Common Epoxy Floor Problems

epoxy floor problems

Epoxy Floor Problems

Epoxy is one of the best floor finishes for commercial and industrial applications available today. Because epoxy is so durable as well highly attractive, epoxy floor finishes are in high demand. Epoxy is also affordable considering the long-term performance it offers. But epoxy floor problems do happen, especially when improperly applied.

epoxy flooring appearance

Epoxy finishes usually appear on concrete floors where high traffic volume, clean conditions and excellent appearance are necessary. Many facilities that benefit from epoxy floors include automobile showrooms, pharmaceutical manufacturers, laboratories, food and beverage processors, aeronautic maintenance and even general purpose warehouses. The cost per coverage return on epoxy makes it the ideal floor choice for low maintenance and easy cleaning.

Many people make the mistake of thinking epoxy is just a type of paint. It’s not. While epoxy is a coating that goes over an existing flooring subsurface, it’s actually a blend of components that chemically react to produce a unique product with strength and durability properties that are nearly impossible to match.

It’s misleading for suppliers to brand products as “epoxy paint.” This is where do-it-yourselfers get in trouble. Epoxy floor coverings are tricky to work with and best left to professional applicators. Otherwise, there’s bound to be trouble such as bubbles in the epoxy floor coating and epoxy floor blistering.

People often ask how to repair epoxy floor coating and “can I epoxy over epoxy?” The truth is it’s just not that easy. The key to having a successful epoxy floor application doesn’t lie in one simple trick. It’s a highly variable combination of techniques and conditions that professional epoxy floor coaters have perfected. To understand how to work with epoxy, the first thing you need to know is what exactly it is.

What is Epoxy Floor Coating?

Epoxy is a two-part, thermosetting product composed of epoxide resin and a polyamine hardener. The resin gives an epoxy finish its depth and color character. The hardener component acts as a catalyst, giving it strength. When carefully mixed at precisely the right ratio, a chemical reaction occurs.

Epoxy doesn’t dry like paint. It cures. The curing process creates polymer structures that closely cross-link during an exothermic process to give an epoxy floor finish superior durability and strength. The final product is unique. Epoxy is like no other as long as it’s properly prepared and applied.

Epoxy chemical knowledge and excellent commercial products have been around for years. Since the internet and the explosion of renovation shows, however, epoxy finish problems have become more common. True epoxy finishes are two-part procedures, except in certain cases in which a third aggregate component provides additional grit for improved traction.

“Epoxy paint” is a marketing term that manufacturers and suppliers invented to satisfy a high demand for DIY and home epoxy floor treatments. These one-part paints do contain some epoxy resin but don’t have anywhere near the amount of solid content that commercial two-part epoxy products have. Solids give epoxy finishes their thickness.

Top quality epoxy resin products contain a high percentage of solids that stay on the floor after application. A rating of 100% solids means that all of it remains in the finish after curing. That creates a thick, sturdy and durable base. 50% solid ratings found in inferior products result in half of the product being a solvent that evaporates leaving the floor finish half as thick as professional materials.

roller applied epoxy flooring

For example, roller-applied epoxy containing 100% solids leaves a wet film thickness (WFT) of approximately 10 millimeters. When it cures, that thickness stays at 10 millimeters. The same roller-applied technique with 50% solid resin goes on at 10 millimeters but cures to a final finish of only 5 millimeters. That is a lot of finish lost due to lack of product knowledge likely misguided by an attempt to economize.

Like any other product, you get what you pay for with epoxy floor finishes. This applies to hiring an applicator and their level of care in subsurface preparation, product mixing and application procedure. Correctly applied, epoxy finishes have tremendous benefits.

  • Durability is a primary advantage. Epoxy floors are sturdy, and they last for ages.
  • Strength is an extenuation of durability. Epoxy is extremely resistant to damage.
  • Because epoxy material is tight and non-porous, it’s easy to clean, making maintenance a breeze.
  • The aesthetics of epoxy are excellent. Epoxy finishes come in a wide range of color and sheen.
  • Epoxy comes in a variety of different types. Additives include metal flaking and clear coating.
  • Safety is a top benefit of epoxy floors, which can create non-skid and non-slip surfaces.
  • Using a high-gloss finish in your epoxy flooring systems will yield exponential increases of LRV values ( light reflectance) which thereby will reduce overall energy usage from overhead lighting fixtures and also will increase productivity.
  • Epoxy is fast-curing and quick to apply, which means that the shutdown required to install it is minimal.
  • Cost-effectiveness is another huge benefit. Epoxy lasts for years and provides an excellent return on investment.
  • Chemical resistance is a vital aspect of surfaces at industrial sites. Epoxy is the perfect choice for places that use chemicals, which might spill on the floor.

With so many benefits streaming from epoxy floor coats, it’s unfortunate that they can come with problems. But they don’t have to. Epoxy floor coatings that are professionally applied are problem-free, provided the applicator knows what they’re doing.

Common Epoxy Floor Problems

Virtually all problems with epoxy floor coating originate from one source – the applicator. Unqualified epoxy floor applicators fail to accurately assess site specifics like temperature, moisture and airflow. They often fail to prepare the subsurface to make sure the epoxy coat will bond and to blend the exact ratio of resin and hardener, which is critical to success. They might also neglect to mix the two-part epoxy products to ensure correct air entrainment. And unknowledgeable applicators fail to follow time-critical steps that result in a professional, long-lasting finish.

The harsh reality of epoxy floor finishes is that botched jobs are almost impossible to touch up. In most cases, there’s no alternative to stripping the faulty finish and starting over. That’s a lot of money wasted on time and materials that could’ve been saved if only the applicator knew their stuff.

Professional epoxy floor finishers are often called to assess a newly-placed floor showing problems. Most experienced floor finishers who regularly work with or specialize in epoxy see the same issues time and time again. Here are the most common epoxy floor problems and the diagnosis of their causes:

Bubble formations are by far the most common problem with epoxy floors. Usually, bubbles are only pinhead-sized and appear in clusters called honeycombs. Mistakes mixing the correct ratio of resin to hardener can lead to air entrapment or entrainment, which causes epoxy floor bubbles.

Excessive mixing such as using a power drill and a spiral paddle at high speeds also produces bubbles. You can easily avoid this by using a wide mixing blade set at a low 300-500 rpm rate and slowly circling the mix in a large container. Once air-entrained bubbles are set in an epoxy mix, they’re next to impossible to remove. You’ll have to discard the mix because if you use it on the floor, bubbles will appear.

Another source of epoxy bubbles is temperature differences. The substrate, like a concrete surface, needs to be at a temperature that’s compatible with the epoxy mix. The same goes for resin and hardener temperatures. Excessive temperature variation leads to trapped air that tries to equalize. This results in very visible bubbling and rejected work.

Blisters and craters are the second most common epoxy trouble. Blisters are large bubbles that contain trapped air. Craters are the opposite. They occur when bubbles pop and leave an indentation in the epoxy surface. Improperly prepared concrete that’s porous and contains air can lead to outgassing from the subsurface, which, in turn, causes large blisters and craters.

Air trapped in concrete voids reacts when the freshly covered epoxy begins its curing or exothermal action. The chemical reaction creates heat. This releases moisture in an air pocket making it expand. This forces air to the surface where it forms either a blister or a popped crater.

Film and flow appearance Film and flow appearance stand right out in a bad epoxy floor job. The finish appearance is dull and uneven. This happens when the epoxy coat is applied too cold or too hot. It also occurs when excessive airflow blows over a curing surface.

how temperature affect epoxy flooring

Preventing film problems is easy. Epoxy is highly temperature sensitive, so you can apply it when both the mix and the subsurface are between 60°F and 85°F. Temperatures above and below those are sure to cause a dull film to appear on the outer surface.

Flow is another easy problem to prevent. Flow problems appear as wavy irregularities on the epoxy surface and are very noticeable under certain light conditions. The usual culprit is a ventilation fan set in place to control hardener fumes or a large opening allowing wind to blow across the curing surface.

Poor adhesion and peeling can have many causes. This fatal flaw is always due to an inexperienced or careless applicator. Peeling and poor adhesion come from:

  • Poor subsurface preparation
  • Contaminated materials like grease, oil and solvent not being removed
  • Incorrect mixing ratio of resin and hardener
  • Improper mixing techniques
  • Wide temperature variations
  • Moisture trapped in the subsurface

Other Common Epoxy Floor Problems

Not all epoxy floor problems are as noticeable as peeling and blistering. Other common problems regularly occur from lack of applicator detail and precautionary steps. Experienced epoxy floor workers know how to prevent these other common issues.

  • Tacky surfaces and soft areas result from improper mixing and temperature variation. The primary cause is the lack of a catalyst occurred during curing leaving a weak, uncured and tacky surface. The solution is to make sure to use exactly the right ratio of resin to hardener.
  • Surface blushing shows as high and low sheens in the finished product. When amine chemically reacts in the blended resin, surface blushing may occur. Excessive air moisture is another common culprit. It can also come from application in an ambient temperature that’s too low. You can correct this by using heaters or dehumidifiers.
  • Lack of uniformity comes from applicator technique rather than from bad mixes or conditions. Epoxy floor finishes are finicky to apply due to temperature, time and resin viscosity. An inexperienced or careless applicator can leave streaks, dry edges and highly-noticeable roller marks.
  • Fish eyes are imperfections usually caused by residual silicone or oil that wasn’t thoroughly removed during surface preparation. They can occur due to placing a top coat over primer that hasn’t yet cured. Proper and careful prep can prevent fish eyes.
  • Lumps, globs and bumps in the top coat come from poor mixing, improper subsurface cleaning or using application equipment that leaves lint behind. Once these imperfections set in, the only solution is removing the epoxy finish and starting over.

dull epoxy flooring

  • Dullness usually results from excessive humidity, which is anything over 60%. Dull, lusterless floors can also result from condensation covering the floor before it properly cures. This is a common problem during rainy weather or highly humid periods.

How to Avoid Epoxy Floor Problems

When so many things can go wrong with an epoxy floor finish, it’s a wonder any inexperienced person would try this on their own. Epoxy floors are cost-effective over years of trouble-free service — provided a skilled applicator who is aware of common problems and makes sure to correctly prepare the surface applies them properly. But epoxy floors can be very expensive when an unskilled applicator leaves a finished product in a mess.

The simplest way to prevent problems with an epoxy floor coating is to hire a professional who has the experience and knowledge to apply your epoxy finish, so it’s problem-free for its entire life. Professional epoxy floor applicators have the training and tools to do it right the first time. They know how to assess your site conditions and how to prepare all types of subsurface properly.

Professional applicators know exactly how to mix the correct resin/hardener ratio, and they know the precise mixing methods needed to prevent air entrapment and lumps. They anticipate and control temperature and humidity conditions to avoid dull, tacky and blistery finishes. And epoxy floor professionals have advanced and skillful application techniques that leave the finished floor streak-free.

Why risk ruining an expensive epoxy floor finish by leaving it to an amateur or attempting a do-it-yourself project? The simple solution for success is to call Alpine Painting and Restoration. We’re professionals with 27 years of epoxy floor finish experience in commercial and industrial applications.

We’re committed to quality results with a high emphasis on long-term preservation. We serve the tri-state area with a wide variety of epoxy floor finish services and are highly familiar with the latest epoxy products and application procedures.

Don’t leave your epoxy floor work to an amateur. For guaranteed professional results, call Alpine Painting and Restoration today at 215 348-4410 or contact us online.

Adventure Aquarium Project

Back in May our firm was contacted by Herschend Entertainment, the management company of the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, for the execution of high-performance coatings that were immersible for the newly fabricated and refreshed penguin exhibit.

This presented unique challenges because we had to install high-performance coatings that gave the illusion of being natural rock face and cluster that mimicked the penguin’s natural environment. After consultation with Tnemec Coatings Company, it was determined that we should use their water based immersion grade high performance 100% solids epoxy coating system ( Product Designations 27WB) in a multiple of ten different colors that had to be overlaid on each other to bring about the natural look of the fabricated rock faces.

The accompanying pictures will illustrate the gunite fabrication of the boulders and shore line rock formations. Preparation methodology was hydro blasting with mild acidic solution, neutralization with sodium hydroxide based detergent, installation of polyamytal-amine epoxy solvent based base coat to provide maximum adhesion to substrate (Tnemec Product Designation N69) and two 6 mil top coats of the 27WB product to provide a solid basilar background color and final top coat installation of various color multiples and optics to provide the final finished look prior to the filing of the penguin pool.

We are happy to say that the project came off without a hitch or any delays which was very challenging due to an extraordinarily wet spring and the aquarium was able to meet the grand opening date of the newly refreshed penguin exhibit. Please feel free to review the following images.

Project Images

penguin project special coatings penguin aquarium project      

Dejana Truck & Utility Equipment Restoration

Recently, our office received a phone call from a Project Manager for a high powered, light truck retro fit and parts manufacturing company and installer. He indicated to me that they just made settlement on a new building asset and space in the New Britain/Bucks county area to facilitate the company’s expansion focus; the former Skee-Ball manufacturing facility.

The facility had not seen any real attention either aesthetically, or from an asset preservation standpoint, in many, many years. To be quite honest, the facility was looking pretty haggard and tired. The Vice President of Operations of Dejana Truck & Utility Equipment asked me to visit the site and offer any pertinent suggestions, as well as provide a quote to transform the exterior of the building from the tired old girl that she was into a 21st century service facility that would accurately reflect the company colors, as well as the standard company visual that they are known for.

The accompanying images will illustrate the before, during and after images of the project. A capsule overview of the projects methodology is as follows:

  • Waterblast entire exterior with high strength caustic detergent to remove all oxidation and ancillary surface contaminants
  • Inspect all corrugated panel, and fasteners.  Replace and re-fasten all compromised fasteners
  • Spray apply one heavy bodied coat of rust inhibitive corrosion control epoxy primer
  • Spray apply ultra-high performance acrylic finish to all prime coated metal to accurately mimic a factory finish

1st-image 2nd-image

  • All split faced block was water blasted, patch pointed where necessary and re-caulked where necessary (failed expansion joints)
  • All block walls received one coat of 100% acrylic cinder block filler primer coating
  • All prime coated cinder block received two coats of Pearl Gray high performance acrylic masonry coating and finish

4th-image exterior-after

As illustrated above, you can see that the transformation of the asset was nothing less than dramatic.  The deep blue color, as well as the Pearl Gray, is Dejana Truck & Utility Equipment’s corporate colors which are universally applied through their many branches.

Industrial Flooring Remediation

Recently, our office received a phone call from a potential client that was extremely distraught about some recent work that was performed on his new facility expansion. The client is a local sign and graphics company that specializes in vehicle and banner advertising for a plethora of companies local to my firm. As their business was growing, there was a real need for additional space to accommodate their installs for their clients, as well as the growth of their company. The client scrimped and saved for the better part of 36 months to accommodate the cost of the 5,000 square foot expansion. In an effort to keep costs down, the client acted as his own construction manager. All was going well until the concrete contractor, that was hired to place and finish the concrete, performed substandard work. This caused great distress to the client, because in order to install the vinyl graphics on larger vehicles (box trucks, triaxles, etc.), his wife, as well as his staff, has to utilize electric scissor lifts to facilitate the installs. This was now at risk because the floor was drastically uneven and unlevel, so much so that using lift equipment would create a precariously dangerous situation posing great physical risk trying to do these installs.

Unfortunately, the client went back to the concrete contractor and tried to plead his position, but, as is so often the case, once the contractor was paid, the contractor had no intention whatsoever to remediate the situation. We were asked to come down and assess the situation and give our opinions on how to fix it. Upon visual inspection of the slab, I was appalled at the amateurish ineptitude of the install by the contractor. And I was quite concerned for the client and his wife because this is a small family business. They were inconsolably upset at the possibility that they may have lost a huge sum of money as part of this construction. I assured them that we would pursue whatever methods and methodology at our disposal to get the floor into a workable and safe condition

We developed the following plan to remediate this floor and make it safe:

  • Aggressive mechanical scarification of the concrete that was above the natural level line
  • Diamond grind entire floor with prep master equipment to smooth out scarified areas
  • Bring in temporary, three phase generator power to support and power up our grinding equipment
  • Repair all shrinkage cracks and spalls with epoxy mortar

Initial Scarification

Illustrates severity of the uneven floor

Typical scarified profile

Image illustrates clearly the ponding situation

  • Grind down repairs as necessary
  • Install penetrating epoxy primer to prepared floor
  • Install high solids epoxy intermediate coat to prime coated floor
  • Install high solids epoxy background color to intermediately coated floor

Portable 3 phase generator to support our grinding equipment

Diamond grinder to level out floor and provide proper surface profile

Properly prepared floor

Penetrating primer applied

 

  • Operator broadcasting multi-colored blended flake to entire freshly coated floor
  • Operator installing a clear urethane lock down coat to permanently seal flake into coating system
  • Final finish of completely remediated floor

Intermediate coat applied

color applied to prepare for flake broadcast

Close up of flake broadcast

Finished floor with clear coat installed

 

I am pleased to report the floor has been in service for the better part of 6 months with absolutely zero issues and has exhibited an easy to maintain flooring surface concerning housekeeping and preservation of aesthetic. And the new shop shows well on customer visits and new customer tours. Most importantly….SAFE to work on. To learn more about our commercial and industrial flooring services, click here.

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