Levelling concrete screed on the floor, final result before curing. Key step in flooring prep.

Floor screed is often a cement mixture that provides your property’s floors with a smooth and level surface, also increasing durability. Regardless of whether you have a residential or commercial property, screed can offer a wide range of benefits, especially when you’re combining it with other installations, such as underfloor heating.

However, there are so many different types of floor screeds out there, as well as a range of service providers fighting for your business. So, how do you know which ones are the best to choose? Below, we have the ultimate guide to help you make the decision.

Key takeaways

  • You can choose from bonded, unbonded, floating, or self-levelling screeds for your commercial or residential projects.
  • There are various factors to consider when choosing your screed, such as the purpose of space and load-bearing requirements.
  • You should choose the best service provider to install your screed by looking at reviews and comparing quotes.
  • Choosing the best time to install screed is important to ensure the best quality of the final result.

Types of floor screeds

While they mainly all offer the same purpose, there are various different types of floor screeds that have unique characteristics:

Bonded screeds

Bonded screed involves the mixture being directly added and bonded to the floor’s substrate. It offers a strong bond and better durability, however, it does need to be of a high quality for the best results, and you must ensure the substrate is exceptionally clean before you apply it.

Unbonded screeds

Unbonded screeds act in the same way as bonded screeds however, they aren’t directly added to the substrate. They are separated by a membrane and are only really used when there isn’t a possibility for bonding in the project. This type is more versatile, however, a thicker application is needed and there is a potential for cracking if not installed properly.

Floating screeds

If your property’s floors include insulation or underfloor heating, then you may want to go for a floating screed. It’s another type that isn’t bonded directly to the floor’s substrate, and it offers excellent thermal and sound insulation. The only downside is that it requires a thicker application, which gives it the potential for movement.

Flowing or self-levelling screeds

Another popular type of floor screed that many service providers use is flowing or self-levelling screed. These are pourable mixtures that flow to create a level surface. They offer a fast application and are best for larger areas of a property. However, they can be a bit more pricey, as they require precise mixing and installation.

Photo collage showcasing various screed types across different sites. Variety in screed applications.

Factors to consider when choosing a floor screed

You now know about the different types of screed, but how can you determine which is the best for you and your project? Here are the top factors you must consider before choosing one:

Purpose of space

House extensions and new builds often need a level, smooth screed to ensure they can accommodate different types of floor coverings (tiles, hardwood or carpet) in living areas such as their living room or bedroom.

However, it is the commercial spaces like offices or retail stores and even industrial areas where there is considerably more foot traffic and heavier loads that will require an increased amount of strength from screeds which are resistant. High-traffic areas may benefit from tougher, more durable screeds, while low-traffic residential spaces could use the cheaper options.

Type of final flooring

Tiles and stone require strong, level screed such as bonded or self-leveling so that no cracks appear on the surface. Moisture resistant or unbonded screeds are preferred for hardwood floor installation as it hold moisture longer and will prevent the board from bowing.

If you are laying carpets and vinyls, a smooth, flat screed without lumps or bumps is needed - in which case, floating screeds can offer a good solution. Also, the screed thickness should satisfy the requirements of a final flooring layer and guarantee maximum reliability and strength.

Load-bearing requirements

Once the screed is installed, it must be able to support the load that you anticipate will be applied to the floors afterwards without it cracking or falling apart. For example, when your property is used in a commercial setting, it’s likely that there will be high foot traffic alongside various forms of heavy machinery and equipment. In this case, you’ll need a stronger, reinforced screed that can be bonded to the floors well.

When you’re opting for screed in a residential property, more standard screeds are more normal as you don’t usually have heavy loads like in the commercial setting. However, if you’re preparing to introduce bulky furniture into the area, then further consideration of the type of screed will be needed.

Moisture levels

When there is high moisture within your floors, it can often cause your screed to crack and weaken, which means it can’t do its job correctly. Therefore, before you choose the floor screed you wish to install, it’s imperative to discover the moisture content of your floor’s substrate, as well as the environment of the room.

For rooms with more dampness, such as a basement or bathroom, you’ll need to opt for more moisture-resistant alternatives, such as unbonded screed. Similarly, you can also consider adding a damp-proof membrane during installation, which will help prevent moisture while the screed sets and, therefore, allow it to do its job well.

Time constraints

Sometimes, you might need a project to finish quicker than others, and if that is the case, then you need to be careful about the type of floor screed you choose. If you are on a tight deadline, there are fast-drying screeds, such as self-levelling, that offer quicker installation and drying. On the other hand, more traditional screeds might come with longer curing times, so you should only choose them if you have the time to wait.

You must either understand the drying and curing times of each screed before you choose from it or ask the service provider you’re working with to advise on which one will work best with your project timeline.

Budget

You should only select a floor screed that fits into your budget. While it’s always best to choose the highest quality option, this may not always be affordable. Therefore, you need to take into consideration some compromises when you’re purchasing one. For example, traditional sand and cement screeds are often cheaper, but they can involve longer curing times and higher amounts of labour.

The more expensive kinds of screed include self-levelling and unbonded screeds, however they often offer quicker drying times and better performance. You must choose an option that you can afford but also one that meets your property’s needs.

Completed floor screed after levelling; freshly poured screed before levelling. Progress in screeding.

How to choose a service provider

When you opt for floor screeding in your home or commercial property, it’s always best to use a professional like Next Level to do the job. There are a few factors you can consider when choosing the right service provider for you:

Research and recommendations

One of the best ways to choose a service provider, whether for a screeding project or anything else, is to look through online reviews. Search the company online and see what other clients have to say about what they offer. You can also ask friends and family members for personal recommendations if they’ve had a screed project completed in the past.

Experience and expertise

When selecting a service provider, you want one that has the skills and experience to get the job done at the highest level of quality. Check with the company about how long they have been in business and the qualifications they have, and ask about their experience with similar projects to verify it all.

Portfolio and case studies

Many service providers will have a selection of case studies available on their website or by request. These will give you insight into how they conduct themselves and come up with solutions to provide the best quality and suitability to each client. It will talk you through their process and give you a better idea of how they work.

Quotes and comparisons

Pricing and budget are always going to play an important role when choosing a service provider. You want to ensure you’re being fairly charged and that the company is offering you either standard market rates or an even better deal. Ensure you understand what each one offers so you can compare their affordability.

Customer service and communication

When working with any service provider, you want to ensure they are communicative and professional throughout the entire process. You can find out how they are via reviews, but you can already get a good idea by simply communicating with them yourself, seeing how responsive they are, whether they offer free quotes, etc.

Warranty and aftercare

Many service providers offer a warranty which guarantees the quality of their floor screed. For example, Next Level guarantees that after installation, you will have flawless screeding without any faults for the next decade. You should also check what aftercare options there are, to best safeguard your investment.

Timing and scheduling considerations (When to screed a floor)

Floor screed in an open space with panoramic windows and an indoor area in a house. Contrast in settings

Another consideration alongside the type of floor screed and the service provider you use is the time you should have the screed done. Here are a few factors to look into:

Best time for floor screeding

You may think that floor screeding is a job that can be done at any time, but that is actually a misconception. In fact, screeding is something best done when the weather is stable and there isn’t any excessive humidity, temperature fluctuations, or extreme conditions. This ensures the screed dries and cures properly.

Preparing the space

Before any screeding project can start, the space needs to be prepared first. Your service provider will prep the area themselves, but you should also try to clear any debris, dust, and materials that could interfere with the screed application before they arrive. The substrate should also be clean and dry for optimal installation.

Coordination with other trades

If you are asking for screeding in a new build project or you’re also having underfloor heating installed, you need to ensure the job is coordinated with every other trade. For example, you should schedule the floor screed application so it works in harmony with other tasks like plumbing, electrical, and structural work.

Conclusion

Freshly levelled concrete screed across various rooms in a house, ensuring a smooth and even surface.

Screed is an invaluable addition to any property’s floors, but you need to have the right type that will ensure it meets your project’s needs. From unbonded to self-levelling, each has its own advantages, and finding the perfect one will ensure you’re left happy and smiling at the end of the project.

You should also ensure you choose the best service provider to help you out with the screeding project. Not only can they help advise on the best type of screed to use, but they will also ensure that the job is completed to perfection and lasts you as long as possible.

Next Level is the number one choice in Scotland for screeding projects. If you wish to screed your floors, you can talk to one of our experts, and we will provide you with a free survey and quote. Contact us today to get started.

Frequently asked questions

Still have a few questions about screed? Here are some answers that might help you out:

The typical thickness for floor screed ranges from 25mm to 100mm, depending on the type of screed and the application requirements.

Drying time varies by screed type; traditional screeds can take 1mm per day up to 50mm while fast-drying screeds can dry in 24-48 hours.

You can usually walk on a screed floor after 24-48 hours, depending on the screed type and environmental conditions.

Yes, screeding a bathroom floor ensures a smooth, level surface and can improve water resistance when combined with appropriate moisture barriers.

Flooring can typically be laid after the screed has fully cured, which may take 7-28 days, depending on the screed type and thickness.

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