How to Level a Concrete Floor
Posted by Dale Pease - November 8, 2019, 4:25 PM
Leveling a concrete floor can seem like an easy task, but it oftentimes is much more complicated than you'd expect. Of course, there are different definitions of what it means to level a concrete floor, some more difficult than others. And some more of an actual fix to the problem while others may be only temporary, cosmetic fixes.
This guide will walk you through the definitions, pitfalls, and steps needed to level your concrete the right way. Before continuing, though, you must first determine if leveling is a solution that should be considered at all.
Can, or Should, My Concrete Be Leveled?
Concrete naturally deteriorates over time. Without proper maintenance, it can be damaged beyond repair in as little as a decade or two. This may seem like a long time, but if concrete is properly cared for, it can last a lifetime.
If the concrete is too old and broken up, then concrete leveling is probably not going to be a viable option.
You may think that covering the concrete with a skim coating of new cement, or some kind of epoxy would be an option, but without a good, stable foundation these types of fixes would quickly deteriorate putting you back at square one.
With concrete like this, your only real option is to tear it out and replace it.
If your concrete is mostly in one piece, with maybe a few cracks, and unevenness between slabs (separated by expansion or saw-cut joints) then congratulations, you probably have a good candidate for concrete leveling.
Options for How to Level a Concrete Floor
Options can be broken down into three main categories (after you've eliminated the idea of tearing it out and replacing it.)
- Surface Skimcoat: This option is best used in situations where the subsurface is stable, but uneven due to either being poured out of level in the first place or movement that occurred immediately after the concrete was poured but has since stabilized. It usually involves using some kind of self-leveling compound or thinned down portland cement and guides to make sure it is level. This method of repair doesn't do anything about any of the causes of uneven concrete and will cover the concrete with a material that isn't quite as strong or long-lasting. It can be a good option for interior concrete floors that need to be leveled before putting down flooring.
- Grinding: This is a last-resort option for concrete leveling. Typically it doesn't so much level the concrete, but simply smooth out the uneven joints between slabs. This option also damages the finished surface of the concrete, oftentimes revealing the aggregate core of the slab, thereby opening it up for more opportunity for damage from the elements.
- Concrete Slab Leveling: In many cases, this can be the best option for leveling a concrete floor. It works by getting to the root issues of the uneven concrete, the foundation underneath. It levels the whole concrete slab, not just the surface. And it gives you an original surface that can last significantly longer than any surface repairs would.
Concrete Floor Leveling
Interior concrete floors, just like exterior slabs, can be raised using our process. We simply pull back the carpeting, lift up the tile or hardwood, and pump the floor level.
Step-by-step Guide to Leveling a Concrete Floor
First, doing concrete leveling right isn't typically something you can do yourself. It requires expensive equipment and experienced technicians. The good news is it is often significantly cheaper than you may have thought it would be.
Step 1: Determine the best type of concrete leveling for your job. This may require some research on your part and multiple bids from various contractors, but the time spent upfront will get you a concrete floor leveling solution that you can be happy with for years to come. The two main options are typically injection foam leveling or grout leveling. Both have their pros and cons, so it's important to know what you're looking for.
- Injection Foam Leveling : Often a good choice if you're looking for a low-mess solution, with smaller holes. Be aware, that even if your concrete floor is inside, this isn't the only option, but if you moving furniture, and floor coverings, isn't something you're able to do, this might be the way to go.
- Stone Slurry Grout Leveling: This method is most often a less expensive option. It does use larger holes, but does a better job of completely filling any voids you may have under the slab (often the main cause of uneven concrete) and it produces a more solid base than foam materials can give.
Step 2: Once you've determined the best method for your situation, and you've hired your contractor, this is what you can expect. First, they'll drill holes in your slab in strategic locations. It is important to understand that to lift slabs properly, requires holes in places you wouldn't expect. Material needs to be injected under the slab in places that assure a complete filling of the void. Attempting to raise a slab by just drilling holes along the edge to be lifted can put undue stress on the slab and cause cracks to form.
Step 3: After the holes are drilled, a mixture of either foam or stone slurry grout is pumped through the holes to fill any voids underneath. Once those voids are filled, the concrete can then be lifted. With injection foam leveling, the lifting occurs as the foam expands. So you may see your technicians injecting foam and then waiting for a few seconds for it to expand. This is repeated until the slab is raised back into position. For stone slurry grout leveling, the leveling occurs as pressure builds up from more material being injected under the slab. This is typically a more precise method of lifting because any movement of the slab stops instantly when the material is no longer being pumped.
Step 4: Finally, after the concrete floor has been leveled, the floor is cleaned up, and the holes are filled with a non-shrink grout. Any floor coverings that were moved during the process can be moved back, and the floor can be used immediately.
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