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Urethane Floors: Things You Need to Know

Choosing between high-performance thin film urethane topcoats and cementitious urethane flooring

Florothane Thin Film High Performance Urethane expertly installed by FloorPro of KY.

“Urethane flooring” – has any other construction term caused more confusion for the facility manager? And no wonder! There are great variations in the types of flooring that employ urethane resins and some are far more appropriate for certain applications than others. Even building professionals such as general contractors and architects sometimes struggle to tell the difference between high-performance thin film urethane topcoats and cementitious urethane flooring, which is also known as urethane mortar flooring. Here is what you need to know if you are trying to decide which type of urethane flooring is best suited for your facility.

How Is Thin Film Urethane Applied?

Even though they both have “urethane” in the name, thin film urethane topcoats and urethane mortar flooring are applied in different ways and have different functions.

In general, today’s thin film urethane topcoats for concrete floors are applied with a roller or flat squeegee at no more than four mils wet film thickness and can be used over a broad spectrum of epoxy base coats. This form of topcoat can provide the floor with additional solvent, chemical and abrasion resistance. However, thin film urethane topcoats do not typically adhere well when they are installed directly to a concrete slab and do require, at minimum, an epoxy primer.

Thin film urethane is applied with a roller or flat squeegee

FloroCrete RT Cementitious Urethane beautifully applied as a slurry-broadcast by National Engineering of FL.

How Is Cementitious Urethane Flooring Applied and What Are Its   Properties?

Cementitious urethane flooring is made from a urethane resin combined with Portland cement mortar or slurry that creates a tenacious bond in direct-to-concrete installations, even when the slab is moist. Unlike thin film urethane topcoats, cementitious urethane applications vary in thickness from 20 mils up to more than 250 mils. Depending on the formulation, urethane mortar can be applied with a notched squeegee, roller, or trowel.

Compared to other floor coatings, cementitious urethane has superior resistance to alkalinity and acids and can even help mitigate moisture vapor. In addition, these systems have excellent thermal shock resistance because they expand and contract at the same rate as concrete, remaining bonded to the slab even when temperatures quickly swing from one extreme to the other. Cementitious urethane floor toppings can be used on their own or as part of a decorative finish.

Matching the Application to the Flooring System

It’s important to choose the right type of urethane-based flooring system for your desired concrete application. Thin film urethane topcoats from reputable manufacturers can be highly chemical and stain resistant, tintable, and can provide a non-yellowing finish, among other attributes. Well-designed systems can help facilities achieve a higher level of slip-resistance and are able to stand up to abrasion and significant amounts of foot and cart traffic.
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Urethane mortar floor toppings are well-suited to heavy-duty applications, such as in food and beverage plants, commercial kitchens, wet processing operations, pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing facilities, as well as hospitals and other medical treatment facilities. Many of these types of organizations require heavy-duty flooring systems that are easy to clean and maintain, and provide protection from microbes and bacteria.

Not only is urethane mortar easy to clean, but it also performs well in situations requiring better resistance to heat and moisture; this type of floor system is ideal for extreme environments because of its ability to withstand significant temperature changes. If your facility environment is constantly fluctuating, cementitious urethane may be the ideal flooring solution. In contrast, high traffic locations with more temperature-stable, dry environments can benefit from the value offered by epoxy basecoats and a high performance, thin film urethane topcoat.

If you’re interesting in learning more, contact a Florock representative for a free on-site visit to evaluate your needs.