Cheap Alternative to Self-leveling Compound

Cheap alternative to self-leveling compound

An economical alternative to the self-leveling compound is floor screeding, which shares some leveling properties with the compound.

Some effective alternatives within a budget include liquid screeding, quick-dry screeding, and sand mix.

Liquid screeding typically costs around $20.66 per square meter (m2) plus $13.34 for labor, while quick-dry screeding costs approximately $19.21 per m2 plus $13.34 for labor.

The sand mix is another option priced at about $17.80 per m2 plus $13.34 for labor.
These alternatives offer cost-effective options to achieve a level surface while remaining within budget constraints.

Please know that this is the price of writing this blog post. It might change in the future.

Areas where the cheap alternative to the self-leveling compound can be used

  • Basement floor
  • Subfloor
  • Concrete slab
  • Garage floor


Screeding, in construction, refers to the process of leveling and smoothing the top layer of a poured substance, such as concrete, to achieve uniformity with surrounding forms.

It involves using a screed, which is a composition of sand, cement, water, and other additives, to establish a seamless foundation for installing finished flooring.

To attain precise height specifications, contractors pour concrete into pre-formed guides or molds.

Subsequently, screeding is performed to ensure a level surface upon curing.

This entails utilizing a specialized tool larger than the guides and expertly gliding it over them to distribute and refine the concrete mixtur e’s consistency.

The tool is simultaneously propelled back and forth by workers positioned at opposing ends of a sturdy wooden base.

Accurate execution of the screeding process is vital since any errors may become glaringly evident during subsequent flooring installation.

Types of screeding

Liquid screeding

Liquid screeding, also known as “pumpable calcium sulfate self-smoothing screeds,” is a type of flooring material that can be laid bonded or unbonded.

It offers a higher coverage rate of about 2000m2/day compared to cement sand screeds.

However, it is not suitable for use in moist or wet environments and should not be used with reinforcement as calcium sulfate is corrosive to steel under moist conditions.

Liquid screeding is an excellent choice for under-floor heating as it allows for effective heat transmission between the floor and pipes.

However, it requires proper preparation by a qualified expert, including tanking the floor, laying insulation boards on top of a damp-proof membrane.

And coating the base layer with polythene sheeting to prevent leaks and potential chemical reactions with the insulation underneath.

Quick drying screeding

Quick drying screeding is a type of floor screed that contains additives to speed up the drying process. This allows for the application of the final floor finish in as little as 3 hours, reducing waiting times significantly.

It is particularly suitable for areas with high point loading or heavy traffic. For instance, ARDEX Ultra Rapid Drying Screed offers enhanced performance properties and can receive floor coverings in just 4 hours, greatly decreasing installation time.

Marshalls also offers a quick-drying screed option that takes only 3 days to dry each 25mm depth of mix, without the need for curing. With these fast-drying options, it becomes possible to lay floor coverings within hours rather than months.

Types and application of screed

Here are the different types of screed and their applications:

  1. Bonded Screed: This type of screed is directly connected to the concrete subfloor using an adhesive. It is suitable for thinner applications where heavy loading is expected, with a thickness ranging from 15mm to 50mm. Bonded screed is commonly used when leveling the floor to receive floor coverings such as tiles or vinyl.
  2. Unbonded Screed: Unbonded screeds are not directly bonded to the base, but rather applied on top of a polythene or Damp Proof Membrane (DPM) that is laid over the concrete base. This type of screed is ideal for greater thicknesses, typically starting from 50mm. Some modified unbonded screeds can even be used at thinner applications.
  3. Floating Screed: Floating screeds are not as strong as the concrete subfloor they cover, but they enhance durability and improve appearance. They are commonly used when covering underfloor pipes or providing a level surface for various flooring types such as laminates, tiling, vinyl, carpets, floorboards, and stone. Reinforced and wearing screeds can be used in specific applications within floating screeds.
  • Reinforced Screeds: These types use materials like polypropylene fibers, glass fibers or metal mesh to add extra strength and resistance against cracking.
  • Wearing Screeds: As the toughest type within floating screeds category these can serve as a final top layer without requiring additional flooring materials like carpets or tiles.

Problems with Screeding

For Bonded screeding

Bond failure between the screed and the substrate underneath the one to which it is glued is the main cause of failure for bonded screeds. This is more likely to happen when the screed is excessively thick.

For Unbonded screeding

The most common reason for unbonded screeds to separate from the slab or substrate underneath is that they rise or curl. This is more likely to occur if the screed is too thin. So, bonded screeds ought to be thin—generally less than 50mm. Unbonded screeds should be thick, frequently at least 70mm; if curling must be avoided, at least 100mm.

Things that affect the amount you spend on the screed.

Floor size: It should go without saying that a larger floor area requiring screeding will result in a higher total project cost due to higher labor and material costs.

The depth of the screed: the height you want the screed to cover the floor, the amount of screed needed to fulfill the project.

sand and cement mix

A sand and cement mix is a combination of sand and cement used to create mortar or concrete.

Mortar, consisting of cement and sand, serves as an adhesive substance for affixing paving flags on patios, among other uses.

Concrete, a comprehensive building material, is utilized for constructing foundations as well as various masonry structures.

For smaller projects, ready-made concrete bags are available whereby the addition of water is the only requirement.

The exact quantities of sand and cement required depend on the scale of the project and the desired amount of mortar or concrete to be mixed.

When properly determined, these classic screeds are appropriate for all purposes. The major disadvantage is the drying period, which according to some experts takes one day for every millimeter of screed thickness up to 50 mm thick.

The ratio of sand to cement screed that is most frequently used is 1:3 or 1:4.5, which produces the screed with the best consistency for adding to concrete slabs or floor units. This traditional way of doing this can take up to 100 days before drying out.

Using Specialized sand mix to level concrete

When using a specialized sand mix to level concrete, it is important to follow the proper steps for optimal results. The sand and cement mixture provides an affordable solution for leveling a concrete floor.

To begin, ensure that there are no gaps on the floor surface. If any gaps are present, add the additional sand mix to evenly cover them.

It is essential to avoid pouring water directly onto the sand mix as this can cause unevenness in the mixture. Instead, sprinkle water over the sand mix and allow it to dry naturally.

After drying, use a brush to remove any excess sand from the top surface. This step helps achieve a smooth finish for your flooring foundation.

Using a straight-edge tool during the process of applying the sand mix is highly recommended. This tool will assist in achieving an even distribution of the mixture across the floor.

Opting for a specialized sand mix offers not only economic advantages, but also ensures that you achieve your desired flooring foundation efficiently and effectively.

Why is self-leveling concrete so expensive?

Self-leveling concrete is more expensive than regular concrete due to the utilization of specialized polymers in its formulation.

These polymers, which are unique adhesive molecules, facilitate cohesive bonding within the material.

They are widely employed in diverse industries such as leather, wood, computer science, paints, and metal coatings.

The elevated cost of self-leveling concrete can also be attributed to its efficiency and rapid setting time. This type of concrete can be fully set within 48 hours and provides a superior surface finish for both concrete subfloors and wooden subfloors compared to conventional concrete.

Can a floor be level without a leveling compound?

A floor can be leveled without a leveling compound through Sanding, shims, cement board, sand mix

Sanding: Sanding is a method of leveling your floors without a floor-leveling compound, especially if you want to get rid of a high spot. You can use a sander to sand down the high spot until it is level with the rest of the floor

Shims: Shims are small, tapered pieces of wood or plastic that can be used to level a floor. You can place shims under the low spots of the floor until it is level

Plywood: Plywood is another good choice to level a floor. You can use plywood to create a subfloor that is level with the rest of the floor. This method is best for floors that are significantly uneven

Sand mix: Sand mix is one of the less expensive options to a self-leveling compound. You can use a sand mix to level up inequalities in your floor by combining sand and cement..

michael Morris

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