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All about self-leveling concrete

self-leveling concrete

Laying concrete over large areas may seem easy enough for most DIY-ers, but wet concrete is heavy and difficult to move. Hiring professionals to install concrete floors helps reduce the risk of uneven floors.

However, if you notice that your concrete floors are uneven, you do not need to panic. Uneven concrete floors are fixed or repaired through a process known as floor leveling. 

Self-leveling concrete is the best solution for repairing concrete floors. This concrete is excellent for concrete floors that have cracks, are sunken, or are uneven. It is a great way to level unleveled surfaces while giving old concrete floors a fresh look. 

What is self-leveling concrete?

Self-leveling concrete is a polymer-modified cement used to create high-compressive smooth flat surfaces. It does not require large volumes of water and can work on any non-flexible surface, including wood, ceramic tiles, plywood, and concrete. 

There are two types of self-leveling compounds; acrylic and water-based concrete. Acrylic concrete is made by mixing cement powder with liquid acrylic polymer. 

The water-based self-leveling concrete uses water instead of the acrylic liquid for mixing. They both come as a bag of powder containing the latex compounds for mixing. The water-based self-leveling concrete type is much easier to use and ideal for beginners. 

Self-leveling concrete is poured in liquid form and spread in place using a gauging tool. A single pass of self-leveling concrete is usually 0.25 to 1.5 inches thick. The finished product is smooth and flat, with superior compressive strength to traditional concrete floors. 

After application, the concrete can be decorated using overlays or concrete stains and dyes. Self-leveling concrete is relatively popular among architects and property owners because of its many advantages over traditional concrete. 

It is easy, quick to install, and useable before or after construction. It also creates smooth and flat floors on tile, plywood, or concrete floors. Therefore, self-leveling concrete helps reduce instances of damage and repair costs.

When to use self-leveling concrete

Self-leveling concrete is quick and easy to install and is therefore quite DIY-friendly. Use self-leveling concrete to repair slightly uneven floors in your home. Use a spirit level to accurately measure the degree of unevenness, then pour the compound and spread it out. 

There are many applications for self-leveling concrete. It is perfect for upcycling settled or cracked floors. You can also use it to smoothen and flatten rough and uneven basement floors. 

You can also use it as a standalone finishing material, durable enough to withhold daily wear and tear. This makes it suitable for use in retail stores, warehouse floors, institutional facilities, and industrial locations. 

For decoration, add stains, pigmented color dyes, and saw cuts, and for a more polished look, consider mechanical polishing. 

use self-leveling concrete

When not to use self-leveling concrete

Despite its advantages, self-leveling concrete is not always the best option. There are some instances when you should not use self-leveling concrete. 

Do not use self-leveling concrete without the help of a trained professional. The compound dries very fast and only allows a ten to twenty-minute window from pouring to spreading before it starts to harden. 

Self-leveling concrete is best suited as a standalone or subsurface flooring for interior flooring. However, it is unsuitable for outdoor flooring as it doesn’t hold up very well in harsh conditions.

Polymer-mixed, self-leveling concrete also does not cure very well on non-horizontal surfaces. It will therefore be unsuitable for use on vertical walls. It is also not suitable for use where heavy machinery or harsh chemicals are applied.

It is also advisable to avoid using self-leveling concrete on floors with structural damage.  It only fixes the surface, so the problem will reoccur if the underlying floor orientation is in bad shape. Perform structural repairs before applying the leveler to prevent the floor from sinking again. 

Self-leveling concrete is also unsuitable for repairs in large areas due to its fast drying time and increased cost. A self-leveling concrete bag is more expensive than a bag of ordinary cement. 

Finally, do not use self-leveling concrete unless you can clean it right after application. Concrete is very sticky and can stain surfaces and clothes. 

How to use self-leveling concrete

It is vital to ensure there’s no structural damage before installing self-leveling concrete. If the unevenness is due to structural damage, you must get that fixed first. 

Next, you need to determine the moisture level of the concrete floor. Moisture is normal in concrete, but a high moisture level puts the leveling compound at risk of gradual degradation. The slab must, therefore, be tested to ensure that the moisture level is within acceptable levels. 

This can be done using “the relative humidity test using in situ probes.” Once you know the floor is good enough to work on, you can start the installation process. Start by preparing the floor and filling the cracks, then apply primer, mix the concrete and leave to dry. 

Prepare the floor

Clear the floor by removing the room's furniture, appliances, and baseboards. Remove everything moveable, so you get a good finish. Once the room is empty, clean the floor and remove dust. For best results, sweep first and then vacuum. The clean surface is ready for priming. 

Fill any cracks 

Use a filler and a sealer to fill the larger cracks in the concrete floor. To do this, place the nozzle of the filler bottle in the cracks and squeeze out enough filler to fill the crack. You can also press the filler into the cracks to ensure they are adequately filled. 

Ensure you have filled all the cracks before proceeding to the next step to avoid wasting the leveler. Allow the filler and sealer to dry, and then prime the surface. 

Apply primer

Once all cracks have been filled, use a soft-bristle push broom to apply and spread the primer. Use downward pressure to spread the primer thoroughly, ensuring you push it into the pores of the concrete. Allow the primer to dry for 3-24 hours. 

Mix the concrete

Mix the concrete

Pour the leveling compound into a bucket and add some water. Use a mixing paddle to mix it until you have achieved the right consistency. Work fast and mix one bag at a time because the compound dries fast.

Since you only have a 10-20 minute window before the compound begins to harden, you should work with a partner. An extra pair of hands is great because one person can mix the compound while the other installs it. 

Leave to dry 

Once the compound is installed, let it dry according to the instructions on the bad. Self-leveling concrete typically takes 4-24 hours to dry, so you should be able to walk on it after 4 hours. Give it at least 24 hours to dry completely before installing any other flooring. 

Summary 

Self-leveling concrete is a polymer-modified cement used to create high-compressive smooth flat surfaces. It is an ideal alternative to regular concrete because it is easy to use and fixes uneven floors in just 4-24 hours. 

Ideal for DIY projects, self-leveling concrete should only be used when there is no structural damage to the existing concrete floor. It is suitable for use on wood, tiles, and concrete. 

Self-leveling concrete is best for relatively small spaces because it is expensive compared to cement covering square footage at a much lower cost. Ultimately, self-leveling concrete offers a quick and easy fix for uneven floors.