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Concrete Flooring / Screeding

Screed (material) pumping truck

A concrete slab is a common structural element of modern buildings. Horizontal slabs of steel reinforced concrete, typically between 4 and 20 inches (100 and 500 millimeters) thick, are most often used to construct floors and ceilings, while thinner slabs are also used for exterior paving. Sometimes these thinner slabs, ranging from 2 inches (51 mm) to 6 inches (150 mm) thick.

In many domestic and industrial buildings a thick concrete slab, supported on foundations or directly on the subsoil, is used to construct the ground floor of a building. These can either be "ground-bearing" or "suspended" slabs. The slab is "ground-bearing" if it rests directly on the foundation, otherwise the slab is "suspended".

Thermal performance

There are two main thermal considerations. The first is the question of insulating a floor slab. In older buildings, concrete slabs cast directly on the ground can drain heat from a room. In modern construction, concrete slabs are usually cast above a layer of insulation such as expanded polystyrene, and the slab may contain underfloor heating pipes. However, there are still uses for a slab that is not insulated, typically in outbuildings which are not heated or cooled to room temperature.

Construction

A concrete slab may be prefabricated or on site. Prefabricated concrete slabs are built in a factory and transported to the site, ready to be lowered into place between steel or concrete beams. They may be pre-stressed (in the factory), post-stressed (on site), or unstressed. It is vital that the wall supporting structure is built to the correct dimensions, or the slabs may not fit.

In-situ concrete slabs are built on the building site using formwork - a type of boxing into which the wet concrete is poured. If the slab is to be reinforced, the rebars, or metal bars, are positioned within the formwork before the concrete is poured in.

The formwork is commonly built from wooden planks and boards, plastic, or steel. On commercial building sites today, plastic and steel are more common as they save labour. On low-budget sites, for instance when laying a concrete garden path, wooden planks are very common. After the concrete has set the wood may be removed, or left there permanently.

In some cases formwork is not necessary - for instance, a ground slab surrounded by brick or block foundation walls, where the walls act as the sides of the tray and hardcore acts as the base.

Advantages / Disadvantages of a solid floor

The advantage of a solid ground floor is the elimination of dry rot and other problems normally associated with hollow joisted floors. The disadvantage is that the floor is less resilient to walk upon and may be more tiring for the user. Solid ground floors are usually found or situated in a kitchen but will be necessary for other rooms where wood blocks and other similar finishes are required

Cement screed

The concrete floor may be topped with a 25 mm thick cement and sand screed trowelled to a smooth finish. The usual mix is 1:3 and a colouring agent may be added to the mix to obtain a more attractive finish. The mix should be as dry as possible and the sand should be coarsely graded and clean to avoid shrinkage and cracking which might occur with a wet mix. The floor finish is carefully cured after laying.

Also see our stone flooring section for various ways to give amazing finished results with concrete and screeds like Polished Concrete, Granolothic and Terrazo.

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10 December 2019
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