Self Levelling Floor Compound

20 Tips For DIY Installation

Watch the video of my DIY installation of self levelling floor compound.

After giving it a go and getting a good, albeit imperfect, result, I feel I've learnt some things you could benefit from.

Here are my tips...assuming you have already primed your floor. I used Setcrete liquid primer, watered down 1 part Setcrete to five parts water. I only primed once but maybe twice would have been better.

  1. You can do it on your own. You don't need someone to do the mixing as you do the pouring/spreading. It would give you more time to work the compound, but it's not essential.
  2.  If you work alone, you may as well have just one mixing bucket. I had two but realised the second bucket was redundant. 
  3.  Buy one rigid plastic 25ltr bucket (from Screwfix) if you're working alone or two if you have a helper. It needs to be a rigid bucket and even though you're only adding 5ltrs of water, it needs to be this 25ltr size bucket or you will spill.
  4. Have another bucket nearby full of water. It could be a 30ltr rubber bucket. 
  5.  Have a measuring jug ready if you don't have measures on your mixing bucket.
  6.  Put the water into the bucket/buckets before adding the compound.
  7.  Add half of the compound to one bucket.
  8.  Mix with a normal don't need a proper mixer. However, to reduce the stress on your drill, start off the mixing by hand. Just stir with the whisk bit until the majority of the dry material is submerged.
  9.  Add the other half of the mixture, mix manually for a few seconds and then mix electrically, but not for too long or you will warm up the mixture.
  10.  Leave the compound for two minutes, then mix the mixture once again, being sure to stir up all the sediment at the bottom.
  11.  Quickly pour some pools of compound onto the floor, starting with the furthest corner, wall or doorway. If you start at your front door, start with it open, spread out the mixture at the doorstep, close the door and lock it before moving out. You won't be able to get back to your door for hours.
  12.  Use a plasterer's trowel to spread out the mixture. Self levelling floor compound will not move about on it's own. Think of buttering toast. You have to first spread out the butter all over the toast and then it will melt down. Self levelling floor compound is the same. It will melt down but it won't move out very much, unless you pour a large amount in one spot, but it won't spread out enough before it starts to set, and you'll be left with a hump. The roller will not spread the compound.
  13.  Cover the floor with the mixture one area at a time, trying to not leave an edge to dry out. 
  14.  Roller over with the spiked roller to burst the bubbles. 
  15.  Once you've covered the floor, and assuming your compound hasn't started to dry, walk over it with spiked shoes and roller over it with the spiked roller to burst the bubbles. 
  16.  If you laid a very thin layer, it will dry a lot faster and you probably won't be able to go over it all again with the spiked shoes on to roller it. 
  17.  You won't need more than the bag says you'll need unless you have a sloping floor or noticeable peeks and troughs. Buy extra though just in case but don't be too sparing when applying.
  18.  Any edges can be blocked off using a wooden baton glued down. Remove after a few hours before the adhesive has dried. 
  19.  Leave to dry out and sand off any dimpled surface.
  20.  Prime two times before tiling.
Self Levelling Floor Compound
 Above is my kitchen floor after the self levelling compound installation and after two coats of Setcrete primer.

Self Levelling Floor Compound
 The floor ended up very flat but it did have some orange peel surface patches. This could have been for a number of reasons. One could be that I could go over the floor for long with the spiked roller as the compound was drying very quickly (it was a very warm day) and I didn't have spiked shoes, so I left footprints making walking on the compound impossible.

Self Levelling Floor Compound
 Another reason could be that as the layer was so thin, the original concrete floor was exposed in the highest areas. This is fine by me as it levelled out the floor. But if you need a perfect surface finish then be sure to not scrimp on the compound as much as I did. I was afraid I wouldn't have enough having read lots of accounts of people needing several times the recommended numbers of bags. In the end, I used less than the recommended amount so needn't have worried.

Self Levelling Floor Compound
 The floor has ended up a lot flatter and smoother than before, so tiling is going to be a lot easier. I sanded out most of the orange peel finish.

Self Levelling Floor Compound
 Diddy the dog is really happy with the floor too.

Self Levelling Floor Compound
 Some areas were like a pool table they were so smooth and flat.

Self Levelling Floor Compound

This is the worst of the dimpling. I'm pretty sure it was due to it being thin in these areas. 

Self Levelling Floor Compound

The photo above is a snip from my video taken to show the fibres in the compound in the areas with the orange peel surface. The fibres were visible in all of the orange peel areas. They were quite spiky and stuck out by up to half a centimeter. I don't know if they contributed to the orange peel surface or if they only came to the surface because the skim was thin in the higher areas. However, Mapei 3240 does say it can be as thin as 3mm so these fibres are too long and certainly too spiky. If you were wanting to paint your floor then you would have trouble painting over them and they didn't sand out either. I don't know why they use such thick and spiky fibres where they could use very fine ones. I did some research into these fibres to see if other people had experienced the same problem but couldn't find anything. If you know about it then please leave a comment.

That's it....If you have any additional tips for self levelling floor compound installation, please leave a comment below.

How to Paint a Straight Edge

'Cutting In' Walls

How to Paint a Straight Edge - 'Cutting in' Walls

How to paint a straight edge - How to do cutting in on walls...

I know a lot of people will know how to do this and this post is therefore not for them. However, I also know that a lot of people don't know how to do cutting in as I have seen enough wobbly and blobby paint lines, hence why I always do all my own painting.

I didn't know how to paint a straight edge or line before someone taught me. It was always something unnerving and do you put the brush onto the wall and end up with a nice neat edge?! One of life's conundrums. 

Well, it's not difficult once you know how and, once you have learnt the art, you'll feel much more confident in your DIY skills and will save yourself a lot of money when painting your home.

Watch the video below to see me doing some 'cutting in'. But, in short, all you need to do is load up your brush well (but not dripping or clumpy), squash the brush onto the wet paint, slowly drag the brush along the edge at a slight angle so one side of the brush creates the line and go over the area again until the line is well defined. You can go backwards too to fill in any crevices. 

This skill will enable you to paint straight edges between different areas of wall, between wall and ceiling, between wall and skirting and between wall and skirting board.

To paint neat corners, creates the edges as well as possible and then poke the brush into the corner and twist a little to create a point. I will make a video doing this when I next do some painting.

Renovating Old Wooden Stairs Handrails

Renovating old wooden stairs handrails is easy if you can remove them...

I tried paint stripper but I soon realised it would take ages, I'd use up a lot of paint stripper, it was really messy and I'd need to do lots of sanding afterwards anyway. 

Then I tried sanding the paint off, but that wasn't much better.

In the end, I realised the paint was so thick and badly adhered to the wood that it would scratch off easily. I'm using a metal file in the video above but the edge of a chisel would work well too. I stripped the entire handrail using this method in about twenty minutes, it cost nothing to do it, it used up no materials, no chemicals were involved and the mess was easy to brush up.

My kind of DIY job!

Renovating Old Wooden Stairs Handrails 

This is the handrail put back in place in the attic. Instead of using a brush to apply the varnish, I used my hand. That way there's less risk of getting varnish on the wall, there's no brush to wash afterwards and you can easily reach all the way around the handrail.

Renovating Old Wooden Stairs Handrails 

This is the wooden handrail on the first flight of stairs, having been stripped down. This handrail was much more difficult as it wasn't possible to remove it and, therefore, I couldn't scratch the paint off. I tried using paint stripper but it took ages so I switched to a hot air gun. This, also, too ages but was marginally faster than the paint stripper. It was, however, hard work and stank the house out with the smell of burnt paint and was tiring as I had to balance on our very steep stairs and regularly reposition the extension reel. It took a whole day, more or less.

Once I'd removed the majority of the paint with the hot air gun, I went over it all with paint stripper and wire wool. This process leaves a silky finish, so there's no need for any sanding.

I wanted to make the pine wood look a bit more colourful so that it would match the warmer plywood in the kitchen. I used a little trick I've discovered.....painting on strong coffee. It works every time and you can apply more coats until you achieve the colour you like. Plus, it doesn't involve any chemicals, it's almost free to do and it's not at all messy.

Renovating Old Wooden Stairs Handrails 

Renovating Old Wooden Stairs Handrails 

This is the downstairs handrail, all finished.

I applied a few coats of water-based colourless vanish.

Renovating Old Wooden Stairs Handrails 

Renovating Old Wooden Stairs Handrails 

Having grown up in a Victorian house with lots of stripped down wood, I wanted to recreate a similar look, so stripped down this shelf on the stairs and the wood at the bottom of the wall over the stairs. I know the Victorians would never have left pine uncovered as it was a cheap wood and not something to show off, but I don't mind it being cheap.

I also stripped down the tops of the stairs skirtings....but the stairs are for another post!

Renovating our old wooden stairs handrails was not pleasant job and I'm very pleased it's over.

One more job done!

Boxy Shelves in Alcoves

Boxy Shelves in Alcoves
The boxy shelves in the alcoves in the kitchen are coming along nicely. I've extended the shelving to go all the way over to the left hand side wall, so it creates a lowered ceiling at the entranceway. I boxed in above this doorway shelf to hide the wonky doorframe behind. All of a sudden, everything looked nice and level.

Boxy Shelves in Alcoves
All that's left now to do with these shelves is to trim the fronts, possibly with dinted copper, fill in the edges with flexible filler using a gun and varnish them. As they're oak, I think they will match the design. If, once finished, I decide they don't match, it will be easy to paint them.

More to come on these alcove shelves!

DIY Woodwork

DIY Woodwork - anyone can do it!

Yes, anyone can make things out of wood - you do not need to be a professional carpenter. Having said that, I wish I had done woodwork at school with the boys rather than housecraft because I would know a lot more than I do. If only they'd not all stared at me - the only girl in the class - I would have stuck it out for longer than one lesson!

Despite never having been taught woodwork, I somehow manage to get by and have made and renovated many things. In the video above, you can see the alcove shelves I made recently. They're not finished yet as they need to be trimmed at the front. I'm going to do the same on the lefthand side of the chimney breast.

DIY Woodwork 

I decided to create a stud wall on the left rather than have tapered off shelving. All you have to do to make a stud wall is assemble a rectangle out of wooden batons and cover it with board. This stud wall will support the shelves as well as the worktop. I'll add horizontal batons to the wall when I'm making the shelves. I screwed this framework to the wooden beam on the ceiling and to the wall, checking where the cables are first. I've blown myself up once - never again!

DIY Woodwork 

I don't have a workbench other than this table and I don't have anything to help me cut things straight or align things at right angles. I just use my eye. One thing I couldn't do without though is a spirit level because your eye needs a bit of back-up with bigger things. Of course, it does help to have a little dog supervise your work.

After hand-sawing the baton to the correct sizes, I drilled pilot holes and glued and screwed at all together.

DIY Woodwork 

Two clamps fixed to the baton and table are indispensible for this job.

DIY Woodwork 

One tip when fixing baton to a wall for shelving is to first drill pilot holes into the wood with a thin wood bit. Align to your straight line, which you create with a spirit level, and drill through one hole (the right in this instance) to make a mark on the wall. Change drill bits to a thicker masonry bit, drill your first hole, plug and secure the baton to the wall. Then get the baton perfectly level using your spirit level and drill through the other holes using a thin bit to make a small mark on the wall. Change to the bigger masonry bit again and drill the other holes, plug and fix to the wall. It's more work this way but it ensures a perfectly level baton and also eliminates the risk of misaligned holes.

More DIY woodwork to come.....

Old Quarry Tiles

Have you discovered old quarry tiles in your period property?

Find out what I chose to do with mine...

The living room floor of this Victorian house had been raised by a 10cm concrete slab. As the next door underfloor cupboard has an original slate slab floor, I suspected there might be slate under the slab. Using a chisel drill, I dug down through the slab in three places and found the original floor, which I assumed was also slate. However, when my builder removed all of the slab, we uncovered black and red quarry tiles. This was a disappointment as they're not to my taste and not in great condition having lost their surface and become quite badly chipped.

Old Quarry Tiles 

Those are the offending tiles and, to the right, is the back of the living room where the underfloor heating pipes will run in a concrete slab to the dining room, which now has a new slab. 

I could have had the living room and dining room floors completely dug out and replaced with Kingspan, underfloor heating and a concrete slab, just as I've had done in the kitchen. However, I wanted the living room to be different as it will have an open fire and it also has no windows. I also wanted a portion of my ground floor to be breathable. As the walls in period property generally do not have damp proof courses in them, moisture can rise up them if it can't escape through the floor.

Old Quarry Tiles 

As I didn't like the old quarry tiles but did want the majority of the living room floor to be breathable, I either needed to replace the tiles with another type of stone or cover them with something else. I considered covering them with a breathable and permeable epoxy resin but I didn't want to risk creating one massive cleanup task should it not adhere to my damp tiles. I considered laying sliced pebble mosaic using a lime based mortar and grout, but it would have been expensive and there was no guarantee the pebbles would remain fixed forever. Normal floor tiles would pop off in time due to not being breathable and moisture rising up through the quarry tiles. 

So, I looked at replacing the tiles with another breathable material. Natural stone was the obvious choice but it would have had to have covered the entire living room and dining room to have looked right, and it would have cost a few thousand pounds. Forget that.....this is House Fairynot the Fairy Godmother!

Back to the pebble idea I went, but found nice river pebbles were very expensive....£27 per 25kg bag for green Japanese pebbles! I knew they would look good bedded flat side up into lime mortar, they would be breathable and I would be able to create a cobbled floor in the middle of the living room and have a tiled border. But the cost!

Green River Pebbles 

Low and behold, I found a one tonne bag of unwanted green river pebbles for sale for £80! I'm now awaiting their delivery and dreading getting started on creating this very risky cobbled floor. I have never done it before and just hope I have made the right decision.

Watch this space!

Subsidence in Period Property

Subsidence in Period Property 
Subsidence in a period property is a terrifying thing, especially if it occurs suddenly. I'd only owned my Victorian house for a few weeks when a wall started to cave in. My builder had started to remove the concrete slab in the kitchen when one wall started to crack and heave into the room.
Subsidence in Period Property 
There was a deep gap between the floor ground and the wall footings, very much like a ravine cut into a mountain by millennia of water erosion. And water erosion it proved to be in the form of decades of leaking water from the old galvanised mains water pipes.
Subsidence in Period Property 
A galvanised pipe ran from the external stopcock just outside my front door, which steps out onto the pavement. Presumably, the pipe leading up to the stopcock also has leaks, increasing the water level directly outside my house. This pipe is also going to be replaced, meaning the pavement and halfway across the road needs to be dug up, and a nearby street lamp needs to be removed.

Gosh, the neighbours will love me!
Subsidence in Period Property 
That is a metal brace my heroic builder had made late at night to stop my wall from collapsing. There was a delay in getting started on the underpinning because my insurance company quibbled about covering the work. They claimed it was the responsibility of the previous owner's insurer due to an industry-wide agreement. After a lot of messing about, they finally accepted responsibility as a change of ownership cancels this agreement. Had I owned the property for a while and had just changed insurer, my previous insurer would cover subsidence that had been caused previously but only recently been discovered.
Subsidence in Period Property 
This is the hole outside my front door that was dug out to reveal and replace the stopcock, which was also leaking. The water company wanted to fill in this hole before it had been confirmed there were no more leaks. They only left when I threatened to get in the hole if they tried to fill it. It's lucky I scared them off as an old drain pipe had, indeed, been smashed and was leaking water into the hole.

How many leaks!
Subsidence in Period Property 
A few days passed after the subsidence started as I fought with the insurance companies. In that time, I read everything I could on the internet about subsidence in period properties. I even phoned an expert on the subject, who very kindly gave me half an hour of his time. Underpinning is the last resort for period properties because it's very invasive and creates a very rigid foundation to a previously flexible structure. As period properties were designed to move and were built with flexible, permeable and breathable materials, such as lime, great big blocks of solid concrete could upset the wobbly equilibrium. Usually, however, subsidence is a gradual thing and can be monitored over time and treated gently. However, my subsidence was an emergency situation and even the metal brace wasn't going to stop it from falling down, with potentially catastrophic consequences for not only my house but my two neighbours' houses as well.
Subsidence in Period Property 
My builder turned up at 6am with three strong men to get started on the daunting task of underpinning five meters of wall. The dark cold scene and their dark clothing and somber mood was reminiscent of grave diggers in a cemetery. The first day was terrible: I sat upstairs with my daughter, hardly able to breath due to anxiety, and waited for news, loud bangs, cracks, wobbling, screams and total callapse.

I really should have had a whiskey!
Subsidence in Period Property 
The men had to dig down until they reached solid ground, which they did between one and two meters down. The deepest hole was, of course, at the front door.
Subsidence in Period Property 
The builder removed a triangle of wall bricks, the area that had caved in, and rebuilt it. It's been a few months since this happened and the wall is doing well. The diagonal cracks that had appeared higher up and further away from the 'epicenter' did expand at first, but they've not grown bigger than about 4mm.

Experiencing subsidence in a period property is one of the worst things a person could go through. The thought of your house falling down is terrifying and, even after the problem has been fixed, your sense of equilibrium will be shot. For weeks after it happened, I felt as though I was falling over no matter where I was in the house. I became paranoid about existing cracks and worrying they were suddenly enlarging. Probably the best advice is to stay at a relative's house until all the work is completed, or just drink whisky!

I'm lucky in that these major leaks were discovered at the outset of my renovation project and before I'd carried out any work or spent any money. There was no sign of either a water leak or subsidence when I viewed the house. The floor covering needed replacing but no-one, not even a surveyor, would have known it was acting like an eggshell and hiding a soaking and cavernous secret.

If you're reading this post because your house is subsiding, you have my sympathy. However, you will get through it, your house will most likely be absolutely fine and you will be stronger because of it.