Epoxy Flooring Facts & Fiction. What You Must Know & What you Absolutely Don't Have To Know
The first thing you need to know is that garage floor epoxy coatings are not like regular floor paint and that all epoxies are not the same.
So exactly what are epoxy floor coatings? Epoxy floor coatings are usually two part solids based, solvent based or water based. Epoxy flooring consists of a Resin part and a Hardener part, much like epoxy glue. Regular garage floor paints are one part oil based or water based. High quality epoxy floor paints are neither one part, oil based nor water based and all epoxies are not the same and you need to know why so you don't have to do your floor a second or third time.
What You Need to Know About Epoxy Flooring
If you are like most people you most likely have never dealt with epoxy paints before and simply consider it just another category of paint like a semi-gloss or an enamel. Placing epoxy flooring in the same category as conventional garage floor paints is like saying a Volkswagen Beetle is the same as a Ferrari because they are both cars. An epoxy floor coating is usually a two part coating that you mix together rather than a single component. An epoxy floor coating will adhere to your garage floor or any concrete floor for that matter way better than any conventional oil based, water or enamel paint, think epoxy glue type adhesion vs duct tape adhesion. Your floor will have a much more dramatic look to it with a super high gloss finish no conventional paint can match, it will also be waterproof, mold & mildew proof. A good epoxy floor coating when cured is just about stain proof and cleaning it is similar to cleaning your Teflon pan. Our epoxy coatings are available in many different colors with custom colors available for larger size floors. We also have decorative color flakes that can be added into the epoxy for a granite type look. In addition to all of the above features the best part is your ArmorGarage epoxy flooring is an easy installation and can last you up to 20 years! Below we go over what we have learned from over 25 years of being in the epoxy business and from being the largest epoxy flooring installers in the Tri State area. We've done every type of floor there is with every type of product ever invented so we know exactly what works and what doesn't work and it's a reason why we are the largest online epoxy flooring sellers.
Are There Different Kinds of Garage Coatings?
The best floor epoxies are solid based; with Aliphatic 100% solids being the best type. What does that mean? It means that with 100% solids you are getting 100% paint so that whatever you put down is what you get. With epoxies that are not 100% solids, whatever percentage lower than 100% is the percent of the paint that will evaporate away as it dries. The part that evaporates is either solvents in the case of solids paints or water in the case of water based epoxy paints. For example, if an epoxy is 50% solids it means that 50% of the coating you apply will evaporate away as it dries. The lower the percentage of solids the lower the quality is a good rule of thumb, with water based paints being the lowest quality. The exceptions are Primers & Topcoats, Primers usually have a lower percentage of solids because they are made thinner to kind of soak into the pores of the concrete, Topcoats should have Urethane which displaces a percentage of solids. So itís ok for primers & topcoats to be lower in solids, just try not to use water based products. If you see a WB in the product name or part number it's water based. Also one final note high percentage solids epoxies are not as good as 100% solids epoxies. Never have been never will be. Same with Cycloaliphatic Epoxies which are a cost saving Hybrid Epoxy that wear prematurely and yellow.
100% solids epoxy is not just for hiding blemishes it's to make sure you're purchasing the highest grade epoxy possible, place the highest build possible to avoid hot tire lifting when using chips. Polyurea coatings are similar to lower percentage solids epoxies with similar performance issues. We classify these as glorified concrete sealers.
One Part Epoxy Coatings & Coatings That Don't Need Floor Prep
One thing we know for sure is that all the one part epoxies we've tried don't work. They tend to be thin, difficult to work with and not a good idea when using color flakes. They're thin to begin with and then when you broadcast flakes onto them the flakes displace some of the epoxy underneath them leaving you with an even thinner coating on the concrete. In heavier flake applications the flake can actually sink down onto the concrete meaning you have little to no epoxy on the concrete. This is why we don't use color flakes with our commercial coating. The base coat is designed to be a little thinner to soak into the concrete and it works great for what it's designed for. But it doesn't hold flakes well and we don't want flakes displacing any of the coating. It's why our Ultra Military, Armor Chip and Armor Granite epoxies are very thick and viscous. When you toss chips onto them they stay on the surface leaving plenty of epoxy coating underneath them.
Epoxy floor paints that don't need floor prep leave us scratching our heads. Floor prep is critical on all epoxy flooring jobs. We would never ever do a floor without prepping it and neither should you. Every year there seems to be some new magic formula that hits the market with outlandish promises. We make and will continue to make what has worked in the past and will continue to work int he future. Don't fall for marketing hype, we wish you good luck if you do.
Just a few examples of ArmorGarage Epoxy Floor jobs. From left to right. Armor II Commercial Medium Gray(Notice no flakes). Armor Ganite Pattern 7&8, Armor Granite Pattern 7 and Armor Chip in Black and Bright Red with metallic silver flakes.
Do I Need A Primer For The Job?
The answer is not always. A primer makes for a better job because it adds another layer of epoxy and seals the floor at the same time. For most garage floor epoxy applications a primer is not needed. Our Armor Chip & Armor Granite garage floor epoxies are self priming.
Some flooring epoxies will claim to be a primer, an epoxy and a topcoat all in one. That may be so but they will be masters of none as the saying goes. If you have any kind of heavy duty traffic you need a primer and a true topcoat and for industrial floor epoxy applications you need a primer, thick epoxy layer and then a topcoat. Our Military Epoxy & Commercial Epoxy Systems come with a dedicated primer/base coat layer.
There are times when you need a primer for even a simple garage application such as if your floor is pitted from road salts, was not a high grade of concrete when it was poured and is now granular or chalky, in poor condition with exposed aggregate due to age or is oil stained etc. A primer is also great to use when you need to extend the coverage of the epoxy layer since the epoxy is now going over a sealed surface rather than porous concrete. If your floor is not typical we suggest you talk to one of our experts before purchasing and applying any type of epoxy coating. We have primers for just about any floor condition.
What Is The Difference Between Garage Epoxies and Garage Paints?
It is essential that you know the differences between garage floor epoxies and garage paints and the differences between different types of epoxies. Regular garage floor paints are single component products made in either oil or water based formats. Theyíre usually used for wall and ceiling applications and are not suited for applications like epoxy flooring that can have anything from heavy foot traffic to vehicles weighing many tons rolling over it. Epoxy floor paints are mostly a two component product whereas regular floor paints are a single component. Epoxies consist of a Part A which is the resin/pigment part and the Part B which is the hardener part. Much like epoxy glue when you mix Part A & Part B together they harden to form a very durable coating. That is if you use a good quality epoxy. The majority of water based epoxies are inferior and are no better than regular semi-gloss paint. A lot of epoxy flooring paints that are solids based are also inferior but itís much harder to tell which are inferior and which are high quality. In the following paragraphs we will teach you how to tell the difference between real industrial grade floor epoxy paints from those that are just industrial grade in name only.
What Does Pot Life mean when using an Epoxy Floor Coating
Look at the pot life which is the time you have to work with once the epoxy is mixed. A long pot life or even worse an unlimited pot life is a sure sign of an inferior floor epoxy. Good epoxy flooring will have less than an hour pot life at 70 degrees. Any epoxy floor coating with an hour or more of pot life or that needs a wait time(induction time)after mixing is an epoxy to steer clear of. When working with Mil grade epoxy you want to mix no more than one gallon per person rolling. If two people are rolling you can mix 2 gallons of epoxy but you need to split that into two separate pails right after mixing. Our Mil grade epoxy cures via a thermal chemical reaction and not by air. So the more epoxy there is the more thermal reaction you get. Splitting a large mixed quantity into smaller portions slows down the curing process. A properly mixed batch of epoxy flooring will give you 40-45 minutes to apply without having to rush. Then when you apply the next batch to the wet edge it will reactivate the curing process and blend in with no seam lines. A high quality epoxy will cure to a seamless monolithic sheet of rock hard high gloss epoxy. Low quality epoxy paints will leave seam lines and cure to a much softer finish that will not look so good in a short period of time.
What is an Epoxy Topcoat and Why Is It needed?
First thing you need to know is that epoxies and topcoats are two completely different products. Epoxies are either a base coat or a middle coat but always a coat that gets a coating over it, which we call a topcoat. Why? because topcoats are made to be chemically harder than the epoxy coatings they go over. Epoxies are made to provide thickness and adhesion. ArmorGarage Topcoats are made with high quality urethane to provide durability and UV protection. So it's crucial you know about topcoats. Please be aware of the fact that applying a clear version of an epoxy over a pigmented layer of the same epoxy does nothing, even if you add in UV additives. It's still an epoxy and not a topcoat. It doesn't have the impact rating nor the abrasion rating needed long term durability.
Any epoxy flooring product that claims to not need a topcoat is a product to avoid. If youíre applying it in your garage your hot twisting/turning tires will wear the high gloss finish off in no time. This applies to even 100% solids epoxies. Even though they are of higher quality they are nowhere near as hard as they have to be for vehicle generated abrasion. More detail on topcoats is explained in the next section below.
What are your epoxy coatingís ratings/specifications and what do they mean?
So how do we know whether your floor epoxy and or topcoat can stand up to hot twisting tires on your garage floor?
The easiest way is to know what the Abrasion Loss Rating is. The industry standard epoxy flooring test method is called the Taber C-17 abrasion test. All other test methods are just marketing gobble-d-gook. What the Taber C-17 test does is to take a coating and apply an abrasion wheel with a certain weight on it and spin it at a certain RPM for a certain amount of time. Then the amount of material that got worn off is measured in mgs. This test mimics actual wear and tear from tires, wheels, foot traffic, etc. So the lower the amount of mgs that came off the coating the better. Even the best garage floor epoxies have abrasion of rating of 25mgs or higher. This is too soft for garage floor duty or any application that has vehicles, dollies, pallet jacks, shopping carts or even a high volume of just foot traffic. The minimum rating for a garage floor epoxy in our opinion is 20mgs, under 10mgs for commercial/heavy duty floor epoxy applications and for the highest level of protection you want under a 5 mg rating. Also keep in mind that these ratings are sort of like the Richter scale with each mg making an exponential difference in the longevity of the epoxy coating. Also note that just because an epoxy comes with a topcoat donít take it for granted that itís garage or commercial floor duty rated. Most topcoats are no better than the epoxy they cover and have very high abrasion loss ratings. The moral of the story is, always know the abrasion loss rating and make sure it's always lower than the epoxy you're using.
There are other ratings you should be aware of that are important even though they may not be as important as the abrasion rating they still are good to know. First you want a floor epoxy with at least a 350 psi adhesion rating. That should not be difficult to find most floor epoxies are good at sticking to concrete. Second you want an epoxy with an impact rating of 125 inch pounds or more, ArmorGarage Epoxies all have 160 inch pounds ratings. This is very important since a lot of people like to tinker in their garages. So a floor epoxy with a good impact rating will not chip or crack when tools or parts are dropped onto the floor.
What You Donít Have To Know About Epoxy Floor Coatings
Just as important to knowing how to know a quality epoxy flooring product is to know how to spot useless information. There are other ratings you may see we buying floor coatings but theyíre mostly useless marketing hype at best and what we call fiction. Ratings such as compressive strength and tensile strength are meaningless to all but the most complicated/specialized applications. Certainly not relevant for 99.9% of epoxy flooring applications.Mostly all epoxy floor paints have a compressive strength much higher than 5000 psi. 5000 psi concrete is about the hardest concrete floors you'll find 95% of the time. So that means most floor epoxies have a higher crush rating than the concrete itís going on. Unless you are rolling an M1 Abrams Tank onto your floor the compressive strength rating is meaningless. We do a lot of work with our Military forces and that comes into play sometimes but for 99% of the other floors in the world you are just not going to place a load onto your floor that is going to crush your slab! The same goes for the tensile strength, youíre just not going to be able to put anything on the floor that will come anywhere near to the breaking point to all but the cheapest floor epoxy paints. The key factors for epoxy are pot life, thickness, type of epoxy and the hardness of the final topcoat that will be exposed to the wear and tear of the traffic on it.
Another meaningless criteria is cost per mils! That means nothing because what that is saying is that the more you get of an inferior epoxy the better the buy/epoxy it is. Bad epoxy is bad epoxy no matter how much of it you get! Stick to the cost per square foot and how long your epoxy will last and by last we mean how long will it stay looking new, not just stay stuck to your floor. Don't get distracted by meaningless numbers or guarantees regarding peeling. Lifetime guarantee means nothing if your floor gets ugly in a year or so. Lifetime guarantees don't guarantee against wear or dulling. Abrasion wear on an inferior epoxy will dull it in no time. Which means you now have a floor that looks dirty, old, yellowed and worn out that is guaranteed to be stuck to your floor for life! Isn't that great, you either have to live with what you end up with or spend more than double to redo your floor.
So in sum make sure the epoxy floor coating you buy is 100% solids based and an Aliphatic type as opposed to a Cyclioaliphatic type, low solids or polyurea. You apply a topcoat with an abrasion rating suitable for the traffic on your floor. Avoid water based epoxies and coatings that don't publish ratings for abrasion, adhesion and impact resistance. Not knowing these ratings is really rolling the dice. What are the differences between all your various epoxy floor systems?
Armor Chip Garage Epoxy System is hot tire proof as are all our epoxy coating systems. It consists of 100% solids military grade epoxy as your base coat. 8lbs of color flakes that you broadcast into the epoxy while wet. Then the next day you apply two layers of our heavy duty urethane topcoat that has an 20mg abrasion loss rating. If you are in a climate where there's lots of road salts or you use jack stands, floor jacks, large rolling tools or have off road type vehicles. We recommend you upgrade the topcoat to the military grade version that has only a 4 mg abrasion loss rating. It's chemically hardened to give you the highest level of protection and you only need to do one coat. Also included is the notched squeegee, rollers, mixer, etch solution and nonslip additive.
Armor Granite Garage Epoxy System is our top of the line garage kit. It consists of extra thick 100% military grade epoxy, 20lbs of color flakes and four layers of our 20mg abrasion loss rated topcoat. You can upgrade to the military topcoat and only have to do one coat. In addition to all the accessories in the Armor Chip kit you also get the spike soles to walk in the wet epoxy as you are applying the color flakes.
ArmorGarage II Commercial Epoxy System is a solid color two layer epoxy flooring system that does not use color flakes. This is great for heavy duty traffic, service shops or garages that don't want color flakes but want the military grade protection. Just a quick note on color flakes if you do any sort of work on your floor that involves small parts you absolutely don't want to use color flakes on your floor. Finding one of those small parts is next to impossible once you drop them on a flake floor. This is the system the Coast Guard uses in their helicopter air maintenance hangars. Beautiful finish and very tough with an 8mg abrasion loss rating. In fact if you only applied the primer part of this system you would have a floor coating that is better than 99% of our competition's so called heavy duty epoxies.
Also included are all accessories for application.
Ultra Military System is a three layer system consisting of high performance primer, pure high build military grade epoxy and then a 4 mg abrasion loss rated topcoat. This is the thickest and toughest floor coating you can use. This can handle any type of traffic for just about any type of application. When you can't afford or don't want to take any chances with your floor this is the go to product. You can add color flakes to this system if desired because it has the high build epoxy layer that would hold the flakes. As opposed to the ArmorGarage II that has a thinner primer as the base coat. The purpose of the epoxy primer is to be thinner so it soaks into the concrete more and then you apply the wear resistant topcoat over that. Why many of our competition's epoxy systems fail is that they apply flakes to a paper thin layer of epoxy in which the flakes displace some epoxy so you end up with a microscopic layer of epoxy between your floor and your hot tires. Not difficult to see why those types of coatings always peel up.
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