Everything You Need to Know About Screed Flooring
At Impact Flooring, we specialise in premium quality resin flooring solutions. Both epoxy and polyurethane liquid resins can be used to create a hardwearing, chemical resistant and long-lasting screed mixture. Resin screeds and resin coatings are both seamless, durable and resilient flooring choices. However, a resin screed floor may be a more advantageous option for businesses that require a very heavy-duty base that can withstand weighty machinery, high impacts and rigorous cleaning.
Below, we look at both traditional and resin screeds, what they are used for, and why the latter is an ideal and cost-effective solution for many business requirements.
What is Screed Flooring?
Due to its durability and resistance, many commercial businesses choose screed floors as a hardwearing flooring solution. Traditionally, screed is made from a mixture of concrete, aggregate and water; however, various blends can be made depending on the finish required, including epoxy or polyurethane blends. It is generally used as a top layer on internal floors or to level uneven surfaces before installing carpet, laminate, tiles and other flooring solutions. Rather than starting from scratch with a completely new floor, screed flooring is applied over existing floors, saving time, money and effort. As a result, floors that are worn, damaged or simply old and in need of an update can be given a new lease of life. In addition, screed flooring can be installed over the top of heating, acoustic and thermal insulation systems, making them a popular option for a range of commercial and industrial settings.
What is The Purpose of a Floor Screed?
Screed floors are mainly used to level out uneven existing floors and act as a stable base for a finishing flooring layer such as carpet, laminate or resin coating. However, a resin screed floor is also a suitable option as a finished structural top layer. In addition, screed is the preferred choice of medium for installing on top of heating pipes and systems as the material excels at absorbing and distributing heat evenly across an area.
Types of Screed
- Levelling Screed
As the name suggests, levelling screed is applied in situations where the existing floor is uneven to form a flat and level surface.
Levelling screed is not intended as a wearing layer and should be topped with a final floor finish such as carpet, tile, wood or vinyl.
- Wearing Screed
Wearing screed is used in areas that will experience continued heavy usage. It is often described as the toughest of the screed family and has been designed with durability and longevity in mind. Wearing screed is a high-density topping layer suitable for commercial and industrial premises with heavy machinery and traffic usage.
- Bonded Screed
A bonded screed floor is laid directly over an existing concrete slab or floor and is bonded in place with primers, adhesives or other bonding agents.
- Unbonded Screed
Unbonded screed is deliberately separated from the base flooring layer by a damp-proof membrane. Therefore, it is classified as unbonded, as the screed does not come into direct contact and bond to the base substrate.
- Floating Screed
Floating screed is unbonded, as it is separated from the base substrate by a layer of insulation. It is generally used in premises where underfloor heating is needed, or acoustic or thermal insulation is required.
What’s the Difference Between Screed and Concrete?
Concrete and screed are sometimes confused as the same thing, and it can be difficult for those not working in the construction industry to recognise or understand the differences between the two. Quality concrete is generally used for construction and structural tasks, whereas screed is installed as a top layer to a concrete base.
Both screed and concrete are made from the same basic mixture of cement, water and aggregate (sand, stone or gravel). The main difference is the type and grade of aggregate used. When making concrete, larger and coarser aggregate such as gravel is included in the mix. The coarse aggregate makes concrete durable, strong and suitable for sturdy structural work. On the other hand, fine sharp sand is generally the aggregate of choice to produce a screed mixture. This creates a smoother blend of materials with a tightly packed texture, making it ideal as a top layer to a concrete base.
Creating a resin screed mixture is the best of both worlds. Epoxy and polyurethane screeds are incredibly hardwearing and have added benefits such as being available in a huge variety of textures and colours, are stain-resistant to water and chemicals and can be installed with hygienic and anti-static elements.
Factors That Impact Cost of Floor Screeding
When calculating how much screeding a floor is likely to cost, it’s crucial to factor in the cost of labour, VAT, and time on top of materials costs. However, you might not have considered other factors that can increase the final price. Below, we look at some of these factors and why they can affect the end cost of your flooring project.
- Type of Floor Screeding
The variant of screed mixture required is the most common determining factor when calculating screeding costs. In the UK, traditional screed is the most popular type of screed flooring. The mix consists of three-five parts sand to one part cement and includes polypropylene fibres to strengthen and reinforce the mixture. In addition to being the most popular variant of screed used, traditional screed is also the most affordable. On the downside, traditional screed drying times can vary depending on the humidity, temperature, and airflow, so it may be tricky to predict labour costs.
- Method of Floor Screeding
There are three methods of laying screed floors; fully bonded, partially bonded, and unbonded. Each technique comes with pros and cons and associated costs.
As previously mentioned, fully bonded screeds are laid directly on top of existing floors and are bonded with the help of adhesive. Bonded screeding is usually the most cost-effective method, as its durability and longevity offset its initial costs.
The partially bonded screeding method is cheaper; however, it is less durable and can be prone to cracks and breaks. In addition, it needs to be laid to a thickness of at least 50mm to ensure it doesn’t fracture too easily.
The unbonded method requires the screed to be separated from the base substrate by a damp-proof membrane. It benefits from fast drying times and is unaffected by any dampness, cracks and settlement in the base substrate. However, its unbonded nature ultimately makes it prone to problems in the future.
- Location Of Property
Operating a commercial business in a remote or hard to reach area could see additional expenses added to the overall price. In addition, many contractors charge on a per hour basis, including commute times, so being a great distance from the contractor’s office could affect the final price of the job.
Therefore, it is a good idea to source a contractor close to your premises to avoid these extra costs.
- Ease Of Access
Ease of access refers to the ease with which a contractor can get to work once a project starts. For example, if the room needs clearing of equipment or old flooring removing or fixing before screeding can begin, the labourers time will be added to the final bill. Therefore, to reduce these costs, it is advisable to do as much of the work as possible before the contractor arrives so that they can commence with the work right away.
- Size Of The Floor Area
A larger sized room will typically cost more to screed than a smaller one due to the extra materials needed and the added time it will take the labourer to complete it.
Steps Involved in Screeding a Floor
Below, we highlight the main steps of laying a traditional screed floor.
- Gathering The Tools
It is always advisable to have professionals install a screed floor. This is because they have access to tools and equipment not necessarily available to everyone and the proper training and experience to complete the job to a high standard. However, if you are doing the screeding yourself, you will first need to gather all the necessary equipment. As a minimum, you will require a tape measure, shovel, wheelbarrow, trowel, straight batons and a level.
- Preparing The Mix
Correctly preparing the mix can be the most challenging part of the screeding process. As previously mentioned, traditional screed is made from a mixture of cement, sand and water. Each screeding professional will have their individual preference and reasoning regarding the ratio of cement and sand they use. Still, generally, it will be between 3-5 parts sand to one part cement.
The water must be added carefully to the mixture to ensure it doesn’t become too wet and unusable. Of course, it’s always better to have to add extra water than not be able to take it away!
When everything is thoroughly combined, the mixture can be tested to ensure it has the correct consistency.
For a screed floor to work correctly, it must be flat. To achieve this, professionals section off smaller floor areas to create levels for filling. Experienced screeding professionals will typically produce these levels using the screed mixture itself to make a frame.
Once the floor level has been decided, the mixture is emptied into the pre-made frames and moved around with a trowel to fill the area.
Using the previously constructed frames as a level guide, the screeding professional will drag a straight edge over the top of the mixture towards themselves. Then, if they spot any dips in the mix, they can simply add more and continue to level and smooth. A power float can also be utilised to provide the high quality, smooth finish required.
The completed screed floor will usually be covered with a polythene sheet to help protect it during the drying and curing process. In addition, the polythene sheet will ensure that the mixture retains its moisture and therefore doesn’t shrink or crack as it dries.
- Drying And Curing
Curing is achieved by covering the newly installed screed flooring with a polythene sheet to keep the moisture in the mixture. This helps the screed to keep its shape and prevents cracking. It can take several days for the curing process to complete, after which the sheet can be removed, and the drying process can begin. The drying process gets rid of the remaining moisture in the screed floor. Temperature, humidity and airflow can affect how long this drying process takes to complete.
Can I Screed a Floor Myself?
Although the answer to this question is ‘yes’, it is always advisable to hire professionals to screed your floors. While the method above may seem straightforward, it can actually be quite tricky without professional screeders’ wealth of experience.
How Much Does a Screed Floor Cost?
As previously mentioned, a variety of factors can affect the final price of screeding a floor, including:
- Type of screed and its final purpose
- Room size
- Method of floor screeding
- Specialised blends or topcoats
Traditional screed used to level a floor usually costs £10-12 per m2 plus labour costs of approximately £200 per day. Bear in mind that this type of screed flooring is not intended as a top wearing solution, and the final flooring cover, such as laminate or tiles, and the labour costs associated with installing it will be an additional expense.
While the initial cost of resin screed floors may seem a more expensive option, its price per square foot is very reasonable. In addition, epoxy and polyurethane floors need replacing far less often than other flooring options, with little to no maintenance required during its lifetime. Taking these types of savings into account and considering the other advantages resin screed floors offer, it’s easy to see why many companies see it as a more cost-effective choice.
Checklist for Hiring a Screed Flooring Company
It’s crucial to make a few checks when selecting a company to carry out your floor screeding. Every business premises and its function is unique, so ensure that you get the professionals that can meet your needs.
Below are a few helpful tips to consider when choosing a flooring company.
Professionals can participate in a few certified courses to improve their knowledge, but these are not required. Flooring companies and professionals will usually possess some accreditations; however, not doing so does not mean that they are not skilled or capable.
Having a professional team with vast experience is arguably more critical than accreditations. Specialist flooring professionals can produce higher quality results and possess the knowledge and expertise to deal with more complex situations and requirements.
- Previous Jobs
A reputable flooring company will usually have a portfolio of their previous work and will be happy to share it with prospective clients. Be cautious of a company unwilling to show you evidence of its work.
- Customer Ratings
Most companies know that word of mouth and positive reviews and references build trust with potential clients. People are usually happy to leave positive feedback when they have received a good service. When choosing a flooring company, research its reputation to learn how previous clients rated its work.
Impact Flooring is a UK market leader in commercial resin screed floors, and our epoxy and polyurethane blends can be tailored to meet individual requirements. To learn more about the benefits of a resin screed floor, or with help to determine which of our flooring solutions are best suited to your needs, please contact us.