Cheap Alternative to Self-leveling Compound

Cheap alternative to self-leveling compound

Self-leveling of the concrete subfloor can really be costly when you want to do it, especially when you are doing a large area. A self-leveling concrete floor will typically cost between $600-850 per 100 square feet, which is a decent general guideline for estimation.

So I had to research and find some really good alternatives that worked perfectly well for my floor, which I shared in this article.

The cheap alternative to a self-leveling compound is floor screeding because it has some of the characteristics of a leveling compound. Here are some really good alternatives that you can use too and get the best out of your budget.

Liquid screeding: Costs around $20.66 plus $13.34 of labor per m2.

Quick dry screeding: Costs around $19.21 plus $13.34 of labor per m2.

Sand mix: Cost $17.80 plus $13.34 of labor per m2

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 is the process of leveling and smoothing the top layer of a substance that is poured, such as concrete, to make it the same height as the forms that are around it. Sand, cement, water, and a few other materials are combined to make a screed, which helps create a smooth foundation on which to install the finished flooring.

In order to achieve a specific height, the contractor pours concrete into the pre-formed or guide. Screeding must be done following this stage to guarantee that the concrete area will be level when it cures.

To perform this correctly, one must carefully glide a tool over the guidelines while using one that is larger than the guides. To level and smooth the concrete, the tool must be pushed back and forth simultaneously. In order to make the back-and-forth motion in this scenario, one worker would be placed at either end of the piece of wood.

The tool must be moved along the top of the forms while being simultaneously pushed downward by the employees. Therefore, it is essential to make sure the Screed is done correctly since any mistakes would be quite obvious, especially when it is time to install the flooring.

Types of screeding
sand and cement mix

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.

Liquid screeding

Also known as “pumpable calcium sulfate self-smoothing screeds.” You have the option of laying these screeds bonded or unbonded. Compared to cement sand screeds, they have a substantially higher coverage rate, about 2000m2/day.

Secondly, these screeds are often not appropriate for use in moist or potentially wet environments. They must not be used in conjunction with reinforcement because calcium sulfate is corrosive to steel under moist circumstances. 

It is an excellent choice for under-floor heating since it provides effective heat transmission between itself and the pipes. Due to the requirement to properly tank the floor and lay insulation boards on top of a damp-proof membrane, preparation for liquid screeding should always be handled by a qualified expert.

After that, the base layer must be coated with polythene sheeting to stop leaks and to guard against any potential chemical reactions that could occur with the insulation underneath.

Quick drying screeding

This is the same as the traditional cement and sand method, but the only difference is that they have too many additives that have been put into it that make it dry quicker in 2 hours and cure in 10 days.

Application of screed

Bonded screed: screed that is adhered to concrete directly. 

Unbonded screed: This type of screed is applied over a damp-proof membrane on the floor. It is then filled with sand and cement.

Floating screed: This technique, which is similar to unbonded, includes laying the screed on top of a floating insulation layer. This type of screed is usually used where underfloor heating system pipes are placed.

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.

Using Specialized sand mix to level concrete

This is the same as the sand and cement mixture that is above. The least expensive method of leveling a concrete floor is to use a particular sand mixture. This mixture, which contains sand and cement, will spread readily across the floor to provide an equal finish. Make sure there is no gap in the floor. If there is, add the extra sand mix to cover it up evenly.

Get it wet, do not pour water over it because the water will make the even sand become uneven, which will make your work bad. Instead, sprinkle it over the sand and then allow it to dry. Sand from the top surface should be removed with a brush.

This is a better option economically, especially if you are doing a large area. The sand mixture functions since it has the proper consistency and will provide you with the flooring foundation you want. 

When doing sand mix flooring, you will need a straight-edge tool.

Straight edge tool 

These are tools that are used for leveling and smoothing an uneven wall or floor, it is also used as measuring tools. When working, cutting, or marking in straight lines, a straight edge serves as a reliable guide. Ensuring precision on any project is crucial. Additionally, they may be used to verify that workpieces are straight.

Why is self-leveling concrete so expensive?

Can a floor be level without a leveling compound?

a floor can be leveled without a leveling compound through shims, cement board,

Cheap ways to level a concrete

Grinding down the concrete

Grinding down the concrete using a diamond ⛋ grinder: This is reducing the high area to the level of the low areas to form an equilibrium on the concrete, this area’s high and low spots can be dictated using Straight Edge.

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