Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Next Step In My Flooring Adventure

Yesterday, I thoroughly cleaned the cement floor as much as possible. The floor was swept, then vacuumed.

Then I got down on my hands and knees and wiped it up with a sponge. The next day, I vacuumed it one more time since the drywall in the air still hasn't settled. As eager as I was to get things going, I didn't want to glaze over any step without giving it a thorough look-over.

Today, my brother and I rolled on the floor primer. Since it was a concrete floor, the instructions said to use the primer without diluting it. It turns out we only needed one bottle, not two.

We had to wait 2 hours for the primer to be dry enough before pouring the cement. So I went and grabbed some lunch, talked with some friends online, got a couple more missions done in Eve Online, and next thing I knew, it was ready to go!

Now comes the magic I was looking forward to since I heard about it 3 weeks ago. Self-Leveling Cement!

These small bags are 50 pounds each. So naturally, my brother took care of carrying them in (hee hee).

My brother put a cement mixer at the end of his drill into the big bucket we bought from Home Depot. I poured in the exact amount of water needed using a two-litre plastic milk container, and then away we went. And let me tell you, this is a TWO person job!

The experience with self-leveling cement has been an interesting (and a little stressful) adventure. First off, we were kind of surprised that the cement was not as watery as we had expected. But we did follow the instructions as closely as possible so the consistency had to be right. We soon discovered that one bag wasn't enough, so before the first cement dried too quickly, we rushed off to get 3 more 50 lbs bags.

My brother managed to get it all on the floor and used a hand trowel to move the cement towards the edges. We expected, like the name suggests, that it would just level by itself. It turns out, it needed a little help. We decided to stick with just two more bags and will return the last one since they are over $30 each.

Here are some things I would do different next time:

Look at a few self-leveling application videos on you-tube to get a sense of what how to approach the work. One video we kinda wish we saw was this one with 5 tips for laying self-leveling underlayment. Well, at least, it intrigued my brother more than me.

This is what I call a "smallish" kitchen, so I really didn't expect we needed more than one bag. After all, you pick up one bag, and realizing how heavy it was, we thought surely it would be enough. Nuh uh. For our 150 ft, floor that was almost level except for one side that sank a little (less than a centimetre difference), we should have bought 4 bags. We only used three just because we didn't want to open another one knowing we wouldn't need the whole bag. But we certainly could have used it if we wanted to.

I had a moment of brilliance knowing I had two paint rollers that I could attach long handles to, and a disposable paint tray liner when it came to applying the floor primer. But not so brilliant when we went to spread the cement overlay. My brother was on his hands and knees with a hand-held trowel. The videos would have clued us to get something that would allow us to move faster, and not be so back-breaking.

My brother was looking for his tack tape to tape down the border so that the cement wouldnt hit our carpet. And it was on the window sill WAY OVER in the corner, after we had poured the first batch of cement. I still can't believe he managed to get it without falling into the cement. As well, I left my video recorder on the same window sill, though I was lucky it was relatively close that I could reach over and grab it.

WORK FAST!!!!!!!
The cement spreads and starts to set in the first 10 minutes after you stop mixing. My brother and I dawdled around for about 5 minutes cleaning the mixer and looking for my video camera. We found that the cement looked like it was solidifying pretty rapidly.

We found that we needed both of us to mix the cement enough for it to be ready... which takes a good 15 minutes. That's a lot of time for the previous layer to have solidified making it a little harder (not impossible) to spread evenly.  It would have been better to have one or two people leveling out the cement while two other people were busy mixing the next batch.

This cement doesn't settle by itself on its own. It needs help spreading to the areas and connecting with the walls and corners. For this reason, the "working fast" tip is very important to ensure that the cement is still runny enough after spreading it around that it will still be able to settle into a leveled state.

Well it was definitely an adventure. And it looks like, considering we were rookies, that we may have to sand down some of the cement bumps we created. But we'll make it work!!!

It says to wait 12 hours, but we are going to probably wait a full 48 hours to allow it to cure. We are nervously anticipating a nice flat floor ready for tiling!

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