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The difference between screed and concrete

Contractors will be familiar with the terms ‘concrete’ and ‘screed’, but what is the difference between these two building materials? An ordinary person who is working on a small construction project at home may not be familiar with these materials. The difference comes down to their strength.

Concrete is a hard material with high strength and good durability properties. Screed is a smoother, weaker material that is often used as a surface finish. Concrete is used for structural purposes, whereas screed is often used for aesthetic applications. Here are some more differences between the two building materials, based on their composition, appearance, uses and applications.

Composition differences between concrete and screed

Both concrete and screed are made from the same basic materials; cement, water and aggregates. The main difference lies in the type of aggregates used. Concrete generally includes coarse aggregates, such as crushed stone, that give it strength and volume. Screed, on the other hand, uses much finer aggregates such as river sand and clay. This gives it its smooth and silky quality.

Differences in appearance and texture

To the untrained eye, concrete and screed look very similar. They are both dark grey in colour but the differences are easier to see when the mixtures are wet. Concrete generally has a rough texture when it’s wet. This is due to the coarse aggregates incorporated into the mixture. Screed looks far smoother and does not have the crushed stone textures.

Uses for concrete and screed

Concrete and screed are both widely used in construction, but for very different reasons. Concrete’s strength and durability make it the material of choice for structural integrity. It is used to make beams, walls, floors and the basic skeleton of any building. 

Screed’s smooth texture makes it popular for finishing these walls, floors and paths. It is often laid on top of concrete because it looks more pleasing. The combination of concrete and screed gives buildings a good combination of strength and polish.

Methods of application

There are also fundamental differences in the ways the two materials are applied. Due to the coarse aggregates in concrete, it usually requires machinery to mix and pour. Shovelling concrete can be a labour intensive job because it is heavy and usually mixed in large volumes.

Screed is much easier to apply. It can be spread across the surface of concrete with a trowel and a float. It does not require any specialist equipment or skills to apply. These are the four major differences between concrete and screed that will allow anyone to differentiate between the two cement-based building materials.

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Written by Joshua Oates

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