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Concrete vs Floor Screeds


Concrete vs Floor Screeds: What is The Difference?

For those not working in the construction industry and to the untrained eye, it may be difficult to both understand and / or recognise the difference between concrete and floor screeds.

Something that is very odd given that both materials are made from the same basic ingredients; cement, aggregates and water.

The basic chemistry is the same for both concrete and screed – the cement and water forms a paste and coats the surface of the sand or the aggregates, and the cement paste hardens by a process called hydration, forming a hardened mass of high strength and durability.

However, the size of aggregates used is different, the grade of the cement used is different, the mix consistency and finish is different – because both materials intended use is very different!

Concrete has a much coarser mixture than screed, consisting of larger, hard-core aggregates, which are the key element that gives it its durability and makes it strong and long lasting.

Improving the Reliability of Screed Installations

Applying a semi-dry cementitious type of screed

Because concrete has the potential to hit very high strengths, it is used across the construction industry for structural purposes – including floor slabs. It is the most used man-made material in the world.

Screed however is a smoother mix, which consists of considerably less aggregates to that of the mix used for concrete.

Screed is usually applied on top of the concrete slab and is most commonly used as a finishing layer on internal floors or to level the floor prior to final floor coverings carpet, tiles, natural stone, linoleum, wood flooring, resin coatings etc.

Screeds are required when a colourful or functional floor is needed rather than a bare concrete surface. For industrial purposes, or commercial locations, which will undergo frequent traffic, a more robust screed is required than is used in DIY or residential projects.

Most screeds are used for internal purposes only, often covering heating systems, acoustic or thermal insulation. Polymer-modified screeds can be installed in external locations, as they are hardwearing, water resistant and able to withstand a more rigorous environment.

Flowcrete Go Green With Award Winning Screeds at Ecobuild 2016

Screed covering a heating system

Traditionally screeds are sand and cement mixtures, blended and applied on site. However these are often unpredictable as the ratios and properties cannot be exactly determined and so can lead to a weak flooring layer liable to crack, peel or collapse without warning.

To counter this unreliability there are a number of proprietary screeds and kits available on the market offering enhanced strength and a faster application speed that will react more predictably.

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Sheeba Sakthivel

4 thoughts on “Concrete vs Floor Screeds: What is The Difference?”

  1. MegaMix Integrated Services LTD says:

    So how do one screed on plain concrete

    1. Dan Ash says:

      Hi, thanks for your comment. The application method will differ depending on the type of screed being installed. This blog post looks at how to apply semi-dry cementitious type screeds (

  2. Andrew Walker says:


    Is screed suitable for a final finish in a home? It has been suggested to me that a typical screed is not as hard wearing as concrete and therefore more suitable to covering with engineered flooring, tiles, etc. Our architect has specified “concrete screed” as the final floor finish and I’m not sure he knows himself whether it’s screed or concrete.

    Can you help shed light on the subject.


    1. Dan Ash says:

      Hi Andrew
      The term screed is often confusingly used to refer to both a finish and an underlayment and this is true for cementitious (or concrete) screeds as well. This is an example of a cementitious screed finish ( and this post is on cementitious screeds as an underlying layer to bond the final coating to the substrate ( I would say that it’s not impossible to use it as a finish in a home, however we more commonly see people go for a polished concrete type finish if this is the type of look/feel you’re after. This post goes into a bit more detail on polished concrete ( Unfortunately given the large number of different screeds and concrete out there and the cross overs between the two, we’d advise talking to the product manufacturer before applying it to make sure that it’ll be right for the task at hand. Hope that helps a bit.
      Kind regards,

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