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 November 3, 2023

Don’t Break the Bank: Cheaper Alternative to Self-Leveling Compound

The Quest for Budget-Friendly Leveling Solutions

In the domain of flooring, obtaining a level substrate is a quintessential step that paves the way for a flawless installation of the final flooring material. Traditionally, the journey towards achieving a level floor has been navigated using self-leveling compounds. These are cement-based powdered mixtures prepared prior to application, aimed at leveling out shallow dips and humps in a subfloor, thereby readying it for the installation of a finished floor covering.

Whether it's about dealing with an uneven concrete slab or a bumpy wooden subfloor, self-leveling compounds, with their self-smoothing characteristics, come to the rescue, providing a flat and level surface crucial for the subsequent installation of floor coverings such as ceramic tiles, hardwood, or carpet.

However, the financial aspect of using self-leveling compounds cannot be overlooked. The cost of self-leveling compounds hovers between £20 to £35 per bag on average, with the price for a small bathroom project, poured at 5mm thickness, ranging from £60 to £100. In the United States, the cost of self-leveling concrete flooring averages around $600-850 per 100 square feet. Moreover, the price of a 50 lb bag of self-leveling underlayment ranges from around $28 to $35. This expenditure might stretch the budget thin, especially in projects encompassing a larger area.

Why Seek Alternatives?

The quest for cost-effective leveling solutions arises from the quintessential aim of achieving a level floor without delving too deep into the pockets. Budget constraints are a reality in many projects, and finding a cheaper alternative without compromising on the quality and efficacy is a prudent approach. The cost factor becomes a significant consideration, especially for homeowners and contractors working under a tight budget.

The high cost of self-leveling compounds nudges individuals to seek alternatives that are not only economical but also effective in delivering a level substrate ready for the final flooring installation. These alternatives could significantly cut down on project costs, making the flooring project more affordable and feasible. Moreover, finding a budget-friendly leveling solution could also mean more resources available for other aspects of the project, ensuring a well-rounded completion within the allocated budget.

Understanding the Ground Reality

Before diving into the world of cost-effective leveling solutions, it's pivotal to have a clear understanding of the floor conditions you're dealing with. The quest for a level substrate is not a mere whim but a necessity. It's a precursor to a professional and enduring flooring installation. Whether you are dealing with a new construction or a renovation project, the ghost of uneven substrates is bound to haunt the premises.

Not sure where to start? Well, it’s simpler than you might think.

Grab a long straightedge or a laser level, and let the assessment begin. Identifying the high and low spots on the floor is your first step towards a budget-friendly leveling solution. The process is straightforward yet revealing. A long straightedge will highlight any discrepancies on the surface, marking the battleground where the war against unevenness will be fought.

→ See How to Assess Floor Conditions for Leveling

Economical Alternatives: A Closer Look

Now that the battlefield is marked, it's time to arm yourself with the right weaponry, i.e., the leveling solutions that won't burn a hole in your pocket. Let’s delve into the alternatives that are both effective and economical.

Floor Patching Compound:

This is your go-to option for tackling those pesky low spots and minor depressions. While it may not have the self-leveling charm, with a bit of manual smoothing, a floor patching compound can provide a decent level of smoothness, prepping the floor for the final flooring material.

cheaper alternative to self-leveling compound

Plywood or OSB Sheets:

When the discrepancies in level are more pronounced, plywood or Oriented Strand Board (OSB) sheets come to the rescue. Screw them down to the existing substrate, and voila, you have a new, level surface ready for flooring installation.

cheaper alternative to self-leveling compound
cheaper alternative to self-leveling compound

Grinding High Spots/Using Filler Compounds for Low Spots:

For those high spots that stand tall and proud, grinding is the answer. It’s a more labor-intensive option but cost-effective. On the flip side, filler compounds can be your ally in filling up the low spots. It’s about striking a balance between effort and budget.

Each of these alternatives has its own set of merits and demerits. It's about weighing the pros against the cons and choosing the one that aligns with your project requirements and budget constraints. The goal remains unchanged – achieving a level substrate without breaking the bank.

The journey towards a level floor doesn’t have to be a pricey affair. With the right knowledge and materials, achieving a smooth and level substrate is within the grasp of every budget-conscious homeowner or contractor. The path has been laid out; the choice is yours to make.

Application Techniques Matter

Effective application is key to ensuring a successful floor leveling project. Here are some pivotal points to consider during application:


Ensure the floor is clean before any application. Dust and debris can prevent the leveling compound or alternative materials from adhering properly to the substrate.


All holes and seams should be sealed to prevent the leveling material from escaping. This is especially crucial when using liquid levelers*.


Wood floors, in particular, need to be primed before applying the leveling material to prevent water absorption which can lead to swelling and cracking.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Several common mistakes can jeopardize a floor leveling project. Here are a few:

Not Preparing the Subfloor:

Ensuring the subfloor is clean and level before the installation is crucial to prevent issues like loose boards and creaking noises.

Ignoring Moisture Levels: 

Checking for moisture before starting the installation is vital as excessive moisture can cause warping or cracking over time.

Inadequate Maintenance: 

Proper floor maintenance is crucial when it comes to laying any flooring. A poorly maintained subfloor can lead to uneven and unsightly floors and potential structural problems.

In the budget-conscious world of floor leveling, armed with the right knowledge and a keen eye for common pitfalls, one can navigate through the labyrinth of choices and techniques to achieve a flat, stable, and aesthetically pleasing floor without breaking the bank.

Making the Right Choice

The journey of making a floor "level-ready" is replete with decisions at every juncture. The onus is on you to decide the course that aligns with both the exigencies of the project and the constraints of the budget. Each alternative elucidated here unveils a pathway towards cost-effectiveness without compromising on the quality of the outcome.

Let's recapitulate:


Understanding the topography of your substrate is the linchpin. Employ a long straightedge or a laser level to unravel the high and low spots.


Be it the use of a floor patching compound, plywood, or the meticulous task of grinding, each alternative is a testament to the fact that a level substrate doesn't necessitate a lavish spend.


The efficacy of the chosen leveling solution is intertwined with the application technique. A meticulous preparation of the substrate, sealing, and priming where necessary, are the bedrock of a successful leveling project.

Pitfall Prevention: 

A cognizance of common pitfalls and a strategy to circumvent them will steer the project clear of potential hiccups.
The narrative here is simple yet profound – a level substrate is within reach, sans a hefty price tag. It beckons a prudent choice of materials and methods, tethered to a thorough understanding of the substrate and a meticulous application. Your quest for a cost-effective yet efficacious leveling solution is not a quixotic one. It's grounded in reality, and the options are at your disposal.

Connect with Us

Your expedition in the realm of floor leveling is a narrative filled with insights, experiences, and a treasure trove of practical knowledge. We invite you to share your narrative, the challenges encountered, the solutions employed, and the triumph of a level floor achieved without a princely sum. Your experiences are the sinews that enrich the collective knowledge of this community.

Should you find yourself at crossroads, uncertain of the pathway to tread, reach out. Our expertise is at your service, to guide, to advise, and to ensure that your journey towards a level substrate is a triumphant one.

We are but a message away. Connect with us, share your narrative, and let’s collectively pave the way for cost-effective floor leveling solutions.

Thank you for your time, and here’s Awisdom Tile Accessories.

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