Cheaper alternative to self leveling compound. Are you sick of breaking the bank with expensive self-leveling compounds? If so, this blog is for you! We will show you all the ways to get a perfectly level surface without emptying your wallet. Grab a bucket, and let’s level up!
Table of Contents
For those looking for a more affordable alternative to a self-leveling compound, a variety of options are available. These include using sand and cement mix or existing flooring such as hardwood or tiles.
If you wish to use sand and cement mix, it is important to ensure that the mixture is properly mixed and level within the area. This can be done by creating small mounds within the area that can be flattened until the desired level is achieved and then smoothed off with a trowel or float.
If using existing flooring, you may need to remove the old adhesive from the subfloor before laying your new floor covering. This can be achieved by either scraping it away with a sharp putty knife or using an appropriate solvent designed specifically for this purpose. Sealing any cracks or gaps in the subfloor may also be necessary before laying your new covering, as this will prevent moisture from seeping in later.
Once these steps are complete, you may lay down an appropriate underlayment if required – this will generally depend on which surface covering you have chosen – before laying your chosen flooring material. Different materials, such as:
- vinyl planks
All require slightly different preparation processes; therefore, appropriate research should be conducted before embarking on any DIY project.
Drywall compound is an affordable and popular alternative to self-leveling compound, a product that is often used to fill in large areas of unevenness, such as over imperfections in concrete or wood substrate, or for filling holes and cracks. The drywall compound is best known for its application over drywall seams or minor damage. It can be used as a skim coating to give your walls a smooth finish before painting.
When using drywall compound, it’s important to prep the area properly before beginning your project; you must do so to ensure a good finish. Before beginning, make sure that you have thoroughly sanded the surface you are working on; this will help ensure that the texture of the finished product matches the surrounding characters.
Also, be sure that all debris is removed and any remaining dust has been wiped off with a damp cloth; this will help ensure an even application when troweling on your thin layer of drywall mud (an additional trowel may also come in handy).
For best results, always coat and trowel wall areas sparingly; applying too thickly can lead to cracking down the road. As with a self-leveling compound, drywall mud should also be given ample time—at least 24 hours—to dry completely before painting.
Cementitious levelers may be a great option when looking for a cost-effective, easily applicable alternative to self-leveling compounds. They are ultra-low VOC and provide a high-performing base for your tile setting operations. Unlike self-leveling compounds, they set very quickly, allowing the floor to be ready for tile setting in just two hours—compared to up to 24 hours with most self-levelers.
Cementitious levelers are an ideal choice for most interior projects and can be installed over a variety of surfaces, including concrete substrates as well as plywood and OSB board in dry conditions. Besides also being successfully applied on new or existing stone, ceramic and terrazzo floors with appropriate priming, cementitious levelers possess excellent strength characteristics when correctly applied—making them highly resistant to wear and tear underfoot. The product is also formulated with unique flow control additives that prevent telegraphing of the substrate, resulting in flawless subfloor finishing on any project need!
Self-aggregating mortars (SAMs) are a more cost-effective alternative to self-leveling compounds to create a level surface where one needs them. SAMs are composed of cement, aggregates, and active admixtures that allow the mortar to flow, fill voids, level out, and then agglomerates.
While they still need some basic trowel work surface work to ensure the SAM is correctly spread and leveled, they offer superior performance compared to leveling compounds due to their greater flexibility and longevity.
SAMs come in various formulations and can be used for different kinds of applications. For example:
- Lightweight SAM-LW has expanded clay as aggregate for commercial floors or heavy finishing like power troweling for large format surfaces up to 25 m2 with no segregation or balls formation;
- High Strength Mortar (HSM) with quartz grit which offers a high hardening rate at 6 mm thickness even in outdoor applications exposed to climates;
- Leveling compound high-performance capacity until 15 mm with high deformability suitable for thick layers modifications in industrial floors;
- Colored mortar formulation provides a uniform color surface at 1 cm thick up to 60 m2 without joints.
Besides choosing the suitable formulation depending on the application needs, attention should also be paid to designing the correct layer thicknesses along with proper installation procedures. Such as compaction degree or curing time, as well as considering how existing moisture present on the substrate will affect SAM drying times before floor coverings can be laid down.
Plywood and Underlayment
Underlayment and plywood are attractive and cost-effective alternatives to self-leveling compounds, which can be expensive due to their thickness. Both materials can provide a flat and even surface; however, for best results, it is important to prepare the surface properly before installation.
With plywood underlayment or layers of plywood sheets, proper preparation involves ensuring the floor area is clean by removing all debris, including loose dirt and dirt build-up, before installation to receive an even finish after being screwed in place.
It is important to ensure all of the screws are evenly distributed when applying the underlayment, as this will create an even surface after installation. Either option should be applied, overlapping each sheet about an inch or two. This will help prevent any variance in heights between panels that could cause chipping or damage later on.
Underlayment is a thin layer of material that sits atop plywood sheets and provides a smoother, more even base for any construction project such as flooring. It comes in various materials such as vinyl, linoleum sheeting, cork tile boards, or thin laminate flooring sheets if you prefer a softer touch feel during application.
Compared with traditional plywood underlayment sheets, which can often prove slightly ultra-firm when stepped upon directly without cushioning of final floor material application above it, such as carpet padding or laminate planks, etc.
In some cases, foam-type cushioned underlayments are used between the main plywood sheets providing suppleness from below, so no extra cushion material above has to be applied before the final surfacing material can go down on top for great comfortability. Your feet will thank you!
Lightweight Concrete Toppings
Lightweight concrete toppings are an ideal cheaper alternative to self-leveling compounds for specialty floor projects. These materials are designed for interior floors and can be applied easily over existing substrates, like plywood, masonry, most types of tile, and even carpet in some cases.
Lightweight concrete toppings are fluid products that can be pigmented or stamped patterned to create a wide variety of textures for aesthetic purposes. Topping materials consist primarily of a standard portland cement blend with a very fine lightweight aggregate designed to reduce the overall weight and increase workability.
Adding pigments (iron oxides and minerals) will give long-lasting colors that won’t dull, crack or chip away like coatings can because they are part of the material itself – not just added on top as an additional layer.
Also, dimensionally stable topping materials have great crack-resistance properties, so they will expand and contract with temperature changes while moving independently from the substrate itself, delivering superior performance even under severe conditions.
Lightweight concrete toppings always level any irregular contours in the substrate with minimal labor due to its high flow characteristics, so there is no need for difficult manual leveling efforts.
Lightweight concrete topping systems should be properly prepared prior to installation by following manufacturer specifications to maximize performance results. These products should be handled by experienced crews who understand how to prepare lightweight systems properly according to industry standards, ensuring a quality finished product every time!
There are also ways to save even more money and ensure your floor is level. When working with plywood for a subfloor, be sure to use plenty of screws to ensure adequate support. Shims are an excellent way to level out your flooring, as well as fill any gaps with caulk.
For larger gaps in concrete subfloors, you can mix up a mixture of 50/50 Portland cement and sand and fill the hollow spots at 1/2″ or less. You can use thin-set or mortar instead of self-leveling compounds for leveling walls. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time, as these materials take a considerable amount of curing time before laying down any flooring material or tiles on top.
Floor Leveler VS Concrete
Floor leveler and concrete are two approaches for creating an even surface to prepare for a new floor covering such as carpet, laminate, tile, or hardwood. While both materials create a smooth and level surface, each has advantages and disadvantages that must be considered before making a decision.
Floor Leveler is an alternative to traditional self-leveling compounds and usually has the same end result. Floor leveler contains polymers that create a strong bond between the existing subfloor, ground down high spots, and fill in low spots run with latex underlayment compound.
However, while it is meant to level out the existing subfloor it will not reduce linear gaps between boards or fill in open knots in wood floors. It also comes in pre-mixed versions, which can be more expensive than a bag of leveling compound on-site, but it is easier than mixing the powder yourself.
Concrete is another option for creating an even walking surface before laying down new flooring. It requires less work than pouring a self-leveling compound but can yield mixed results depending on the installer’s experience. Once set over, primer and wire mesh concrete offer a dense finish, making it ideal for tile installations where precision is necessary for flat surfaces and holding up to wear and tear from foot traffic with proper finishing techniques.
Concrete also requires less downtime than self-leveling compounds, which must be left undisturbed for anywhere from 12 – 18 hours. Depending on conditions, including temperature and humidity in different areas of your home, along with any standing water or debris left beneath or between boards of underlying substrates before installation.
Additionally, concrete tends to be one of the cheaper alternatives compared to self-leveling compounds when purchased pre-mixed by measuring out what you need instead of buying an entire 5-gallon bucket at once.
Cheaper alternative to self-leveling compound
For many do-it-yourselfers, finding an affordable, safe and effective alternative to a self-leveling compound can be challenging. Self-leveling compounds are expensive to purchase and laborious to install, so understanding the alternatives is important to save both time and money.
One of the most popular substitutes for self-leveling compounds is a low-viscosity polymer cement slurry that can be applied over existing concrete surfaces. This mix offers excellent surface uniformity while providing the necessary bonding and sealing strengths necessary for many leveling applications without breaking your budget.
An economical alternative solution involves combining sand and Portland cement in proportions determined by the degree of leveling required. This mix often referred to as a pre-mixed “topping” material, may require additional treatments, such as an alkali-resistant mesh reinforcement for heavier load-bearing applications making it unsuitable for some self-leveling projects.
When used in combination with appropriate cracking solutions such as resurfacing crack patches or a concrete resurfacer, it can produce an attractive concrete finish when applied properly over existing concrete surfaces.
Last but certainly not least is floor paint or epoxy coatings, which do not present any significant issues regarding leveling but provide long-lasting protection backed with resistance to wear caused by everyday use within commercial establishments or at-home environments.
However, since this type of application isn’t suitable for use with existing cracks or substrate movement, this option may provide a viable option depending on the nature of the work being undertaken.
How to make self-leveling concrete
Making your own self-leveling concrete is an economical alternative to purchasing ready-made products and applying them to various surfaces. Self-leveling concrete creates an even surface that’s ready for whatever you want to do with it – from creating a flat, level floor or surface for tiling or reflooring to creating a base for countertops and other home renovations.
To make advanced self-leveling concrete, start with quality ingredients and follow the instructions carefully. This will ensure your project turns out just the way you imagined.
- Portland cement
- Fine aggregate such as vermiculite
- Latex admix (optional but recommended)
- Preparing the surface: Before pouring self-leveling concrete, it’s important to ensure that the surface below is properly prepared before pouring onto it. It should be completely smooth, stable, and level from edge to edge.
- Mixing the materials: Measure all your ingredients into clean buckets or wheelbarrows and mix evenly until the mixture has a uniform consistency, free of dry spots or clumps of dry cement. Be sure to wear gloves when handling raw materials like sand and cement!
- Applying self-leveling compound: Pour evenly over prepared surfaces in small batches until desired thickness is reached. Be sure to pour slowly or allow excess material in one area, as this could pose problems in drying time or affect overall finish quality.
- And lastly, if using latex admix, ensure that this is properly mixed with the other components before pouring it onto the surface. Allow time for drying before proceeding with any further applications based on individual project needs.
Screed or self-leveling compound
When sealing a concrete floor, you will need a compound that produces an even, level surface to ensure that the finished product is smooth and attractive. There are two main types of products available: screed (or topping) and self-leveling compound.
Screed is a dry mixture of cement, aggregates, and sands that is hand-troweled on top of the existing concrete floor to form an even surface. While easy to transport and install, screed is more labor intensive as it needs to be troweled by hand. It does not contain any chemical binders, so it can take longer for the cement compounds to set in place and leave an uneven finish.
Self-leveling compounds are pre-mixed mixtures of dry cement combined with chemical binders. They are poured on the existing concrete floor directly from the bucket or drum and then spread evenly using a trowel or other tool. Self-leveling compounds are faster and easier to use and cure quickly without requiring extra time and work – but they often come with a significantly higher price tag than traditional screed mixes.
The cheapest way to level concrete floor
A concrete floor must be level before installing most types of flooring; however, self-leveling compounds can be expensive and confusing. While these compounds help ensure a level footing for your floor, other alternatives can do the job just as well—and often at a fraction of the cost.
Concrete resurfacing is an alternative option for leveling out an uneven concrete surface. The process involves topping existing floors with a more workable topping made from modified cement, polymers, and other additives to create a superior surface.
Polymeric cement overlays are available in multiple colors and textures, allowing you to customize the appearance of your floor while still maintaining functionality and strength. Resurfacing combined with acid staining also provides durable finishes that have coloration options ranging from very subtle earth tones to vibrancy found in distressed or antiqued slabs.
Another cost-effective way to level concrete floors is by grinding them down and then polishing them topically. This process helps address any imperfections on the surface, such as high or low spots due to settling over time or slab heaving caused by shifting soils or poor compaction levels during the slab’s original installation process.
During this process, grind and seal specialists use diamond blades attached to cutting machines. Then, grind away any irregularities on the top surface layer until it’s even throughout all areas. Then afterward, depending on budget and desired final outcome, a colored urethane sealer is applied, leaving behind a glossy look with no grounding lines visible for both residential & commercial applications alike.
How to level a floor without leveling compound
For those on a budget, there are other options for leveling a floor without using a leveling compound. Whether you are dealing with a slightly uneven floor that requires only minimal effort or an uneven floor that needs more serious attention, such as removing multiple layers of old flooring, there are steps you can take to level the surface and save money by not using expensive leveling compounds.
If your leveling project is minor and you need less than 1/8th inch of leveling, consider using a self-leveling patch or pourable grout mixture, both of which are usually available at home improvement stores. You’ll only need enough to fill the low spots on your floor before applying a self-leveling product for the finished look.
If the area requires more work than this, consider removing existing layers from the problem areas until you reach a sound subfloor material free from bumps and dips. If you’re dealing with vinyl or tile which may be adhered directly to an underlayment, use an electric scraper to remove it before moving onto more manual methods like crowbars and hammers for removing any additional layers.
Once all loose material is removed, and any damaged underlayment is cut away, the area needs to be filled with thicker materials like plywood or hardwood planks, depending on how much height needs to be added to reach acceptable floor levels. Secure these materials together with nails or screws making sure each plank is secured in position before adding new pieces; this ensures stability when complete.
To finish up your project, apply a layer of self-leveling compound over the top of your secured plank materials (or patch mixture if minimal) so that when dried, it provides an even, continuous flat surface throughout the room.
The self-leveling compound over new concrete
Self-leveling compounds can be a great solution when installed over new or existing concrete surfaces. It is designed to level out and smooth any unevenness, filling in cracks and other imperfections. It can also help reduce the risk of tripping accidents by reducing trip hazards and increasing slip resistance.
However, self-leveling compounds can be costly for some budgets. For those looking for an economical alternative, there are some cost-effective options available that don’t compromise on quality or performance:
- Grinding of existing concrete surface: This is one of the most cost-effective alternatives to the self-leveling compound since it involves removing a layer of the existing concrete surface before pouring a new layer over it. This ensures that any irregularities left by previous construction are smoothed over, creating an even base for the new layer to be placed on top of.
- Latex leveling: This option is more affordable than self-leveling compound in terms of materials and labor costs; however, it takes more time since extra steps are needed to ensure a proper installation and finish result. Latex leveling involves spreading a mixture of latex paint and water on the existing floor in thin layers until the desired level is achieved, then sanding down once dry for a smooth finish underfoot. The added benefit of using this method is that it requires minimal surface preparation, such as scraping old finishes or primers from floors beforehand, which saves time in preparation steps prior to installation and labor costs if done by professionals or contractors.
It is clear from our review of various cheaper alternatives to self-leveling compounds that there are some viable options depending on the project’s specific needs. These include concrete patches, pre-mixed mortar, plaster of Paris, and drywall mud. Some may also be able to use wet cement with sawdust or pea gravel.
However, these are generally less reliable and may not provide a surface as smooth and level as self-leveling compounds. Additionally, each of these substitutes has different levels of cost efficiency depending on their intended use case. For instance, a concrete patch works best for small areas that need strong correction.
Plaster of Paris is a more economical option for medium-sized spaces with minor issues on the surface, but it does not provide an appropriate base for tile bonding applications, whereas drywall mud can be used in both large and small areas in applications where tiles are going to be set. Ultimately, all options should be carefully evaluated before choosing one over the other to determine which option best fits the situation.
A cheaper alternative to a self-leveling compound is to use a concrete overlay. Concrete overlays can be applied over existing concrete surfaces to create a level and smooth surface. This is a much more cost-effective solution than a self-leveling compound, as it does not require the removal of the existing surface.
Concrete overlays are applied using a concrete mixer and trowel. First, you will need to mix the overlay material with water to create a paste-like consistency. Once the material is mixed, you will need to spread it evenly over the area you wish to level. Finally, use a trowel to smooth the surface, create a level, and even finish.
Many types of concrete overlays are available, including epoxy, concrete resurfacing, and acrylic. Each type of concrete overlay has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to research before selecting the right option for your project.
The sand mix is a cost-effective alternative assuming you need more funds for a self-leveling compound. In the event the imbalance in your floor is severe, sand is a mix of sand and cement that you can spread with a trowel. Nevertheless, the sand mix will not evenly distribute by itself, as opposed to the original product. You’ll have to employ a flat-sized instrument like a trowel to level it out.
Because mortar will stick to a concrete slab and wood subfloor, and mortar will stick to mortar, it seems reasonable that mortar would work well for leveling or patching, is it? Well, the correct answer is not at all. Do not use mortars to level or patch a floor! Because of the variability in the properties of the materials used in mortars, the product should not be used once the thickness surpasses the manufacturer’s minimum. Most mortars have a minimum thickness of about 1.5 inches (4 mm) and medium-bed mortars must be at least 1 inch (2.5 cm).