How to lift and re-lay a solid floor

1 If the floor is of concrete this can be broken up with a heavy hammer and shovelled away. With brick or quarry tiled floors you should start by driving a cold chisel into the joints.

2 Once you have managed to remove the first brick or tile the rest should come away easily. They are not usually tightly cemented together.

3 You will probably find that there is a layer of hard plaster or cement underneath.

This is raked dead flat and trodden hard. You should aim at a level roughly 6 ins. Below the surface that you want your new floor to have.

4 Remove the skirting board if there is one and then cut with a broad chisel into the wail, roughly 4 ins, above the final floor level. Cut this slot well into the body of the wall and above the level of the wall’s damp-proof course, if there is one.

5 Clear away all plaster below this slot. Exposing the wall itself.

6 The best depth for your first concrete layer is 4 ins. You will need several lengths of wood 4 ins.xl in. thick. Stand these on edge on your level base and support them with bricks placed at either side. Place a strip right across the floor, about 3 feet from one end.

7 The tops of this wooden support strip must be dead level. It pays to mark the wall itself with a dead level line to act as a guide as you fill in the concrete.

8 Mixing the concrete is probably the heaviest job of all. Working on one small section at a time makes it easier. Make the mixture one part cement, two and a half parts concreting sand, and four parts gravel. Above all do not make the concrete too wet. Shovel the plastic mass into place between the boards and the wall and work it well down.

9 Use another length of wood laid across the top of your support board to beat the surface of the wet concrete flat. Check the level frequently.

10 Now you can remove the brick on the concrete side of your support board …

11 . . . and then fill the hole with more cement, well worked down with a trowel.

12 Finally work the surface of the concrete perfectly flat using a ‘float’ trowel. A metal trowel like this is most useful for amateur work though a tradesman would probably use a wooden one at this stage.

13 Continue across the floor allowing each section to harden so that the supporting timbers can be removed. When the entire floor has been covered draw a skimming of cement up the side of the wall to cover thinly the exposed brick wall or stone work and to form a rounded smooth edge to the groove cut in the wall.

14 Now leave the floor to go really hard; this may take a week or more. Finally brush the surface to remove any dust.

15 The damp-proof course is made of heavy gauge polythene which you can obtain from a builders merchant in very large sheets. Spread it over the base concrete, taking care to avoid puncturing it with small pebbles that may have been left on the surface.

16 Tuck the edge of the sheet into the wall groove. If the wall has its own damp-proof course fasten the sheet to this with bitumen paint.

17 At each corner the sheet is folded (not cut) and may be wedged temporarily into position with pieces of wood.

18 You will have to walk over your floor many times so cover the polythene with several layers of newspaper, otherwise you may accidentally tear it.

19 The cement for the top 11 ins, is much finer and contains little, or no gravel. Proportions of one part cement to three of sand are about right. Start at the part of the room furthest from the door. At intervals you can place temporary strips of wood 2 ins, thick to make sure that you get an accurate and even depth. As before the concrete mixture should be not over-wet.

20 Each section of the top cement is worked smooth with the trowel. This may be finally completed after the floor has partially hardened, using water to lubricate the floor.

21 The completed surface looks like this, with the polythene sheet completely buried except at the edges.

22 On a very large floor where you have to Join the polythene sheet the overlaps should be at least 6 ins.

23 Finally smooth plaster and cement is drawn up to conceal the polythene edges. Any skirting board can be replaced after this cement has hardened.

If you intend to use paint as a floor covering, of course, the job could hardly be simpler. Just clean down the floor really well and level it off as we showed previously. The final appearance depends a lot on this preparatory work. Then, lay on the paint in even strokes, working along the grains of the planking. You will find that any filling you may have used may show through a single coat. If so, start by painting over these fillings only, and letting this coat dry. This should conceal them.

In any case, two thin coats are better than a single thick flood! Remember to start away from the doorway, so that you do not ‘paint yourself in’ and choose a good drying day, warm with a slight breeze. Although you may have to shut the door to prevent dirt blowing in, leave all windows open at least a little way. Paint may dry very slowly in a closed room.

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