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

PREP WORK

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.

MATERIALS

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.

Primer 

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.

STEPS

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.

Materials

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

Tools

  • Strong drill (I rented an industrial one)

Instructions

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.

Notes

*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".

OTHER TUTORIALS REFERENCED IN THIS POST

  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.

311 Comments

  1. Vlad says:

    Karen,
    I love your tutorial (and your writing style). Gave me courage to try this in my new sunroom (14’x17′). Unfortunately, there are no longer photos in your post (can you bring them back?), but it looks like you did not do your leveling all at once or in a very brief period (what with needing to buy more cement next day, etc.). Was this OK? In all the tutorials I have seen it seems you have to do it quickly and pretty much all at once. Alas, it is only me, so I don’t believe I can be that quick, with mixing, pouring, and smoothing. Your advice will be much appreciated.
    Best, Vlad

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vlad! I’m sorry but there’s a problem with my photos right now. I’m working on fixing it. I had help but still ended up having to do mine over the course of 2 days. As long as you pour your second layer (or section) while the first section is still wet and hasn’t fully cured you’re fine. If you don’t do it until the first layer has already cured they won’t fuse together properly. Good luck! ~ karen

  2. KR says:

    You are HOT Karen

  3. Red says:

    While Don’s comments are a bit strident I concur on the need for primer/sealer on the underlayment.

    It’s possible you get lucky and don’t need it but you won’t know that until it’s too late. Then the $$$ you saved will be lost several times over if you have to go back and re-do the job. Also remember to consider disclosure when you sell. If you put it in you can’t claim you weren’t aware.

    Also be careful going off the advice of folks at “the store.” I’ve been led astray many times by advice from well intentioned folks in hardware / paint stores.

    The internet is a great tool for acquiring the basic facts, and then building from there. It’s not always 100% accurate but it will give you a general consensus from which to build upon.

    And I hate to say it but I’ve also heard it’s best to keep bare skin out of cement. It’s possible in recent years some of the worst ingredients have been lessened or removed. I don’t want to make a bigger deal of it. You do it a couple times in your life I’m sure you’ll be fine. It’s different for people who do it for a living and have continuous exposure.

    But overall great post, you have a wonderful, funny and off hand writing style. Keep it up, it’s something you have a talent for.

    And if you make an occasional mistake that’s OK. The pro’s do too, and as I like to say – you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Red -Thanks for the comment. The truth is, because my floor underneath was linoleum I absolutely did not need the primer. The primer is to seal a surface that is porous that the self leveller might seep into or get absorbed by. Like a former concrete floor. And you’re right i wouldn’t take the advice all the time of the people in a regular hardware or big box store but I am more inclined to take the advice of a store used by professionals (which this was). And yes, I was fine after walking in cement for a day and a half, lol. I’ve worked with hydrated lime. Now THAT’s something I’m careful with. ;) ~ karen!

  4. James says:

    That was awesome! I have to do this myself for 1000 sqft!

    • Karen says:

      No problem. You’ll be able to do it with your eyes closed. ~ karen!

      • James says:

        You’re splendid. Did you see any issues ever crop up from not using a primer?

        • Karen says:

          I haven’t, no. But if your subfloor is concrete you should use it because concrete is porous. I on the other hand was pouring onto vinyl flooring which of course isn’t porous. ~ karen!

  5. Kate says:

    Like so many others here, I found your site and love it. I do have a question I saw above and sorry if I missed your answer. I saw (too late) that you need to put the second layer on while the first is still wet. I didn’t do that. I am leveling a floor for glue down engineered hardwood. Am I in big trouble??

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kate. Well .. I’m not sure how much trouble you’re in, lol. The reason for applying when wet is because it melds the two layers together. Now what you have is a top layer and a bottom layer. It’s possible it won’t adhere to the first surface, could crack or it could be just fine. For your purposes (of putting it under laminate) I think you should be fine. But that’s pretty much just a guess. ~ karen!

      • Kate says:

        Wow! Great info AND a prompt response. I am now hooked on your site! btw, it looks like our last pour leveled it enough that we only need to add a little to the sides. thanks again!!

  6. Moe says:

    Your too kool…. I’m gonna show this to my real tough friend and tell him, yes, we can do this…………Thanks for the vid…later and good luck kool karen…….

  7. Dallas says:

    Can you use this self leveling concrete as the actual flooring? I’m trying to fix the pocketed floor in a retail space that had multiple floorings (tile, hardwoods, linoleum) down as display. It has been removed but the concrete is uneven.

    We are a poor nonprofit and I have to keep our expenses down on this new volunteer storage and work space. My goal is to make the floor smooth enough for volunteers not to trip but without having to spend any extra to make the floor pretty.

    But, I do like pretty so – if we could use it as flooring, any chance we could stamp or paint it? Volunteers deserve a pretty place to work.

    Thanks for any advice.
    db

  8. Raymond from Germany says:

    Hi Karen,

    What is to be said – has already been said by many of your fans.

    I admire your Courage to do such work, (youl never find a European gird doing this) and the instructions and tips are first class. Thanks for the enjoyable reading, Raymond

  9. Richard Viers says:

    I love the fact that you have made it clear in your post that it is expensive and takes time to do it right. I do a lot of jobs for people but had never done an indoor leveling job. My partner told a customer we could do it and bid the job way too low, so I ended up losing money on the job. We were hired to do multiple jobs and he
    told them we could complete them all in 5 days. When I hired a helper to work with me on the cement work
    he said I had to pay the helper out of my share. No big deal right .. The floor was 23×13 and when I checked
    with a level the difference between the highest point and lowest was 3 inches. The original use for the floor was
    as a garage and it was cracked and had sunk in… The customer was unhappy that I took so much time to do it
    and fired me… I will never let my partner put me in that position again…

  10. anna says:

    I am remodeling my bathroom and after pulling up old carpet and it’s residue I’m left with a lot of uneven places….plus the general slant of a 100 year old house. I will use the self-leveling cement as in your pictures. I purchased the groutable vinyl self-stick tiles because I didn’t want to mess with ceramic and they were also thinner. The guy at lowes said I had to install them over a wood sub-floor and sold me a smooth luan-type material. Do you know if these vinyl self-stick tiles would stick to the self-leveling compound? I did buy the primer to put on before the self-stick tiles. I haven’t bought the self-leveler since I don’t know what is available yet and I definitely don’t want the quick-drying kind. Thanks

  11. Sandy says:

    After ‘leveling’ my floor and then installing a floating wood floor, I notice there is a bit of a dip or give in the flooring as I enter the room, meaning I did not get this 100% level. The flooring is simple enough to remove, but the question is can I simply add more SLU and taper to minimze the slope, or do I have to chisel out the high side?

  12. Robert says:

    Karen, You helped me make up my mind about pouring self leveling cement, You also made me realize that I need to trade my wife in on you or one like you.
    Regards
    Robert

  13. Colleen says:

    Thanks for the helpful tutorial. I’m feeling empowered to tackle the basement floor in our flip house.

  14. don says:

    Your house may not have fallen into an abyss, but chances are good the underlayment will fail over time. Primer is completely necessary along with a properly profiled clean sound substrate. Spending a little extra to do it right the first time will end up saving you money in the future.

    …. and please do not walk around barefoot in this stuff, you obviously have no idea the amount of corrosive chemicals in this cement that may permanently damage your skin and cause all sort of other problems with your body. If you ever meet a concrete finisher, look at there legs, alot of them are missing hair and have chemical burns throughout the body.

  15. Desiree says:

    Karen, I’m renovating my bathroom and the floor was so unlevel the toilet wouldn’t sit straight– this self leveling article was so helpful — I was so intimidated but I read this, and went right into it. I’m waiting for it to dry as I type this!

    Thanks so much!

  16. don says:

    This article is full of bad information, How NOT to pour SLU

  17. Ben says:

    Also if you’re trying to level out a floor that is out by a significant amount, a chalk line will work for small areas like a bathroom. If the area is significantly larger, a laser level and these http://www.topleveltools.com/products/featured/featured-level-pegs.html will help. We use a rotary laser level and go around the floor using a measuring tape to establish where the highest point of the room is. Then you form a grid with the level pegs and set your heights accordingly. Makes it easier to know where to push the material and ensure you are leveling the floor properly as the material is not 100 percent self leveling.

  18. Ben says:

    You can also use soccer cleats if you don’t want to leave footprints in the cement

  19. Taras says:

    Hi there,
    WOW !!!!
    I no longer am afraid.
    You’re step by step directions on how to pour a levelling compound is brilliant.
    I’ve renovated many houses, however have never required the use of such a compound therefore I was scared…….I was very scared.
    Following your step by steps did the trick for me.
    Cheers
    P.S
    You should write more How to…..for the very scared.

    • Karen says:

      Glad it worked for you Taras! And this whole website is pretty much dedicated to How to for the very scared. :) ~ karen!

  20. Dianna says:

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  21. Mango says:

    As someone who is just about to pour a self-leveling underlayment, this article is by far the finest one I’ve read on the topic. If we ever meet, I will buy you some chips.

  22. Jackie says:

    I have a question about the color. Does it stay that dark? Is there a lighter color available? I would like to just stain and seal it.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jackie – The self levelling cement lightens up a bit, but a word of caution for using it to stain and seal. It’s very difficult to pour so you have a beautiful, bubble free surface. And although the cement lightens up it will always be mottled looking. I’m sure a professional might be able to a better job on both counts, but it’s something you should know about if you’re thinking of doing it yourself. Good luck! ~ karen

      • Jackie says:

        Thanks Karen! Mottled is the effect I’d prefer anyhow! If it’s too perfect, all the dog hair shows…LOL

  23. Liz Madeley says:

    A quick note about going barefoot. Cement is very caustic. If you get any (dust or liquid) in your eyes, wash them out, it can blind you. I’d recommend impervious gloves and footwear, myself. I know a fellow who got 3rd degree chemical burns from cement he didn’t wash off. Stay safe.

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  25. Dionne says:

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks for all the info. Do you think this can be done over a sturdy ceramic floor? I want to use it as flooring. I’ll accept the bubbles etc. Anything will be better than the current dated ceramic.

  26. Rose* says:

    I read an article somewhere that if you stir the cement at a lower speed then bubbles are much less likely to form? Any thoughts?? How smooth was your floor after it dried? 90-95% smooth or what would you guess??

    • Karen says:

      The low speed thing makes sense but I’m not entirely sure the professional drill had a speed setting. I think the only option was “on”. I can’t remember and couldn’t guess how many bubbles I had, but maybe 80% smooth? Total guess. ~ karen!

  27. Glenda K says:

    Thanks for all the good info and pictures! I’m still wanting to understand the workability of the product. It seems that you used the squeegee to move the cement so that it was approximately even. Did you then have to smooth it with a trowel? Smooth with the squeegee? or does it self-level and smooth itself?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Glenda K – The squeegee is really just to push the cement where you want it to go. You just use it to move the cement around, not to actually level or smooth it. Once it’s pushed into the corners and such, you just leave it. So yes, it levels and smooths itself. ~ karen!

  28. Rosr says:

    Wow….I’m seriously impressed, your floor looks great!! What kind of subfloor did you lay the concrete over? I’ve been lusting after those gorgeous acid stained concrete floors and am wondering if I could just lay this self leveling stuff over my wood subfloors? Any thoughts?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rosr – Well, I wouldn’t say I’m a cement floor expert at this point, lol. But what I can tell you is it’s difficult to get a perfectly smooth surface yourself with self levelling concrete. There are bound to be little bubbles that form at the top and that sort of thing. I ripped up a few layers of ceramic tile and vinyl until I was down to a smooth smooth sheet flooring. I poured the concrete over that. Because it was non porous I didn’t have to worry about using the sealer. If you’re going over wood you should probably use the sealer and make sure you patch up any holes that the concrete might seep through. ~ karen!

  29. joe says:

    Always wanted to use a self-leveler but now, thankfully, will not have to. I’ve had the experience vicariously! Thanks so much for sharing!

  30. Scott says:

    I wanted to comment here. First, the primer/sealer is required if the surface you are pouring onto is porous, such as plywood. Without the primer/sealer, the porous material absorbs the water from the self-leveling underlayment (SLU). This causes the SLU to setup too quickly, not allowing enough “working” time. We know this by trial-by-fire. We poured a 3′ x 3′ area for a fiberglass shower pan. The SLU within 2 – 3 minutes became thick. We ended up chiseling it out which since it sat a week, took 8 hours to do! Round 2 we used primer/sealer, a cordless 18 volt drill on low-speed to mix the SLU. We used water that sat outside all night in 34 degrees. We ended up with lots of air bubbles in the mix. Not sure why? Maybe too high of drill RPM? Anyway, we poured it and used a trowel to help it along. It looked perfect. After it dried, We took a level and although the surface was fairly flat, it was not level. It was over 1/8″ off from level in just the 3 foot span and high in the center. So another 4 – 5 hours to chip it out. We are ready to attempt round 3. We found the slower setting product this time. Not sure what the trick is to get it perfectly level? At least we should have extended working time.

  31. Gary says:

    You know Karen I have looked all over the net, looked at a dozen Youtube videos produced by so called professionals….. and then stumbled upon your instructions. Loved the humour, loved the no pretense of knowing it all. You answered questions I had been searching all over for and here its a woman doing it all. Bravo!! One question- is that linoleum or tile you poured over. If it is lino then what do you think about a small amount of residue from glue I have on my concrete floors. I don’t want to start scraping as I thinks there is asbestos in the tiles. Should the residue be a concern.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gary. Thanks! Well, we’ve already established I do not know it all, but … I wouldn’t think the residue should be any concern. However, if you’re pouring over concrete I think it would be worth your while to seal the floor. It isn’t necessary with a floor that doesn’t absorb anything (i.e. the self levelling cement) but with concrete you could have issues if you don’t seal it before pouring new cement. But the residue? Not a problem. ~ karen!

  32. Elizabeth Fletcher says:

    Age 62, F, have done lots of construction work. Leveling floor. Pay attention to everything Karen says but just fasten plastic bags over your shoes instead of barefooting it, and wear gloves. Sent white-collar helper-husband to borrow corded 1/2″ drill from neighbor. Brought back battery-powered with 4 batteries. Lost the argument. Mixed 1/2 bucket when batt 1 died. Switched to Batt 2, 3 & 4 and moved on to bucket 2 when smoke came out of drill [1st Law of electronics: NEVER let the smoke out! Once the smoke leaks out, you need a new one]. Must mix!!! Must be continuous pour! Switched to 3/8″ corded drill and second bucket mixed before smoke came out of that drill. That part of floor completed. 56-mile round trip to buy 1/2′, 6 amp corded drill (50′ 16 gage extension cord in use which is fine for 6 amp tool). Smoke began seriously pouring out of new drill before 1st bucket for 2nd pour complete. Accepted the fire or fusing risk, which is VERY high, and completed mixing the bucket as the smoke leak increased. Leveler requires slow rotation rate as compared to drilling a hole. Drill instructions caution that running the drill slow for long periods will overheat it and it needs to be run with no load until it cools. 1. How do you know it is overheating BEFORE the smoke indicates the wire insulation is burning? 2. How much smoke is ok? 3. How do you know it is sufficiently cooled? So, did not work; new drill pouring enough smoke within 4 min of first use to convince me it was NOT, as my hubby proclaimed, just the grease burning out of a new item that is hot for the first time [burning grease smells like burnt grease; burning wire insulation smells like burnt insulation and they don’t smell the same]. Poured this bucket of leveler thin so I could easily add another layer AFTER I rent an industrial drill and buy my neighbor a new drill [leveler does not level well when the depth is very thin — gave myself about 1/2 inch]. Will need to use primer between layers because can’t get to it before it dries and the the manufacturer says to use primer for this. The construction guys call primer moose milk so haven’t a clue what primer is. The majority of construction guys make money from their labor. Some, the good ones who are always too busy to work for YOU, also use their brains and do what the manufacturer says you should do with their product so as to increase the odds that a tempermental product like self-leveling cement will actually work. As for other leveling projects, bear in mind how much weight this product adds to a floor. On old concrete floor supported by dirt/gravel, you are OK. A thick pour on a wood floor is iffy. Can the floor take it? Can the structure holding up the pour take it? Bag + water weight; not much water evaporates out. A thin pour on wood is iffy because wood floors often flex under your feet as you walk. Good luck with your project. Me, I’m chilling today. A 2 hour job has taken 2 days and needs another day…..

  33. Josée says:

    Wow – are you ever fun and impressive. You’ve effectively shown that when a woman does a ‘man’ish job’, you get fantastic details. xo I especially like how you cover parts that could lead to worry (dips, uneven patches). Merci!!

    • Karen says:

      You’re welcome Josée! It really was one of the more satisfying jobs I’ve done lately along with being one of the scariest. I have to say I LOVE the heated floors I installed! (which is why I had to do the self levelling cement. ~ karen!

  34. stevie says:

    Love the instructions – I only have repairs to a screed to do before tiling and this makes me feel better about it. But how could you cover up those lovely red tiles? I just had my 100- year old tiles taken up an relaid on a new concrete floor – I’ve been waiting for years to get a house with a kitchen with an old tiled floor. Oh and you really shouldn’t let concrete products come into contact with skin like that – little splashes that can be wiped off are ok but walking in it!?! Have you any skin left on your feet?!?

    • Karen says:

      Yup. Feet are fine. ~ karen

      • Bobboau says:

        You might want to make a small addendum where you talk about walking through the cement barefoot. Obviously you cleaned up well and quickly, but people who have larger jobs might have problems if they walk around in wet cement for a few hours. google “cement burn”. I had this happen to me when I splashed some cement on a foot at the beginning of a project and didn’t think about it until I was done. The next day I realized that some of the cement had burned it’s way INTO my skin and I had to scrub the already rather sore area with lemon juice (cement is very alkaline, acids like vinegar or lemon juice neutralize and dissolve it). It’s not a pleasant experience. Feet have lots of places where extremely runny cement can hide and burn it’s way into over a few hours. just make sure to mention that you need to make sure you clean up very thoroughly as soon as possible because cement will eat through you if you leave it too long. Cleaning this muddy mess off you might seem obvious but someone who doesn’t know might put it off because they are exhausted or they might miss a spot and find two days later an inch deep hole somewhere on their body that they normally don’t look at.

        Chemical burns suck.

  35. Joan says:

    Karen! You must be my long-list sister. My husband and I are howling reading this post. He has to have salt-and-vinegar chips, too! Out of necessity, we did our concrete floor work ourselves. The contractors don’t want to bother with small residential jobs. So first, remove the old 9×9 asphalt tiles. No, don’t worry about asbestos. The EPA doesn’t worry about it for these tiles because it is encapsulated. Our county allows them to be thrown into the regular curbside trash. But do worry about the asbestos in the “cutback” – the old adhesive. We got seriously lucky here. We had it tested and there was no asbestos. So then removal of the adhesive. Well, lots of research led us to a great product called Diamabrush mastic removal tool and supposedly we could rent it at Home Depot. Nope. They stopped renting them. But we bought one online for $290 (and later sold it on ebay for $150). You put this thing into a (rented) Clarke Sander floor maintainer and with lots of water and mess, together with husband’s muscle (it is not an easy machine to control), the mastic comes up and you have bare concrete. You need a small angle grinder and the 4.5 inch diamabrush mastic removal tool to get the corners and edges clean. This took two fairly long days. Then you test for moisture content. Ours was too high for the product we are putting down so the next step was to shot blast the floor to ICI Profile 3 (again, lots of research). We were able to rent a small walk-behind shot blaster. It took a day. No dust, because the shot blaster has a super strong vaccuum attached to it. Then a two-stage expoxy. We used MC Plus. Pretty easy to mix, took a bit of effort to spread it properly and I’m sure pros could have done it faster. It had quite a smell but I read the MSDS and no problem if you are just using it once. I wouldn’t want to breathe it on a regular basis. We kept the windows cracked and by day two it was gone.

    All along, people told us we couldn’t do this ourselves. WRONG. And we saved a bundle. The one guy who did give us an estimate wanted $3500 for just the mastic removal and the concrete profiling. We spent just under $3,000 for the whole shebang, including all the tool rental, the expoxy ($1300), and special tools and gear. So I think we saved about $2,000.

    And last but definitely not least, if I could have done it barefoot, I would have!

    Our flooring contractor will be here any minute to start installing the new flooring. They will do the self-leveling compound. Yes, we could have done it ourselves, but we are EXHAUSTED.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Don’t worry Joan, I wasn’t going to chastise you for not doing the self-levelling concrete yourself. I know all about getting to the point you just want to a) buy something instead of make it or b) hire someone to do it. Good job. I’m not sure even I would have tackled what you did. ~ karen!

  36. Bill says:

    after i put down regular leveler how long do i have to wait to install ceramic tile

    • Karen says:

      Hi Bill – I laid VCT tile, so it’s a bit different. For that I had to wait a few days for the cement to cure, and then another few days before I could put heavy appliances back on it. ~ karen

  37. Colleen says:

    Love the humor. Definitely a must when doing insane projects that we some how enjoy after completion and seemed like a good idea before we started. I am currently work on my bathroom remodel. I took the stinking (and I do mean stinking carpet) out and put in ceramic tile flooring. Then I decided to take a wack at the walk in tile shower. There was pieces of tile missing and grout cracked. After examine a few areas and removing a few tiles realized there was tons of mold behind on wall. Crap I have to gut the whole thing. So away I started gutting thing out. Got it down to studs and decided I REALLY want a whirlpool tub instead of tub. New problem we have to move the drain. Ok so hubby talks to plumber who tells him if he breaks down into the cement about 4 inches he can come and redo the drain. Well it turns out to be more like 2 feet. But after renting a jack hammer we were able to get it done. Plumber came in and moved drain. Now have huge hole to fill in plus have to level whole area to surrounding cement lip. I finally got it cemented in this week. Yay I am that much closer to my tub. However before plumber comes out to help install tub I thought I should use some self leveling cement to well make it more even. (Not that it is bad but the annal retentive part of me wants it to look nice so I don’t get comments like your wife did this oh I can tell (in that male tone lol) . So to prove that I really can do it I was researching self leveling cement and was rewarded with some humor and advice at your site. Ps it seems after tub is in and I get surround up I am going to move to drywall. Had a leak in the roof from rain and it was dripping down over my sink. I cleared out the waterlogged and mold drywall. My husband found someone who would repair it but he wants 600 dollars which seems a bit pricy to me unless he is doing the WHOLE kitchen ceiling. I am pretty sure I could do that small area for under 100. Told him get another quote or I am doing it. Lol

  38. Betty Messbarger says:

    I’m too old to read the sides on the sack of floor levelor. I wanted to find out how much water to add. I get from your site that it needs to be thin. You made it sound possible that I won’t ruin my floor. I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. Thank you.

  39. Paul says:

    Please do another project. I’ll send chips.

    • Karen says:

      I’m always doing a project, but I think that’s it for the cement projects. Not even chips could change that. Unless … I mean … well to be honest with you, you weren’t really very specific about what kind of chips or how many. So … ~ karen!

  40. elisa says:

    Hi , i too feel inspired and brave enough now to level a floor in my daycare after reading your tips. Thank you for the tips and inspiration Karen. One question do you have to use the wired lath before you pour the mix if you are leveling a wood sub-floor?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisa – No ma’am. The only thing you have to be sure of is there aren’t any cracks in the wood floor where the concrete can seep down into. ~ karen

  41. Neicy says:

    Girl, you kick butt! I have been looking for a great tutorial which I found in yours. My floor has minimal damage but I want to pour the whole floor. You have built my confidence and given me the info I needed. You rock, Thanks!!!!

  42. Suzy says:

    Wow! I just stumbled on this post.. it’s giving me ideas. We live in an old house that has 3 cellar sections: the house cellar, the man room under the garage and the tunnel that connects the two. All those floors could use a fresh coat of cement. I never even thought I could try it myself! Very cool!

  43. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for the very informative post!!! Wow, that really helps! We are thinking of using self-leveling compound AS flooring in our family room space, hoping for the look of concrete without actually being concrete. It is a mail floor area with plywood subfloor. In your opinion, would it work? Is it sturdy enough to stand up as a floor?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kelly – It’s a bit trickier if you want this stuff to work as actual flooring. The problem is, you can have problems with discolouration and tiny bubbles in the surface of the concrete. Pouring self levelling concrete is easy … pouring a *perfect* looking self levelling concrete is not. :) ~ karen!

  44. andy polishak says:

    After reading and watcing several videos i was still quite nervous. You saved me alot of stress. Thank you very much. If you ever need realtime electrical advice feel free to drop me a line!

    • Karen says:

      Glad to have helped Andy. And I will keep the electrical advice in mind, LOL. I *often* need electrical advice. :) ~ karen!

  45. Alicia says:

    I came across this post while I was doing research on line about how to use self-leveling cement. So, I am very happy that I came across your page. Anyway, I am here typing at 4:23 in the morning and I think I’ve been up for about an hour. Okay, the reason is that I am remodeling my bathroom and came across a big problem. I removed some tiles to get to the bottom floor where it was sinking due to water damage. I fixed the damage area but by then I had removed two layers of tiles. But now that the hole is patched up I am left with an uneven floor and yes I did notice other areas that were not even and that is why I need to do the cement trick..So, once again I am glad that I came across this page. I am going to do this tomorrow.

  46. Anna says:

    So I am loving the idea of this I want to do it in my basement where there are obvious pits and left over black adhesive but I defiantly need the basement to still slope in the same way it currently is. It should work in my head so long as I am using the squeegee. Right? I just want to get rid of the current way it looks and create a surface that can be flat for future flooring or possibly sealed, painted, epoxied. You opinion? Does the floor need to be warm for it to dry well?

  47. tonya says:

    great job.. very informative – easy to understand. our living room floor is an old old concrete floor – the deed says our house was built in the 1920’s and I suspect the living room may have once been the porch!! anyways — we are doing away with carpet – have a 13 yr old dog- so lots of messes. he just can’t help it at times.. and this is one of the options we are researching.. your tip about damming off the area was great.. we had not even thought about that… thanks.. you saved us a future headache.. today we patched the cracks with a flexible concrete patch mix.. and we thought the next step would be the primer.. but after reading your post and online research we decided to skip it.. so again thanks.. thanks for the great tips..

  48. Vida says:

    What brand of self leveler did you use and from what contractor store did you buy it?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vida – I’m afraid I can’t remember the brand. If look at my post you might be able to make it out from the bag. ~ karen!

  49. Katherine says:

    Where did you rent your industrial drill? I’ve called a few big box stores and they said they don’t rent out.

    • Karen says:

      I got mine from a tool rental supply place near my house. That’s all they do … rent tools! This particular place is called “Stephenson’s Rental Service”, but there may be another business in your area that does the same thing. ~ karen!

  50. freezerbear says:

    Hi Karen, There once was a time when I thought Paul Weller was the coolest thing on the planet, now I know it’s you!! I have been planning on doing this for months in an 8m x 6m shed in the back yard. Question to you……..how deep can you apply this stuff and is there an optimum ambient temp for application.
    Regards,
    A Setting Son.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Freezerbear – Each product will very slightly in terms of how deep you can pour them etc. Just read the bag once you buy it. It can often be poured up to 1″. Anything where the outdoor temperature is below 50 (10 celsius ) will slow the curing process significantly. Aim for a nice warm day with low humidity. ~ karen!

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