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Epoxy Floors vs. Polished Concrete: What’s the Difference?

When deciding upon an industrial flooring solution, many facilities find themselves struggling to choose between polished concrete and an epoxy flooring system. Both use concrete slabs as the foundation substrate, but they provide two very different types of flooring surfaces better suited for different types of environments. Polished concrete is created by repeatedly running specialized industrial grinding machines with ever finer polishing heads across a treated concrete slab to form a smooth, burnished surface. Epoxy flooring systems, on the other hand, typically consist of multiple layers of various two-component coatings that get fluid-applied to a mechanically prepared concrete surface and which chemically cure to form a durable, impervious and protective coating possessing a variety of special performance and aesthetic characteristics.

Florock Florotallic, beautifully installed by Mirage of IL, is an example of high performance epoxy flooring with the look of polished concrete.

 

The following guidelines can be used to help determine if polished concrete or an epoxy floor might be the better solution for a particular commercial, institutional or industrial facility.

Polished Concrete: The Benefits

If the floor is light to medium general service and will not be exposed to harsh chemicals, extreme pH substances, wet processing, food production or packaging, toxins or potential environmental contaminants and the like, then polished concrete may be an adequate, relatively low-cost solution. However, because polished floors require regular re-polishing or other professional maintenance, they may not be ideal for some 24/7 or mission critical operations; any facility choosing polished floors should be willing to budget for and schedule the rerouting of traffic or cordoning off of work crew areas on a routine basis.

It is also important that the floor not be expected to have a greater compressive strength than the unpolished concrete substrate. Where this is a necessary feature, a troweled epoxy-aggregate flooring system is likely to be the better choice. And while polishing can smoothen and somewhat even out the concrete surface, it is not a viable option for old, cracked or pitted floors with significant imperfections. For best results, polishing should occur on a new, freshly poured concrete slab that has a relatively uniform color and overall appearance.

Depending on the exact procedure and products used, polished concrete can provide the benefit of increasing the floor’s light reflectivity by up to 100%, helping to somewhat improve the efficacy of existing overhead light fixtures and brightening the space overall. And compared to bare concrete, a good polishing treatment will help to stave off concrete “dusting”, thus contributing to better indoor air quality.

Epoxy Flooring Advantages

While polished concrete can be a viable option for a number of commercial settings, it does present a significant list of limitations– that’s where epoxy flooring systems come in. Epoxy flooring and other high performance resin-based systems are available in a variety of formulations designed specifically to protect the integrity of the concrete slab when subjected to a broad spectrum of environments and usage. The right epoxy flooring can provide a truly amazing list of special benefits, such as improving the concrete floor’s weight-bearing capacity and impact resistance, imparting puncture and abrasion resistance, providing static control protection as well as the ability to withstand some of the most extreme conditions found in biotech pharma, food and beverage, chemical and many other processing and manufacturing operations. These protections far exceed those offered by polished concrete. Epoxy systems can mask and correct imperfections in the concrete and can even be used to resurface slabs that might otherwise have to be destroyed. In addition, high gloss resinous topcoats can increase the floor’s light reflectivity by up to 300%, thus reducing the need for additional lighting and helping to save on energy and costs.

Because epoxy flooring is installed in its liquid state, the resulting surface is impervious and virtually seamless. Once cured, depending upon type and formulation, resinous floor systems are highly resistant to solvents, acids and alkalis. This is of particular importance in settings where harsh reagents and toxins are used. In contrast, a polished concrete surface is not designed to withstand exposure to such materials and is vulnerable to absorbing and retaining dangerous substances or otherwise enabling pollutants to flow through the slab into the surrounding soil and environment. Well-selected and properly installed epoxy and other resinous coating systems eliminate this vulnerability, allowing environmental hazards to remain on the surface, where they can be properly contained and disposed of.

For designers and owners who favor the appearance of stained or polished concrete, yet whose applications demand the superior strength, durability and performance of resinous coatings, a new epoxy flooring system that mimics the “organic look” of stained/polished concrete is now available.

Learn more by contacting a local Florock technical professional today!

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