Tag Archives: Dang it

Let me level with you

I have been working on our house for…well, for as long as we’ve owned it. It’s a bit of a money-pit fixer-upper and I have enjoyed doing most of the work.  The one thing that makes it all interesting though, is that it is neither square nor level…and not even close.

We have three bathrooms (thank goodness!) and it seems like one is always torn up for one reason or another.  Anyhow, I have been working on the one in the lowest level and am ready to lay tile.  In preparation, I checked the existing floor for low spots, high spots, spotted newts, see spot run, and giant red spots.  Unfortunately, I had several of these.  One can lay tile on a goofed up floor, but the goofs either break tiles or look like someone who knows nothing about laying tile laid the tile.

Not wanting to look like an amateur, I knew I had to fix unevenness of the floor.  I have never used self-leveling concrete before (I AM and amateur, I just don’t want to LOOK like an amateur), but I knew it was the solution for all of my floor-spot-related woes.  The idea is that one pours a somewhat thin layer of special concrete and then watch in amazement as the concrete covers the floor and dries to a smooth, level surface.  Sounds easy, right?

The blue primer drying

Well, mostly it is.  Let me back up…first I had to paint a primer over the bare floor so that the floor would look more blue.  I am not certain that it really did anything else, but I gotta tell you, it did a great job of making my floor more blue…so, it was a huge success!  The blue primer finally dried (Emily watched as I napped…she wasn’t about to let me sleep a minute longer than necessary…she wants this project done!) and I stumbled downstairs to mix the concrete.

Self-leveling concrete...still wet and almost smooth

Back when we first got the house, we bought a huge stirrer that you use with your drill.  It’s built to mix in a 5 gallon bucket.  We tried omelets a few times but it never seemed to taste right out of the bucket so we use it only for mixing paint and concrete now.  Normally, concrete is mixed in a bathtub or a wheelbarrow or something like that with a hoe and child labor.  The drill-mixer is not usually used for concrete, but the directions called for it specifically (good thing I pre-bought that tool!)  So I mixed a 50-lb bag of the stuff following th directions and then I spread it over the floor.  I had to move it around with a large float I made from old wood scraps.  That seemed pretty reasonable.  I didn’t expect to pour a bunch of concrete out and have it magically float evenly over the entire floor.

Dried concrete...almost level

The next part bugs me a little though.  I smoothed the concrete over the floor and had it pretty smooth.  To me, “self-leveling” meant that the stuff would flow evenly across the surface and sort of absorb imperfections in the floor…the low spots and tiny imperfections and such.  At first, it did appear that it was going to behave.  As time went on, however, it became clear that it wasn’t going to work quite like that.

The tile laid out...just begging to be installed...

I cussed it thoroughly and the floor mostly leveled as it hardened (and it hardened quickly), but it is by no means, perfect.  So, in the next day or so, I am headed back to the home improvement store to get some more self-leveling concrete to patch the few screwed up spots.  Part of my problem may be that I got rapid set concrete (not on purpose) rather than extended set…I won’t make that mistake again.

So let me warn you very clearly…if you ever use self-leveling concrete, be sure you have it pretty smooth/level as soon as you can…I’d hate for you to have to cuss your floor like I did!