Concrete floors are everywhere. While commercial settings in office buildings, malls and showrooms may see them overlaid with carpet, tile or wood, it is more common in industrial applications to treat the concrete directly by Industrial epoxy flooring or polishing.
REASONS FOR COATING EPOXY FLOORS:
Epoxy floors are treated for several reasons.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH AND SANITATION:
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought hygiene and sanitation to the forefront of our concerns. Bare concrete is rarely perfectly smooth and can be a trap for germs and pollutants, especially as it deteriorates from normal use. An Industrial epoxy floor coating seals the surface and makes it much easier to clean. This is particularly important in food manufacturing, but of course applies to all industries.
All concrete deteriorates during regular use, which in manufacturing plants, can be quite severe. After a time, concrete dust can be a significant problem in industries that need to be as dust-free as possible; food processing, printing, computers, and any industry using robotics or other sensitive equipment.
Bare concrete, though extremely functional and durable, is not particularly attractive. Treating the floor by industrial grade epoxy floor coating or by floor polishing can vastly improve the appearance of the plant.
EPOXY FLOOR BASICS:
Though coatings labelled as “floor paint” are fine for residential or light commercial use, they are not really suitable for use in areas subject to heavy traffic or abuse such as in a manufacturing plant. Here a two- component epoxy or epoxy/urethane system would be the correct choice.
Like everything in the coatings industry, success of the finished product ultimately starts with proper preparation. Concrete floors start with many variables that can influence the outcome. How old or new is the floor? Has it been previously coated? Are there contaminants such as oil? Have unseen clear sealers that might interfere with adhesion been applied? Is there moisture trapped in the concrete? All these factors can contribute to failure of an industrial epoxy floor coating.
The first step in preparing a previously uncoated floor is to remove all “laitance”, which is the weak layer of watery cement formed at the surface during trowelling when the concrete is first poured. This is usually done by shot-blasting using a special sandblasting machine configured with a vacuum to minimize dust. Alternatively, power grinding is sometimes used. No matter what method is used, the end product of a properly prepared floor is one that is clean and that has a slightly rough surface profile that will enable the epoxy to properly bond.
Floors with an existing epoxy need to be properly evaluated. In some cases, repairing and re-coating may be all that is needed, but in others it may be advisable to contact industrial floor coating contractors to completely remove the existing coating and start again.
TYPES OF EPOXY FLOOR SYSTEMS:
There is a very wide range of floor systems available, and at varying price points. The chief determining factor is how much material is being applied. A basic floor system as outlined below is typically applied at about 20-25 mil thickness (1 mil = 1/1,000 of an inch), which is about 4 times thicker than typical paint, whereas some systems may be a half inch or more.
Typically, a basic floor system would be used in a manufacturing plant or warehouse – shot-blast and apply two coats of 100%-solids epoxy. (This sounds like an oxymoron, as the epoxy is clearly in liquid form when applied. The easiest way to understand this is to consider that regular house paints are typically around 50%-solids, which means that about half of the paint, whether water or solvents, will evaporate into the air as it cures. With 100%-solids epoxy, all of the solvents remain in the cured paint film, which is why these epoxies are virtually odourless when being applied.)
A sand broadcast floor is much thicker – here sand is impregnated into the epoxy film to add strength and to make the floor slip resistant. This is typically used in food processing plants where there is pooling water or automotive manufacturing areas where there is likely to be oil accumulations.
The ultimate for any industrial grade epoxy floor coating would be a troweled epoxy system. This is applied at 3/8th of an inch or more to level the floor and provide a completely smooth surface. This can be quite costly because it is labour-intensive and because of the large amount of expensive material used but is the best choice in some circumstances.
A final system worth mentioning is an ESD (ElectroStatic Dissipative) flooring, commonly called “Anti-Static”. This type of industrial epoxy flooring is particularly needed in clean rooms and in the manufacture of electronic equipment. All of us know the experience of walking across a carpet and getting a shock when we touch a door knob; this is static electricity built up in our body discharging. When you consider that it takes about 3,000 volts of static electricity discharge for us to feel a mild shock, and realize that sensitive electronic equipment can be damaged with as little as 10 volts, you can see we have a serious potential problem that is invisible. Without going into the technical details, ESD epoxy flooring is designed to handle this problem and make for a workplace that is safe for electronic equipment.
CONCRETE FLOOR POLISHING:
An alternative to industrial epoxy floor coating that has gained popularity in the last 20 years is concrete floor polishing. (Many of the floors in big-box stores are done in this manner.) This is done by diamond grinding with finer and finer grit; depending on the number of passes and the how fine the grit, the concrete can be polished to a mirror-like finish. During the grinding process, sealers are added to densify and harden the concrete to create an extremely durable and impervious surface that requires almost no maintenance other than cleaning. The concrete can also be stained to different colours to create more interesting floors than a concrete grey.