If you’ve ever tried to lay a floor on top of an uneven surface, you’ll know how difficult it can be. That’s why it is vital to have a screed laid first, so you have an even surface to work on. A screed typically consists of a mix of cement, sharp sand and water. It is used on top of the subfloor to give a more even base on which to lay whatever flooring you have in mind, such as carpet, tile, laminate or solid wood.
A screed can also be poured over and around underfloor heating pipes and other services. However some of these pipes should be laid inside a conduit, so they are capable of expanding and contracting without cracking the screed.
There are two types of screed you can lay – a traditional version and a liquid screed. Here we’ll delve into both so you can see what each has to offer.
A traditional screed will take around five days to dry before it can be walked on. This process cannot be rushed either. A maximum of 120 square metres can be laid in a single day.
If the floor you have to cover is particularly large, you may well have to insert joints to separate each area from the others. However this is easy to do. The traditional route is also versatile in terms of how thick the screed can be laid. The thinnest layer is 40mm while it can be laid as thick as 100mm if required, depending on what is going underneath it (insulation, heating pipes, etc.).
Liquid screed sets far more rapidly than the traditional kind. This means you could be walking on it within 24-48 hours of it being laid. You can also look forward to a vastly-increased amount being poured into position each day too. It’s possible to lay up to 2,000 square metres per day. That’s more than 16 times the quantity of traditional screed – ideal for far bigger properties.
You can also force this type of screed to dry faster if desired. This could be useful if you are behind with your project and you want to get it done faster. Alternatively if wet or wintry weather is on the way, you could beat the dampness in the air by force-drying the screed.
Costs vs benefits
Costs for screed to be laid are given per square metre. Obviously you’ll see differences in the charges given by each company you go to. However you will usually pay slightly more for liquid screed (sometimes referred to as flowing screed) than you will for traditional screed. Usually the cost difference amounts to a pound or two more for liquid screed than for traditional screed. One source quoted traditional screed at around £15 per square metre, with liquid screed coming in at around £17 per square metre.
As with most other things in life though, you have to weigh up the benefits as well as the costs. The faster-setting liquid screed is faster to work with, since no joins are needed in larger areas. If you are laying it on insulation, a 40mm thickness will suffice here, compared with 65mm of traditional screed. In some instances, it may well be worth paying slightly more to get the result you want.
The costs will also vary depending on the depth of screed your particular project requires. The deeper it is, the longer it takes to dry and the more expensive it will be. As such, a thicker layer of traditional screed may be pricier than a thinner layer of liquid screed. As you can see, it is essential to work out what type of screed would work best for your project. Get some expert advice and get quotes from several sources.
Finally, bear in mind that a liquid screed can work well with a thinner insulation, and yet there will be little difference in terms of heat loss. As such, you could have a thinner liquid screed that would work out cheaper than a thicker traditional screed. Cost up several options to see which one will be the best one for you. Make sure you factor in the amount of time it would take a crew to lay the screed in each case. You’ll be paying for manpower as well, so it makes sense to consider whether you could save on the cost of screed… and yet be paying more in terms of getting a crew to lay it for you.