How Long Does Screed Take to Dry?

The wait is on. You’ve just had a new floor screed laid, and now the question on everyone’s mind is: when can we walk on it? When can we install the final floor covering? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to “how long does screed take to dry?”. Several factors influence drying times, and understanding them is crucial for effective project planning.

At Optimum Flooring Services, we take pride in delivering exceptional flooring solutions and transparent communication. In this blog, we’ll delve into the world of screed drying times, exploring the key factors at play and offering guidance on what to expect.

Understanding Screed Types and Drying Rates:

The type of screed material used significantly impacts drying times. Here’s a breakdown of some common screeds and their drying characteristics:

Traditional Sand & Cement Screed: This workhorse of the screeding world offers good strength and durability but has a relatively slow drying time. Typically, traditional screeds require 1mm of drying per day for the first 50mm, followed by an increasing drying time for each additional millimetre. A 50mm thick traditional screed, under ideal conditions, might take around 2 months to dry fully.

Fast-Drying Screeds: Modern screed formulations incorporate additives that accelerate the drying process. These screeds can achieve drying rates of 10-15mm per day, significantly reducing waiting times. However, they may come at a slightly higher cost compared to traditional screeds.

Liquid Screeds: These self-levelling screeds offer a smooth finish and faster drying times compared to traditional screeds. They can achieve drying times as low as 1mm per day, with some formulations reaching full walkability within 24-48 hours.

Beyond Material: Factors Affecting Drying Time

While screed type plays a major role, other factors also influence drying times:

Thickness of the Screed: As a general rule, thicker screeds take longer to dry. The increased volume of material requires more time for moisture to evaporate.

Ambient Conditions: Temperature and humidity significantly impact drying rates. Warm, well-ventilated environments promote faster drying. Conversely, cold or humid conditions can slow down the drying process considerably.

Subfloor Characteristics: A porous subfloor like concrete allows moisture to transmit upwards, aiding in drying. However, a non-porous subfloor like vinyl may require additional measures like a DPM (damp-proof membrane) to prevent moisture from becoming trapped beneath the screed.

Optimum Practices for Faster Drying:

Maintain Good Ventilation: Ensure proper airflow throughout the space during the drying process. Open windows and doors whenever possible, and consider using fans to circulate air.

Control Temperature and Humidity: If possible, maintain a moderate temperature (around 15-20°C) and control humidity levels (ideally below 65%). Dehumidifiers can be helpful in achieving these conditions.

Cover the Screed (Partially): While complete exposure promotes drying, covering the screed loosely with breathable membranes can help prevent rapid drying and minimise the risk of cracks.

When Can You Walk on the Screed and Install Floor Coverings?

The answer depends on the type of screed, its thickness, and drying conditions. Here’s a general guideline:

Walking: For traditional screeds, waiting at least 48 hours is recommended before walking on the surface. Fast-drying screeds and liquid screeds might allow for foot traffic sooner, depending on the specific product. Always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for your chosen screed material.

Floor Coverings: Installing floor coverings like tiles or wood requires a completely dry screed. The residual moisture content (RMC) needs to be within the acceptable range specified for the chosen floor covering. Moisture meters can be used to measure the RMC of the screed.

Partner with Optimum Flooring Services for Expert Advice

At Optimum Flooring Services, we understand the importance of accurate drying time estimations for successful project planning. Our experienced team can assess your specific project requirements, including screed type, thickness, and desired timeline. We can then provide you with a realistic timeframe for screed drying and advise on any necessary measures to optimise the drying process.

Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s ensure your floor screeding project runs smoothly and efficiently.

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