Choosing The Best Self-Levelling Concrete: A Guide
Looking to renovate your home? It’s all good until you get to the flooring…
If you have a concrete floor, you should be worried about its state from underneath. You’ll see the result of years of pressure from walking, jumping, dragging furniture, placing sofas, and whatnot.
Leveling the floor may seem like a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be, thanks to self-levelling concrete. It allows you to easily get your floor level without spending a fortune. Or too much time and effort.
With this post I’ll share everything you need to know about choosing the best self-levelling concrete.
Ready to learn more about this? Let’s get started!
What is Self-Levelling Concrete?
Self-levelling concrete is a type of concrete that’s made from modified polymers. Its self-levelling qualities lie in the fact that it doesn’t need a large volume of water to be added to it.
This gives it a different texture than other types of concrete. It can be used for building flat and smooth surfaces much easier.
Self-levelling concrete has a higher level of compressive strength than normal concrete. This means it doesn’t cave in or get deformed when pressure is applied on it. Flooring that’s made with self-levelling concrete tends to stay in shape much longer.
Self-levelling concrete can be poured and applied on top of normal concrete, ceramic tiles, wood, plywood, VCT, or any non-flexible surface. It has a liquid form and a thickness between 0.25 to 1.5 inches in a single pass.
It’s fast becoming the most popular trend for property developers and builders who use it to build smooth and levelled surfaces. Not only can it be installed much quicker, it also allows you the flexibility of using it before or after construction is complete.
Best of all, self-levelling concrete is also hypoallergenic. This prevents it from soaking in moisture and losing its structural integrity. You can also add concrete stains or dyes for achieving a certain color, as well as decorative overlays.
Now let’s see how you can use self-levelling concrete to achieve a flat and smooth surface.
Best Uses for Self-Levelling Concrete (& When NOT To Use It)
Self-levelling concrete can be used in two ways: as an underlaying material, and as a topping. You can pour it on a flooring surface or subfloor to level and smoothen it, and to correct any irregularities on it.
You can also use it under all types of materials. These include sheet vinyl, vinyl composition tile, wood, plywood, ceramic tile, carpet etc. This allows you to use self-levelling concrete for multiple purposes.
On the other hand, self-levelling concrete can also be used to level a finished floor that doesn’t require any floor covering.
This quality makes it suitable for a variety of applications such as warehouse flooring, industrial purposes, institutional and educational facilities, retail stores, supermarkets, and much more.
The best part about self-levelling concrete is that you can give it any color you want by adding pigmented color dyes or stains to it. Or you can give it a refined look by using mechanical polishing.
The downside to using self-levelling concrete is that it dries very quickly. This means you need to complete the pouring job in just 15 to 20 minutes.
And that makes it unsuitable for projects that have a large surface area that you can’t cover so quickly. As I mentioned above, self-levelling concrete is also unsuitable for surfaces with a high amount of moisture.
Moreover, if you’re using self-levelling concrete to level the wooden subfloor on which tiles will be placed, you are at a risk actually.
If there’s excessive pressure on the tiles and the wooden subfloor loosens up, the concrete layer will also start to break. This can damage your ceramic tiles.
Also, don’t use self-levelling concrete on a surface that’s extremely dirty and grimy. You need to give it a thorough cleaning, which can take up a great deal of your time.
Even after cleaning, the dirt may not remove completely. And it’ll still be risky to use self-levelling concrete since it won’t stick properly.
Pros and Cons of Self-Levelling Concrete
You can enjoy a number of benefits by using self-levelling concrete to smoothen out your flooring surface. Top advantages include:
- Fill cracks in the floor.
- Level a surface with differing elevations.
- Has a high compressive strength, which makes it able to withstand pressure.
- Doesn’t require large volumes of water for mixing.
- Can be colored or decorated using dyes, stains, or decorative overlays.
- Can be installed on top of plywood, ceramic tile, wood, etc.
Of course, there are also some downsides of using self-levelling concrete for your floor:
- Dries very fast, making it unsuitable for long applications.
- Needs to be mixed properly, otherwise clumps may form.
- Can’t be used on wood subflooring, as it can come loose.
- Doesn’t stick properly to dirty or grimy flooring.
- Can break up if mixed with extra water.
A Brief Guide On Installing Self-Levelling Concrete
The best thing about self-levelling concrete is that it doesn’t need to be mixed with a large volume of water. This also makes it easier to work with than concrete or other materials.
Let’s look at how you can use self-levelling concrete in your home or on a commercial project.
Before you start, make sure to sweep the floor using a broom and use a mop to clean up the entire surface. This will wipe away any dirt and dust particles on the floor. Just make sure there’s no moisture inside the floor.
Sure, all concrete construction has a certain amount of moisture. But if the moisture level is too high, it can mix in with the self-levelling concrete over time and create serious issues.
You can’t know this by simply looking at the concrete slab or surface, so it’s best to involve an expert to check for this.
And if there’s a drain or flange on the surface? Make sure to cover it with industrial tape so the concrete doesn’t flow into it or block it.
Before you pour the self-levelling concrete, a handy tip is to use a primer on the entire floor. This will lead to a better bonding when you pour in the concrete mixture.
Now you should know how much self-levelling concrete you’ll need for the surface you have to cover.
A general idea is that a 50 lb bag of standard self-levelling concrete is enough for covering roughly 50 square feet at ⅛-inch thickness. As you increase the thickness, the area you can cover will decrease.
If you have an idea of how much self-levelling concrete you need, and you’ve bought it from the hardware store, read the instructions on its bag. It’ll tell you how much water you need to mix in it.
Take the specified volume of cold water in a bucket. Make sure to take cold water, not hot. Because the concrete starts to harden in hot water.
Wear a mask to protect yourself from ingesting the dust as you slowly add the concrete to the water.
Once you’ve added half of the concrete, mix it well. Next, add the rest of the bag’s contents and mix them again.
You’ll need a mixing drill to ensure you get a smooth solution without any clumps. Once you’re sure the mixture is as smooth as it can be, you can remove the mixing drill.
When you mix the self-levelling concrete into the water, you only have 10 to 15 minutes to work it as it can solidify pretty quickly. So make the most of this time and make sure you can cover the entire surface properly.
Also remember to scrape the sides of the container because the solution will start sticking to it.
Next, pick a corner and start pouring the mixture very slowly and carefully. You don’t want to splash it on the walls.
Once you’ve poured it from one end to another, smoothen it out with a trowel or spiked roller so you don’t miss a spot, especially around the edges. Since the mixture is smooth, it’ll flow all over the surface on its own.
After completing the entire surface, leave it for four hours. After that you can walk over it without spoiling it.
And if you’re looking for a thicker underlayer for your tiles or flooring, you can apply a second layer by repeating the steps I’ve mentioned above.
Once you’re done applying self-levelling concrete to the floor, leave it for at least 15-16 hours before placing tiles or other types of flooring. The concrete needs this time to harden completely and you get a smooth surface to work on.
How do you ensure the concrete mixture doesn’t flow out of the room? You place a stopper or a piece of wood at the door.
After the first coat of self-levelling concrete, use a leveller to check if the entire surface is at level. If not, you can mark the areas that aren’t flat. This will tell you which areas you have to focus on when pouring in the second coat.
Things to Keep in Mind When Using Self-Levelling Concrete
If you follow all of the steps that I’ve mentioned above to the letter, you’ll be able to do a pretty decent job of installing a self-levelling concrete surface on any floor.
Keep these tips in mind as well:
- Read the instructions on the bag of self-levelling concrete.
- Buy more self-levelling concrete than you think you need. If you alter the thickness after buying it, you may not have enough product to cover the entire area. Plus, you can’t go to buy more concrete during the job. The solution will probably harden up by the time you return.
- Prepare all your tools and supplies in advance so no time is wasted when you’re pouring concrete.
- Keep the bags of self-levelling concrete in a cool and dry place. You need to protect it from moisture.
- Don’t mix the concrete with water in extreme heat or cold weather.
- Don’t add water after adding the concrete, as the mixing ratio is crucial.
- Clean up the tools, buckets, and other equipment as soon as you’re done. Once the solution dries up, there’s no cleaning it.
- Don’t add more concrete than you need, otherwise the mixing ratio will go wrong and the entire batch will get ruined.
Best Types of Self-Levelling Concrete
Okay, so now you have an idea of how to choose the best self-levelling concrete. Let’s take a step further and shortlist some of the best ones you can buy.
I’ve done the research so you don’t have to. Sharing the top choices according to various purposes that they’re best for below:
Best Self-Levelling Concrete Overall
If you ask me, the best self-levelling concrete that you can use is the EZ Level Premium Self-Levelling Underlayment, sold by Tec.
It’s perfect for both small and large areas, and provides sufficient volume of concrete that you can mix with water.
It smoothes and levels all types of subfloors, and can be used under floor covering as well, such as ceramic tile, natural stone, laminate flooring, wood flooring, carpet, and much more.
It’s a fast-setting solution that hardens up completely in 2-4 hours, making it easy to walk on it.
Just remember that the EZ Level Premium Self-Levelling Underlayment is suitable for indoor use only. Moreover, it should be mixed using a mixing drill set at a high speed to ensure the solution is smooth and not clumpy.
Best Self-Levelling Concrete at Home Depot
If you’re shopping at Home Depot, my suggestion is to go for LevelQuik RS (Rapid Setting) Self-Leveling Underlayment.
It comes in powdered form and can be easily mixed with water to make a smooth and clump-free mixture. Provided you properly follow the instructions. It’s specially designed to be layered on the surface in one pour.
You can lay out a thickness of up to 1.5 inches. And LevelQuik RS (Rapid Setting) Self-Leveling Underlayment can be used for both residential and commercial projects, including kitchens, bathrooms and more.
It’s advisable to use a primer on the surface before you pour the self-levelling concrete so it can stick properly to the flooring.
Best Self-Levelling Concrete for Thick Pours
Looking for a thicker solution for levelling your floors? Go for the self-levelling underlayment products by CustomTech and CUSTOM. This features the following:
- CustomTech TechLevel 150
- CustomTech TechLevel XP-1
- CustomTech TechLevel 100
- CUSTOM Flooring Installation Systems CL-150
- CUSTOM Flooring Installation Systems CL-XP1
These products can bring you a thickness of up to 4 inches. This is achieved by mixing self-levelling concrete with water, and pouring it on the surface.
The next thing to do is adding pea gravel to bring up the thickness to your desired level. These products will also extend the drying time of self-levelling concrete,so you get more time to work precisely and carefully.
When choosing the self-levelling concrete for smoothening your floor, make sure you have an idea of the surface you need to cover. And the thickness you’re going for.
If you think you can’t do this on your own, simply hire a contractor.
At any rate, this post tells you what you need to know about choosing the best self-levelling concrete. Whether it’s you or a contractor doing the actual work.
If you liked this post, please feel free to check out other similar articles on our site.
Thank you for reading, and have a fabulous day!