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Can you grind down concrete yourself?

 
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I need to flatten my basement floor (poured cement) before installing some tile.  I've been planning to add leveler but my better half wondered if I could just remove the high spots.  I'd have to grind away up to 3/4" of cement in an area of about 50 square feet.  It doesn't have to be particularly smooth since the tile setting mortar would allow for some bumps/dips.  

Is this something I could do in some magical way?  
 
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You can grind it down, but its dusty.
You can hire a machine with a grinder and a vacuum as well built in.
Can I ask hiow come its 3/4 too high?
 
Mike Haasl
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It's 3/4" too high because the guy who built this house (60 years ago) poured it in sections.  Somehow around the edges it's higher than in the middle of each section.  It's fine for carpet but we're taking that out and now it needs to be a bit better.

I've been watching some youtube videos and it looks like it can be done.  One guy saw cut the high spots with a diamond cutting wheel and knocked out the ridges with a hammer before smoothing it down with a diamond cup wheel.  Other folks are just going at it with the cup wheel.  

I'd put a vacuum shroud on the grinder and probably run my shop vac outside with the filter removed.  Just suck the dust outside and blow it towards the neighbors (1/4 mile away).

I have angle grinders but I'll see about renting one.  Thanks!
 
John C Daley
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The machines I speak of are specifically a floor grinder.
You walk behind them so your face is away from the dust.
 
Mike Haasl
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It seems that there are a few options.  For scuffing up a floor, there are walk behind grinders.  What I'm doing is more like fixing high spots.  Maybe like a heaved sidewalk or driveway.  

For those applications people seem to use a big angle grinder with a diamond cup wheel to work out the high spots.  Much more manual and operator guided.  

In my case I have a broad area that is high. One corner of the room is the main issue.  A triangle that is 8' to a side where it rises up 3/4" the closer you get to the wall/corner.  So I can see how I'd want to use a hand guided tool to dig in deeper where the concrete is higher.  

After viewing several of these videos I have a much greater appreciation for why there are so many silicosis lawsuit commercials on tv.  Concrete dust isn't good for you!
 
John C Daley
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Can you lay another layer of something over the whole floor.
Self levelling stuff is not budget priced, but it may be worth while using.
 
Mike Haasl
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That was my original idea before the missus had this idea.  I wasn't relishing how much material I'd have to add.  Probably an average of 1/2" of thickness over a 15x40 foot area.  (pulls out calculator)  Damn, that's nearly a cubic yard of leveling cement.  I was struggling to figure out ways to add it a batch at a time and still have it come out level and now that really does seem like a monumental struggle.

I was dreaming up ways to make little dams so I could level a 6' by 6' area at a time.  For further context, I have 4 doorways out of this room and by raising up the floor it would make for fairly large transitions down to the floor levels in those rooms.

I was diddling around worrying about all these details when her idea of grinding down the high spots became quite interesting.
 
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Hello Mike.
If the high section is not too big and the concrete not very thick, i think it's less work to bang it out with a sledgehammer and redo it with concrete then to grind it off. The high sticking out bits here and there ,i'd grind them down. Or maybe first try with a hammer and chisel. It's nice if the floor is completely smooth and level, but not necessary. Self levelling cement is very expensive. It doesn't matter if there is a little dent here and there, just smear in some left over cement from the poured floor bit..
 
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At this point Mike, I might reconsider the relative merits of tile vs concrete!  ;)
 
Mike Haasl
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Good point Hugo, I hadn't thought of that option.  I'll noodle on that a bit.

Yes Artie, just going with the concrete surface might be an option but there are a few other issues.  Two small areas where they tiled for wood stoves, pretty bad expansion crack that is a high spot, unknown mysteries under the carpet that should be revealed today...
 
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Mike,

I used a course belt sander to grind down an irregular 4x5 ft patch of floor. But, at the worse point, it was no where near the height you are dealing with.
 
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I think how "doable" this is depends on what kind of equipment your local rental house has. I've had pretty good luck just going and talking to mine since they know the equipment and it's capabilities. Sometimes they have better solutions then I do!
 
Mike Haasl
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Good idea Matt, I just called the main rental place in town and they have one of these: Walk behind scarifier

Looks like it will chew up 1/8" per pass and do 400 square feet per hour.  That should make short work of it.  BUT it can only get within 1.75" of the wall (with the optional edger attachment and I doubt they have that).  I'll swing by and look at it.
 
John C Daley
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Did you notice this at the same place. It takes 1/4 inch per pass.
Concrete chewer

We maybe using the incorrect term.
Concrete grinder / floor polisher
 
Mike Haasl
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I checked out the scarifier.  It's pretty cool but I don't think it will work for me.  It will take 1/8" per pass, but it's basically a drum spinning between two sets of wheels.  So there isn't an easy way to feather in the depth of cut as I get closer to the wall.  And it can only get within about 4" of the wall.  

So I picked up a diamond cup grinding wheel for a 7" grinder.  Since I'd need to use that at the wall anyway I might as well see if it could do the whole job.  

The carpet is up and the floor isn't as bad as I thought.  The rising concrete is fairly consistent all the way along the long wall.  So I could ignore it and let the floor slope up in that one direction.  The mating wall is a problem but that's a hell of a lot less concrete to grind.  I'll crawl around a bit more tonight and see how bad it will really be.

The expansion joint that is a clear hump should be easy to grind out with the cup wheel.  I just need to find a dust shroud for it that connects to a shop vac.
 
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Just how "flat" does  your floor need to be to meet "requirements"?

How much tile where?

It's sometimes just fine to make a raised area with a different finish around the wood stove. (?)

"Skim coats" are SOP for plasterers and tile guys. Might inquire. Depending on how flat where it may be possible to make an adequate tile base w/out making the whole floor perfectly level.

Just some thoughts. My father really offended me when I was young with his "just get it done somehow using what you got" approach (I was young and idealistic and believed in doing it right...). I have since decide the man was something of a genius.  After figuring out any new magnus opus glorius I run it through it the "How would Dad Butcher This" filter. Give it a few days (weeks) and my design becomes something w/in shooting distance of sensible. Gotta love it. <G>


Cheers,
Rufus
 
Mike Haasl
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The tile we picked out is a long rectangle about 8" wide by 16 or 20" long and we'll likely do a herringbone pattern.  So I think the floor sloping up 3/4" towards the wall may lead to poorly supported tile if they're bridging the curve the long way.  The ridge by the expansion joint could also lead to edges of tiles sticking up which would bug the hell out of me.  

I've done enough tile work and it aggravates me when the grout lines aren't somewhat consistent so I can use the little rubber spacers.

I do like your dad's approach though and attempt to do the minimum if at all possible
 
John C Daley
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What is SOP?
 
Mike Haasl
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I believe it's "Standard Operating Procedure".  Or maybe "Same Old Potatoes"...  But I'm guessing the former.

That's why we encourage people to not use acronyms or initialisms here on permies.
 
John C Daley
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I dislike acronyms.
I did introduce one though.!!!
Is that an AFA?
Another F... acronym!!
 
Mike Haasl
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My last job had a thing for TLAs.  Three Letter Acronyms.  It's bad when you have acronyms to describe other acronyms.  

I do like the word initialism though.  Come to think of it, TLA isn't an acronym...
 
Rufus Laggren
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> SOP

Mike said it. Either will do. Sorry, I thought that one had whiskers down to it's toes - like as in, been around so long everybody knew...

> tiles

Yes large tiles need something close to flat.  Sounds like time for a machine.


Best luck,
Rufus
 
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How high is the ceiling? Is it possible to make a subfloor of treated wood and  shim it up level? Less dust i for sure. Then just put down a vapor barrier and ply wood and then tile it up.
 
Mike Haasl
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Good question Johnmark!  The ceiling is already low at 7'6" and there's an exterior door that's already near grade.  And four other doorways into other rooms that will need floor transitions.  But that was an idea I hadn't thought of and it could help someone else!
 
John C Daley
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Why not invent a new design style, say Indi, and explain that free form floors do so much to assist the spiritual sensations,
the feet which enhances the sensation of freedom of thought!
It may worek.
 
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Dirty.
Dusty.
Filthy.
Backbreaking.
Seemingly neverending.
Questioning one's intelligence & abilities & reason for existence.  
All experiences I've had doing smaller areas of leveling like that.  It's a brutal job, it's doable, if you don't have patience it's a bad place to try to acquire it.  But it can be done.  Floor leveler is really expensive due to the thickness' it needs to span & be able to support the floor above it.
 
Mike Haasl
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I priced out the floor leveler and I'm somewhere in the rough area of $900, not counting the primer they suggest.  Just cleaning up the floor requires the grinding equipment I already bought.  

We just got the tiles removed from an old stove pad along the far wall so now the floor is down to the cement and I can assess how much needs to come out of the corner.  More reports to come.....
High-corner-is-on-the-right-in-this-picture.-High-ridge-is-in-the-bottom-right-corner.-Entire-right-wall-is-high-compared-to-the-middle-of-the-floor..jpg
High corner is on the right in this picture. High ridge is in the bottom right corner. Entire right wall is high compared to the middle of the floor.
High corner is on the right in this picture. High ridge is in the bottom right corner. Entire right wall is high compared to the middle of the floor.
 
Rufus Laggren
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If you're going to dust the place, it might be worth it to seal the walls and maybe the ceiling as well using .3-mil painters plastic and tape.

You really _want_  to seal the door to the rest of the house somehow and that might need some thought. But compared to the grief of total dust, it's worth doing.

Have you talked with professional tile guys for their ideas? Since you're basically trying to pick their brains for free, be nice. But if you haven't done it yet, maybe consider swallowing your pride and decency and see what you can get from some nice guy(s). Will your wife play MataHari and shill for you? After all, it's her floor too... <g>  Seriously, just ask nicely, the best pros you can find. And women _do_ change atmosphere and attitudes just by being there and really, that's OK. Pros often do stuff routinely that DIYers don't think of normally. It's always ok to ask.


Regards,
Rufus
 
Mike Haasl
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Good points.  I'm in a pretty small town so the only professional tile guys don't have a storefront.  Just an ad in the yellow pages.  But I did realize I have a friend who's a carpenter and her main squeeze is a jack of all trades who's done tile work in rentals.  Which come with all kinds of surprises.  I'm gonna talk to him tonight.  She also suggested easing the slopes with a layer of mortar, letting it dry and then putting down the tile.  
 
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AH.  The dust removal.  Fans in the windows blowing out, windows on the OTHER side of the house open so you don't loop the dust through the house.  I trashpick box fans for just that purpose.  
I've found it more effective to create controlled directional flow into & out of the room than trying to seal it off.
Plus it gets the dust out of the air in the room making clean up & visibility easier.
 
Mike Haasl
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Yes, dust control!  My plan is to use a dust shroud on the grinder hooked up to a shop vac (outside) with the filter removed so it just blows the dust out.  That should get 95+% of it.  Then I'll block off the upstairs.  I'll also open opposing windows and hook up my 3 hp dust collector to suck air out one window (and in the other).  And wear a respirator...
 
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I'm gonna agree with Rufus, You'll be cleaning concrete dust out of cracks and crevices for years to come if you don't cover things up.
Also, a good time for painting a ceiling? coating the walls? Not sure if you are, but good time to consider it, while you don't have to cover up your brand new tile job!
 
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NO YOU GRIND IT DOWN YOURSELF!

Just kidding. Abrasive discs and a grinder, a bit of dust control and PPE and you're all set
 
Rufus Laggren
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Mike

You're on it. <g>

You definitely have some sources. That's a good situation. But I would also call the tile guy from the "yellow pages". Assuming he does good work regular (something you'd want to figure out), he should be a much better info source than the other's you mention. Depending, you could ask to meet him for a beer and pizza after work, your nickle, if that's your style. The knowledge base of somebody who does good work professionally is normally in a different league from that of the fixer for property agents. At least regarding tile. Whole different skill set and priorities, although sometimes applied to the same problem. The tile guy probably couldn't make it through the day if he had to deal with the real estate "fires". <g>


Cheers,
Rufus
 
Justin Szeliga
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One thing for tile info-  https://www.johnbridge.com/vbulletin/  .  Great bulletin board for tile installation info.
 
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