What’s the Best Concrete Screed for Pouring Flatwork? A Comparison of 5 Different Concrete Screed Types.

There are many types of concrete screeds out there these days, but which is the best concrete screed for pouring flat projects like parking lots, driveways and floors? And which is the best concrete screed for the type of pours that your company does most often? We’ll break down the pros and cons of the various concrete screed types.

Roller Screeds / Spinning Screeds

Roller Screeds or spinning screeds allow concrete crews to get into small areas with ease. Typically set up as a metal tube that spins away from the operators, roller screeds work reasonably well on small pours. They allow crews to pour on steep grades or even use contoured rollers to pour gutters.

Two laborers pull against the spinning screed and the other laborers grade the concrete by hand in between them. Since roller screeds are human-driven, they require a great amount of physical labor. If you’re pouring anything more than a truckload or two, roller screeds quickly become a lot of work to operate. Roller Screeds are powered to spin, but leveling the concrete comes down to brute manpower.

A construction crew pours concrete using a roller screed. Roller screeds level concrete reasonably well, but require a lot physical labor and effort in both pulling the screed and raking the concrete.

When concrete is left too high, or is poured at a low slump, roller screeds have a tendency to throw concrete over the top of the screed. In this case, the two pullers have to carry the screed back and screed that section of concrete again.

Although the spinning effect of a roller screed has some cream-creating abilities, there is no vibration in roller screed systems. Vibration is key in allowing the aggregate to settle, bringing a small amount of cream to the top.

A construction crew screeds a concrete driveway using a roller screed. Roller screeds are pulled by one laborer on each end of the screed. The rest of crew is responsible for raking and leveling the concrete between the forms.

Lightweight, affordable and easy to clean, roller screeds are an option for tight areas and small pours. Being human-driven, roller screeds require a lot of labor to pull the screed and rake concrete.

Truss Screeds / A-Frame Screeds

Capable of pouring concrete at widths all the way out to 60+ feet, truss or A-frame screeds can put a lot of concrete down – if you have an army of guys to help. They are set up on tracks on either side of the pour and are belt driven. These screeds, however, are very heavy and require a lot of labor to set up. They run relatively slowly and any resetting of the screed is anywhere from extremely difficult to impossible. Truss screeds require a lot of laborers keeping the concrete close to grade – and those laborers work hard for every inch.

Stand-Up Screeds

A concrete contractor screeds freshly poured concrete with a stand-up screed. Stand-up screeds are gas-powered and vibratory. The user typically stands in the concrete and pulls the screed along a screed pipe.

Another great tool to have on hand, stand-up screeds work wonders on very small pours and in tight areas. Typically set up as a vibrating bar operated by a single user, stand-up screeds require one worker to drag the screed while several others are in the concrete, raking as close to grade as they can get. Stand-up screeds are readily available and easy to find on the cheap. They still require a fair amount of physical labor and are limited by width, slope, slump and speed.

Laser-Guided Screeds

Laser-guided screeds are great for jobs that require high flatness specifications. Set up as a laser-guided arm on a relatively small machine, they’re capable of precision level concrete with minimal labor. Crews get concrete somewhat close to grade and laser-guided screeds can get a precision grade from there.

But there are downsides to laser-guided screeds too. First, they’re extremely expensive – usually costing from $100,000 to $250,000. Second, the widest laser-guided screeds available on the market max out around 20 feet wide and nearly none of them are capable of grading the gavel base. They also come with a significant cost if they break down because there are a limited number of folks that are capable of repairing them. Keep in mind too that breakdowns only happen on pour day – never on a day off when the machine is sitting idle, so there is a real possibility of losing a pour if your equipment does break down.

They save on physical labor and are extremely accurate, but the cost of a laser-guided screed is far more than most can afford.

Dragon Screeds

One of the fastest ways to dump and drag a load of concrete, Dragon Screed is easy to set up and extremely easy to use. Its versatility allows crews to screed gravel and concrete in many different configurations. Dragon Screed levels gravel or sand subgrade quickly and accurately. Crews no longer have to drag gravel in order to have a quality subgrade. Once the gravel is level, simply remove the subgrade panels and switch to the vibrating floats and you’re ready to pour concrete.

Dragons Screed, a skid steer powered concrete screed machine, screeds a concrete driveway using a hydraulic pivot and vibrating screed bar and floats.

Dragon Screed, like a laser-guided screed, requires crews to simply get concrete close to grade and the equipment does the rest. Machine driven, Dragon Screed allows crews to pour stiffer concrete without fighting to get it flat. If you want to screed the concrete a second time, it’s as simple as backing your machine up and driving along the forms again. The vibrating floats work the concrete, bringing cream to the surface and making finishing the concrete a much a easier job.

Dragon Screed grades gravel base on a concrete floor. This skid steer powered concrete screed machine can be configured as gravel grader or concrete screed.

Dragon Screed works in forward or reverse, off of either side of the machine, and can also be configured to work directly in front of the machine. Dragon Screed eliminates the need for draggers in front of the screed, drastically reducing much of the manual labor associated with pouring and screeding concrete. Your crew can focus their energy and attention on finishing concrete behind the screed.

A concrete screed, attached to the front of a skid steer machine, levels concrete on a construction site.

Levels Subgrade★★★ØØØØ
Operates to Left, Right or Center★★★ØØØØ
No Dragging Required by Laborers★★★ØØ★★Ø
Width Adjustability★★★★★★★ØØ
Ease of Use★★★★★★★Ø
Steep Grades★★★★★Ø
Screeds 20+ Feet Wide★★★★★★★ØØ

*The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement