What is in Self-Leveling Cement
Self-leveling cement is a poured down cement product that produces a relatively shallow level of cement that can be installed over a slab to level it out.
It can also be referred to as a cement underlayment. It’s often used as the underlayment to another floor like tile or a click together flooring. Some brands can be used as the final floor layer.
No brands list all ingredients.
Typical ingredients include:
- Minerals: Portland Cement, quartz, limestone, calcium aluminate
- Binders: EVA is listed in a few brands so I would expect that to be a common binder.
- Unknowns: Binders (poymers), accelerator, retarder, rheology modifiers, and other specialty additives (more on what those could be later in the article)
While most of these brands list no or very low-VOCs I would still like to see more transparency on what is in them.
We see two brands listing EVA as one of the polymers:
Ardex K 15 EVA is the only disclosed binder (they don’t list all ingredients). Laticrete lists EVA as well with some unknowns.
EVA is a safe polymer, I would not consider this toxic.
Another Laticrete product, Supercap, lists 9 undisclosed ingredients and methacrylic acid. That is another possible common binder/polymer.
Is Self-Leveling Cement Zero-VOC
Most brands are zero-VOC and have no offgassing, so I would not use VOC levels to differentiate between brands necessarily.
LevelLite by Custom Building Products is zero-VOC.
There are other brands that claim no VOCs as well.
Is Self-Leveling Cement Underlayment Safe for the Chemically Sensitive
Many very sensitive folks do well with this product. Most people report no odor and no reactions once it’s cured.
Of course the extremely sensitive should always test products first (especially when we don’t have a full ingredient list).
What are the Unlisted Ingredients
LevelQuick lists the following as undisclosed – binder, accelerator, retarder, rheology modifiers, and a specialty additive.
Other brands list slag, surfactants and defoamers.
Based on patents we can see more insight into possible ingredients:
Melamine-formaldehyde-sodium bisulfite polymer dispersant or a condensed sodium salt of sulfonated naphthalene formaldehyde.
Polymer PVA (binder):
Polyvinyl acetate or a copolymer of vinyl acetate with another monomer, such as ethylene.
Polymer Acrylic (binder):
A carboxylated acrylic co-polymer RHODOLINE 226/40.
Cement defoamers include, tributyl phosphate, silicones, borate esters, petroleum derivatives (including hydrocarbon emulsions), nonylphenol, polyoxyethylene alkyl phenol, butyl stearate, butyl phthalate, fat alcohols and light alcohols. A preferred defoamer is Foamaster® PD#1 powder, available from Henkel Corporation, Ambler, Pa.; this defoamer is believed to be a petroleum derivative.
Other Components Used in the Installation
A primer might be necessary between layers so it’s important to ask the contractors about that and then test the products.
Finishing Self-Leveling Cement with a Non-Toxic Sealer
First, not all self-leveling compounds can be used as a finished floor, most are used as an underlayment to another flooring like tile.
You have to look for one labeled as a finish floor, like this USG brand.
In the installation instruction, it says: “it is the coatings manufacturer’s responsibility to determine the correct product, system and surface preparation for use over these underlayments”.
So that means it’s up to the company making the sealant to advise on the compatibility of their product with the concrete underlayment product.
My post on non-toxic concrete sealants goes through the options for non-toxic sealants.
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 6 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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