Some Thoughts on Epoxy Floors

On Simiron’s help and support page is a a problem solving guide, concrete moisture testing guide, and a care and maintenance guide. Be sure to learn this information so you can see trouble before you get in a situation that can cause a failure.

Don’t just look at prices if you’re just learning about floors. The same principles apply for floors as other surfaces, only more so. The surface has to be very clean, profiled and fully dry. Cracks and damage need to be repaired or they will show and then fail. You can’t skimp on prep because I guarantee it will come back to haunt you. These coatings are relatively expensive so prep is paramount to get them to last out their duty cycle.

Ground moisture is a big problem that will blister the best coatings over the best prep. Do not just look at a floor and say it’s ok – test every time. Similarly, contamination in the concrete never goes away and will rise to the surface. I have a customer who had milling machines bolted to the ground. Cutting oil had penetrated and saturated where the mounting bolts were embedded in the floor. After grinding, these areas looked clean but later yellowed due to the oil returning to the surface. Predictably, the coating he used on the floor went bad over these spots. The only thing I could suggest would be to cut out those areas and re-pour with concrete. He was disappointed with that answer but there’s no way I know to get sufficient oil contamination out.

Another contamination story is a garage where a homeowner detailed his cars. The silicone and whatever else one puts on tires to make them black and pretty had of course landed on the floor and was completely invisible. My customer washed the floor and applied epoxy. It crawled away from the contamination and left a pretty good outline of the car. I could see the 4 wheels and back bumper area as if a stencil was put down. Interestingly, where the floor was hand grindered to smooth out humps in the original concrete, those areas were beautiful. Grinding the floor removed the layer of contamination and the 2nd application went without problem. So even if the surface looks clean and good, it may not be.

Watch at all the epoxy videos you can to see how other people are putting product down. They probably won’t show you their failures. Some products are easier to use, some must be applied very quickly. Your crew has to go like clockwork or the coating will set up before you can spread it out. Know that for the most part, PPE is essential and your tools are sacrificial, there is no washing out gloves, brushes and rollers, rags, etc; it all goes in the trash at the end of the job. Sometimes during the job.

The recommendation now is to diamond grind floors versus acid etching. Grinding leaves no residue and is a dry process so there is no having to neutralize solutions or downtime waiting for the floor to dry.

Don’t try to mix systems. Use one manufacturer on a job, there are incompatibilities between different manufacturers in these special technical coatings. Also unlike wall paints, floors have to be put down at a specific rate of application, not just rolled out until you are out of product. If something is supposed to be spread at 200 sq ft, make marks on the floor so you know that kit fits precisely into that area, not more, not less. Temperature, humidity, changing environmental conditions, application speed, floor texture, and a host of other subtle differences can affect these products and their appearance. Many of these products have specific environment windows such as humidity and temperature that, if applied outside these parameters, can lead to failure. Ben Moore had a solvent based epoxy that couldn’t tolerate humidity above 85% and it created problem after problem because it would blush so, instead of having a beautiful glossy floor, it would be dull, hazy and soft.

Remember that for the most part, epoxy’s job is to be abrasion and chemical resistant, aesthetics come at the back end of the manufacturer’s list of criteria. All epoxies yellow and will lose glossiness in sunlight. There are many products that do not yellow and will stay glossy in sunlight. Most “clear finishes” are simply not pigmented; they usually appear hazy or amber in appearance. When my customers ask for clear they mean like pure water- epoxy is rarely this clear and not for very long at any rate.

For instance, we have a customer who is doing a storefront and put down an epoxy clear over a white and red strawberry swirl looking color coat. To me, he made a bad mistake in selection. First he mixed product manufacturers and the epoxy overcoat he put on will yellow, especially near the sunny windows of the shop. He shoulda coulda have used Simron’s polysiloxane, high wear urethane, or polyaspartic instead which will remain clear. It’s just a matter of time to when he comes back bitching. If it was over a a lot of other floors, no one would see it or care, but over white it is going to become visible, if not right now, then soon.

People will call any 2 component product “epoxy” even though there are epoxies of many different formulations, as well as urethanes, polysiloxnes, poly ureas, etc. These all have different chemistry and are optimal for specific uses and can be disastrous in others. While many of these may go down similar to a standard paint, others are stinky and some of the chemistry creates poisonous toxic vapors that must be accounted for with specialty respiratory equipment. Allowing time for solvents to out-gas, which can take weeks sometimes, is something that you and your customers must be aware of, especially in residential or office environments where people want to get back in as soon as possible. Or in enclosed food areas where certain products may absorb the solvent odors.

Some people think because you just put down a floor that they don’t have to maintain it. We had a construction company put down a black metallic epoxy floor. The job looked beautiful. But the windows leaked leaving a residue and they could see dirt. They put a number of metal footed folding chairs on it in their conference room and it scratched. This is not a problem of manufacture or application but of over-excited expectations. They were grumping that they could have used tile for the price they paid. They could have done a lot of things but what they didn’t do was think that a black floor would have to be maintained by washing or protect it from scratching.
Do research. Test samples before selling a job. Perfect your prep. Plan ahead.

The Paint and Primer Mythos

There are a lot of curious customers asking for the paint with the primer in it. The imagination of the big-box store mega-marketing machine is one of many subjects added to the vernacular of the consumers. The idea of a 1-bucket solution isn’t new, but the demand has never been higher.  Is it true that there is primer in the paint? What does that even mean? If we turn the premise on its head, would you choose to use the paint as a primer?

Let’s back up a bit and try to figure out what we’re talking about. What are primers? Why bother to use a primer at all? One would think that all you have to do is put on the finish coat. That isn’t the case. Primers are coatings that have special properties, many of which are optimized for a specific set of conditions. The keyword is “optimized”.

There are lots of different surfaces for which paints are applicable. Woods, metals, masonry, and others. Each primer has a different chemistry and reaction to the environment the primer is applied. For example, a coating comprised of finely ground minerals and binders applied at the thickness of a few sheets of paper is supposed to protect things made of these materials from water, sun, impacts and corrosion. It also has to look good doing it. To make sure the surface is protected and the paint can look as best as it can, primers are used as intermediaries between them.

Once the primer is applied to a surface, you should wait until the appropriate time to use a finish coat. We at O-Gee Paint provide custom-made cans with the right colors for the right people, Indoors or out. This is especially important, since aesthetics are everything in the painting world. So is planning and using specific colors for certain locations. You don’t want to ruin your motif, do you?

The Fog Machine

After 30 years of seeing jobs before and after, I saw something I’ve never seen before. An atrium full of vapor, the kind of cloud you might expect from a shower room or sauna, except hanging above a stairway in a sky lit atrium.  The house didn’t feel cold but the humidity was so high outside that all the glass window and door panels were sweating outside.

I was originally asked in the store by the contractor for advice about a mildew problem.  So we recommended a mold resistant paint. Turns out his mold problem was exacerbated by a tremendous moisture problem.

Atrium Cloud

The moisture in the air was condensing on the walls and causing them to sweat.  Surfactants leeched out of the fresh paint resulting in wet streaky rundowns on the wall and over the trim to the lower wall surfaces.  The moisture also caused other problems including blistering.

The contractor had installed a 300 cfm fan mid wall but it was off for 12 hours a day allowing the moisture to accumulate.