Leveling Concrete Floors

Happy Holidays!  It's been non-stop holidays over here with out-of-town family flying in last week to celebrate, and more family from afar currently in town to continue the festivities.  I'm so grateful to spend the time seeing everyone, but man will I be glad this holiday season is over!  I doubt we'll take on another large renovation over the holidays again.  It's not that it's been bad, but I miss having my house in order!

I realize it's been awhile since I posted, but the last time I checked in we had filled in the drain pipe trench and poured new concrete.  I also said we had a friend coming over to help with the leveling process over the weekend.  Well that was a couple weeks ago, and I didn't get any pictures!  Sorry.  I had too much fun hanging out with our godson who is 1 1/2 years old.  He beats mucking around in the dirty basement with the men any day.

Luckily for you guys we had to do some more leveling, and this time I took photos.  While the first time filled in a majority of the low spots, Mike's a perfectionist and felt he needed to get another bag of self-leveler and fill in a couple spots that he wasn't completely happy about.

In terms of blogging it was perfect because it was just one bag, and a process that my help would actually be a hindrance, (it's really fluid and has to be worked pretty quickly).  So, while I was there to work the drill in the mixing stage, I was able to step back and snap away.  And, now I'll narrate while Mike does all the dirty work.  

Disclaimer: This is in no way a professional how-to.  It's merely a cheeky girlfriend's recap of her super handy man's actions.  If you aren't confident, hire a professional to do it before you fudge up your floor.

First, make sure you start at night, with really poor lighting.  Next, add a spot light so that you get crazy shadows and your fiance bitches about how horrible these are going to look on the blog.

Then, brush on some bonding adhesive, (like this stuff), in the areas that will be covered with the self-leveling concrete.

The area near the clean out, (behind Mike in the photo above), was the lowest spot, and even with all the concrete that went down before, there were still some spots that were low.  Mike then painted all the spots he felt were a little uneven with the adhesive.

After you're done, wait about 15 minutes for it to cure, or the time it takes to mix and prepare a bag of self-leveling concrete.

We used something like this for this project, which actually has polymer in it to make it more fluid.  We mixed it in a 5 gallon bucket and Mike added about a gallon of water.  Not sure if he read this, or just knows how much to use.  I got back in in my paparazzi position and Mike poured the concrete straight out of the bucket onto the spots he painted the adhesive.   

After pouring about a third of the bucket into one of the lower spots, Mike a scrap 2x4 as a screed to level everything out.

After pouring more out in another area, Mike continued to level with his screed.

To get a smoother finish around the edges, and for better manageability, Mike switched to hand-held trowel.

He also worked on his flexibility to reach the areas where the two pours met.

After continuing around the room to fill all the spots, we were done in about an hour or so.  We turned the lights off and didn't come back down until the next day.  After that, it was full speed ahead and material was brought down and put into position.

It's been a long process to get to this point, and the room looks exactly the same as it did when we started.  But, now we know we have the best possible base to start the finish work in here.  We knew going into this project that putting lipstick on a basement is nice, but if something were to go wrong underneath that lipstick, it would be a much larger mess in the long run.

We feel much more at ease with the next steps to make this room livable and continue working whenever we get a free moment, which, hopefully after the holidays will be more frequent!     

It's Like It Never Happened

It's like we never cut up the basement floor at all.  Except there is a layer of dust on everything.  Just when I clean one room, things from a dirty room get moved in and I have to clean everything again!

Over the weekend Mike repacked the trench he cut and cleaned up all the dirt.  It was pretty bad to begin with, so it could only get better.  This is one of those times that I'm thankful Mike doesn't stop projects until he's done.  We didn't have to live with this for very long:

Before he cleaned it up to look like this:

After it was cleaned, Mike wasted no time filling it with concrete.  This picture is blurry, (you know by now that Mike doesn't pose for me and I'm left with blurry action shots), but I added it so that you can see the set up.  Just a man in his pajamas, with a wheel barrel and a purple bucket.

I offered to help, (actually I offered to trade my labor to the neighbors to help them paint in exchange for the husband to come over to help Mike), but Mike said it was actually easier to do with just one man because he could work at his pace and control the amount of concrete so that he didn't make too much or too little.

He ended up completing it in one evening, just making one bag at a time and dumping it in the trench, then troweling it out for a smooth finish.

A couple photos up you can see all the bags of concrete Mike bought, (then had to haul downstairs).  He estimated 20 bags and only needed 10.  He's usually closer than that, but he estimated a uniform depth throughout the entire trench, but some spots were deeper and most were more shallow.  We took the rest back for a refund, but the total for all 20 bags was only about $60, so for a $30 refund Mike had to carry a couple hundred pounds of concrete mix back upstairs.  After he was done he might have made a comment that $30 wasn't worth it.  Then he rested and came back to his frugal senses.

We've been mostly living away from the basement since we've started, so it wasn't that hard to stay away for a couple days to allow the concrete to cure enough to walk around on.

We've even started storing stuff on it, like here in the bathroom, while we prep for the leveling.

Before the patch in the laundry room harden too much, Mike placed the utility sink where he wanted it and pushed it in.  Since the floor was so uneven, we've lived with the sink rocking back and forth.  Now it's not going anywhere.

The other night Mike and I actually went down and measured the floor and created a little topography map in order to estimate how much self-leveling concrete we need to level the floor.  We've actually determined it's not as bad as we originally thought.  Only about a 7' x 7' area is really bad, (the room slopes down at the cleanout plug) and we've been going back and forth about the best option to handle the leveling.  It's a really expensive process and we're hoping we do it right.  We've actually got some manpower coming to help this weekend, so I'm hoping they knock it out and we're able to lay our laminate flooring (which we've already ordered and will be picked up soon), in the next week or so!