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 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.
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.
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.
- 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.