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How to Level a Concrete Surface

If you wish for a less invasive option for upgrading floors, driveways, or pavements, then leveling the concrete surface could be a preferable option. You also significantly lower your risks of mismatching the concrete floors, so you have a beautifully leveled surface.

However, achieving a well-leveled, appealing concrete surface may be a backbreaking struggle if you're a 'rookie' contractor who probably doesn't know all the tools required for this job. In this guide, we cover the simple steps to achieve a level concrete surface.

Tools and Equipment Required for Concrete Leveling Job

  • Rubber Gloves: You'll need the rubber gloves to protect your skin from possible concrete burns due to the caustic compounds common in concrete mixes.
  • Work boots: To protect your feet, you must have rubber work boots that are waterproof. The rubber work boots are generally preferred because they're more resistant to breakage as compared to standard boots when used on concrete.
  • Shovels: You'll need the shovels for filling your buckets and wheelbarrows with sand. They also come in handy when you need to level the grades, mixing concrete, fill in gaps after pouring concrete, and cleaning the spills.
  • Screeds: Screeds also come in handy when you've just poured concrete, and you need to level it. However, the one you choose will be influenced by the type of concrete leveling project you have at hand. Be sure to compare the sizes before making a purchase.
  • Pail and Bucket. You'll need the pails and buckets to hold water that you'll need for managing the finishing process.
  • Tape Measures: You'll need these tools to determine the concrete forms, slab depths, and mapping and testing your placements.
  • Saws: Saws will also come in handy when you need to cut the concrete joints. Depending on your preferences, you can have either a reciprocating saw or the circular saw. Both should help with the job.
  • Groove Cutters: You'll need the Groove cutters to give your concrete surface a smooth finish. They'll also help ensure that the concrete surface is resistant to cracking and damage due to shrinkage.
  • Mixers: Concrete mixers will help ensure that your concrete is strong enough to stand the test. Ideally, it is a must-have unless you're going to use ready-mix concrete producers.
  • Wheelbarrow: You'll need this for help moving small concrete amounts around the site. Alternatively, you can also use it for moving waste, tools, or samples around the site.
  • Safety Glasses: These tools will ensure that you handle your work with comfort to ensure efficiency. Their job is to safeguard your eyes from the harmful concrete compounds that may get in contact with them when mixing the concrete or leveling a surface.
  • Digging Bar: Digging bars are necessary when you're going to work on hard ground or when you'll need to create more significant gaps. You may also need them for extra leverage.
  • Vibrators: The vibrators are essential for releasing excess water and the air pockets after pouring your concrete mix. They're also available in different options, and for efficiency, you'll need to pick one that matches your preference.
  • Vapor Retarders: You'll need these tools to efficiently control evaporation on the concrete surface you're working on. You can also use them to stop water from interfering with finished surfaces when you're mixing concrete.
  • Floats: Finally, you'll need the floats to help fill small voids on your freshly poured concrete surfaces.

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Required Materials

  • Cement
  • Self-leveling compound
  • Sand
  • Latex bonding compound
  • Water

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Process for Leveling Concrete Surface—Step by Step Guide

Before you can start the leveling project, you'll first need to check the surface to ascertain that leveling it is necessary. Ideally, if the concrete you wish to work on is too old and jagged, you'll need more than just the leveling work to give it the ultimate smooth and even finish that's required of it.

In such a situation, you'd first need to tear down the entire surface and replace it before starting to level the concrete. Alternatively, if it only had lesser unevenness or fewer cracks, you won't need to tear it down but get on the leveling work outright.

If you're not going to tear the entire surface down, you have three options of leveling the concrete.

Option 1: Concrete Surface Grinding

This option would primarily be preferable if your sole focus is to smooth out any uneven joints on the concrete surface you're working on. Depending on your preference, you can opt for wet or dry concrete grinding. 

For a smooth finish, you'll need tools like the OF30Pro Concrete Floor Grinder & Polisher or the OF20Pro Concrete Floor Grinder & Sander depending on your preference

Option 2: Surface Skimcoat

You'll primarily opt for this option if the subsurface you'll be working on is stable but irregular, perhaps due to damage caused by a movement that took place after the final concrete was poured, and it has stabilized. 

It may also be the right option if the subsurface was poured out of the required level, and you must level it to make the entire surface even. Now, with this option, you'll need a self-leveling compound to make it level.

Option 3: Concrete Slab Leveling

You can opt for this option if you want a level concrete floor where you first get to know the causes of the concrete's unevenness. It works by leveling the entire concrete slab and surface. Most contractors prefer it since it's more durable when compared to the first two options.

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Steps to Level Concrete Surface

Knowing the types of concrete leveling options will make your work easier. Here is a breakdown of the steps to follow when leveling the concrete surface.

Step 1: Decide the Right Concrete Leveling Method for your Job

Depending on your preference, you can opt for either the stone slurry grout leveling approach or injection foam leveling approach.

  • Injection Foam Leveling. Some contractors prefer this approach because of its 'little-messy' nature. It is a recommendable option if you can't remove the floor coverings and furniture. It involves the use of foam injection equipment to inject polyurethane material as a liquid under the slab. The material will then expand before curing to fill any voids and raise the concrete.
  • Grout Leveling Approach. This approach is also known as pressure grouting or mudjacking. It will involve drilling one-inch holes in strategic areas on the concrete surface you wish to work on and pumping stone slurry grout under the slab. This will help fill all the voids then the slabs are lifted and put back in place where they're well supported underneath. You'll then spray the grout and place non-stick grout that matches the original concrete into the holes.

Step 2: Raising Slabs

Depending on the method you've chosen, you'll move onto drilling holes in strategic locations on the concrete surface. You must not try raising slabs by drilling the holes along the edge as this would only place undue stress on the slab, making it develop cracks.

Step 3: Filling Voids

Fill the voids underneath the slab by pumping stone slurry grout or foam mixture into the holes. Lift the concrete slab after filling the voids. If you opted for injection foam leveling, you'd need to lift the slab when the foam is expanding. For the grout leveling method, though, the leveling will occur as more pressure is piled up from the materials that are injected under the concrete slab.

Step 4: Cleaning

Clean up the surface then fill the holes with non-shrink grout. That's how to level concrete surface.

Wrapping Up

Concrete leveling may not be a simple task if you're not keen to follow the right steps and use the right materials and tools. We hope this guide makes everything clear for you.

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