Epoxy Floors: 17 Common Questions Answered
There is a lot of confusion surrounding epoxy floors and their uses. We get hit with a plethora of questions surrounding the topic including things like:
Can I use epoxy flooring in my home?
I thought epoxy flooring was only used for industrial applications, is this correct?
What is the difference between epoxy flooring and epoxy floor coatings?
How much do epoxy floors cost?
Who installs epoxy floors?
And…the list goes on.
We thought it was about time that an article was put together to go over our Top 17 most frequently asked questions on everything that is epoxy flooring.
If you’re looking for clarity as to what epoxy floors are, what applications they work in, how much they cost or anything else for that matter, please read on.
#1 What is an epoxy floor-
An epoxy floor consists of multiple layers of epoxy laid on top of a concrete substrate for protection and aesthetic appeal. Epoxy itself is made when polymer resins and hardeners are mixed, allowing chemical reactions to take place which ultimately bond the two components together with the floor. The result is a resin form of plastic known as epoxy. It’s durable, strong, and can be quite aesthetically pleasing.
#2 What is epoxy floor used for-
Epoxy floors are commonly thought to be used for industrial applications such as: food or meat processing facilities, electronic plants, pharmaceutical labs, distilleries, creameries, machine shops and manufacturing plants. Industrial facilities require special flooring that can withstand extreme temperatures, heavy foot and/or machine traffic, chemical exposure and other factors. Epoxy floors are able to tolerate these harsh conditions and will not peel or corrode. The anti-slip feature that can be added to epoxy floors is also sought after in industrial and commercial applications in order to keep employees and customers safe.
It may surprise you, but epoxy floors are becoming more popular in residential homes and garages as well. It’s common to see these floors in bathrooms, patios, kitchens, garages, and basements. Why? Well, these floors are affordable, durable, stain resistant and come with many color options and features. What more could you ask for in a busy household, right? The waterproof nature and stain resistant features make them great for the rooms we listed above. Of course, slip resistant applications are available to ensure your family’s safety as well.
#3 Epoxy floor vs. epoxy floor coating-
Epoxy floors are not to be confused with epoxy floor coatings. The depth of the epoxy will distinguish between the two. An actual epoxy floor will be 2 millimeters thick or more. Anything under that would be labeled an epoxy floor coating.
#4 Why is epoxy used on floors-
Did you know epoxy floors are actually 3x stronger than concrete? That’s right. This factor alone is one of the main reasons epoxy floors are chosen for a project. These floors can tolerate heavy machinery, high traffic, water and drastic temperatures. This combination makes epoxy floors a great choice for industrial applications such as processing facilities.
Another reason epoxy floors are used is because of their durability. They are resistant to chemical staining which is beneficial in many industrial settings (think food processing plants) as well as the everyday kitchen.
Don't forget about costs! Epoxy floors are an affordable option because installation happens right over concrete. The need for a separate floor system is eliminated and the cost per square foot is much less than other types of floors. Maintenance is minimal to none and these floors last 10-20 years on average.
#5 Who invented epoxy flooring-
Dr. Pierre Castam of Switzerland and Dr. S.O. Greenlee of The United States created and patented the first epoxy resin in the 1930’s. Because of the product’s phenomenal adhesive capabilities and durability, it took off. Epoxy floors were utilized in World War II in order to protect concrete from the heavy war vehicles. Later in the 1960s, artists began playing with epoxy to create beautiful floor patterns. Epoxy was even coated on the floors of space capsules for astronauts. Today, epoxy floors dominate the industrial and commercial flooring space. It’s common to even see them used in residential homes.
#6 Are epoxy floors durable-
Epoxy floors are extremely durable. They can handle even the heaviest machinery and traffic without chipping, cracking or other types of wear and tear. The chemical makeup of epoxy is responsible for the shear strength and durability of the product. Speaking of chemicals, epoxy is chemical resistant as well. It also is able to withstand extreme temperatures. When compared to other flooring products, epoxy wins the durability award. If durability is your main concern, you cannot go wrong with epoxy floors.
#7 Are epoxy floors waterproof-
If you want a completely waterproof epoxy floor system, be sure to inform your flooring contractor. This is because not all epoxy floors are created equal. Resin-rich poured floors will be completely waterproof (when installed correctly of course).
Other flooring types may start out waterproof, but over time lose their water resistant properties. For example, the nature of quartz epoxy flooring can lead to moisture intrusion overtime. Therefore, a fine layer of sealant is installed over the top of the epoxy. This layer, of course, doesn’t stand a chance against foot traffic and cleanings and will break down leading to water penetration beneath the floor.
If waterproofing is important to you, remember to emphasize this to your contractor so they can choose the best materials for the job.
#8 Are epoxy floors slippery-
Epoxy floors can be slippy because they are seamless and non-porous. This is why many people opt for non-slip epoxy floors. What do non-slip epoxy floors entail? Your flooring contractor can provide you with options; two common non-slip epoxy floor strategies are adding aluminum oxide to the epoxy or using silica sand on the finish.
#9 Can epoxy flooring go over wood-
Epoxy can definitely go over wood floors. Why would one do so? Well, typically it’s to protect the floors from heavy traffic, food and chemical staining or for easy maintenance and/or for a custom look.
Installing epoxy over wood floors is a very challenging job. The nature of hardwood creates a difficult scenario on its own. On top of this, every single project is unique. Factors such as room size, humidity, and how level the hardwood floors are all come into play. This is not something you just pick-up. Being efficient at installing epoxy over hardwood takes years of practice. There may even be specific hardwood jobs that just won’t work. Ask a professional for advice if you intended to install epoxy over your hardwood.
To learn more about this, click here.
#10 When does epoxy harden-
There are many different types of epoxy resin on the market. There are also many different climates. Not all epoxies dry at the same time nor do they dry the same in all climates. It’s important to know which kind of epoxy you are working with and its specific needs. A general rule of thumb is that epoxy floors will be fully dry after 7 days. Some floors may be dry enough to walk on after 12 hours and ready to be used gingerly after 24 hours.
However, always know your specific product and climate’s requirements for best practices. Cold, dry climates will take longer for epoxy to dry. On the other hand, warm humid climates allow for a fast curing process.
#11 When to epoxy a new garage floor-
New concrete slabs, including a new garage floor, should be allowed to cure for 30-60 days before an epoxy floor is installed over it.
Things to consider prior to installing epoxy over a new garage floor:
Allow the concrete slab to cure for 30-60 days before an epoxy floor is installed
Do NOT use epoxy if any sealers have been used on the slab. The sealer must be removed first by a technique called shot blasting.
All cracks and concrete spall must be filled and stabilized
If water or moisture in general is pushing through the concrete from the ground, the floor is not suitable for epoxy.
#12 Can epoxy flooring be used outside-
Yes, epoxy can definitely be used outside. Epoxy patios are becoming more common. Epoxy over your exterior concrete is a great way to shield it from the elements and help it withstand the test of time.
The pros of installing epoxy floors outside:
Various colors and designs
The cons of installing epoxy floors outside:
Slippery (non stick epoxy floor is available for an upcharge)
Installation must be done correctly or problems can arise
#13 Why epoxy floors fail-
If you plan to install your epoxy floor, make sure you know what you are doing. Installation is quite the tedious task and requires some skill to get it right.
Here are some reasons epoxy floors fail:
Lack of training:
Most epoxy product manufacturers offer or require training for contractors who want to utilize their material. Because the manufacturers know the product better than anyone else on the planet, their training is absolutely priceless. They also have a motive; they want consumers to love their product. The only way that consumers will give a great review is if the product is installed perfectly.
Surface Prep Failures:
Would you build a house on a faulty foundation? No, never. The same goes for installing epoxy floors on a poorly prepared substrate. Shot blasters and planetary diamond grinders are commonly used to fix the CSP (concrete surface profile) so that it can accept the epoxy. Always refer back to the manufacturer's specs if you are questioning the proper CSP.
Yes, primer is important. Yes, you need it. Primer is a part of the floor system and helps create a high-strength bonding layer. Don’t use just any primer. Be sure to read the manufacturers specifications and use their recommended primer. Follow the directions to a T. This could include directions on mixing, conditions to install in and spread ratios.
Wrong resin/hardener mix:
This step is crucial to the success of your project. If you deviate at all from the manufacturers installation guidelines, problems could arise. Here are some tips: always use exact correct ratios, use an electric mixer, do not rush, dedicated mix stations/mixers are helpful, always transfer the mix into a clean bucket before applying to the floor. Keep in mind, if one small section of your floor was mixed improperly, it won’t dry. The solution is to rip out the ENTIRE floor and start over. No thanks.
There are some substrates that have higher risk factors than others.
Low quality cement- Epoxy floors may not work well on low quality cement. The epoxy should adhere to the cement, but the cement doesn’t always adhere to itself. The result? Oftentimes, a failed floor.
Lightweight, concrete gypsum based floors- Structural strength and integrity is essential for the success of an epoxy floor. Concrete gypsum based floor substrates typically are not structurally supportive enough to work with an epoxy floor.
Hardwoods- If you want to apply epoxy to your hardwood floors, get a professional's opinion. There are cases where this can absolutely be done, but it’s challenging and proper installation is crucial. There are some instances when epoxys just shouldn’t be applied to hardwood, a professional can guide you on this. The result of a poorly epoxied hardwood floor is cracking.
Installing epoxy over a dirty floor:
Do not install an epoxy floor over a concrete slab containing grease, oil, paint, wax, chemicals or other products. All of these substances will interfere with the adhesion of the epoxy floor to the slab.
Moisture in the slab or moving through it will be problematic and adhesion failure is probable. Be sure to read the manufacturer's installation instructions to know how to measure for moisture in the slab and deal with it.
Note- If this section didn’t display this, installing epoxy floors can be very challenging and a health hazard. Depending upon the products being used, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may be off gassed during installation. These VOCs are toxic to people and animals. Only after the epoxy has cured are the VOC’s no longer a threat. Professionals come prepared to handle these toxins and tricky materials.
#14 Are epoxy floors expensive? How much does it cost-
Are you ready for the quick generalized answer? DIY epoxy floor installation may run you about $2-$6 per square foot. Professional epoxy floor installation could be anywhere from $3-$13 per square foot (including labor and materials).
How much does epoxy cost per gallon? Well, that depends upon the type of epoxy. Water based epoxy products are generally the cheapest around $35 per gallon. Solvent based epoxy has a bit more durability and usually runs at $45 per gallon. Solid epoxy is used for a professional install and could cost up to $150 per gallon. Remember, there are some health risks that come with using these products. It’s a good idea to hire a professional if you are not trained in epoxy floor installation.
So, are epoxy floors expensive? When compared to other floor systems, epoxy floors are very affordable.
#15 Are epoxy floors cheaper than tile-
It’s hard to say on this one because every single project is unique. Components such as quality of materials, the size of the area, and the complexity of the installation all factor into the overall cost of the job.
As a professional, I'd say that in my experience tile and epoxy floors are quite comparable in price. They both last a very long time, but epoxy is definitely more durable.
It's the epoxy floor coatings (no epoxy floors) that are definitely cheaper than tile.
The best way to know your options is to get a quote from a flooring expert. Some flooring contractors install both tile and epoxy floors. This professional could walk you through the pros and cons of tile versus epoxy for your specific project.
#16 Who does epoxy flooring-
Flooring specialists of all kinds will install epoxy flooring. Some unique flooring contractors, such as Justin the Tile Guy, install many types of flooring from epoxy to hardwoods and even tile. I said unique because tile and epoxy are both, in a sense, art forms. It takes a creative individual to want to make a living installing these products. Hence why many epoxy flooring contractors strictly do epoxy floors. If you are in the western part of Wisconsin, Justin the Tile Guy can take care of your epoxy flooring needs.
If you live elsewhere, here are a few tips for finding an epoxy flooring installer:
Get on google: I’d suggest searching “epoxy floor installer near me”. A list of contractors should pop up. You may see something like the picture below. Check out the contractor’s reviews and maybe even ask for a reference. Their website may provide you with photos of work they’ve done. This may be helpful when shopping for the right contractor.
#17 Which epoxy floor coating is the best-
First we should define the difference between an epoxy floor coating and an actual epoxy floor. We touched on this subject earlier as well. In a nutshell, epoxy floors are a 2-part resin product that hardens to create a strong surface that is at least 2 millimeters thick. On the other hand, floor coatings (also known as floor paint) are a single-part product that dry and look more like a finish and will not be as thick as an epoxy floor. These epoxy floor paints are common among DIY projects and do provide some additional strength to a concrete slab.
So, which epoxy floor coating is best? Well… it depends upon your goals. Are you looking for a product that will hold up over time? Are you wanting something very aesthetically pleasing? Are you looking for something on a budget?
All of these factors must be considered when determining what the best epoxy floor coating is for your project. To learn more about specific brands, check out this article.
Well, you just read our 17 most common questions regarding epoxy floors. We hope that all of your questions were answered. If you have any remaining thoughts on this subject, please feel free to reach out at 715-619-1870.