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Solvent-Based vs. Water-Based vs. 100% Solids Epoxy

Epoxy resins are used broadly in many types of concrete floor finishes. Epoxy floor coatings offer a range of benefits, including:

  • Long term durability
  • Long lifespan
  • Exceptionally customizable in color and appearance
  • Flexible installation to accommodate the needs of specific facilities, including:
  • Moisture vapor transmission (MVT) mitigation
  • Acid, alkali and chemical resistance
  • Slip resistance
  • Static control
  • Thermal shock resistance
  • Anti microbial benefits

However, all epoxy floor coating systems are not created equal. Broadly speaking, there are three basic types being marketed today:

  • Water-based
  • Solvent-based
  • 100% Solids

Each has its own set of characteristics that makes it more appropriate as a floor coating in specific types of facilities and environmental conditions.

Resistant FloroPoxy Floor

Beautifully installed slip resistant FloroPoxy floor in White Knight Grey, by Gurbitec of Mexico.

The Purpose of Water and Solvents Added to Epoxy

Water and solvents are carrier agents in some types of epoxies. They make the epoxy easier to apply, assist with adhesion, and provide some self-leveling properties. Additionally, epoxy starts its curing process immediately after mixing the resin and the hardener together, limiting the time available to apply the product. This time factor is called the “pot life.” Without a carrier agent (i.e., a 100 percent solids epoxy), the pot life is 30 – 40 minutes. Beyond that, the epoxy has hardened in the “pot.” With a water or solvent carrier, the pot life is increased to about two hours, allowing a longer time for the application of the product.

This longer pot life is the result of the carrier agent evaporating from the epoxy. This evaporative process also means that the wet film (when the epoxy is applied) is thicker than the dry film (when the epoxy is cured). The difference can be as much as half the thickness, so a wet film of 7 mils may result in a dry film of 3 to 3.5 mils.

Solvent-Based Epoxy

Solvent-based epoxy was the go-to product type for many years. Its advantages over water-based epoxy systems typically included the following:

  • Greater durability and performance
  • More tolerant of petroleum contaminates in a concrete surface, making it ideal for garages and parking structures
  • Glossier finish

These benefits were ultimately outweighed by the fact that government regulations on products containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other potential pollutants have gotten progressively tighter over the years. With both industry and individual consumers seeking more environmentally friendly alternatives, high VOC solvent-based epoxy systems are no longer the norm.

Water-Based Epoxy

With more limited availability of solvent-based epoxies, water-based epoxy coatings have seen an upsurge in use for specific applications. Their lower VOC content is seen as a clear advantage where restrictions on VOCs are especially stringent. Water-based epoxy coatings typically have a very low to zero solvent content and minimal odor, and depending on the product, can often be applied to concrete while it is still damp or still in the process of curing.

However, water-based epoxy technology, while having made significant strides, has not yet produced materials with the level of chemical resistance and durability needed for many commercial and industrial applications. It is therefore most often used in light to moderate duty environments, where more frequent recoating is acceptable.

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100% Solids Epoxy

100 Percent solids epoxy floor coatings contain no VOCs or water. While they can vary in viscosity, all 100% Solids epoxies produce a thicker dry film when compared to solvent or water based products. Depending on the product and how it is applied, the film thickness can be 10 mils or more. This is becoming the norm in industrial and commercial applications.

These epoxy systems provide excellent durability, and depending on formulation and installation technique, can protect concrete from chemical exposure, impact and other abuse. Rather than drying by evaporation, commercial grade 100% solids epoxies cure. These heavy duty coatings are comprised of two components, a resin and hardener, which are blended together, creating a chemical reaction that results in a hard, resilient floor surface. When applied to a prepared concrete substrate, high quality 100% solids epoxy coatings can last many years.

Selection and Installation

Florock offers multiple epoxy systems and products. Please feel free to call us with any questions about the optimal system for your needs.