I have no idea when I first heard of self-leveler, but it was long before I ever owned a home. I remember my brother and I were kind of fascinated by it. We must have seen it being used on some home improvement show. In my mind it worked like magic. Pour it and watch it level itself out to a smooth, perfect new floor. It didn’t quite work out that way for me. Not that way at all.
Why did I need self-lever anyway?? Well if you recall from my ongoing family room renovation, I tore out the carpet and was planning to tile over the concrete slab. When I was inspecting the floor I realized that the floor was in fact flat, but it sloped toward the kitchen. I spent a ridiculous amount of time researching tile installation, and despite getting conflicting info (of course) I agree that you can in fact lay tile on a sloped floor as long as it is flat. Think about shower floors that are sloped toward a drain. The tile will adhere and be secured to the surface as long as it’s flat. So I had a decision to make… 1) Adhere the tile to the concrete sub floor as it is. 2) Use self-leveler to even out the floor or 3) Use extra mortar under the tile at the low points of the room. My new buddy from the tile section of Home Depot recommended option 3, but I was afraid to cut corners so I went with option 2, the self-leveler.
I watched a ton of YouTube videos and read a lot of info online and even spoke to a few actual humans. Here’s the best of what I learned — Self-leveler doesn’t really level any better than any other liquid. Think of self leveler as pancake batter. You pour it in a pan and it forms a nice level pancake. It’s flat right? But the batter didn’t spread out to the whole pan, right? It spread a little and then stopped. But… if you used a spatula you could possibly spread the badder out around the whole pan. It would be a lot thinner, but it would still level itself out. But it surely isn’t going to fill the pan and find level all on its own. Same with the floor. There is a lot of spreading and smoothing that must happen with self-leveler. And it takes time to do all that spreading, which can be a problem, because self-leveler sets pretty quickly. You cannot pour all your buckets at once and start leveling. You must level as you go. It takes at least two people (with most people recommending 4-6 people) so one person can mix the leveler (water + a package of leveling powder) while the other person spreads it. We did not worry about cleaning out the buckets, which a third person could have done. Most people recommend you wear spiked cleats or some other way to elevate your feet off the floor so you wouldn’t leave footprints in the leveler. I thought we had a pair of those strap on crampons used to walk on ice, but I guess we don’t, so I just skipped it. I did buy a squeegee on a stick, but it sucked for this. (It worked really well spreading the asphalt sealer though, so it wasn’t a total waste!) It would have been better to make wide notches in the squeegee so it didn’t pull so much of the leveler around. Oops.
I ended up making my own YouTube video in case anyone else is out there researching self-leveler. What do you think?
I read all the reviews. All the products suck in their own way. There was no clear winner. But I was afraid to use the stuff from Lowe’s. So Home Depot it was. I used the entire system…
Then I filled any cracks or weird holes with the floor patch. We tore out part of our fireplace and hearth, so there were quit a few cracks and holes from the demo. They were super easy to fix, I did it on a Friday night while my kids had a dance party in their PJs.
I also taped off the built-in bookshelves. (Read about the built-ins HERE)
The next morning I primed the floor. Some people skip this step, but I figured why mess with it. The primer was cheap and it was easy to apply. I poured it on the floor then brushed it on with a paint roller. I did use a cheap foam brush around the edges of the room. Done. Dried in a few hours.
The other important thing is to is create dams so the leveler is contained. I taped off around the base of the drywall with masking tape. I also attached wood to the back of my new half-wall and taped that off as well.
Applying the Self-Leveler
We got 8 buckets and 8 bags of self-leveler. You totally don’t need to use new buckets nor do you need one for each bag of mix, but we didn’t have any buckets lying around that weren’t already being used. Hubby mixed and poured and spread. I thought he should mix the leveler on the back deck so he could pass the buckets to me through the window. I should have had him mix down on the gravel though, because it was a pain to clean up after. Anyway… more tips… Use COLD water because warm water will make the mix set faster. Measure and add water to the bucket, then add the bag of self-leveler and mix. We had to buy a new 1/2″ corded hammer drill because that was what we needed for the mixing attachment. It turns out that the mixing took way longer than the pouring and spreading, so I was able to rinse out the buckets and get them filled with the proper amount of water so hubby just had to add the powder and mix. So we didn’t end up using all the buckets which was nice.
Let’s ignore the fact that I totally misread the bag and added the wrong amount of water, my method for measuring the water was spot on. I used a leftover container, added the “proper”amount of water then drew a line on the container with a Sharpie. I even drilled some holes at the line so if it was overfilled the excess water would drain out. It worked very well after I re-read the measurements on the bag.
I thought I rocked the application, but… it turned out terribly. This is what it looked like wet.
It was dry by the next morning. It’s crazy that it looks like it has ripples in it, but that’s just color variation and it’s actually a smooth surface. Sort of. I was super disappointed with the results. The floor I started with was perfectly flat, it was just slanted. After the leveler the floor was nowhere near flat. There were peaks and valleys everywhere. It was a pain in the butt to tile… but more on that in another post.
Here’s what’s been happening with the family room:
- Ladies Demo + Wine Night
- Family Room Can of Worms
- Family Room Gets Wired Up
- Making Progress on the Family Room
- Design Choices for the Family Room
- Family Effort this Weekend
- The Built-in Bookshelf and Why It’s Not Finished
- Built-in Bookshelf Using IKEA BESTA
- Self-Leveling Concrete <<You are here
- Tiling Herringbone Floor
- Grouting the Herringbone Floor
- New Step into Family Room
- Lego Coffee Table
- Under Couch Lego Storage