What is the best method for leveling a concrete floor?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ September 22, 2012 ~ No Comments

What is the best way to level an existing concrete floor in my lower level garage in order to install a hardwood floor and turn the area into an office? The existing garage is approx 340 square feet.

Jeffrey Anderson

Concrete can be used to level an existing concrete slab, but it's not the material I'd recommend for DIYers. If you don't have experience in working with concrete, you might end up with a garage floor that's in worse shape than what's already there.

The first step in leveling your floor for hardwood is to determine the condition of the existing slab. If you only have a few low or high spots, there's usually no need to level the entire floor. You can check the slab by sliding a six foot or longer level or straight edge across its surface. When the level rocks at a certain point, there's probably a high spot in that area. Gaps seen under the center of the level usually indicate low areas.

When only a few problem spots are found, they can normally be corrected by doing a little concrete grinding to remove a bump or using some epoxy filler to fill in low areas. While this may be hard work, it can still be easier than leveling an entire floor.

However, when the slab seems to be full of problem spots or the entire surface is out of level, then a floor leveling compound might be the only solution. While many of these compounds are called "self leveling," in my experience most of the manufacturers are stretching the truth a bit.

There are numerous floor leveling compounds on the market -- some are available ready mixed and others have to be mixed on the job-site. The varieties I have used have an epoxy base and are the consistency of oatmeal so they don't exactly flow across the floor. The compound can be spread with a concrete trowel or the type of trowel used to spread vinyl floor mastic. Start in a corner of the room and work toward one of the exit doors when applying the compound.

You will need to use a level or straight edge to level the compound in the same fashion I described for checking the floor level. The varieties I have used dry very quickly so use the level frequently and adjust the compound as needed. Minor deviations shouldn't be an issue as they can be corrected with the hardwood flooring adhesive.

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