What you need to know about self-leveling floors

Honestly, sometimes you don’t even know which is better. In the sense that today there are so many opportunities that we, the buyers, have our heads spinning. Floor coverings alone are invisible today. Have you heard, for example, that floors can be poured rather than laid? This coating is called “self-leveling floors”, or, as they were also dubbed, “liquid linoleum”.

It turns out that outwardly the self-leveling floor is really very similar to linoleum, but to the touch it resembles a smooth tile: monolithic, even, without seams and gaps. It comes in different colors, neutral calm tones prevail among the shades – light green, gray, beige, light brown. The thickness of self-leveling floors of various types is from 1 to 7 mm, but the optimal thickness of the coating for a living room recommended by specialists is 1.5 mm. Why? Making the floor in a living space thinner is impractical, thicker is uneconomical, since more material will be required. But more on that later.

So, from the point of view of chemists, self-leveling floors are special seamless polymer coatings.

Where are they applied?

There are several types of floor coverings, which are called self-leveling:

1. Methyl methacrylate (from methyl methacrylic resins);
2. Epoxy (made of epoxy resins);
3. Cement-acrylic (prepared from dry construction mixture and the so-called “liquid component”);
4. Polyurethane (based on polyurethane).

According to experts, the first three types of self-leveling floors are more suitable for industrial premises. And for residential, the fourth type is used – polyurethane floors. Why? Of course, all types are safe for health, but polyurethane, in addition to being the most durable and wear-resistant, is also the lightest – floors from it are more elegant. By the way, polyurethane (as a base for flooring) has long been used by the world’s leading flooring manufacturers – for example, Tarkett Sommer. And besides, this floor looks very good: due to the gloss and variety of colors. Therefore, our conversation will focus specifically on polyurethane self-leveling floors..

On the site near the garage, in the garage itself, and in the parking lot, self-leveling floors are what you need

So, self-leveling screed floors are most often used where increased requirements are imposed on the floor: chemical resistance and resistance to abrasion (including in conditions of high humidity), the need to provide antistatic protection or special sanitary and hygienic requirements. First of all, these are, of course, production facilities and offices with high traffic, television studios. But living quarters are also suitable: kitchens, bathrooms, summer cottages, glazed loggias. Or, for example, you can “lay” such floors in the garage and workshop.

“A” and “B” sat on the pipe

It is believed that the main disadvantage when using a self-leveling floor in a residential area is a poor choice of colors. But, firstly, there are at least 12 colors of self-leveling floor on sale, which, you see, is not so little. Secondly, manufacturers of self-leveling floors have come up with an additional and very original decorative “special effect”: so-called “chips” are applied to the fresh coating – colored particles made from pieces of acrylic paint, of various shapes and sizes. “Chips”, when they are in a jar, look like large bright confetti, and when applied to the floor, they add depth and resemblance to natural materials such as marble or granite..

Self-leveling coating options: regular and with “chips”

But the most interesting thing about self-leveling floors, in addition to all the above advantages and properties, is the process of their installation! And what is curious, if you wish, you can personally join this sacrament, in something similar to a shamanic ritual.

To become the happy owner of a self-leveling floor, you will need: two cans with components – small and large (with a total weight of about 40 kg), an electric drill with a nozzle and a rule. It is clear that the most important thing is cans with components for the future self-leveling floor. In a large jar – component “A”. The little one is filled with component “B”. Manufacturers of self-leveling floors keep the exact chemical composition of these components a secret. But it was possible to establish that imported technology is widely used in their manufacture. Moreover, the coating technology is the same for all types of self-leveling floors, only the components and properties are different.

So let’s get started. Take a small jar and pour its contents into a large one. But to achieve the desired result (that is, to cure the composition) this is not enough. All components must be thoroughly mixed with an electric drill with a special nozzle. After a few minutes, the working mixture of components is ready for application to the surface..

Is that all? Not. Before proceeding with the “production” of a self-leveling floor, you need to carefully prepare the surface – level it, eliminate potholes, cracks, etc., putty them, prime the base … In general, a primed base (it can be concrete, stone, tiles , metal and even wood) should have a uniform gloss on the surface and not absorb liquid. Only then can the polyurethane “cocktail” be poured onto the coating and, using a rule and a needle roller, distribute it over the entire floor area..

Using a movable bar on the rule, you can adjust the thickness of the applied coating: the closer the bar to the floor, the thinner the coating is, and vice versa. The needle roller helps to remove bubbles formed on the liquid surface. We have already said that the thickness of the self-leveling floor recommended by specialists is 1.5 mm, but if desired, this figure can be increased to 5-7 mm.

All these works must be carried out at a room temperature not lower than + 5 ° С and not higher than + 25 ° С and a relative humidity of about 60%. Otherwise, the self-leveling floor will “set” longer. On a fresh floor (for beauty), you can apply the already known to us colored “chips”, and after 12 hours cover the top with a transparent protective varnish. Then wait another 24 hours and that’s it. The new self-leveling floor is ready “for use”.

By the way, the manufacturers warned me that the self-leveling floor, until it dries, is afraid of moisture: its components react with water. That is why it is important to ensure that the surface to which the self-leveling coating will be applied is dry (that is, the moisture content of the surface itself should not be higher than 5%). Specialists in this case use a moisture meter. But if initially the surface preparation was done according to all the rules, then after 12–20 hours (after the coating has dried) and in the next four decades, no moisture will be scary to the self-leveling floor.

The self-leveling floor is not afraid of blows – no matter what you drop on it, there will be no dents or cracks. He also does not care about temperature changes (that’s why you can “pour” it on the balcony or on the summer cottage). According to experts, this is a non-toxic and “slow-burning” coating. Moreover, all types of self-leveling coatings, both in Europe and in Russia, are subject to mandatory certification. And a conscientious manufacturing company will never refuse to demonstrate all the necessary certificates for its products.

Materials and tools for applying self-leveling floor: putty, brush, needle roller

Whose? Where? How much?

The market price of the Russian self-leveling floor for residential premises is $ 10–13 per sq.m. (without laying, more precisely, “filling”). But in general, the self-leveling floor is sold “by kilograms”. The price of the domestic kit is about $ 176 with a total weight of 36 kg. One set is enough to cover a 15 sq.m. room. If you do not want to do this work yourself, add the cost of the work of the stackers – $ 8-10.

An imported floor for a dwelling will cost at least $ 40 per square meter, if the floor space is less than 500 square meters. In general, the range of prices for self-leveling floors made from imported materials ranges from $ 8 to $ 100 per square meter.

Self-leveling floor – the most practical solution for industrial premises

Self-leveling floor in the Luzhniki sports complex (left)
The self-leveling floor with “chips” at first glance cannot be distinguished from the granite floor (right)

Comparative analysis

Each flooring has its own pros and cons. Let’s compare a self-leveling floor with other floor coverings that have the same purpose as a polyurethane floor: PVC linoleum, laminate and tiles are also placed in the kitchen, in the bathroom or on the glazed balcony.

So, household PVC linoleum and self-leveling floor are very similar in appearance. In a Moscow store where self-leveling floors were made, I was told that visitors often ask: “What is this unusual linoleum you have?”

But external similarity is perhaps the only thing that unites these two types of coatings. The first difference is the service life. High-quality PVC linoleum will withstand 15–20 years. And a properly made self-leveling floor will last 40 years. But, I emphasize, CORRECTLY done. (Please remember this remark, we will return to it later.) In addition, linoleum has a richer design. And yet, if necessary, linoleum can be easily removed – rolled up and replaced with a new one. With a self-leveling coating, this trick will not work. Removing such a coating is a problem. But on the other hand, why, if we make a good, high-quality self-leveling floor?

Now the laminate. Laminate, as we have already said more than once, is a special multi-layer board based on fiberboard that can imitate natural materials – wood, stone, marble … Laminate is a beautiful modern floor covering, but, alas, it serves less than a self-leveling floor – 12 years. In addition, the laminate, unlike the self-leveling floor, is still not recommended to be laid in rooms with high humidity.

If we compare it with ceramic tiles, which are traditionally placed in the kitchen, in the bathroom and on the balconies, here the self-leveling floor also has certain advantages: no seams (which means there is no place for fungus and bacteria to start) and higher strength.

So, what are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-leveling floor coverings?

PROS:

  • pleasant appearance, shine, solidity of color;
  • durability (minimum 40 years);
  • moisture resistance and high chemical resistance (important when using a self-leveling floor, for example, in a garage);
  • hygiene and ease of cleaning – can be washed with plain water without treatment with special compounds;
  • high adhesion (adhesion) to any substrate, no seams and gaps;
  • fire safety (hardly flammable and “hardly combustible” material). Non-toxicity;
  • simplicity of the device – the self-leveling floor can be made independently in just half a day (12 hours).
  • MINUSES:

  • poor design compared to traditional types of coatings;
  • obsolescence, that is, the self-leveling floor simply bothers its owner. But in this case, the coating can be updated – apply a new layer of a different color;
  • some types of self-leveling coatings turn yellow under the influence of ultraviolet rays;
  • labor-intensive preparation of the base for coating – careful leveling, putty is necessary;
  • difficult to remove from the base if necessary;
  • artificial material;
  • strict control of the moisture content of the coating on which the floor is “poured” is required.
  • Now let’s compare the prices for these floor coverings. So:

    Imported self-leveling floor: From $ 40 per sq.m (area less than 500 sq.m)
    Domestic self-leveling floor: From 8 – 14 $ per sq.m
    Imported laminate: From $ 7 per sq.m.
    Domestic laminate: From $ 3 per sq.m.
    Household linoleum-PVC imported: From $ 4 per sq.m
    Domestic linoleum-PVC: From 1 $ per sq.m
    Imported tiles: From 9-14 $ per sq.m
    Domestic tiles: From $ 3 per sq.m.

    Well. Now let’s see where to buy it. The situation is more complicated here. It all depends on at what price and whose production you need self-leveling floors.

    The main manufacturers of imported self-leveling floors on our market are German, Danish, Swedish, Finnish and French companies. I shoveled through a lot of advertising catalogs, called the help desk, turned to familiar builders and just to acquaintances … So what? Nobody (!) Could give the coordinates of any foreign company that independently (that is, not through distributors) offering self-leveling floors on the Russian market. In the course of the search, many companies were found that perform work on the installation of self-leveling floors, but where to buy the source material, and even from a foreign manufacturer, they also did not know (or did not want to say?). But in the end my efforts were crowned with success: the corporation “TempStroySistema” finally satisfied my curiosity and recommended the use of a self-leveling floor of the Belgian production, the “Arpenbelgion” company, in the dwelling. True, with the proviso that they do not recommend buying and “pouring” these floors yourself.

    As knowledgeable people told us, Russian self-leveling floors are not inferior to foreign counterparts either in quality or design and are sold not only in Moscow, but also in Ukraine and the Baltic States..

    Alas, at this point you will have to pour a fly in the ointment into the barrel of honey. And that’s why.

    Why bubbles appeared?

    There is a store in Moscow – “Brussels Stuff”. Its owners made a self-leveling floor in the trading floor … Suddenly, disgusting bubbles – 40 x 50 cm in size – were blowing up on the new surface. What’s the matter? And who is to blame? Before you two opinions.

    Victoria Kruchinina, director of the “Brussels Stuchki” store:

    – We signed an agreement with MPDG for the reorganization of the sales area. The specialists of this company recommended that we make a self-leveling floor where good tiles used to be. They showed beautiful pictures, talked about the technology, assured us that they had worked with tiles on the floor before. In general, we decided. But, apparently, they could not withstand the technology, poorly primed the surface, did not measure the humidity in the room. Later, the experts told us that in such cases it is necessary to measure the humidity in the room for several days in a row (morning and evening).

    And what is the result? There was a reaction with water, large ugly bubbles appeared on the floor, with which we have been fighting for two months. We rub, paint, putty, primer. Our clients – designers – even mistake the flooring for bad linoleum. For a month, the store did not work at all, and now our workers are forced to fix the floor at night. The tiles below are also damaged. By the way, I heard that similar problems arose in Ostankino, in several studios, where self-leveling floors were also made.

    Konstantin Toporov, executive director of MPDG:

    – There really was a problem with the self-leveling floor made by our workers in the “Brussels Stuchki” store. But why did it arise? It’s not at all about the quality of the material and not about the violation of technology – our workers did everything right. The problem is in the surface on which the self-leveling polyurethane coating was applied. The customer did not warn us that the hangar, where the floor needs to be made, stands directly on the ground and is actually executed in violation of the existing SNiP (building codes. – Auth.). Under the hangar there was neither a basement, nor even a foundation – only a concrete screed only 20 cm thick, made of porous cement that perfectly absorbs moisture … There was no waterproofing – neither Vetonit nor liquid glass…

    Since we were not warned about this by the customer (that the hangar was made with such violations of building codes), we trusted our specialists. And we limited ourselves to visual inspection of the surface on which the self-leveling coating was to be applied … There was a flat, dry tile. We ourselves examined this flooring and showed it to a specialist from the flooring manufacturer.

    But since, I repeat, the hangar stands on porous cement that accumulates moisture, and there is no waterproofing, problems arose. First of all, because in our climate there is a big difference between day and night temperatures, and moisture needs to “go out” somewhere … As a result, the very undesirable reaction with water occurred, which the manufacturer always, by the way, warns customers about.

    And when the bubbles appeared, the customers accused our workers of violating the technology and that our material was bad. Of course, we missed the mark – we did not ask the customer for details about the flooring in the hangar. And the complete absence of waterproofing turned out to be a “surprise” for us … But all the work was done in strict compliance with the technology, and the quality of the material had nothing to do with it.

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