...because home doesn't happen overnight.
02.07.13 / Scratching an Itch


I posted this image of HH on instagram a few days ago with the caption “scratching an itch.” The image and caption caused some confusion/hilarious comments. HH is not literally scratching an itch. The gutted kid/guest bathroom is giving us quite the tick though. And we’re ready to do something about it.


Last week we took the first steps towards making this space a functional bathroom.


HH poured concrete to fill in around the future tub’s plumbing which we had a professional plumber update back when we were in the midst of a full-on reno.


HH also removed and rehung the backerboard under the window because the drywallers did a shoddy job.


Once that was all finished and the new concrete around the plumbing had cured, HH prepped the floor for leveler primer + self-leveling underlayment. We used Henry’s brand from Home Depot. The underlayment is cement-based and helps to smooth and flatten surfaces before flooring installation. In our case, we’ll be laying a tile floor in the bathroom and the job is 200% easier when the floor is nice and level.


To prep, HH cleaned the floor of all debris then fashioned cardboard “dams” around the toilet drain and floor vent. He caulked around the toilet dam and secured the floor vent dam with masking tape along the inside.


He built another dam at the bathroom’s doorway. Hint: If you’re going to be using self-leveling underlayment, it’s important to block off any parts of the room that you don’t want to be affected by the concrete. Then the primer went on. {Sorry, no pictures of this step. It’s likely that I was tending to a blown out diaper.} The primer improves the underlayment’s bond and prevents pinholes/air bubbles in the finished surface.


With the primer dry, we tag teamed the  mixing of the underlayment. Hint: the dry powder is fine so wear a mask to prevent inhalation. It’s not difficult – you just add water and mix with a drill gadget – but the leveler sets up very quickly. You only have 10 minutes after mixing to pour and work with the leveler. We guessed we would need 2 bags of underlayment. So HH mixed one bag in the garage and took it inside to pour while I began mixing the second batch. Then I brought my bucket of mixed underlayment in {muscles!} just as HH was finishing up with the first bag.


Here’s the first batch going in. HH poured the mixture in small sections and used a hand trowel to gently move the leveler into tight spaces.


He also used a section of 2″x4″ to work the larger areas.


We set a timer for 10 minutes to keep track of how much time we had left before the cement started to set.


With ~four and a half minutes left, we poured the second bucket. At this point, HH was working from the hallway.


After 10 minutes and 2 batches of underlayment, we had a floor covered in wet cement. A few hours later, the floor looked like this…


It’s only cement but it already looks 10x’s better. Seriously. I sat in the hallway watching it dry and dreamt of a finished bathroom. It’s going to be great! I just know it. {See my plans for the bathroom here.}


But we’re not completely ready for tile just yet. The area around the tub plumbing didn’t level up the way we had predicted. Turns out self-leveling underlayment is great for smoothing out minor discrepancies but not major ones. Looks like mixing and pouring more concrete is in our future to get that corner as level as possible.

When do we expect the bathroom to be finished? I dunno. 2014? Hehe. I laugh but it’s totally feasible. We’re just working on it whenever we have a chunk of time to devote to one step of the bigger project. HH has a lot of traveling to do for work over the next three months. We only have a few free weekends coming up but every little project we tackle gets us that much closer to not sharing a bathroom with the little people in our house. I’m stoked.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



Good for you ! Every step brings you closer to a finished bathroom … Since you mentioned instagram, I can’t take a look at your pics through the “camera button” anymore. How can I keep peeking in your DIY world ? Take care.


I agree – a 1000 times better already! We had self leveling concrete poured before putting hardwoods down. It’s such a fascinating process. I watched as it dried too :)


I’m doing a bathroomr eno right now and I boy does it take longer than you think it will. GOod luck with yours, I hope it doesn’t drag out too long. Have you done a mood board or anything for this bathroom you could share? :)

SO much better already! Every step done means another step closer to doubling the amount of bathrooms in your house! ;) So excited for you guys!!

Hi Brooke…she put a link to her bathroom plans in the post…right above the last picture. Hope that helps! :)


Haha thank you! I don’t know how I missed that :)


Oh how I feel your pain. We are down to 1 bath as well. Hubs was away fishing so my 9 y/o & I gutted the tub/shower of his bathoom to the studs. That was a month ago. Hubby was quite surprised when he returned. Buidling it back up has been quite a tedious process, same as HH, working it in around FT job & travel schedules. What a mess. It didn’t talke much to gut, couple hours. Putting it back has been weeks. :)


I think I fixed the instagram link under my picture at the top of the page. The link was broken because instagrid is down right now as they reconfigure things. I have it linked to my instagram account. Let me know if you have anymore problems!

Looks better already! You’re definitely doing the right thing by leveling off the floor, especially if you want to use larger floor tiles. The bigger the tile, the more likely they are to rock on uneven floors. Smaller tiles that isn’t much of a problem, but you’re still better off either way.


Did you have to do any leveling under your wood floor? We are putting one in and are trying to decide if our concrete floors are close enough to level.


Hi Dana,

This is totally unrelated to your post. But I was wondering what was the name of that seeded glass globe pendant you had on Joss & Main? I tried to go in the archives and look and on Joss & Main and I can’t find it.

Thank you so much,


How exciting! My husband is literally ripping out our (nasty, gross, disgusting) master bath right NOW. This is our first big project other than installing cork floors so I am excited to watch you as you go!


We did have to fill in some cracks in the concrete slab with epoxy and we used leveler in Mabrey’s room because there was a low spot.


We just smashed up our old cast iron tub and tore out our bathroom walls tonight. Then I went to the tile shop and ordered tile– mentioning your blog in the process. I am wondering how long it takes for the self-leveling underpayment to dry. Any idea? Thanks!


You are supposed to be able to walk on it within 2-3 hours. You can lay ceramic tile on it within 6 hours but all other flooring you have to wait 16 hours. Hope that helps! Good luck with your bathroom!!!!


Thanks so much for this. I am redoing our bathroom and it came clear that the floor needed to be leveled and just as I was about to mix the leveler… I thought how do I keep it from pouring down the vents and crevises!!??? Your pics and description were the first thing that came up. Yeah. What started as a 3 day project turned into a 3 week project. But it will be amazing when its done.


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Do you think this would also work on an old 70’s basement floor before painting or staining?


The patched areas definitely look like patches (different coloring than the original slab), so if your going for something sleek this might not be the best option. However, if your going for rustic and imperfect, it could work.