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Polymer Floor & Wall Coatings: Selection, Preparation, Installation and Troubleshooting

 
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System Selection Criteria

When designing a floor and/or wall system, selection of products will depend upon working environment and severity of use.

  • Physical: Light foot traffic or heavy mechanized traffic? Industrial process or laboratory/clean room?

  • Chemical: Cleaning agents, process chemicals, combinations.

  • Temperature: Freezers, steam washdown, extreme ambient temps.

  • Electro-static: High-voltage equipment, static-generating machinery

  • Value Engineering: Floor design for the immediate environment Multiple issues occurring over one area


Systems

When designing a floor and/or wall system, selection of products will depend upon working environment and severity of use.


Coatings

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • Inexpensive

  • Aesthetics

  • Cleanability

  • Concrete protection

  • Chemical resistance

 
  • Resistance to physical abuse

  • Repair of poor substrate conditions

  • Less product for the same amount of surface preparation

  • Life-cycle costing

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What is a Slurry?

Resinous coatings filled with aggregate (approximately 2 parts aggregate to 1 part resin) which is applied at 1/16” to 3/8” in thickness.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • Great value/installed cost

  • Significant improvement to abuse compared to coatings

  • Non-skid applications

  • Resin-rich systems

 
  • Moderate to good resistance to physical abuse

  • Will not resurface poor concrete

  • Thermal shock resistance

  • Downtime

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What is a Mortar?

Resinous coatings filled with aggregate (approximately 4 or 5 parts aggregate to 1 part resin), which is applied by trowel and finished. The systems range in thickness from 3/16" to 3/8".

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • Resistance to physical abuse

  • Resurface poor concrete

  • Thermal shock resistance

  • Life-cycle costing

 
  • Cost

  • Skill level required for installation

  • Resin-aggregate ratios

  • Downtime

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What is a Urethane Cement?

Urethane emulsion combined with cement and silica sand (approximately 3 parts aggregate to 1 part resin), which is raked and finished at ¼" to 3/8" thickness.

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • Great resistance to physical abuse

  • Bond in wet environments

  • Thermal shock resistance

  • Fast installations

  • Chemical resistance

 
  • Aesthetics

  • Cost

  • Limited colors

  • Skill level required for installation

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Wall Systems

High-build coating systems
Fiberglass reinforced epoxy systems
Flexible epoxy wall systems

Advantages:

Disadvantages:

  • Chemical resistance

  • Wash-down resistance

  • Impact resistance

  • Gloss retention

  • Cleanability

  • Aesthetics

 
  • Cost

  • Substrate imperfections

  • Downtime

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Concrete Requirements: Mix Design

Proper concrete mix design can produce a slab that is ideally suited for bonding to a polymer topping.

  • Standard mix design:

  • Topical treatment: Seamless, film-building sealers, form release

  • Fiber reinforcement: Coatings, self leveling floors 3/16"

  • High early mix design:

  • Concrete additives: Plasticizers, Gill 33


Successful Concrete

  • Sub grade

  • Vapor barrier

  • Water to cement ratio

  • Aggregate selection and gradation

  • Finishing

  • Curing

  • “At-use” environment

  • Surface preparation

  • Moisture testing

  • Control conditions of installation

  • Dew point vs. surface temperature during installation

 


Concrete Concerns

  • Moisture vapor transmission

  • Levelness of installation

  • Drain height

  • Lightweight concrete

  • Fly ash pozzolans


Moisture-related issues

Improper treatment of moisture-related issues can result in blisters, delamination and potentially a complete floor system failure. This can be caused by:

  • Fast-track construction schedules

  • Mix design (wet pour)

  • Topical treatments (slow hydration)

  • Pouring slab in a pan

  • Ground or soil conditions

  • Humidity inside vs. outside

  • Chemistry changes in flooring products


Moisture Measurement

A simple calcium chloride test will determine the presence and force of any moisture migrating through the slab. Acceptable levels vary with each system and manufacturer.


Treatments for Moisture Problems

There are several techniques/products available for the prevention and remediation of moisture-related problems.

  • Slab design: vapor barrier, mix design

  • Time: may not be on your side

  • Temperature and humidity control

  • Topical vapor barriers (Aqua Armor, Koester, FloorSeal)

  • Product or System: water-based products, thin “breathable” coatings and urethane cements


Scheduling & Planning for Work

A timely and efficient mobilization requires room preparation and proper communication between Project Management, Flooring Contractor, and all other trades.

  • Heat: Temperature must be at least 55*F for coatings and toppings. 65*F to 75*F is ideal for most systems. Room/slab temperature directly affects coverage rates of product.

  • Light: The presence of finished lighting impacts application schedules, cure time and aesthetics of finished floor.

  • Power supply: 220v 3-phase, 60 Amp. or 480v 3-phase, 30 Amp. Installation equipment pulls total of amperage when starting up, and will blow breakers.

Effect on facility operations and return to service.

  • Other Trades: Damage to floors, walk off job site, power, lighting

  • Effect on existing operations: Product odor, contamination of inventory, work areas adjacent to application, fire, safety


Slab Preparation

  • Chemical process: Effective in the removal of adhesives, oils, animal fats. Acid etching, stripping, detergents.

  • Mechanical process: Shot blasting, grinding, scarifying, scabbling.

  • Water process: Water jet blasting is entirely dust free. Consider its effect on product selection and time of application.

  • Dust Control: All slab prep machinery is connected to vacuum with HEPA filtration.


Wrap-up

  • Return to service: Maximum allowable shut-down time can dictate the type of system and product selected. Quick-cure polymers, such as MMA and urethane concrete systems can greatly reduce application time and return facilities to service in a matter of hours.

  • Application rates: Installation rates will vary with required prep work, system selected, product manufacturer and schedule. Per-foot rates can range from $2.00/ft. up to $12.00/ft. or more.

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