So you’re thinking of coating your garage floor, patio, basement…maybe your driveway.You’re beginning the process of choosing from an infinite array of coating products and floor coating “systems” and determining whether your project is a DIY or warrants a professional installer. This is a daunting process.
You may have heard about “epoxies”, 2-component coatings (Part A and Part B) readily available from your local hardware store. If you didn’t know otherwise, you may think this was the only type of 2-component coating available. In fact, there are several…each with important advantages and disadvantages. Choose the wrong product type for your project and you’ll be re-coating within a year!
In this blog, I provide an overview of the types of floor coating products available.
FLOOR COATING CATEGORIES
There are 3 main types of floor coatings:
- 1. Epoxies
- 2. Polyurethanes
- 3. Polyureas & Polyaspartics
Before discussing each coating type, it’s important to note that within each coating category there are huge variations in product quality. So even if you select the right coating for your project, selecting a low-grade brand may produce a poor outcome (e.g., chemical staining from car tires, “ambering” from UV exposure, “delamination” due to poor adhesion or moisture failure). Be wary of inexperienced contractors with so-called “1-day systems” and of hardware store “DIY kits”…these are destined to fail quickly!
Epoxies are the “problem-solving” coatings. They take “unfriendly substrates” like concrete and make them “friendly” for the application of subsequent coats (it is important to note that most properly installed coating systems consist of multiple coats, often of differing coating types).
In the epoxy category, there are many sub-categories of which I will discuss the 3 most common in garage floor coating applications today:
- • 100% Solids Epoxies
- • DIY Epoxies
- • Hydro Epoxies
100% Solids Epoxies
These 2-component products are often used as “primer coats”; however, they may be used as “stand-alone” coatings given the right substrate conditions. They are referred to as “100% solids” because the product cures through a chemical process and not by way of evaporation of solvents or water….if 4 mils of this product is applied to a substrate (a “mil” is a unit of thickness equal to 1/1000 of an inch), the end coating will be 4 mils thick! Because of its high-solids content, this product can be applied thickly, burying small substrate imperfections and producing an extremely durable floor coating. However, most industrial 100% solid epoxies have a short “pot life” (i.e., the duration over which the epoxy remains in liquid form in its container…once Parts A and B are mixed)…and “cook” in the pail. Because of this, this product is best left to the professional installer.
DIY epoxies are designed for the amateur applicator. These epoxies have a long “pot life”. The longer the pot life, the longer the user has to apply the coating without the worry that it will set during application (i.e., it’s “user-friendly”). Consequently, these epoxies are a favorite of the DIY crowd and a multitude of kits are available at your local hardware store for a relatively low price (albeit with low % solids and high VOC content…read “unhealthy!). “Low solids” means a thin film that will not last as long as high grade industrial epoxies!
DIY epoxies have additional limitations…they “chalk”, “amber”, or fade if exposed to UV light (the sun!) and are susceptible to staining and tire lift. So applying this product to an exposed driveway or patio, for example, could be disastrous (due to exposure to UV light, oil drippings, tires, etc.).
Two-component hydro epoxies are also used as “primer coats”, have similar limitations to the 100% solids epoxy, but have a lower solids content (in the ~70% range). These coatings provide deep substrate penetration and are used to mitigate substrate moisture problems (hydro static pressure). So how do you know your garage or basement is moisture-laden? You need to test for moisture using a moisture meter! Using a standard DIY epoxy kit in lieu of a hydro epoxy on flooring with high moisture content would be grave mistake.
The next product type is polyurethanes. This coating type uses an “older technology” that does not provide the binding strength or millage (“build”) of an epoxy. However, when applied (in the proper re-coat window), say over an epoxy primer coat, it provides highly durable, application-friendly, UV- and stain-resistant flooring. However, beware of an additional limitation….polyurethanes are not recommended for garages as they are susceptible to staining by the plasticizers in “new technology” tires. Given this limitation, polyurethanes are typically used on e.g., exterior patios and in buildings were vehicles are not parked for extended periods.
POLYASPARTICS / POLYUREAS
Polyaspartics and polyureas are 2-component coating types that are available in both clear and pigmented (color) forms. They are a hybrid between an epoxy and polyurethane (and hence are called Poly Hybrids at GFC.com). They have high solids content and provide extreme chemical and UV resistance. As such, these products will not “amber” over time (like epoxies) when exposed to light. Most importantly, poly hybrids cure quickly and permit 1-day application when concrete conditions are suitable. They also allow for a quicker “return to service” versus other coatings.
On the flip side, this coating type has a “pot life” of only 25-30 minutes…and this time decreases as temperature and humidity rise. So poly hybrids are only recommended for use by seasoned, well-trained professionals (…this is not a DIY product!).
While there are different categories of coatings as described above, it is how the applicator uses these products together as “coating systems” that ultimately produce the beautiful and durable floor coatings desired. So join us next blog when we discuss “coating systems”….