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Epoxy Floor Coatings: Everything You Need to Know

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Florock High Tech Flooring expertly installed by Florock UK of Great Britain

 

When it comes to choosing flooring systems for industrial use, there are a number of options, but resinous flooring stand out among others. Resinous flooring, also commonly known as epoxy floor coating, is a highly durable, customizable, decorative, and sustainable option. If you choose an epoxy floor coating for your facility, you’ll have a floor that can withstand high levels of traffic and wear and tear, as well as a floor that will be long lasting. Epoxy floor coatings are chosen for the myriad benefits they offer, and if you’re considering flooring systems, here is everything you’ll need to know about epoxy floor coatings.

Resinous Flooring Basics

Resinous flooring is a floor system made up of one or more liquid polymer resins, which are then applied to a prepared concrete slab. The liquid resins are combined with other components, such as powders, aggregates, or other decorative materials at the job site when being installed—resinous floor coatings typically cannot be mixed until the time of application, as the blended components’ pot life is usually quite limited.

Specialty contractors trained by the flooring’s manufacturer must install resinous flooring for best results.

Aside from the terms “resinous flooring” and “epoxy floor coating”, this type of concrete floor protection can also be called “polymer flooring”, “fluid-applied flooring”, “concrete floor coating”, “seamless flooring”, or “industrial flooring”.

The different mixtures and systems available mean that resinous flooring can have a very utilitarian appearance, be highly decorative—or something in between. Resinous flooring is different from other commercial flooring options in that it offers superior strength, durability and performance, exceptional customization and decorative appeal. It’s also unique because, in many respects, the actual creation of the floor takes place at the job site. In addition, resinous flooring offers one of the lowest lifecycle costs among available commercial and industrial floor covering options.

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Epoxy Floor Coatings vs. Other Formulations

Epoxy coatings are a type of resinous flooring. Resin-based flooring is typically categorized by the type of polymer used in its formulation. Most frequently, the polymer resins used in industrial-grade floor coatings are epoxies, high performance urethanes, urethane mortars (also referred to as “urethane concretes” and “cementitious urethanes”) and polyaspartic coatings.

decorative epoxy floor

Decorative FloroTallic office floor artistically installed by FloorCare USA of WI.

Each type of polymer resin differs in its basic characteristics, including its levels of durability, chemical resistance, thermal shock resistance, and more. Compatible coatings are often applied in multiple layers of varying thicknesses, along with aggregates or other additives, to create an optimal flooring system suited to each facility’s needs. The curing properties of different resins can vary greatly and each mixture has its own installation and handling requirements.

For example, epoxy flooring can be installed using many different techniques and provides good general service chemical and abrasion resistance. However, epoxy resin-based floors are not suitable for environments with regular temperature cycling or steam cleaning, as they are not thermal shock resistant. For facilities with extreme temperature swings, urethane mortar flooring performs far batter. Therefore, the site conditions, daily operations, type of foot and wheel traffic and many other factors play a role in the optimal selection of commercial, industrial and institutional resinous flooring systems.

Different resinous flooring manufacturers offer different systems, and resin formulations are proprietary to each manufacturer. In other words, not all epoxies are alike. Flooring systems can vary greatly from one manufacturer to another. A quality manufacturer’s technical service team can be the best resource for advice on materials and installation.

What Is “Hybrid Flooring”?

Hybrid floors are a newer development in resinous flooring, involving a number of compatible systems typically applied over a urethane mortar base. An example would be a decorative polyaspartic topping installed over a urethane mortar basecoat. This method allows for the best of both worlds, with the combined performance of both resin systems providing an ideal flooring system for the client.

Strengths and Limitations of Different Resins

seafood floors

FloroCrete Moisture Tolerant Food Plant Flooring beautifully installed by New England Floors of MA.

Epoxy floor coatings, as previously noted, can provide excellent general service protection. Solvent-free two-component epoxies, sometimes combined with a variety of aggregates, can be used to resurface damaged concrete and can impart heavy-duty strength to a floor. And a special type of epoxy, called “novolac epoxy”, provides superior performance in areas where extreme pH acids or alkalis are likely to fall onto the floor. However, as a general rule epoxy flooring does not perform well under exposure to thermal shock or extreme temperature shifts. And with the exception of specially formulated “moisture tolerant epoxy primers”, epoxy floor coatings are not well-suited for application to damp substrates or in consistently wet environments.

High performance urethane topcoats are frequently used as thin film finishes over epoxy basecoats for additional chemical and abrasion resistance in specific environments. They provide excellent resistance to many solvents, can withstand mild thermal shock and are highly stain resistant. In addition, the aliphatic urethane used in industrial and commercial concrete systems from certain manufacturers can offer excellent color retention.

Urethane mortar floors can be installed up to a quarter inch or more in thickness and furnish excellent chemical, abrasion and thermal shock resistance, making them the number one choice for the food and beverage processing industry and commercial kitchens. Urethane mortars are also highly moisture tolerant and can be used in environments where the concrete substrate, floor and atmosphere are consistently damp. Settings such as freezer warehouses, restaurant kitchens, food manufacturing, other wet processing operations and any facility that steam cleans its floors will find urethane mortar an excellent solution. Because these resin systems do not generally possess good color retention, they are frequently topcoated with a high performance urethane or polyaspartic finish. Decorative resinous toppings are also used over urethane mortars in the new hybrid flooring systems.

Florock Acid Resistant Flooring in a battery storage area skillfully installed by DLS of TX

Florock Acid Resistant Flooring in a battery storage area skillfully installed by DLS of TX

Finally, polyaspartic floor coatings offer good chemical and abrasion resistance, moderate thermal shock resistance, excellent color retention – and are ready for normal traffic in 1-2 hours. Being able to resume normal operations so soon after installation is an
obvious benefit for today’s 24/7 manufacturing, healthcare and retail facilities.

Applications and Uses of Resinous Flooring

Epoxy floor coatings are used in a broad range of facilities and are installed on concrete slabs. Before installation, the slab surface must be inspected. For example, is the concrete new or existing? Regardless, each requires proper surface preparation to help ensure the best outcome.

An ideal concrete surface is one that is structurally sound with no cracks or unevenness, and free of contaminants that could potentially interfere with good coating adhesion, such as grease, oil, chemicals, moisture, standing water, excessive alkalinity/acidity.

Resinous floor coatings are installed in facilities across many industries including:

  • Food and beverage production, including commercial bakeries, bottling plants, dairy processing and packaging, meat and seafood plants, snack and frozen food manufacturers, wineries, breweries, distilleries and the like.
  • Commercial and retail, such as grocery stores and delis, movie theaters, museums, shopping malls, department stores, boutiques, food courts and office buildings.
  • Healthcare and medical, such as clinics, surgical rooms, pharmacies, patient rooms, laboratories, hospitals, emergency rooms, and dental offices.
  • Aviation and transportation, including bus, train and airport terminals, concourses, aerospace facilities, car dealerships and repair shops, air hangars, helicopter facilities, fleet maintenance areas and parking garages.
  • Manufacturing, for example in control rooms, loading docks, machine shops, production and packaging areas, processing plants, workshops, storage spaces and warehouses.
  • Animal and veterinary facilities, including milking parlors, equestrian centers, kennels and shelters, pet daycare centers, veterinary offices and animal hospitals.
  • Correctional facilities, in areas such as gang showers, prison cells, common areas and prison dining halls.
  • Science and technology, for example in clean rooms, data centers, electronics and semiconductor operations, research laboratories, biotech and pharmaceutical facilities.
  • Education, including auditoriums, cafeterias, classrooms and libraries, daycares, shop rooms, stadiums, and arenas.
  • Fire and public safety, such as in ambulance and EMS buildings, fire stations, and police stations.

Hospitality and restaurants, as seen in bars and nightclubs, casinos, commercial kitchens and restaurant dining rooms, freezers/walk-in coolers, hotels and resorts, spas and theaters.

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Operational Advantages of Using an Epoxy or Other Floor Coating

Because many of today’s resinous flooring systems have relatively quick curing times, they often require only minimal facility downtime. Some products offer low- to no-odor installation, allowing a facility to remain largely occupied during construction when necessary.

Other operational advantages of using an epoxy or other floor coating system include their exceptional durability and resistance to wear and tear, designer aesthetics, and ability to boost facility safety. Resinous floor coatings offer customizable slip resistance and antimicrobial protection, as well as puncture resistance and waterproofing properties, allowing them to stand up to the challenging environments found in commercial, industrial and institutional settings.

Since these floors are meant to withstand significant foot and cart traffic and other demands, they’re known for being the smart and sustainable option when you need a reliable flooring solution.

Resinous floors also offer the options of installation in harsh environments, including extremely cold or hot temperatures, and because less downtime is required, facilities aren’t rendered unusable for days on end—saving business owners money.

Cost Advantages of Resin Based Flooring

Epoxy floor coatings and resinous floor systems have the among the lowest lifecycle cost of any available commercial flooring on the market, making them ideal for a growing number of operations. Their long usable life, impressive safety benefits, savings due to fewer replacement cycles and downtimes, simple and extremely economical no wax maintenance, and their ability to help facilities meet government and industry standards (and avoid potential fines for non-compliance) all contribute to a better bottom line and resinous floors’ superior value.

Environmental Advantages of Resinous Floors

epoxy floor coatings

Museum logo using Florock Flooring created by Aplika of Ecuador.

Zero and very low V.O.C. epoxy and other resinous floor coatings are a sustainable option for facilities and can contribute a variety of LEED points, depending on the products selected. Design and construction managers striving for U.S. Green Building Council LEED certification for their projects are encouraged to consult with resinous coating manufacturers to determine the optimal flooring systems for their structures.

Compared to many other commercial floor covering options on the market, epoxy floor coatings and resinous floor systems demonstrate very long life cycles. A long usable life is economical in terms of reduced replacement and downtime costs, but the benefits don’t stop there – they extend to the environment as well. When floor coverings require less frequent replacing, then less waste gets created from disposal of the old floor and the packaging of the new flooring. Another unique environmental benefit of resin coated floors is that when they eventually do reach the end of their usable life, they can frequently be recoated, rather than completely removed. Additionally, because resinous flooring is fluid-applied, it avoids generating the installation cut-off waste created by carpeting, sheet and laminate goods as they get fitted into a room.

Some quality manufacturers offer the option to choose recycled-content epoxy floor coatings that can further add to LEED certification eligibility. Eco-friendly aggregate blends with 25 to 30 percent recycled glass content can be used in place of newly mined aggregates in a variety of resinous flooring systems, while providing the same outstanding performance.

Epoxy floor coatings are also environmentally friendly in their production methods. Raw materials are purchased in recyclable packaging, and manufacturer sites’ are regularly monitored to be in accordance with environmental authorities, with assessments and regulations ensuring adherence to waste management, water, sanitation, ventilation, and other guidelines.
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Other Benefits of Choosing Epoxy Floor Coatings

Other inherent and optional benefits surrounding epoxy floor coatings are the levels of safety and sanitation they help encourage:

  • Reduced Risk of Slip and Fall Events: Slip inhibiting additive can to be adjusted to each facility’s needs
  • Improved Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): Lower odor installation options and formaldehyde-free formulations.
  • Reduced Risk of Water Damage and Subsequent Mold Growth: Waterproofing underlayments for upper level rooms are available to help keep spilled fluids from seeping into drywall and building structure.
  • Lowered Risk of Electrostatic Damage: Static control flooring available to safely remove electrostatic charge from the room, helping to safeguard sensitive equipment and personnel.
  • Support for Pathogen Control: Antimicrobial protection may be added to the flooring formulation at the factory upon request to inhibit the growth of microbes throughout the depth of the floor.
  • Improved Sanitation: Integral cove bases and the grout line free surface of resinous flooring provide an ideally hygienic topography for thorough cleaning and sanitizing.

The Epoxy Floor Coating Installation Process

Epoxy floor coatings and resinous systems are installed using a variety of methods, with more than one technique frequently being employed during any given professional application. The list of basic installation methods includes: Trowel-down, broadcast, slurry and resin-only.

Trowel-Down Flooring

The trowel-down installation method is generally used with stiffer consistency aggregate-filled polymer mortars. Hand-troweling or power-troweling may employed to install systems of 3/16” to ¼” thick.

Broadcast Application

Broadcast applications are similar to trowel applications, in that they both used liquid resin and aggregate components. The difference, however, is that in broadcast applications, the aggregates and liquids are applied separately, in alternating layers instead of as one single mortar blend. The broadcast components can be colored vinyl chips, colored quartz, special construction sand or other aggregate. Neutral and colored quartz are both available with recycled content. Broadcast floors are typically 1/16” to 1/8” thick.

Slurry Installation

A slurry can be an economical way to build depth into a floor. In this method, liquid resin is combined with powders or aggregates and applied as a flowable mixture. An installed slurry application ranges from 1/8” to 3/16” thick, though frequently, slurries receive additional toppings that can increase the total system thickness.

Resin-Only Floors

When epoxy or other resinous liquids are applied to the floor without any powder or aggregate additives, the installation method is resin-only. Generally the thinnest of resinous flooring applications, resin-only floors can are typically installed at 10- 40 mils thick.

Commercial, industrial and institutional resinous floor installations are best handled by experienced and trained professional crews. A reputable manufacturer or factory technical representative can recommend the best local, approved contractor for a specific installation.

Epoxy Floor Coatings for Your Facility

Want to learn more about the various types of epoxy floor coatings and resinous floor systems suited to your operation and specific facility needs? At Florock, we’re dedicated to helping building owners and managers select the optimum value-based flooring to suit their requirements and budget.

Contact us today to for expert facility flooring answers and support.

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