Floor Leveling Compound - Tools & Materials
Common Tools & Materials - Concrete
Common materials and tools used for floor leveling on concrete include the following. Before I get any further let’s not get confused with the term level. What we really want to achieve is flat. Flat is great for hardwood floors. Level is not needed. Why use the term? Probably because it’s the most recognized term when it comes to floor preparation.
Floor Leveling Compound
Okay there’s that word level again. It’s a flattening compound for us. These materials are used on concrete sub floors. Types used in the flooring trade are cement based Portland compounds. They also cure very quickly and can be difficult to work with once they start setting up. Common names include Mapei, Parabond, Laticrete and Ardex. There’s also another product made by Quikrete you can find in many home improvement stores if the others are unavailable. Costs run around five dollars per 50 pound bag.
Nothing fancy is needed, but we do want one that’s at least 14 or 16 inches in length. Reasons being it’s far easier to work with our flattening compound. Let’s choose one like the guy on the right is using.
You'll also want to be aware these tools should be rinsed with water as often as possible. Don't be like me when I left some set up too long and banged it out with a hammer. Result? Bent trowel that leaves ridges in the flattening compound.
Bucket, Drill & Mixing Paddle
Drill? Any common 3/8 inch drill will work, but it needs some horsepower. That’s why a Makita corded drill is shown. Forget that cheap Black & Decker that’s been sitting in the garage for twenty years. When using the 3/8 be careful not to over work it. They’re really not designed to mix mud day in and day out. Used sparingly it will work.
Mixing Paddle? This beauty works wonders when it comes to mixing. It takes all the lumps and clumps out of the water and cement mix, turning it into milkshake consistency. You could try doing it manually with a 1” x 4” or something, but it takes a lot of work and chances are great you’ll have lumps left.
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I'm sure you probably wondered what the last one on the right was in our illustration above. Pictured is an aluminum straight edge, found at flooring supply stores. They’re the ultimate tool for this work, but you probably don’t want to spend a hundred bucks on an eight footer. Any straight one by four will work or what our installer is using. It’s some kind of aluminum angle metal he picked up for fifteen dollars.
Depending on the condition of the slab, a hand held concrete grinder may come in handy if some high spots are detected when you check the flatness of the slab. Incidentally, straight edges are ideal for checking, along with stringlines.
Common Tools & Materials Wood Sub Floors
Guys use sanders to take care of high spots that interfere with maintaining a flat sub floor before the installation. Which type for you? It depends on how much repair work you may have. If the conditions are mild a regular belt sander will work. For considerable work, say in the case of multiple plywood seams that are raised, a flooring edger works much faster than the belt sander.
Hammer & Nail Set
The hammer and nail set works to pound down or set any nails that may be sticking up through the plywood sub floor. This has to be done if you’re bringing in any sanding equipment. Some guys don‘t use nail sets, but use a quicker method of turning the head of a flat head screwdriver vertically, then use one blow with the hammer and it’s done. Sorry. No picture.
You can bring in the drill if there any loose or squeaky spots in the sub floor. Decking screws work best in this situation. For large scale problems or if you’re the type that likes to overkill, another gadget is the screw gun.
Felt Paper & Newspapers
Don’t laugh. Newspapers have been a floor flattening material for ages. I’ve seen older floors torn up in the past that had newspapers with baseball box scores from the late thirties. Both newspapers along with 15 and #30 felt are useful for shimming up low areas. Cement based material doesn’t work well with wood sub floors as they can crack and crumble over time.
May as well bring in the straight edge as we did with concrete. Our installer opted for the straightest piece of solid flooring he could fine here. Mentioned previously, other tools can be a string line, or simply use a chalk line. More of both are mentioned on my how to floor prep pages below.