Professional Tip How to level a floor — How to DIY right

Professional Tip How to level a floor - How to DIY right

How to level a floor like a Pro.

When leveling a floor in preparation for a new tile, hardwood, or laminate, or vinyl floor, using the right product is as important as knowing how to do it right!  Even if you do it right but use an inferior product that fails to perform, you will be re doing it. Costing you time and money.  That is precisely what I am trying to help you prevent with my blog.  Learn from my past experience (and mistakes).

Many of the professional products I use can not be found at home improvement stores. In fact, most will only be found at specialty contractor supply stores.

Buyers for big box stores can’t possibly have the experience and insight to know which products perform the best for everything construction.  Since shelf space is limited, and distributor/supplier relationships can be complex, we the consumers must educate ourselves, on which products work best.

This is certainly the case with floor leveling mixes.  It took me many failed attempts to find one I was completely happy with.  Most of them required too long of cure time between leveling and finished flooring  installation.  Another common problem was poor adhesion to the substrate, both big problems that create more time and money to correct.

Then about 12 years ago, I saw a professional laminate installer on one of my jobs using a product called  WebCrete95.  Finally I was introduced to a professional grade, high quality leveling mix that was not too expensive and performed perfectly!

When it comes to filling depressions and leveling out imperfections on all types of floors, this products makes all the difference.  It can be used to level concrete or wood sub-floor.  It sets fast, but can be troweled and feathered at the edges.  It is a cement based product (vs gypsum based) that is extremely hard.

Self-levelers must have three essential qualities for it to really do what you need it to do.  It must bond well, set fast, and be workable with a trowel so you can feather the edges.  If it lacks any of these, you will likely encounter problems down the road

1st- High performance bond .

If the product does not bond well to the floor you are leveling, the new floor will not be solid either.

2nd- Fast set and cure time .

Time is money for all of us.  Even if this is a DIY project, the sooner you can get the task of prepping done, the sooner you will start laying the new floor.  So if a floor leveler requires a long cure time before you can install flooring over it then you are losing money.

3 rd — Lastly the product needs to be easily workable with a trowel.

You will need to feather the edges of any dips you have in the old floor to make it good and flat.  Most of the time imperfections in the sub floor is ¼” or less and the edges will need to be smoothed even with the old floor.  Some floor levelers make this task difficult.  No floor leveler will actually self-level around the perimeter of the area you pour out.  The edges have to be flattened with a trowel.

An uneven concrete floor or subfloor can cause many problems with your new floor.  I have seen many DIYers and even professional sub-contractors, get in too big of hurry installing a new floor and forget to check the evenness off the sub floor.  An uneven floor can reek havoc on the installation of any type of new laminate, tile or wood or vinyl floor.  The defects will show through if you do not make it flat before the new floor is installed.

First scrap and clean the sub-floor you will be leveling.  Use a straight edge, or level, to identify the low spots in the floor you are prepping.

Follow the instructions on the back of the bag by adding recommended about of water and powder in a bucket.  Mix until all the lumps are gone.  You want the mixture to be the consistency of pancake batter.  Remember, only mix a small amount until you become familiar with the way the product works.  The air temperature will effect the setting time dramatically so dont mix the whole bag at once.

The mixture will pour out of the bucket like pancake mix, then turn to the consistency of peanut butter.  It actually spreads exactly like peanut butter with the trowel.  That is what is so great about this product.  It is really creamy and easy to feather the edges.  The more peanut butter and jam sandwiches you have made the easier this will be for you.  By the way, I have made TONS!

Draw circles around the low areas so you know where to fill and feather the edges.   The small amount of time it takes to do this additional step will be made up with a quicker, easier installation.  Even new construction can have defects that need to be corrected prior to the new floor being installed.  Dips in the sub-floor will mean a dip in the finished floor.  Check the overall flatness of the floor (or ask the sub contractor to do this) before the new floor is installed.  This is the only way to guarantee you will be happy with the end result.

This was a floating laminate (cheap one at that) floor that we installed over a very uneven floor, at least it was uneven until we evened out the low spots.  As you can see the laminate lays flat, and all the joints snapped together tightly.  Perfect!

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