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Self Leveling Compounds


Self Leveling Compounds are Ideal for Preparing Subfloors for Ceramic Floor Tiling


By Mark J. Donovan


Self leveling compounds are ideal for leveling uneven concrete floors or wood floors. Concrete floors are notorious for having humps and valleys. Likewise, old wood floors can have dips and humps associated with them due to floor joists that may twist and flex over time.


If you are planning a ceramic floor tiling project it is critical that the floor be level and smooth. Ceramic floor tile is unforgiving, and if the subfloor is un-even the ceramic floor tiles will not last long. They will crack or become loose over time due to voids and humps in the subfloor.


Self leveling compounds are ideal for smoothing out the dips in a concrete floor or wood subfloor.


Prepare the Concrete Floor or Wood Subfloor


In order to properly apply a self leveling compound to a subfloor you first need to make sure the subfloor is both stable and spotless. It is important to note that self leveling compounds will not add any stability to the subfloor. If the wood subfloor flexes, the self leveling compound will break up and cause the ceramic floor tiles to become loose and damaged. Consequently it is important that you have a solid subfloor surface before you use any self leveling compounds.


Subfloors also need to be free from dust and grime before applying self leveling compounds. Otherwise the self leveling compound will not adhere well to the subfloor. Use a shop-vac, such as the Shop-Vac 962-16-00 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum, to first pick up all the loose material on the subfloor. Second use a damp squeegee, mop or sponge to lightly wash the subfloor.


Apply Primer to Subfloor


In order for the self leveling compound to adhere well to the subfloor, it is important that you roll or brush on a special latex primer first. It is critical that the primer get into every nook and cranny of the subfloor to ensure a good bond of the self leveling compound.


Once the primer has been applied let it thoroughly dry before applying the self leveling compound.


Identifying the low Areas of the Subfloor


Using a framing square or straight edge, such as a level, slide it over the subfloor looking for valleys. Use a pencil to mark / circle the low areas. This is where you will want to first apply the self leveling compound.


Preparing the Self Leveling Compound


First, self leveling compounds set up extremely fast. You will have only about 10-20 minutes of total time to mix, pour and feather out the self leveling compound, once you mix the product with water. Consequently make sure you have ALL the materials and tools you will need to mix, pour and spread the self leveling compound.


To mix the self leveling compound read the directions first for the particular product you are using. Make sure you follow any safety procedures while working with the product, as it is usually unsafe to breath in the self leveling compound dust. 


To mix the material it is best to use a power drill, such as the DEWALT DC759KA Heavy-Duty 18-Volt Ni-Cad 1/2-Inch Cordless Drill/Driver Kit, with a mixing hook as this will help speed up the mixing time.  You will want to mix the self leveling compound with water in a clean bucket. Typically it is best to use cold, or even ice water (without the ice), when mixing in the self leveling compound material. This will help to extend the working time of the self leveling compound mixture.


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If properly mixed, the mixture will have a loose soupy consistency. If it is too thick, it will harden very fast and it will probably be unusable. Make sure when mixing that you scrape around the inside edges of the bucket to ensure the self leveling compound material is fully mixed with the water. Note: you should limit the mixing time to just 2 to 3 minutes to ensure you have enough time to pour and spread it.


Applying the Self Leveling Compound


Once the mixture is of the right consistency pour it into the low areas that you circled with your pencil. Allow the mixture to fan out a little bit, then use a trowel or squeegee to lightly smooth it out. Again you will only have 10 minutes or so to spread and work the mixture, so time is of the essence.


Do not attempt to add additional water to the mixture to try to loosen it up. This will cause the self leveling compound to cure improperly and will lead to it breaking up. Again, focus on working quickly with the spreading of the material.


After about 30 minutes or so, the self leveling compound will be pretty much set. Typically within two to four hours you will be able to walk on it. The ceramic floor tile can usually be applied over the self leveling compound within 12-24 hours after the self leveling compound has been applied to the subfloor.


Clean Up


After spreading out the self leveling compound remember to immediately wash out your bucket and tools with water. Otherwise your bucket and tools will permanently have self leveling compound glued to them.

For information on ceramic tile and installing a shower pan membrane liner, see the Shower Pan Membrane Liner Installation Ebook from HomeAdditionPlus.com.  The Shower Pan Membrane Liner EBook will quickly teach you the step-by-step process for installing the shower pan membrane liner correctly. It includes instructions on framing the shower stall, pouring the pre-slope and shower base mortar, and installing the shower pan membrane liner.

See HomeAdditionPlus.com's Ceramic Tile Calculator

How to Finance your Home Improvement Project -  can help provide funds for your new home improvement project if financing is required.

Related Ceramic Tile Information


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