Probably the most commonly asked question we receive about microcement, is to do with cost. How much is microcement? Or how much does a microcement cost? You’ll find that most aspects of this article will relate to any brand of microcement or installer, the variables are pretty universal across the industry.
So in this article the CARRcrete team will go through some factors that influence costs of our products and services for the CARRcrete microcement overlays.
For those who like a spoiler, a ballpark price for microcement application is between £85 - £150 per square metre. Please bear in mind that this price is dependant on the size of the project, preparation required, obstacles, number of rooms, finish required and project location.
Okay, now we have given you a spoiler and told you an approximate price for microcement installations, it is only fair that we give you a breakdown of those costs from the bullets points that I mentioned.
The size of the project matters a great deal to determine a price per square metre, as with most purchasable things in life, the more you buy the less each item becomes. The cost of manufacture and shipping become less per item with more volume.
As such, there is often an incentive to place larger orders with suppliers to receive a discount which can then be passed onto the client in the form of a slightly lower meterage cost.
Larger areas can be tackled more productively because there’s less likely to be time within the working day that will be wasted. For example with a small floor, once you have applied your microcement layer, you then have to wait for the product to harden before it can be sanded or more product applied.
Some products may take hours or even overnight before further work can progress, that’s not great when you’ve finished by 11am. And there is a high chance that the contractor will not have another project close by to fill in the spare time with.
Winter time is notorious for slowing down drying and hardening times, as are cold environments and those with little to no airflow across the floor.
On a more positive note, a larger project especially one with multiple rooms may offer a range of opportunities to be more efficient and productive. There is always scope to work into different rooms or areas. And when appropriate move back into areas which have already hardened enough to add extra coats of microcement.
All projects are going to need microcement materials, and whilst one of the great benefits of micro overlays is that they can be weighed and measured out to reduce wastage, there is often more waste on smaller projects, especially if there are unusual colours or finishes required. Because this can prevent the product from being easily used on another surface.
Material that is not used is pure waste unless it can be repurposed onto another project, which is bad for the environment
Important considerations to bear in mind are the preparation requirements for the substrate before any microcement products are applied. As any craftsman will tell you; preparation is key!
As a bare minimum all substrates need to be keyed up with an abrasive tool to enhance the bond between the microcement and surface to which it will adhere.
A quality primer based on epoxy or acrylic (not PVA) should also be used on porous surfaces to prevent moisture from being drawn out of the product too soon, causing weakened layers with an increased the risk of cracking or product failure.
As I’m sure you can imagine with a product as thin as a microcement being just 2-3 millimetres thick (4-5 playing cards in thickness), any surface that the product is applied to much be flat and smooth to prevent any unwanted ripples or textures from the unevenness below the product.
Screeds, concrete slabs and tiles need to be well laid and flat or ground smooth with diamond grinding machine to remove any unwanted irregularities. For substrates which are very uneven or not to level, there may be a need to apply either a self levelling compound or a thin screed over the floor surface.
Walls may need to be re-boarded smooth and plumb with joints correctly meshed before wall applications can proceed.
Naturally any repairs to damage and cracks need to be addressed with appropriate products. All of these items take up valuable time to carry out and quality products are not without cost.
More rooms can be a real benefit to the applicator because they can work out from completed rooms into to fresh rooms, allowing for the hardening time in any coated areas. But conversely more rooms can also provide a few additional problems and constraints.
If you can imagine that working in a single room requires the area to be prepared with a grinder, cleaned down, primed, delicate areas taped off and then before beginning the application, the product needs to be mixed and loaded into the room ready for start.
This time then needs to be multiplied by the number of rooms as each room will require a set up before you can proceed. Obviously the grinding and priming prep can all be done together before application starts. But when you move into another room, you need to check that it is suitably clean and that your product is mixed and positioned in a convenient spot.
Another thing to consider is that with certain microcement products on the market, their formulation requires them to maintain a wet edge to prevent highly visible lines from developing in the hardened product.
That technically means you need an applicator in each room and work toward a convergence point together. More applicators means more costs in the form of wages, travel and accommodation costs for example.
As we have mentioned previously, large open spaces are more productive for the microcement application process, you are effectively working within a box surrounded by four walls. It is easy to set a start point to an end point within an open space.
But as soon as you throw in obstacles such as partition walls, kitchen units, kitchen islands, shadow gap or standard wall skirting, columns, staircases; you reduce productivity hugely. Which leads to extra time required to complete the project.
The time of a professional microcement applicator is very valuable and is naturally priced at a higher rate than for example a site operative or general labourer. You are paying for not only the applicators skill level and experience but also the cost of them running their business. More time spent on a project increases the overall cost.
Obstacles and delicate areas need to be protected to prevent damage during installation, at the very least this involves applying a masking tape around objects. You would be surprised how much time this takes for such a simple process.
One of the great things about microcement finishes is that it is hugely customisable, an almost endless amount of colours and shades are now available. And each one of these colours can then be modified by trowel pressure and technique and also by the amount of layers applied.
The amount of layers applied to create the chosen microcement finish has the largest influence on the overall cost of the project. Some applicators like to use systems with as little as two layers, often a base and medium coat applied for a slightly textured finish.
This kind of finish is often touted as a more hard wearing, commercial finish. But from viewing such installations they are difficult to keep clean and the inherent texture often puts off clients and potential clients from having a micro overlay.
Other systems may run into four or five layers consisting of maybe two base coats, one medium, one fine, one very fine. This creates a beautifully cloudy, tight and smooth surface which is easy to maintain.
This is the kind of finish we prefer, it looks elegant and without a doubt in keeping with modern architecture. It is also the easiest finish to maintain.
I have mentioned earlier in the article that most products will need at least a few hours or overnight to harden enough before further layers can be applied. This hardening time added with the time of preparation and application of coats may mean it takes a whole day per coat.
It is now easy to see why two days plus a day for sealing is less expensive than four or five days plus a day sealing. You get what you pay for.
This next section often comes across a little unfair, some potential clients may feel they are punished for living in more affluent areas, but please let me assure you, it is not how we work and we do not try to make a profit at your expense.
Location of the project does influence the cost of the application, as unfair as it may sound, it does play a part. There is no getting away from the fact that some projects take considerably more time to travel to and from, whether it be due to distance or traffic congestion.
Certain locations are also much expensive than others for staff accommodation, parking and subsistence. For example many areas of London are almost if not double the cost of staying overnight in Lincolnshire, traffic congestion and lack of parking considerably worse.
It is not a factor we like to include but it does have an impact on our costs.
So hopefully after reading our article about how much microcement costs, you have a much better understanding of the different factors that influence the true costs of such a product. Maybe it will give you a plan for your construction works, to leave out obstacles, place a really good quality screed or concrete slab and choose the right microcement finish.
For advice and quotations I would certainly recommend filling in our quotation request form or contacting Simon here at CARRcrete, she has years of experience with these floors and can certainly point you in the right direction.