Busted (Townhouse #8)

Oh, the concrete debacle. If I knew then what I knew now… I had been going to do this part of the project all by myself originally, but I decided to hire a professional because:

  • I was nervous that I’d do it wrong.
  • I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to carry that many bags of concrete.
  • I’d never used an angle grinder and it all seemed too scary and difficult.
  • I didn’t know if I’d be able to strip the paint off well enough to get a good adhesion. (The workers omitted this step entirely).

I wish I had trusted myself. Once I started, grinding down the concrete was not only easy, it was kind of fun! As for the bags of concrete, I barely had to transport anything – I had someone at Lowe’s load them into the truck for me and then once at the Townhouse I just slung them down a makeshift slide inside the basement window. I now love using self-leveller – it’s so satisfying to see it creep and smooth itself out. I would have saved money, used better quality products, and had ceilings 2″ higher than I do now with a flatter end product. Probably would have taken the same amount of time, all told.

The contractor did send a guy back the following week to bust up the most egregious part of the floor. It took him several hours even though the concrete came up relatively easily. Because, surprise surprise, the workers had not scraped the paint underneath at all so there was zero adhesion. I could just yank pieces up with my fingers.


He took up quite a bit while trying to cut back the slope. When he left (snuck out while I was gone to fetch the girls even after I made him promise to stay until I got back), the floor still wasn’t level.


Better, but not level.


Hard to tell from the angle, but on the left the laser ends up about 1/4″ from the floor and on the right it’s a bit more than 1″.

But the contractor refused to do any more on the grounds that he had said from the beginning that it wouldn’t be absolutely perfect. While true, I guess his definition of not-quite-perfect and mine are very, very different. I threw up my hands and got to work.

The angle grinder was great fun but it threw out so much dust that it set off the smoke detectors. I’m constantly finding it all over – even on the second floor – and the kitchen upstairs looks like a snowstorm hit. I have a heavy-duty mask that looks a bit like I’m a WWI soldier and by the end those filters were toast – but better them than my lungs! And my fully-sealed safety goggles helped keep grit out of my eyes. But I got a few odd looks as I walked out that afternoon to go get the girls, until I realized that I was head-to-toe covered in grey dust except for around my eyes and mouth…

Ah, Construction Chic fashion, you are not my friend.

I used a total of 6 bags of self-leveler – and it could have been significantly less if I’d remembered to buy pea gravel. Self-leveler can only be applied about an inch deep but you can double that by using pea gravel to bulk it out… good to know with a product as expensive as that. I could probably have used another 3 bags, but in conjunction with grinding down the high spots it was Good Enough… plus I was already behind schedule. I may still end up having to add more under some of the lowest spots, we’ll see.

Usually I end up being incredibly glad that I hired a professional. This time, I wish I’d done it myself from the beginning. I guess I can chalk it up to a learning experience.

In the mean time, the important thing is that I can now start the framing and we can really get the project rolling!

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