Smooth floor screed in your home

Did you know that floor screeding has its roots in ancient Rome? The ancient Romans used screed floors to create the smooth surfaces that characterise their baths. Understanding the cost of screeding could help homeowners and builders develop a suitable budget and ensure the same quality flooring as the Romans.

This post looks at the definition of floor screeding, how much it is to screed a floor, whether to DIY or hire professionals, how to cut costs, and frequent mistakes you should avoid. Understanding these will enable you to make informed decisions concerning your floor.

Key takeaways

  • Floor screed is often a mix of cement and sand, applied to floors to provide a smooth and level surface.
  • Many factors influence the price of screed, including the type of material, area size, and screed thickness.
  • Materials account for most of the cost of screed, with it being around 40%-60% of the whole quote.
  • You can opt for DIY screeding, or hiring professionals, but they both come with advantages and downfalls.
  • You can reduce the cost of your screed by choosing the right material, buying materials in bulk, and doing the preparation yourself.

What is floor screeding?

Floor screeding involves applying a mixture of cement, sand, and sometimes additives to create a smooth, level surface on a floor base. This process is crucial in the construction and renovation of buildings, as it prepares the base for final floor coverings like tiles, carpet, or wood flooring or can serve as the final wearing surface itself.

Screed is typically laid on top of a concrete subfloor or insulation, and it can include underfloor heating systems embedded within it. The screed mix is poured and then smoothed using tools such as trowels or screeding machines, ensuring an even, flat finish that meets specified building standards.

Factors influencing the cost of screeding

Photocollage of concrete floor screed in various rooms of a house

The cost of floor screeding can be influenced by several factors, which vary depending on the specifics of the project, materials used, and regional differences. Here are some key factors that generally impact the price:

Type of screed

How much to screed a floor is extremely dependent on the type of screed. Traditional sand and cement screeds are generally cheaper than their new and advanced counterparts: liquid, flowing, or rapid-drying screeds. While the last-mentioned types have advantages, i.e., quick curing, they also have some disadvantages due to the labour aspect of curing. Modern screeds’ material costs tend to be higher than traditional screeds.

Additionally, special additives, which can modify screed properties, such as flexibility or drying quickly, generally increase overhead expenses. As a result, you should go with the screed according to your requirements and budget.

Area size

The cost per square meter of screeding decreases as the size of the area increases, benefiting from economies of scale. While the unit price drops for larger areas, the overall expenditure naturally rises due to the greater volume of materials and labour.

On the other hand, smaller areas tend to be proportionally more expensive due to higher per-unit costs and the fixed costs of setup and transportation spread over a smaller area. This pricing structure encourages careful screeding project planning to optimise cost and material usage.

Screed thickness

The thickness of the layer of screed directly determines the amount of material required and, therefore, the cost. As a rule, thicker screeds are more expensive material-wise, which adds to the total budget. However, the thickness depends on the practical application and the existing substructure; specifically, screeds enclosing warm water or electric UFH systems must be thicker to maintain efficiency and proper coverage.

An accurate assessment of the necessary thickness is critical to avoid both underestimation that threatens the integrity and strength of the construction and overestimation that raises the budget.

Preparation work

Preparation work before screeding largely defines the quality of the job and the future overall cost. For example, it takes a considerable amount of materials and work to level the concrete floor and repair old floorboards. If required, it is also possible to install insulation or underfloor.

Due to the labour and quality of the materials, all these tasks are very costly. It is imperative to complete these works effectively in order not to cause harm to the future screed and reduce the need for additional foundation repairs in the long term.

Location and accessibility

Transportation and accessibility of the screeding site are two of the most critical aspects that could affect the project’s expense. Firstly, the costs of the materials and labour per unit differ in various locales.

Secondly, the site’s lack of access could add to the transportation costs for the delivery of the materials and labour. This is due to the additional time required in the allocated workforce and the equipment to be used.

Metropolitans have lower material costs because of accessibility and availability, whereas the low population areas might experience the reverse.

Labour costs

The cost of the labour force is determined by the complexity level of the work and the application method. The labour-intensive nature of the manual screeding application results in increased man-hours that can be more expensive compared to the machine method, which reduces the labour cost despite initial investments in the machinery.

Average cost breakdown

Perfectly levelled and shiny concrete floor screed.

As with other cost breakdowns that I have given in this guide, the average cost percentage can vary depending on the actual costs of materials, labour, preparation, and the type of screed being used. Here is a brief guide on how the costs could be broken down in a normal floor screeding project:

The electric underfloor heating kw per m2 ranges around 100W/m2 to 200 W/m2 depending on the type of system you've had installed or the possibility of heat loss in the room. You can most likely find out the exact wattage of a system when talking to a professional.

Materials - 40-60%

The screed itself would take up the bulk of the costs, which could be achieved with a traditional sand and cement mix or cost more with a specially formulated mix like self-levelling compounds or ones with additives for quicker curing or greater flexibility. Other materials may include costs for insulation, the underfloor and under-screed for underfloor heating, and any materials such as mesh or reinforcement.

Labour - 30-50%

Labour costs will depend on the ease of the job, the type of screed, and the wage rates in the area. Full manual screeding is more labour-intensive, so the average will be on the higher side. Machine screeding will lower labour costs but can also lead to rental costs.

Preparation and clean up - 10-20%

Preparation of the base involves levelling the existing floor, fixing it, removing any old flooring, and getting it ready for screeding. The cost would also include cleaning the finish.

Equipment - 5-10%

Depending on the project, you may also need to hire specific screeding equipment.

Transport and miscellaneous - 5-10%

This caters to doing away with the waste material and unforeseen costs.

Example

But how much is floor screed per m2? Say a new house with a sand and cement screed to a 50 to 75mm thickness fully loaded onto the site could have the following costs:

Materials: £10-£15/m2

Labour: £10-£20/m2

Preparation and equipment: £5-£10/m2

DIY screeding vs. hiring professionals

Should you screed your floors yourself? Or hire a professional? Let's look at the two:

DIY screeding

When considering an affordable way to screed a floor, doing it yourself is a sensible option. This is because of the relatively high labour costs associated with construction. Therefore opting for doing the work on your own would help in saving the money spent on acquiring labor.

Screeding the floors is something you can do alone if you possess basic knowledge of construction and the necessary tools. You can work on one area of the floor at a time, which means you can do it in stages based on your availability. In this case, you only need to possess building knowledge to use tools that are easily operated.

On the downside, incorrect levelling where the floor's alignment is poor, extending curing periods, or redoing the project can result.

Hiring professionals

It goes without saying that hiring professionals to screed your floor is a sure way to benefit from quality results delivered through experience and expertise. Professional screeders possess the tools and experience required to mix and lay screed the right way, work on various materials, and handle sophisticated installations, such as installing underfloor heating.

Even though it is costlier at the beginning, it is a good financial investment that prevents errors with material or installation and will guarantee that the screed lasts for a long time. In addition, professional work often comes with a guarantee.

Tips for reducing screeding costs

Photocollage: professional floor screed freshly poured and final result before curing

Reducing the costs associated with screeding a floor is important for staying within budget, especially in larger or more complex projects. Here are some practical tips to help minimise expenses without compromising on quality:

Choose the right type of screed

Choosing the screed type that fits your project the best in terms of cost is important. While the traditional sand-cement screed is generally cheaper and can be used in many scenarios, other options may also be cost-efficient.

For example, while self-levelling compounds may initially cost more, they may save you money on labour because they require less time and effort to install. You may compare spending on materials and installation for all types of screeds to make the right decision for your budget and performance needs.

Buy materials in bulk

Another cost-saving measure when purchasing screed materials is ordering in bulk. Often, suppliers offer lower prices for bulk purchases, which ultimately results in considerable savings per unit.

Furthermore, if planning is done correctly and accurately, there is a minimalistic possibility of overpaying for unused materials. If supplies for the screeding process are fully aligned and ordered in advance, it creates favourable conditions to potentially negotiate with the supplier and agree on price conditions.

Efficient use of materials

It is important not to overpay for materials that will be overpriced, so the volume of screed materials must be calculated very carefully. One can use online screed calculators or rely on specialists’ calculations to increase accuracy.

When budgeting, it is also worth considering purchasing mixtures that improve the properties of the screed and reduce the amount of cement used. In addition to reducing costs, such methods promote a “green” approach to construction.

Do some work yourself

Some of the preparatory tasks you can handle can also substantially reduce labour expenses. Activities such as tearing old flooring off, clearing substrate, and getting it levelled do not require specialised knowledge or experience, yet they can create a spot for screeding.

Even if you still have to hire a professional to perform the screeding, the need to perform fewer operations can also lower the price; thus, this option is both reasonable and affordable.

Hire professional equipment

People who opt to do it themselves when screeding should consider renting professional-grade equipment instead of buying. For example, a local construction rental service can rent concrete mixers, screeding trowels, and any equipment required for levelling. It saves you the cost of the machinery, and you are assured of a more polished screeding.

Ensure you rent the equipment for the exact duration needed to avoid extra charges and optimise your use of the tools.

Get multiple quotes

It would also be smart to put off the screeding until you receive and compare quotes from multiple contractors. Only then will you better understand how pricing works in the industry, which should help you select the most budget-friendly offer. What’s more, in slow business seasons, contractors may be more likely to agree to lower rates, allowing them to cut project expenses even more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, managing the cost that comes with screeding requires careful planning and good decisions. You can reduce your budget by picking the right screed type, buying bulks of materials, and completing some tasks by yourself. Renting professional tools will also help you cut the total budget and optimise the project’s duration.

For those who need professional assistance and want to know how much is floor screed, do not hesitate to get in contact with Next Level. Our company specialises in underfloor heating installation and screeding, and our experience and expertise will ensure that your project stays within your budget while meeting the highest quality standards.

Visit the Next Level contact page and get in touch with our team to find the best alternatives for starting your project.

Perfectly leveled shiny concrete floor screed done by experts

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