Concrete flooring is a great option for homeowners. This material is strong durable and lasts for long periods of time. However, concrete flooring can become uneven and cracked after many years of wear and tear.
In particular, environmental factors such as moisture and humidity can cause your concrete flooring to sink and become uneven. In fact, this is a very common occurrence in homes. Even concrete that is installed professionally can become prone to damage.
Still, what should you do about your uneven concrete floors, and should you fix this issue right away? To answer this question shortly, you need to level your concrete floors. Not only are uneven concrete floors unsightly, but they can become a hazard in your home.
Especially if you are installing new flooring over your concrete, you need to even out your floors as soon as you can. Putting new flooring on uneven concrete can lead to structural issues down the line. Even if you are not changing your flooring small cracks and dips can get larger and create more issues for the structure of your home.
You might not know how to fix uneven floors, but we have you covered here. In this post, we’ll go over the basics of leveling concrete floors. This way you can update your home or maintain the integrity of your floors. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this task!
How to Level A Concrete Floor: A Step by Step Guide
1. Clear Out The Area
Before you do anything, you want to start by clearing the area you will be leveling out. Everything needs to be taken off your concrete floors. This includes furniture, decorations, appliances, and other items. You will also need to get rid of your baseboard.
This can seem like a hassle, but the additional concrete leveling liquid you add to the floor will raise the height of the floor. So, the baseboard needs to be removed. To do this, get a scraping tool from your local hardware store.
Carefully place the tool next to the base of the boards then start to loosen your baseboard. You want to loosen the entire baseboard from end to end. Then you can pull it off the wall.
Getting rid of everything on your concrete floor will ensure that there is no damage to your property and that your concrete floors can be fully leveled without interference. So, make sure to thoroughly complete this step.
2. Clean Your Concrete Floor
Once everything has been removed, you can start to clean up the concrete floor. You are going to be putting a new layer of cement over the old layer. So, you do not want any debris or remnants to get stuck in this new layer.
To prevent this, make sure that you vacuum the concrete thoroughly. You can also chip off loose concrete and other materials in the area and get rid of them before moving on to the next step. Nothing should be leftover when you are done. Only the concrete should remain.
After everything has been vacuumed, you can start scrubbing or mopping the floor. Vacuuming is not enough. Your concrete could be full of grease, dirt, and other oils. If these remnants are not taken care of, then your concrete floor won’t take in the new concrete and won’t level out properly.
Be careful as you do this, and make sure to use non-acidic cleaning solutions. We recommend using warm water and a little bit of dishwashing soap. Carefully comb over the area. Scrub the entire surface, and then wait for it to dry. (Related: 7 Expert Tips When Cleaning Your Unsealed Concrete Floors)
3. Seal Up Any Cracks and Holes
Any kind of holes, divots, cracks and other imperfections will need to be filled after your concrete is cleaned. Concrete filler or sealant should help you get the job done right. And it will prevent you from overusing leveler and primer fluid. Leveler liquid can sink into the cracks if they are not filled beforehand.
So, use a filler or sealant with a nozzle and fill in the cracks and holes, then let everything finish drying out. You can pat your sealant down with a towel and use your scraper tool to make sure that it is even with the rest of your flooring. Look over your floor and make sure you haven’t missed anything. After this, you can move to the next step of the process.
4. Assess and Mark Your Concrete
Next, you are going to want to assess your concrete floor and start marking any problem areas. For instance, if your concrete has bumps that make it rise above the other parts of your floor, get out a piece of chalk and mark an "X".
On the other hand, if there are any depressions, use your chalk and mark and "O". To look for other depressions on your floor, use a carpenter’s leveling device
This can seem like a major hassle, but you need to slowly work your way around your entire floor to find out which parts are uneven. All you have to do is lay the leveling tool down and look at the bubble in the center. Depending on where the bubble is this will indicate whether your floor is even.
5. Use A Concrete Grinder
For this next step, you are going to want to get some eye protection and something to cover your mouth. Concrete grinders will help you level out more elevated spots on your concrete floor. You will have to rent or buy one of these tools.
But once you have it in your home, put on your PPE and then turn on the machine. You will want to place the grinder over the places where you marked any “X’s”.
Grind the concrete down until the bump is reduced to the same level as the rest of your floor. Keep doing this to all the “X” marks. Then you will need to vacuum or sweep up your concrete floor again. No dust or debris should be left over after this step.
6. Apply Your Concrete Primer
After everything is clean and all the bumps on your concrete floor are taken care of, you can start putting down your concrete primer. Primer is highly important to the process of leveling. So, you don’t want to skip out on this step. Some people decide not to use a primer, but you want to use this before putting down your leveling concrete.
Primer liquid will go deep into the concrete and help it bind to your leveler fluid later on. It also protects your concrete from moisture and acts as a buffer. Use a roller or some other kind of soft brush or sweeper. Pour the primer onto the floor and make sure it is spread over the entire surface of the concrete evenly.
A single gallon bottle of this fluid is more than enough to fill your whole floor. So don’t worry about running out of primer.
7. Let The Primer Sit
Once the primer is applied, you have to let it sit and dry all the way. How long the primer needs to dry will depend on a few different factors. But, this can take anywhere from three hours to twenty-four hours. Be patient so that it works properly. And try not to step on your floor as it dries.
8. Mix Your Concrete Leveler
The next step you are going to take involves mixing your concrete leveler fluid. To make your fluid you are going to need a few different supplies. First, make sure you have a mask or some kind of face covering. This way you do not inhale your leveling mix.
Next, get a bucket, one that is at least five gallons, and be prepared to mix and spread this liquid fast. The first thing you want to do is put the mixture into the bucket, then pour water into your concrete leveler mix. There should be instructions located on the bag for the product you are using. This will tell you the right amount of water and mix to put in.
While you are creating the concrete leveler, you want to have a mixing paddle and some kind of drilling device to attach it to. This way you can quickly mix the leveler evenly and consistently. Really, for this particular project, it is best to have someone else helping you. This is because the leveling fluid has to be spread within a fifteen to thirty-minute time period.
Self-leveling concrete is ideal for this project too. It will be easier to get your floors fully level. But make sure you block any entrances outside the room, that way the liquid doesn’t escape into other areas of your house. You can use a wooden block or some other material to cover up any entry and exit points.
9. Spread The Mix On The Floor
Again, you won’t have much time to spread out your concrete mix. So, think about having someone else help you. You want to pour your leveling material out, and maybe have someone else mix more as you spread and level it. The leveler material will even out well, even without your interference. But you can also get a squeegee tool if any spots are missing or look a little thin.
Make sure that every inch of your concrete floor is completely covered up. You do not want to miss a spot. You want the thickness of the leveler to be at least a fourth of an inch. And everything should be filled and even. Pour until you reach the right height and evenness
10. Let Your Concrete leveler Settle
Finally, you want to let your concrete leveler settle properly. Don’t disturb the surface of your floor for at least four hours. After four hours it is safe to step on your floor. But you still want to let it dry fully and be careful.
This could take anywhere from four to sixteen hours at a minimum. Some floors might even need a full twenty-four hours to settle. It just depends on the temperature and the humidity in your house. So, be patient.
11. Check That Your Floors Are Level
After your floors have dried up and are safe to walk on, you can check if your floor is level. There are a few ways to check if your floor is even, but we suggest getting a large wooden board and placing it over the surface of your floor.
The board can be moved around and if it lies down fully flat the concrete, you will see whether your floor is evened out. This isn’t a precise measurement tool, but it is useful for seeing whether your floor has been fixed.
12. Prepare to Update Your Flooring
This final step is optional, but if you plan on adding flooring on top of your newly leveled concrete, start planning out your next steps. Again, ensure that your floor is fully level with the previous step we mentioned. Then get your tools and material ready to start updating your floor.
Once the concrete leveler is dry, you can start installing new flooring right away! But if you are putting down carpet, wait a little longer and make sure everything is fully dry and stable.
At this point, you might have a professional come in and do your flooring for you. But if you are updating your home yourself, you can start the process much sooner. This is up to you of course.
Leveling a concrete floor can be difficult and time-consuming. However, if you follow the steps we outlined, you should have no issues doing this project on your own. Of course, for some people, this might be too much of a hassle to do DIY style.
So, if the steps we outlined sound like they are out of your comfort zone, consider hiring a professional to level and update your concrete floor for you.
(Related: Everything You Need To Know About Epoxy Flooring: Different Types and Benefits)