How to Use Self Leveling Concrete

Today I have an update on our basement bathroom renovation after some weeks off for finishing classes and doing other projects, we made significant progress this past weekend. Before we could put down a sub floor, we needed to level the existing concrete foundation so we selected to use self-leveling concrete.We started a total makeover on the bathroom, which is the second in our house. Here is what it looked like before.

We tore apart the room down to the studs to update it and had to do some repair to our 113 year old foundation along the way. We also have to repair the heating vent too but first we wanted to tackle the floor so we could start rebuilding the room.

Today I’m here to show you how to use self leveling concrete to level the floor and smooth things out to prepare it for a sub floor. If you’ve never used self-leveling concrete, here is your how to. Follow along!

Concrete

These are the tools we used:

  • Bag of self-leveling concrete {we used the bag in the photo above, from Home Depot}
  • 5-gallon bucket for mixing
  • Water per the directions on the bag of concrete you purchase
  • Power corded drill for mixing
  • Concrete mixing paddle attachment for drill
  • Flat-sided trowel for smoothing
  • Old plastic cup for pouring the concrete out

Concrete Floor

Here is how to use self leveling concrete.

1. Prep your floor. First sweep and vacuum up all debris from the floor. You want a dust free surface. Next you prime the floor. There is a primer that is sold with the concrete that basically prepares the floor for use. It will dry shiny like this {look on the dark grey area}. This is an acrylic polymer, which you have to dilute, so use an old coffee can or the like.

Self Leveling Concrete

The separate colors of the concrete of our floor are just from the channels that were dug for when the plumbing was put in. That’s why there are different types of concrete there to begin with. So you can imagine it’s all different levels and textures. Most concrete floors are one color and texture.

In our basement we had to remove 2x4s that separated the bathroom from the closet since we wanted to make sure the concrete worked where it needed to. We braced them to the ceiling and then cut off the very bottom of some to get out the footer. It just shows how you should remove any barriers in the space you plan to use the concrete.

Self Leveling Concrete

2. Cover any openings in the floor. We got a piece of HVAC sheet metal to fit within the toilet opening and over the shower drain. Then we caulked around where the metal met the floor in case the concrete leveled up to those openings.

Tip Coat the caulk with Vaseline so nothing will stick to it.

Self Leveling Concrete

Self Leveling Concrete

3. Mix up the concrete. There’s no pictures for this since it’s best to be a two person job. Dan first filled a 5 gallon bucket with the water called for on the bag we purchased and I poured in the dry concrete powder cup by cup as he mixed with with the drill attachment. You need to keep mixing it as you pour in the dry mix, try to do it as fast as you can because the concrete begins to set as soon as it’s combined with water.

Tip  This bucket will be very heavy so mix it in the spot where you will use it. We actually carried it down stairs, but I do not recommend this. It’s heavy!

4. Pour the concrete on the floor. You can do this in small enough areas so that you can get around it and so that you can smooth it out with the trowel. We used a large yogurt container to scoop it out of the bucket we mixed it in.

Start from the far corner of the room so you can work you way out the door. You only have a few minutes to trowel it, otherwise the marks you make will remain in the cement.

Self Leveling Concrete

Then you just let it dry and wait.

Here is our finished floor. The concrete is definitely a different color from what was there. And it is really smooth to the touch. We let it dry for 24 hours, although you can walk on it after four hours according to the type we used.

You can see on the left of the photo, where it stopped where we poured it under the 2x4s and into the closet.

Self Leving Concrete

You can see some of the parts where we worked with the trowel too much as you can see the lines from it. But this shows you the smooth finish and color after it dries.

Self Leveling Concrete

Here is the view from the closet next to the bathroom. Sorry for the dark photos, these areas of the basement don’t get much light.

Self Leveling Concrete

And here is what it looked like up to the opening for the toilet. So you can see where the concrete goes and where it doesn’t.

Self Leveling Concrete

And with that now we can put down the sub floor! Which means we are even closer to having a room that looks like a bathroom at least some how.

Tips for working with self leveling concrete
  • Work fast Preferably with a partner who can move something or hand you a paper towel if needed
  • Wear gloves Concrete heats up which is how it sets, so it can burn your skin. Sleeves, long pants, and full shoes (not flip flops) are preferred
  • Don’t over work it Just pour it in place, smooth it out once, then leave it be. More smoothing will leave marks in the concrete.

Have you ever worked with self leveling concrete?

Think it might be useful for a project in your home?

Jessica
Hi, I'm Jessica, a grad student by day and project queen by night. Decor Adventures is my way of creating a beautiful home while having a great time along the way.
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Comments

  1. I love your tutorial! I haven’t work with this product but now I how what to do if I have to. Thanks! pinning.

  2. Hi, nice tutorial.. do you sand or grind out the lines afterward? just wondering. We have a 90+ yo house with really rough basement floors – this could be really useful!

  3. Victor Pachade says:

    Indeed very good tutorial for DIY enthusiasts. After sanding you can use dyes to color the surface and then use a water based epoxy and/or polyurethane to protect it. It will be finished floor covering. Cheers!

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