Whether you want a carpet, tile, or wood cover, a self-leveling compound (SLC) provides a stable, even surface on which to lay your flooring. And while it has several pros, SLC can be expensive, often prompting homeowners to search for a cheaper alternative. So, what are some viable, cheaper alternatives to self-leveling compound?
One of the cheaper alternatives to a self-leveling compound is sand mix. A sand mix is a mixture of sand and cement that you can use to level out irregularities in your floor. But unlike the original product, sand mix won’t spread evenly on its own. Instead, you will require a flat tool like a trowel to level it out. That’s some effort, though. But if it’s okay with you, using sand mix will save you some money.
SLC is undoubtedly top there in terms of creating a level surface. But it goes for more than most of us are willing to part with. Luckily, we have some cheaper alternatives that can fit in its place perfectly. Yes, with some know-how and a tad of elbow grease, you can achieve the surface you desire without breaking the bank. Read on to learn more about attaining a flat, even surface without opting for the self-leveling compound.
Cheapest Way to Level Concrete Floor
You can level a concrete floor cheaply in a few steps using a sand mix. The sand mix is a blend that has the right consistency to provide an SLC-grade outcome, albeit being a fraction of the cost. One thing, though, as already pointed out, you’ll need a little extra effort and time when leveling since it doesn’t flow evenly on its own.
Before we proceed, just for the sake of the uninitiated, let’s understand how SLC works. Well, SLC is a type of cement that contains polymers. When mixed with water, it turns into a liquid-like consistency. You use it by pouring on an uneven floor, and it will spread unevenly before hardening into a level surface.
The advantage of SLC is that you don’t need any special skills or experience to level the floor. It’s something that anyone can do as long as they follow the instructions on the packaging. The only downside is that it can be expensive, especially for big projects.
And yes, it’s on the pricing part where sand mix comes in as a viable alternative to SLC. So, without further ado, let’s get started with the steps on how you can level concrete floors cheaply.
1. Prepare The Floor
I know you’re really interested in the actual steps of application. But before we get there, the first thing you need to do is to prepare the floor. Make sure it’s clean and free from dirt, oil, or grease. If there are any loose materials, remove them as well. You can use a power washer to clean the floor if needed.
2. Get The Ideal Sand Mix
Before you begin applying the concrete, you must ensure that the sand mix you’ll use is the right kind. Otherwise, it’ll be challenging to level and may not achieve the desired outcome. You can work with the ratio of one part Portland cement and three parts sand. And as usual, you can always consult with the experts.
3. Do The Spreading
Once you have the ideal sand mix, it’s time to spread it over the floor. That’s the part where the sand mix differs significantly from SLC since it won’t flow evenly. For the former, you’ll need to use a trowel or some other flat tool to level it out as you go.
It will take a bit of effort, especially if you’re working over a big area. But with patience and some elbow grease, you’ll be able to achieve the desired outcome and save a considerable sum of money in the end.
4. Bring in Water
Once you’ve done the spreading, the next step is to bring in water. Use a garden hose and wet the floor. You’ll want to do it the gentlest way possible. Otherwise, deploying too much force will wash away the sand mix, and you’ll have to start over. So, ensure that you set the hose to have a light spray.
5. Leave the Surface To Dry
Once you’ve wet the surface, it’s time to leave it to dry. The time it takes here will differ depending on the temperature and humidity of your area. But ideally, ensure that the entire area is dry, not just some patches.
You can easily tell if it’s already dry by placing your hand on the floor. You can do this a day after soaking the surface. If the floor is still moist, you need to leave it for longer to dry completely. Come back after 12 hours and check again. The goal is to ensure that you only proceed to the next step if the whole area is dry.
6. Remove Any Loose Sand Particles
After the floor has dried, the next step is to remove any sand particles. You can do this by using a bristled brush. It will help loosen up any particles that are still stuck on the surface. Make sure to do this gently so you won’t damage the floor.
But again, this step doesn’t apply all the time. As long as there are no sand particles after the floor dries out, then there’s nothing to remove.
Can I Use Drywall Compound as a Floor Leveler?
Yes, you can use drywall compound as a floor leveler, and drywall will suffice as underneath support for your tiles or any other flooring material. But beware, using drywall compound has a few downsides. So, weigh everything up before deciding whether it’s the right move for you.
You see, when it comes to leveling your floor, you have a plethora of options, among which drywall compound. Most people like drywall compound because it’s way cheaper, which is what homeowners on tight budgets often look for.
But one thing you need to know about drywall is that it’s absorbent. So, if you’re considering using it for water-prone areas like the bathroom, that’s a huge no-no. The last thing you want is for your floor to absorb water and start growing mold.
Another downside to using drywall is that it’s not as durable as other leveling options. In other words, drywall compound will easily deteriorate over time. And when that happens, your tiles or any other flooring material will crack due to the lack of support.
So, if you’re going to use drywall as your floor leveler, make sure that it’s only for areas that won’t be constantly exposed to water or moisture. Otherwise, you might end up having to replace your flooring sooner than expected.
Even so, if you can squeeze in the extra cash, we suggest you use floor levelers or sand mix instead. They’re more expensive, but in the long run, you’ll notice that they’re actually less costly because they’re more durable.
Can Cement Be Used as Self-Leveling?
No, cement alone cannot be used as self-leveling. When used alone, cement will dry and crack because it lacks the strength that sand brings in. So, if you’re considering using cement to level your floor, that’s a bad idea. You can use it to create a slurry, but not for self-leveling.
You see, we all know that cement develops strength when it mixes with water. Well, the fact is that it isn’t just water. To build a strong foundation, you need to mix cement with sand.
Sand will act as the binder that will hold everything together. It’s what gives cement its strength and stability.
Hence, if you’re thinking of using cement to level your floor, make sure to mix it with sand. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a cracked and uneven floor. You definitely don’t want that in your home. So, the next time you’re looking for a self-leveling compound, make sure to steer clear of cement. It’s not going to do the job.
But for filling joints, cracks, and sometimes minor plastering works, cement alone can suffice. It has a much thinner consistency, which makes it ideal for such applications. But for self-leveling, always mix cement with sand.
Can I Use Grout as a Floor Leveler?
No, you cannot use grout as a floor leveler. Grout is mainly used for filling joints or cracks in between tiles. It’s not meant to be used as a self-leveling compound. Grout doesn’t have ideal properties for such projects, making it unsuitable for leveling floors.
For the starters, grout is basically a mixture of water, sand, and cement. It’s not the same as mortar. The difference is that grout has a much thinner consistency, which is why it’s often used for filling joints.
And while some people still use grout for leveling floors, the thing is that it’s not really designed for that. It doesn’t have the properties that make it ideal for leveling. For instance, grout doesn’t have the binding power necessary for such projects.
Hence, if you use grout as your self-leveling compound, you’ll notice that it doesn’t really adhere well to the surface, and it will also easily crack and crumble over time. So, if you want a durable and long-lasting floor, make sure to use a suitable self-leveling compound.
Self-leveling compound is a perfect way to level your floor and achieve a smooth and even surface. But due to its high cost, some people opt for cheaper alternatives. Luckily, we have things like a sand mix for that. Well, it works as a more affordable alternative, although you’ve to trowel the surface for it to work.
Another option includes drywall compound. But just like the sand mix, it requires some troweling. Even worse, it isn’t as durable as sand mix and may even attract mold with time, especially when using it in water-prone areas like the bathroom. So, if you’re looking for a cheap yet durable self-leveling compound, the sand mix is your best bet.