Selecting floor systems for industrial facilities can be confusing. In their research, decision makers inevitably come across information about epoxy flooring and polyurethane mortars (also known as cementitious urethane). Which to choose? An appropriate epoxy vs. polyurethane debate should actually center on site conditions as well as the intended use of the floors. In other words, it’s not so much a question of which system is better — rather which is the right option for a given environment. Let’s take a look at what should be considered before choosing one of these systems.
Because they are comprised of different polymer resins, epoxy and polyurethane floors possess different basic characteristics. Each of these resin types has many variations and every manufacturer closely guards the secrets to their unique formulations. However some basic properties are common to all.
Epoxy is one of the most widely known and used floor coating resins. Versatile in its application as a concrete covering and protectant, epoxy can be installed in a variety of ways, using a wide range of additives, such as aggregates, that can impart additional strength, slip-resistance, abrasion resistance and even enhance decorative appeal. Epoxy systems are generally limited to application over dry, clean, mechanically prepared floor slabs for service under relatively consistent temperature conditions. When appropriately selected, an epoxy flooring system can help preserve the structure and integrity of the floor slab as well as help safeguard the facility.
On the other side of the epoxy vs. polyurethane debate is the more utilitarian-looking cementitious urethane mortar flooring, which offers performance beyond that of epoxy in challenging environments. Polyurethane mortar floors can withstand ongoing wet conditions and regular, extreme temperature swings that would bring a standard epoxy system to its knees. In some cases, cementitious urethane floors can be used under epoxy toppings to help mitigate moisture vapor transmission originating underneath concrete slabs. This can enable the use of decorative epoxy or other flooring to be applied where it might otherwise not be suitable.
While the benefits of each of these systems are many, when it comes to knowing which one is the right choice for your facility, it helps to analyze the space they’ll be used in as well as overall facility demands.
New or Existing Dry Concrete
Every concrete floor should be tested for MVT (Moisture Vapor Transmission) prior to installing any type of floor covering. If test results fall within the coating manufacturer’s parameters as do the majority of concrete floors, then epoxy flooring can be an ideal choice for any industrial, commercial or institutional facility. Highly decorative or utilitarian in appearance, epoxy flooring continues to protect and enhance facilities around the globe.
For facilities that experience dramatic air and floor temperature swings as part of their normal operations, one flooring type is a clear winner. All things being equal, in thermal shock conditions, epoxy would be considered a “poor to fair” performer, whereas cementitious urethane would be rated “excellent”. Urethane mortar’s ability to expand and contract at the same rate as the concrete substrate contributes to its tenacious bond. For this reason, in the epoxy vs. polyurethane floor decision, if a facility environment involves extreme temperature cycling, then cementitious urethane is the way to go.
Another area where cementitious urethane flooring beats out epoxy flooring is in moisture tolerance. In wet processing and other damp, high humidity facilities, the concrete slab may never achieve the arid surface needed for epoxy installation. For these operations, as well as some green concrete and MVT situations, urethane mortar flooring and underlayments can be of enormous benefit.
Both epoxy and polyurethane mortar floors are available with many customizable and decorative options. Determining which floor is the right solution for your specific facility can be made easier with the help of an experienced concrete flooring professional. Luckily, we have technical representatives and approved installers near you!
To get more information about the differences of epoxy vs. polyurethane flooring, contact the flooring specialists at Florock today—we’re happy to discuss which option is best for your needs.