How to Lay a Cement Floor

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Laying a cement floor can be challenging. Here are some tips and hints for die hard do-it-yourselfers!

  • BENEFITS OF CONCRETE FLOORING: Concrete flooring has become extremely popular in the last few years. While not maintenance free, concrete boasts relatively low maintenance in comparison to other flooring types. The versatility of concrete flooring is another big benefit. Concrete can be colored, textured, or stamped to resemble unique designs or other more costly materials like granite.

  • DRAWBACKS: Concrete is prone to cracking and chipping. Temperature fluctuations can cause cracks to occur in the concrete. Concrete will also need to be sealed if your desire is to keep it free of staining or spills.

  • DRAW IT UP: Draw up your plans before proceeding with your project. Draw detailed plans of what your project will look like. Accurately measure the area. Determine the depth of concrete you will need for the project you are undertaking. For outdoor projects, determine if you will need a cement truck to deliver ready made concrete, or if you will be able to do it yourself.

  • PERMIT: Depending on the location, size, and type of cement floor you are placing, you will need to first determine if a permit is required in your area. Permit requirements can be obtained by going to your local government website.

  • DETERMINE THE COST: Next, thoroughly measure the area you are wanting to concrete. A cost estimator index from contractors.com can easily give you a rough estimate of what your project will cost you. Type in your zip code of the area you live, the project type, the size, and the look you are achieving. Then receive an estimate of what your project will cost before proceeding. See link under "Resources" at the end of this article.

  • DEMOLITION: Indoor projects: Old flooring currently down will need to take a beating before proceeding with laying new concrete flooring. You will need to remove any old flooring down to the wooden subfloor if there is existing flooring down. Tile will also need to be removed down to the underlayment along with any adhesive. All baseboards and trim will need to be removed as well. The only exception to demolition is if you already have concrete flooring in place. Outdoor projects: Any grass or plants will need to be removed from the area and properly killed with grass and weed killer in the area you will be laying concrete before proceeding. Remove any other objects from the area.

  • PREPARING: After demolition comes preparation. Outdoor: Dig down, removing any soil to the depth you are desiring the concrete to be. Level the area and make sure that soil is firm. If soil is soft, you will want to add a layer of pea gravel or small stones. Use a sledge hammer to compact stones into the soil. Use a chalkline to make your proposed area straight. Make a framework for the area you are going to concrete by hammering in pegs approximately every meter around the chalkline. Use a spirit level to ensure the tops of the boards will be in line with the finished level of your concrete. If required, check that the formwork is slightly lower on one side so rainwater can run away. If near a home, slope away from the house. Place formwork boards around the area and use nails to attach the boards to the pegs. Use steel reinforcing mesh inside the formwork supported off the ground on bar chairs suitable for the thickness of the concrete. This will help to prevent the concrete from cracking from temperature, tree roots, and earth movement. Indoor: To prepare for indoor surfaces, attach asphalt felt to the wooden subfloor of the area you will laying concrete. This will act as a moisture barrier to protect the wooden subfloor from the wet concrete. Then apply metal lath in the opposite direction of the asphalt felt so that the two materials cross. Apply the metal lath with galvanized staples (to prevent rusting) to the entire floor.

  • MIX IT, POUR IT! Indoor: For indoor floors, you will first need to lay Texture Pave. Texture Pave is a self-leving cement which is usually used for cement stamping overlays, but can also be used for creating a solid concrete base. Mix and pour the Texture Pave using the ratio 4 quarts of water to every 55 pound bag of Texture Pave. Mix in a five gallon bucket. Pour onto surface. Use a gauge rake set to 1/4 inch to evenly spread the Texture Pave over the entire floor to create an even surface. Use a squeegee to smooth out the marks made by the gauge rake. Allow to dry for 10-20 hours. Floor will lighten as it dries. After it is dry, mix Thin Finish with a ratio of 6.5 quarts water to 55 pounds of Thin Finish. Add color if desired. Dampen floor to allow Thin Finish to bond with Texture Pave. Pour small portions of Thin Finish at a time over dampened floor. Use a trowel to work in a sweeping motion to spread the Thin Finish to a 1/8th inch thickness. The marks made by the trowel will create texture to your floor. Allow to dry overnight. Acid staining can begin after this process if desired. Outdoor: Check weather prior to laying cement. You will want at least a few days of dry weather after cement is laid to ensure proper drying. Use prepared concrete hand mixed for smaller projects. Mix according to package directions and pour over surface. For larger projects, consider renting a power mixer from a local hardware store like Lowe's or Home Depot. For very large projects, use a concrete supply company to deliver the concrete. Get bids for material cost and delivery prior to laying. Make sure all steel reinforcing is covered with cement. Use a tamping board to smooth the surface of the cement. Then use a shovel, wooden float, or steel float to create your desired finish look on the cement. Cover it with damp sacking for a minimum of seven days, more if it's colder weather. Then remove framework.

  • For more detailed information, the Do-It-Yourself Network has some great step by step advice, tips, and photos for indoor and outdoor concrete application. Product information is also listed. For more information, go to diynetwork.com, or for links to indoor and outdoor concrete application see "Resources" at the end of this article.

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