How to Apply Self-Leveling Cement

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Most tile and hardwood flooring installations require a subfloor level to within 1/16 inch per foot, and some larger tiles require even more precise leveling. If the subfloor is concrete, you typically need to spread a self-leveling cement to achieve this. Although its name suggests that this cement levels by itself, you actually have to manually spread it, and because most products set within 10 to 15 minutes of mixing, you have to work quickly. To prevent problems down the road, you need to properly prepare the floor, prime it and mix the compound accurately for proper flow.

Things You'll Need

  • Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Rags
  • Hydraulic cement
  • Latex primer
  • Push broom
  • Paint roller
  • Paintbrush
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Drill
  • Paint-stirring attachment
  • Flat trowel
  • Prepare the floor by sweeping it with a broom, vacuuming it and wiping it down with a damp rag. Patch cracks and joints between slabs with hydraulic cement. Avoid leaving any holes or fissures through which the leveling cement can seep.

  • Prime the floor with latex primer. Use a product recommended by the manufacturer of the leveling compound you're using, and spread it according to the instructions. Coats that are too thick or too thin can cause failure of the leveling compound. Apply the primer with a soft-fiber push broom, a paint roller or a paintbrush.

  • Pour about 1 1/4 gallons of water into a 5-gallon bucket. Add the leveling compound -- which is a powder -- stirring constantly as you do, using a paint-stirring paddle attached to an electric drill. Stop adding compound when the mixture is the consistency of a milkshake or thick soup -- this should take about half a bag, depending on the product you're using. Continue mixing for another two minutes to get all the lumps out.

  • Pour the compound into the lowest part of the floor and let it spread out. If the floor has several low spots, pour a little of the mixture into each spot. Once the compound finishes spreading by itself, smooth and feather the edges using a flat trowel. Work quickly -- you only have 10 to 15 minutes before the compound starts to stiffen.

  • Clean your bucket and tools with water immediately after pouring. The compound washes right off when it's wet, but it's difficult to remove after it sets.

  • Wait for two hours before walking on the floor and 12 hours before installing a floor covering.

References

  • Photo Credit Lilyana Vinogradova/Hemera/Getty Images
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