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Concrete vs Floor Screeds: What is the Difference?

If you’re looking to upgrade the floor at your home or commercial property, then you may well be considering screeding it before laying your chosen materials. After all, screeding is an important step if you want to lay an even and blemish-free floor. 

But in spite of some obvious similarities, screed is not the same as concrete. To help you understand the differences and to consider whether or not you need to screed your concrete floor, we explain what screed is in detail and why it might be beneficial for your property. 

What is Screed? 

Made from cement, water, and aggregates, a screed is a thin layer that is typically poured on top of a concrete slab or any other pre-existing floor surface. The primary role of a screed is to smoothen a surface and to cover up any cracks or damage before another flooring material is laid on top. 

As such, a screed is often confused with concrete, but it’s nowhere near as strong and doesn’t serve the same purpose. We explain many of the differences between screed and concrete in the following sections.

Screed is Not the Same as Concrete 

Although screed and concrete are similar in their composition, they serve notably different purposes. If you’re expecting a concrete floor and you receive screed (or vice versa), you will be disappointed. 

Although made from the same materials, screed is different from concrete in the following ways: 

  • Aggregate size 
  • Cement grade 
  • Consistency of the mixture 
  • Cement finish 

Once mixed, screed is much thinner than concrete and is often then poured on top of concrete before vinyl, tiles, or any other flooring material is laid.

The Differences Between Concrete and Screed 

The main difference between concrete and screed is that screed is much thinner than concrete, as mentioned already. While concrete requires harder and bigger aggregates, screed is comprised of smaller pieces. Typically, a screed uses approximately half the amount of aggregates as a concrete mix.

The aggregates within concrete contribute to its strength and durability, but this isn’t actually the required role of a screed. It’s much more important for a screed to be smooth, as it acts as the middle layer between concrete and the flooring material of your choice. 

In most instances, screed is used inside, whereas concrete is, of course, suitable for both internal and external use. Ultimately, the main difference between the two is their thickness, and you should bear this in mind when deciding which you actually need to lay on your property.

Four Different Types of Screed 

Just as there are different types of concrete, there are variations of screed that you need to consider. And while they’re relatively similar, they all serve a slightly different purpose and should be used depending on the requirements of your flooring project. Let’s look at your options when it comes to screed: 

Underfloor screed 

By far the most common type of screed poured in flooring projects is underfloor screed. It’s popular because it can be poured on top of heating pipes and is a viable alternative to insulating material. Once laid, a screed helps to regulate heat flow in your floor. 

Floating screed 

Similar in many ways to underfloor screed, floating screed is typically applied to a damp-proof member that separates it from the insulation. It, too, has insulating properties and helps heat flow on your floor.

Bonded screed 

As the name suggests, this form of screed is bonded to the floor’s surface using a primer or other bonding agent. This is ideal when you need a screed that is particularly strong. 

Unbonded screed 

An unbonded screed is added to damp-proof membranes before it is laid. This ensures the top layer of the screed is separated from the concrete base. 

If you’re not sure about which screed is best for your upcoming project, you can get in touch with us, and we’d be delighted to advise you.

Do I Need to Screed a Concrete Floor?

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer when it comes to whether or not you should screed your floor. Some people consider it 100% necessary, while others avoid it in order to save some money, as screeding adds to your costs considerably. 

However, as a general rule of thumb, if your floor’s current surface is bumpy, uneven, cracked, or damaged, it’s definitely a good idea to screed it before you proceed with laying your new flooring materials. 

If you skip the screeding process, it will be difficult to lay tiles, carpet, vinyl, and other flooring options, and the final quality of your laid floor will suffer as a result. So, while it’s time-consuming, we would advise you to screed your concrete floor if you need to smoothen it out. 

Can I Use Screed as a Final Floor Finish? 

Although screed is typically laid before your chosen materials, it’s not unheard of to use screed as the top surface for your floor. After all, it’s smooth, hard-wearing, and looks smart and tidy. If you’re keen on the aesthetics and property of a concrete floor, then there’s nothing wrong with smoothening it out with screed. 

This would be a good option in a residential garage or another outdoor space at your home. It’s also worthwhile in various commercial settings where a strong concrete floor isn’t necessary. Ultimately, as long as the screed is laid professionally, it can look great as a final floor finish if you choose.

Final Thoughts 

Although concrete and screed are very similar, they’re certainly not the same. As explained, screed is commonly laid on top of concrete to smoothen out the surface, which paves the way for other flooring materials to be fitted on top. So, if you’re concerned that your concrete base is cracked or uneven, it’s worthwhile investing in screed before laying your tiles, carpet, or vinyl.

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