Tiles, marble, and concrete floors are common types of floor surfaces that we are familiar with. However, when it comes to commercial spaces such as shopping centres, parking lots, or even factories where the load and footfall are heavier, epoxy flooring is the preferred choice due to its durability and resistance. So, what is epoxy flooring? Let’s find out!
What is Epoxy Flooring?
Epoxy flooring is made of two or three layers of basic components. The bottom layer is a substrate which is often wood, metal, or concrete floor followed by an epoxy primer in between that helps the bonding of the substrate with the epoxy resin, which is the third layer that functions to cover and protect the substrate layer.
Epoxy flooring is a common flooring system often used in commercial areas due to the range of solutions that it offers such as impact and chemical resistance, and a wide variety of colours, styles, effects, and décor. Different materials can also be added to the epoxy resin to create different properties to meet different requirements of the applied area.
Types of Epoxy Floors
Epoxy floorings are widely used for their durability, versatility, and wide range of colours and designs. Listed below are some types of epoxy flooring that are most commonly used:
Epoxy Terrazzo Flooring
The materials used to make epoxy terrazzo flooring is similar to terrazzo tiles, where aggregates such as marble, glass, granite, etc. are mixed in to create a terrazzo effect. This kind of flooring provides a decorative and colourful look when installed. Maintenance for this flooring is simple, only requiring the typical floor detergent for cleaning and it has an amazing life expectancy of up to 40 years or more. Terrazzo flooring is ideal for large commercial areas such as shopping malls, office building lobbies, food courts and other indoor spaces that have high foot traffic.
Epoxy Flake Coating
Epoxy flake coating mixes in flakes from different sizes with a coloured epoxy base coat to create the desired effect. It is then finished with a clear sealer that enhances its resistance to chemicals and impact. Its functionality is similar to epoxy terrazzo flooring, but it spots a different pattern.
Epoxy Floor Coating
Also known as epoxy floor paint, the epoxy floor coating comes in a single colour without any patterns. The finish of this coating is available in matte, gloss, or satin. They are generally used in places that have a moderate amount of activities such as commercial and industrial areas.
Epoxy self-levellers flatten and smoothen by themselves when it is poured onto the substrate. Meaning there is no need to use tools to manually flatten and smoothen the surface. Self-levellers require a primer, a self-levelling base, and a sealer, and their finishing will carry a glossy and smooth look. It is also durable and strong, making it suitable for heavy-duty environments.
Anti-static Epoxy Flooring
When a person walks, the separation of the footwear and the floor creates negative charges which lead to an electrical imbalance in the body. This electrical imbalance could lead to a hazardous situation if the person gets into close proximity to hazardous materials that are discharged by this electrical imbalance.
Anti-static epoxy flooring helps to prevent this from happening by grounding a person’s electrical charges as they move around the area. This coating is ideal for places such as food processing facilities, laboratories, and places with electronic goods and equipment.
These anti-static floor systems are installed in compliance with antistatic standards (e.g. ANSI/ ESD S20.20) where technical and administrative requirement standards are provided in establishing, implementing, and maintaining electrostatic discharge in environments that contain sensitive equipment or explosive contents.
Epoxy screeds are a heavy-duty layer used between the substrate and the resin layer. They are a thicker type of layer between 4mm to 6mm which are used as part of a medium to heavy-duty flooring system due to their high strength and great impact as well as chemical resistance. Epoxy screeds are commonly applied to flooring systems in industrial areas such as manufacturing, food and beverage processing and so on.
Benefits of Epoxy Flooring
There are a variety of benefits of epoxy flooring due to its versatility in many different kinds of environments and conditions. Let’s have a look at what makes these a highly preferred choice for flooring, especially for commercial areas.
The wide range of customisable options from colour, gloss level (satin, gloss, matte), and designs make epoxy flooring a very attractive and functional choice for most spaces. In fact, the colour options can be used to highlight different zones in the applied area such as in hospitals.
Epoxy is impervious and seamless. It protects the substrate from dirt, liquid, chemicals, and other contaminants. Thanks to this quality, epoxy flooring is easy to clean, requiring only a standard mop and general-purpose cleaner, making it a great long-term value investment.
Epoxy can be mixed with different kinds of materials to create different levels of durability, resistance, and profiles. This makes it great for those who are considering safety as a priority for flooring. For example, a non-slip profile could be added to the epoxy flooring of hospitals or food and beverage processing factories to ensure safety. Similarly, anti-static properties could be added to the epoxy flooring for storage areas that house flammable materials.
The durability of epoxy flooring can be adjusted to suit light to heavy loads. Epoxy floors installed in industrial areas can withstand heavy loads of daily use from the equipment and day-to-day manufacturing processes. On top of that, epoxy floors can be made to be highly resistant to chemicals and impact, making it an ideal choice for meeting the durability requirements of industrial floors.
Long-term Cost Savings
Epoxy flooring may seem more costly as compared to other conventional flooring choices during installation. However, it is more cost-saving in the long term as it is crack, fade, abrasion and stain resistant. Epoxy flooring eliminates the need for replacement, repairs, steam cleaning, and so on, which are concerns that you may have with other flooring options.
Epoxy flooring is not only highly durable and resistant to wear and tear itself, but it also helps to cut down the effects of heavy vehicle movements by maintaining a flat and smooth surface for the vehicles to operate. With the reduced time and costs needed to maintain and repair the flooring as well as the vehicles due to the heavy vehicle movements, more time and resources can be channelled into the business itself.
Epoxy flooring is one of the most versatile options when it comes to flooring. It is ideal for medical, food and beverage processing, commercial, healthcare, aviation, grocery, educational, and industrial floorings. It is highly customisable with different characteristics to meet the requirements of most spaces, such as having antistatic, non-slipping, heavy-duty, and other desirable aspects.
Polyurethane Flooring vs. Epoxy Flooring Systems
Besides epoxy flooring, another type of resin floor that is commonly used is polyurethane resins (PU) which carry some similar characteristics to epoxy but are also different. The similarity is that it is also seamless and is made with 3 layers, namely the substrate, the primer, and the resin layer.
However, the difference lies in the molecular structure of the Polyurethane floor coating, which is higher in density when compared to epoxy flooring, making polyurethane stronger, more durable, and more resilient. PU flooring is a great choice for environments that face conditions like physical impacts, corrosive chemicals, extreme temperatures, and heavy footfall on a daily basis. For example, PU flooring could withstand trucks with heavy loads daily and also tolerate more heat as compared to epoxy flooring. Most PU also has great temperature resistance, tolerating temperatures up to 120°C while some epoxy floorings only have temperature resistance up to 65°C.
Even though PU comes with a lot of advantages over epoxy, it is not a one-fits-all solution either. PU is great when it comes to durability, but epoxy has the advantage over PU in terms of versatility and aesthetics. PU comes in a single colour and does not offer other aesthetic options. Compared to that, epoxy has a wide range of colours, effects, styles, and décor options, allowing installers to match the aesthetic requirements of a space.
Installing Epoxy Flooring
There are many epoxy flooring suppliers in the market today, ready to handle everything from advising all the way to installation at the right price. However, it’s often more cost-effective to DIY if you are looking to install it in smaller areas such as your driveway or garage. How to get started is outlined below:
Ensure Epoxy is Suitable for Your Floor
The first step is to ensure that the resin could bind with your floor properly by making sure that there is no floor moisture. You can do so by taping a plastic bag on all sides onto your floor and waiting for 24 hours. If the plastic bag is dry underneath, this means that there is no moisture present and your floor is suitable for epoxy coating. Besides that, if your floor is concrete, you should check whether a concrete sealer was applied. Simply pour 1 to 2 cups of water onto the floor and check if the water beads up. If it does, it means that your floor is not suitable. If you want the coat to be applied properly, you shouldn’t paint your floor as well. If it has been painted on, you will need to remove the paint before applying the epoxy coating.
Cleaning and Priming Before Epoxy Application
It’s important to clean and prime your floor before applying the epoxy coating to ensure that there are no issues with the coating after application. To begin, remove any oil or grease stains from your floor with a degreaser. Next is to check and ensure that any debris or rubber residues are completely removed from the floor as they can cause imperfections such as bubbles to your coating. You can use sandpaper to sand off rubber residues, and a vacuum to remove the debris. You can then proceed to clean the floor with a pressure washer to remove any remaining impurities from the floor.
The next step is to etch the floor. This can get a little complicated as it involves using muriatic or hydrochloric acid. First, mix the acid with 3 parts of water. Next, wet the floor with water and proceed to spray the floor with the diluted acid. Wait about 2 to 15 minutes for the acid to stop bubbling, then, proceed to remove the acid with a mixture of baking soda and water. Finally, rinse off the floor with clean water and let it dry overnight. If there are any cracks the following day, use an epoxy crack filler to fill them up.
Deciding on Epoxy Products
There are 2 types of epoxies, one is solvent-based and the other is water-based. Solvent-based epoxy resins come in many colours but as they are made from harmful substances, they may release hazardous fumes while water-based epoxy resins are clear in colour but are not hazardous. Make sure the space you are working on is ventilated if you choose to use solvent-based epoxy.
Before proceeding to apply the epoxy coating, you may also consider applying an epoxy primer. Primers as its name implies, prime the surface to help the epoxy bond better with the substrate.
Make sure to have enough epoxy product to apply 2 coats. Before applying the coat, wear protective gear such as gloves for eye protection, goggles, a proper mask that filters fumes, and rubber boots to protect yourself. Turn off any power that is in the vicinity if there are electrical appliances or power points.
Applying the Epoxy Paint or Coating
Apply a layer of epoxy primer before you move on to the epoxy coating. Use a nap roller to do so, and work from the back of the room towards the exit. Leave the primer to dry for 12 to 24 hours before applying your first epoxy coat.
Similar to the primer, apply using a paint roller and work towards the exit. Wait for 24 hours for the first coat to dry. Before applying your second coat, check for any cracks, uneven surfaces, or holes, and use an epoxy crack filler and sandpaper to flatten the surface. If you are sanding down uneven surfaces, remember to vacuum the area after that to clear the floor from any unwanted debris.
Once your crack filler dries after 12 to 16 hours, apply the second coat. At this point, you may consider adding a non-skid product to your second coat to enhance it. Allow your second coat to dry for 24 hours and you are done!
Epoxy flooring is a fantastic choice amongst other flooring solutions as it is aesthetically versatile, durable, and highly resistant to impact, chemicals, and heat due to protective coatings. Even though it may appear to be costly, it is cost-efficient in the long run due to the ease of maintenance and long lifespan. If you are considering installing epoxy coating onto your floor, it is important to understand the needs and requirements of the space before deciding on the epoxy flooring that would work best for you.