspace at the back of my house which makes the floors pretty darn cold in the middle of a Canadian winter.  

If you’re also interested in radiant floor heating you can learn exactly how easy it is to install in this post.

The self leveler not only encased the radiant floor heating it also created a super-smooth surface to lay my commercial VCT tile onto.

Whatever the reason, you don’t need to be afraid. I say that because I was afraid. Really afraid. Letter from the tax department afraid.

I was probably right to be afraid because it made me very thorough in my research, but having done it myself now there are a few things I discovered that weren’t mentioned on the Internet at all.

I’ll mention those things in this tutorial because I am nice. I am a nice girl who pours concrete products sometimes.


DIY self leveling cement


Scraping up vinyl tile from plywood with putty knife.

  1. Scrape up any loose debris from the floor. 


Horrible fake brick vinyl sheet flooring being prepped for a layer of concrete.

2. Fill any cracks or holes and create a dam to prevent the liquidy solution from seeping anywhere you don’t want it to go.

I just attached it with duct tape which worked fine.  Once the cement has hardened just give a tug upwards and the cardboard or wood will come loose.  Behind the dam I’ve built you can see I’ve also repaired holes. I used Durabond 90 for this (a drywall type compound that is very hard and fast drying).

The reason you need to fill holes and cracks in the floor is because the mixutre is so thin it will just run down those small cracks and you’ll never get your work done.  You’ll have to keep adding more and more cement and you might even go crazy.  


Ugly Brick look vinyl sheet flooring being vacuumed with central vac.

3. Vacuum so you have a clean surface.


Get your materials ready.


All the materials you need for DIYing self leveling cement laid on the floor including a bucket, self leveling concrete, a drill with cement bit and trowel.


Self leveling cement may also be called self leveling concrete, self leveling floor resurfacer or self leveling underlayment.  They’re all the same thing and I’ll use the terms interchangeably.

You need to pay special attention to the product you buy.  Home Depot, Rona, Lowes etc. all of carry different brands of cement.

The brand doesn’t matter so much as the type of self leveling concrete.

There are 2 types.  Quick drying and regular. You want regular.

Quick drying self leveling cement

is great when the room you’re doing NEEDS to be dry enough to walk on within 5 or 6 hours. BUT, this advantage comes with disadvantages.  You only have a small amount of time to work with the product before it starts to set up.  Like 5 minutes or so.  This means if you’re new to the process or are working by yourself you run the risk of screwing things up royally.

Even though I was working on our only bathroom and kitchen I did not use the Quick Drying.  Firstly it was much more expensive than the regular drying stuff AND I knew I needed as much working time with it as possible.  If you’re an amateur, you do too.

Regular drying self leveling cement

gives you much more time in between pouring buckets of it.  It starts to set up fairly quickly, within 15 minutes or so but not nearly as quickly as the quick drying stuff.  Those extra 10 minutes make a huge difference when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.


All of the self leveling cements require that you buy bottles of primer as well to coat your floor with prior to pouring the concrete.  It is a rule but it’s only applicable if you’re pouring cement onto cement. If you have a non porous surface as your base primer isn’t crucial. 

I didn’t use it.

My house did not fall into the abyss but I could feel Mike Holmes scowling from somewhere.

I got away with spending $200 on product. If I had bought it at a big box store and used the primer it would have cost me $500.

How else can you save money?  Ask to buy the open bags.  Most stores have opened, ripped, unattractive bags for sale for half the price or even less. I bought a lot of open bags and saved about $120.

The  concrete mixing paddle is NOT the same as a paint mixing paddle so if you have one of those, leave it in the basement and buy the right kind.  They’re between $10 and $15.


Pouring water into a standard white 5 gallon bucket.


4. Add the required amount of water to the bucket FIRST. (the bag will tell you how much water to compound mix to use) 

5. Add 1/4 – 1/3 of the powdered compound. Mix with the drill.  Continue mixing in the remainder of the bag bit by bit until it’s all incorporated.  Mix for prescribed amount of time as detailed on the bag.


Dumping dry leveling compound into 5 gallon bucket of water to mix it.

For one bucket of concrete a strong cordless drill will do the job, but if you have any more than 1 bucket to do you’re in trouble.  The battery will die after 1 or 2 buckets.  Then you’ll go for your corded drill, which will burn out and will get thrown in the garbage.

Mixing self leveling concrete in a bucket.

Save your anger, save your sanity, save your relationship and RENT AN INDUSTRIAL DRILL.  I used a regular drill (and a cordless one) for one day before giving up and renting a strong drill for $20 for half a day. 

It sped things up by about 10 fold.

YOUR MIXTURE WILL BE QUITE THIN.  Like runny pudding.  Self leveling is a bit of a misconception.  It will find its own “level”, but it needs some help getting there.

Pouring out mixed self leveling concrete from a bucket onto a vinyl flooring.

6. Pour it where you want it!


Leveling compound being trowelled into place in a small mudroom.

7. Trowel it. Using a trowel push and pull the mixture where it needs to go.  Push it into corners and pull it towards you.  Excuse my hair.  It appears I was having a Paul Weller moment.

How much does a 50 lb bag of self leveler cover?

How much the cement will cover depends on how thick you will need it to be.  This mudroom is around 30 square feet and one 50 pound bag of cement just barely covered it at about 1/4″ thickness.

Karen Bertelsen trowels self leveling cement in a mudroom.

8. Clean up your drips.

You’re gonna drip.  Drip and spray and splash.  Just wipe up what you can and then don’t worry about it.  It’ll wash off easily later.

Wiping up drips from cement compound.

9. Wait 24 hours to walk on it.


Wet leveling compound as it cures in a mudroom.

10. Wait 3 days to place furniture back.

The mudroom went perfectly well. It couldn’t have gone better.

The kitchen and bathroom were a bit of a different story.  The mudroom was the test room. It went perfectly.  The kitchen and bathroom were bigger … badder.

A bigger room means you have to pour the buckets of concrete, run back to the mixer and mix up another batch (which needs to be mixed a longgg time), run through the house with a 50 pound bucket of cement and pour it where you left off.  And repeat.

I thought I bought plenty of product but it turns out I didn’t.  By 10 o’clock at night I realized between the cordless drills, the diminishing bags and the crankiness it was time to stop.

After the first go round the Warmly Yours pads were still showing and it obviously wasn’t looking very good.

Here’s how I installed my heated floors.

A 1940's kitchen with green cupboards in mid renovation with newly poured self leveling concrete flooring.


So the next day I rented a drill, bought more cement and got to it. 

Notice I have no shoes on. That’s because whatever shoes you have will obviously get ruined. 

 You can walk right through the cement, no problem, and as you walk away the cement just fills in your footprints. Magic.

NOTE: Wet concrete is caustic and can burn.

YOU HAVE TO WASH YOUR FEET IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU WALK THROUGH IT. Do so after every time you walk through it. Also don’t walk through wet cement if you have open cuts. 

DIYer Karen Bertelsen pouring self leveling concrete over newly installed heated floors in her kitchen.

For these bigger rooms I bought a squeegee on a long handle to push and pull the cement.  It worked great but it was a bit difficult to manipulate in the small bathroom.


1940's kitchen mid renovation with floor being redone.


You’ll find bits of unmixed lumps of cement.  Just mush them with your fingertips.


Pushing down solid bits of compound into watery solution.


As it’s drying the floor will look discoloured and uneven. It’s all an optical illusion.


First coat of self leveling concrete with bits of heated floor elements showing through, ready for second.


Once it’s dry you’ll be able to feel that those bits that look like ridges are actually smooth.


Kitchen in a disaster mid renovation with newly poured flooring.


Even after re-leveling the floor I had issues with dips and bumps.  It was easy to correct them with a bit of Durabond 90.


Cement floors touched up with Durabond 90.

Just fill the dips then sand them.

DSC 0200

The Self Leveling Cement *Quick Guide*

Yield: Level concrete floor
Prep Time: 1 day
Active Time: 6 hours
Additional Time: 3 days
Total Time: 4 days 6 hours

A quick guide to pouring self leveling cement. Refer to post for in depth instructions.


  • Regular Self leveling cement*
  • Leveling Primer**
  • a cement mixing paddle
  • a 5 gallon bucket
  • a trowel
  • filler (Durabond 90).


  • Strong drill (I rented an industrial one)


Scrape up any loose debris or tiles from the floor.

Build dams to stop the cement from going anywhere you don't want it to go.*

Fill any holes and/or cracks in the floor that the liquid cement could run down. I use Durabond 90.

Vacuum to get the surface perfectly clean.

Add water to your bucket (amount will be stated on your bag of cement)

Add 1/3 of the bag of cement into the water.

Mix with the drill and cement paddle, continually adding the rest of the bag of cement until everything is incorporated and then mix for the length of time given on the bag.

Here we go. Pour the self leveling cement into the desired area. Push and pull it into place with a trowel. It does self level but needs some help getting around.

And now you wait for it to cure. You can walk on it within 24 hours and place heavy objects back in 3 days.


*It may also be called self leveling concrete, self leveling floor resurfacer or self leveling underlayment. Either way make sure you get REGULAR self levelling cement. Quick Dry lets you walk on it within 6 hours, but you have a much shorter working time, and for an amateur it's better to have as much working time with the product as possible.

**Primer is needed when you're pouring concrete onto a porous surface like another concrete floor. It isn't needed when pouring onto old tile.

**It's very liquidy so make sure you don't skip this step or you'll have cement running under your dishwasher or down your stairs or into other rooms! I used thin wood, heavy cardboard and duct tape to make dams.

Self levellers can be poured to an inch deep.

If for some reason your cement isn't level, didn't turn out right or wasn't poured quite deep enough, you can re-pour more cement as long as you do it before the initial cement cures. Don't exceed the total recommended depth of 1".


  1. How to lay heated flooring.
  2. How to lay VCT tiles.


p.s.  I’m out of chips.

(update:  The floor has been laid so you can read the post on how to lay VCT tiles here, or you can watch a quick video of me doing it!)


→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←


How to Pour Self Leveling Cement.


  1. Sally says:

    Thanks for this. We’ve been putting off doing a bathroom because it is going to need leveling. You are just the thing to encourage us to move ahead on it. I love everything that you do.

  2. Jeannie B says:

    A project like this just “blows my mind” Karen. This is something I could only do inside a nightmare. I’d be afraid of permanently bonding the friidge or the stove to the floor and having to hire simeone to jackhammer them out. Or, the back door getting stuck and never being able to get it to open again. Or, standing in one place a little too long in my bare feet and getting stuck. You really are amazing! And yet, you make it all look so easy.

  3. Tina says:

    Karen, is there a reason why you didn’t remove the baseboards? I’m assuming they act as a dam. But does it not make it difficult (impossible?) to replace the baseboards later?

    On a different note… You remind me of my mom. She was always fearless at tackling any sort of task. Build a 12 foot tall retaining wall out of railroad ties? Done. Train a horse wild off the range — best horse ever btw? Done. Raise a zoo of animals for her “tribe of monkeys.” Done. She’s a great role model, as are you.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tina – It’s hard to see in the pictures, but for the most part, the baseboards are raised up from where I removed the flooring beneath them. So the cement actually went *under* the baseboards. The are a couple of small spots (only 5″ runs or so where baseboards go along solid cabints) where that isn’t the case, but if the time ever comes to replace the baseboards, they’ll be easy enough to remove with a crowbar and a whack of a hammer. ~ karen!

      • torri says:

        So when you ran out did you star over again or pick up where you left off? Ive just self leveled and have a low point still. I was wondering if I should get an extra bag or two and just self level the low point or do the entire floor all over again? Also, if you let the self level go under the baseboard wont that make it hard for the tile to fit underneath it when you finish? Just want some advice, I covered my baseboard with a tape dam but now feel like that edge tile that goes under the baseboard will be uneven. HELP!

      • Karen says:

        Hi Torri. You should be able to just add more self levelling cement on top but you need to do it within a day or so of pouring the other cement in order for it to stick. otherwise the new layer will just sit on top of the first layer and over time it will crack and break. If you have trouble with not having enough room under your baseboard it’s not a huge problem, you can just carefully chip away the cement. (it’s hard for me to give advice not seeing exactly what you’re talking about) Hope that helps! ~ karen!

  4. Call Me Patty says:


  5. JebberA says:

    You are my heroine. I respect you as a role model *and* i’m addicted to your website :o)

    Sorry about your mouth. I’ve had a simliar injuriy after eating Captain Crunch.

  6. Kat says:

    Way to go Karen!!! Great tip on the “rent a drill” I would never have thought of that one. Also, except for the durabond patches in the last picture the concrete looks kinda cool and I would have been tempted just to stop there and put on a sealer.

  7. says:

    that’s all I have to say

  8. Meagan says:

    Impressive! I will never tackle something like this myself but I really enjoy learning about it. It makes me more knowledgable for when I talk to contractors I hire to do this stuff :-) I’m curious as to what the reddish flooring is that you are putting the cement over in the mudroom? Did it contain asbestos…is that why it was left intact?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Meagan – It’s just old vinyl sheet flooring. It’s glued down to plywood underneath and there just wasn’t any reason to go to the effort of removing it. ~ karen!

      • Mary Allison says:

        I poured over asbestos tile and the leveler cracked. I used Henrys Pro. I dont like the way it worked. Is Quickrete any better for the asbestos tiles. I know what you mean about being afraid! Yikes I looked at the floor and looked at every youtube for weeks but took the plunge. It looked great until the next day when I saw the bubbles and cracks. I am looking for a new product to try it again.


      • Karen says:

        Hi mary Allison. Well firstly I’m definitely not a self levelling concrete expert. I’m someone who did it once and it worked. :) Having said that if you had curing problems I’d say my guess would be the room either had a drastic change up and down in temperature while it was drying, or more likely is the room was too room. The same thing happens when paint dries too quickly because of heat. So it’s possible it’s not the product, but the conditions that it dried under instead. Do you think this could be possible? ~ karen!

      • Scott Brown says:

        Asbestos has to be seal or nothing will stick thats what the primer will help with then use mapie nova plan plus you shouldnt have any issues but yesthe primer is very important its primer l make sure itis completly transparent berfore you do on anything

      • Jane says:

        Asbestos, huh? Interesting. I actually wondered about that sticking thing. If you’re filling in an area that you intend to cover with another flooring…what does it really matter if it sticks or not?

  9. Kim says:

    Damn…gravatar didn’t work. So bummed. Took FOREVER to find that post *lol*

  10. Nicole2 says:

    Oh wow, I’m so impressed! Is there nothing you can’t do?? I don’t think I know anybody else who can eat an entire can of Pringles!!! Way to go!

  11. Ruth says:

    Wow! Just….. wow. *awestruck*

  12. Colleen says:

    You are brave! Thanks for sharing, Karen!

  13. Ana the Hated (@ParrotTalkBack) says:

    An incredibly daunting project completed with aplomb. Makes me feel shitty I’ve put off hanging the curtains for so long…

  14. Maureen Locke says:

    You’re so brave !!!

  15. Reg says:

    Holy smokes. Job well done. Did you have enough time to get the cement washed off your feet before it dried? I have visions of you not being able to tilt because you’ve been self levelled. ;)

  16. Terry says:


    Is that cement actually thick enough so that it will not crack if the floor deflects when something heavy goes over it. Or you jump up and down when the muffins turn out perfectly. Just curious. But you did a great job. Looks amazing. Did it ruin the nail polish on your toes??

    • Karen says:

      Terry – The self levelling cement is made to be poured from a consistency of 1/8th an inch to over an inch. It’s not the same as concrete, it’s a different mix. So yes .. it’ll be fine when I jump up and down. But it would never be for muffins. I might jump up and down for the perfect pizza. ~ karen!

  17. KimS says:

    I have SO done that Pringles thing with salt and vinegar chips! I’ve never done the concrete thing and hope I never have to, but I’m sure I’ll do the Pringles thing again…for some reason I can’t stop until it’s too late! Love your posts!!!

  18. Laura Bee says:

    I’m hoping I can get away without this step before I put down my tiles. But if I do, I’m doing it barefoot!

  19. Sebrah says:

    You make it look so easy! I feel ready to tackle anything now.
    I mean yesterday I even weeded a whole massive patch in the garden. I don’t weed. In fact I don’t garden and people like you Karen make me actually kind of want to do this stuff!
    Loving the progress, great work :-)

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Thanks for letting me know Sebrah. That’s the point of this whole site. :) But you don’t have to do everything I do. Just do what you like. :) Mind you … nobody likes weeding and that needs to get done so … do what you like .. .plus the few things that *have* to be done. ~ karen!

  20. Judy Bickford says:

    You forgot one thing. Do not let your husband ( or fella) help. Had to level two bathrooms last week due to moving a few walls around. We mixed 2 bags and poured. No problem, but needed another bag for the first bathroom. Since I was mixing, I kept telling him to stop adding more water, but, of course, he did. When we poured that third bag, the consistency was thinner and it dammed up against the first pour. Then, he tried to smooth it around but because it was thinner, it just kept getting worse. Butterscotch ripple without the butterscotch. Thankfully, our friend does ceramic and rescued the floor. Otherwise, we’d have to pour more cement and our toilet would be teetering on top of extensions on extensions. Second floor went much better.

    • Stephanie says:

      Boys will be boys…mine decided to suck up CARPET PADDING CHUNKS with the vacuum cleaner. “Don’t do that” I said. “You’ll burn out the motor” I said. *sigh*

    • Suzie says:

      How, exactly, did your ceramic friend rescue the butterscotch problem?

    • Rowan Rousseau says:

      The only reason I’m here taking a refresher course is that I just tore up the floor my husband had installed as a surprise during my brief absence. Not only did he leave conspicuous gaps between the tongue-groove tiles and make cuts that can’t be hidden under conventional baseboards, I could tell by the flex that the floor wasn’t properly levelled. The manufacturer no longer makes the tiles I had painstakingly chosen, which is why I bought extra for replacement. But I hadn’t bought an entire room’s worth of replacement tiles! After I’ve finished moving all the appliances out of the kitchen, removing the baseboards, chipping out the god-awful leveler mess with a demo hammer, replacing the subflooring that was damaged by the previous dishwasher (which he hadn’t), I’m installing porcelain tiles. Alone. When all’s said and done, this will be the most expensive and time-consuming floor in the house.

  21. stephbo93 says:

    I’m a little creeped out by the photo where the vacuum seems to be moving all by itself but overall, I’m really impressed. Thanks for showing us how to use this stuff! And I totally feel your pain on those chips. I love them, but my mouth always feels like one giant pucker afterwards.

  22. Lori says:

    Nice job!! wish I had the gumption to do that ! Please keep up the good work cause you are very inspiring! Maybe I’ll get the gumption to do this in the near future.

  23. Auntiepatch says:

    I’ll say it again; you’re my hero!

  24. Susan Preston says:

    Hard, huh? I mixed, my friend tried smoothing the stuff out all over my bake shop floor. Bags and bags and bags of that runny stuff. We’d come in the next day expecting a smooth surface and find another hollow! And start all over again. I mixed by hand till my shoulders felt like they were going to fall off! But the floor looks like it was worth all the work! Even if it did hold up the opening date by at least 2 weeks! And depleted my pocketbook even more! Yours is looking great! Oh by the way I wouldn’t walk in it in my bare feet either. Yuck! And I have chips if you need some more! I’ll send them over via Glynnis my chicken!

    • Karen says:

      Glynnis? Is she new? I don’t think I’ve heard of Glynnis! ~ karen

      • Susan Preston says:

        Glynnis is my Ameracuna. She’s an old girl but new to me! A “rescue” chicken so to speak. I have got two blue eggs from her. One last Aug. 25th…my oldest daughters birthday and one this last Saturday.. My youngest daughter’s birthday! Can’t wait to see the finished product! Keep working girl! The heat’s acoming!

      • Tasos says:

        Hi good job,
        i wanted to share my experince if priming or not, yes if you primer the plywood you will get a better bond and also if you going over tile, if you dont use the primer eventually it crack and peels off.

  25. Pam'a says:

    Wow, Karen. I can’t believe you could pour cement with your hair looking subpar.


    Serious now: I bow to your fearless, inspirational ambition and energy. It appears things came together in a magnificent way. Brava! :)

    • Jinx says:

      Her hair looks magnificent, you jerk

    • I install these self leveled floors for a living. She did a great job. If your doing this i don’t recommend doing it barefoot. Chemical reaction in the cement can cause burn. But a pair of self level Spikes for 20 bucks on Amazon.

      • eli says:

        would it be ok to section offf the floor with little batons a bit like shes does at the threshold, and do it in small sections the way they do the road. i am so sur ei wouldnt be able to do it all at once not least becaus ei would have to shove the furniture to one side of the room … but if sections would work i think i could manage to do it in strips and i also feel its going to be so hard to calculate the three dimensions. i coudl start with the highest side and then it would be easier to have the low end match up i think.

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