Every now and again my team puts down a floor where everything seems to work perfectly. The floor looks smooth, no evidence of bubbles or trapped dust, and the curing went according to plan. One of my staff members even mentioned: “Why can’t all projects turn out like this?”. The answer is of course because every epoxy flooring project is different. And different conditions lead to different results and difficulties while applying the floor. In this article I want to explore the secrets to applying perfect epoxy floors.
I looked back at my most successful projects. The projects where everything went smoothly, the results were great. And I realised that these projects had several things in common. I have made a list of these items below. I understand that it is not possible to have all of the below conditions present. However, you need to seek out as many of these as possible. And if you cannot have at least 2 or 3 of these conditions present, you may want to walk away from the project.
Applying Epoxy floors is much easier in warm weather rather than cold weather. My sweet point is around 25 degrees celsius (77 F), even though I have delivered great projects at 30, or even up to 35 degrees celsius (95F).
When the temperature is warm, the product tends to flow better and you are less likely to run into leveling problems. Epoxy cures faster in warm weather, and problems associated with high humidity in the atmosphere are less likely to happen.
In the winter you should only take on projects where adequate heating is ensured . Avoid gas powered heaters as the fumes can damage your floor while it is still curing. Applying epoxies in cold weather can lead to all sorts of problems like the coating blushing before it manages to cure.
If the temperature gets too high (beyond 35 degrees Celsius) you will need to address problems like very fast curing, and perspiration from the staff dripping on the uncured epoxy. Also the working environment can get quite stuffy in hot conditions. Your staff needs to be wearing gloves and masks which is never fun when it gets really hot.
A Solid Substrate for a Level Epoxy Floor
If you want a flat looking floor, you need to start with a flat substrate. People assume that a self leveling epoxy can magically level any rough uneveven concrete substrate. This assumption is wrong. You will end wasting craploads of epoxy without getting anywhere.
The same goes for the quality of the substrate. If you are applying epoxy on one of those dusty cement screeds, you are in for a lot of pain. Prepare to do a lot of grinding, a lot of priming and grouting before you an even consider putting down the final coat. When working in dusty substrates, this will reflect the entire working environment. No matter how well you clean your floor, you will get dust trapped in the epoxy coating.
An Isolated Workspace is Necessary for Perfect Epoxy Floors
This is one of my pet peeves. The only people allowed to access the flooring site should be your crew and maybe one or two people from the customer. (They are paying for the floor so they should be allowed to see what you are doing.)
The worst projects are the ones you have random people walking on the floor carrying dust, or wondering if the primer has dried yet so they can walk on it. I absolutely hate applying epoxies in construction sites where you need to coordinate the work together with 10 other crews. There will always be the random electrician who decides to show up on the construction site on the day that you are putting down the main coat.
Another important point to consider are windows, doors and the general state of the building. My best floors tend to be in pharmaceutical facilities. The reason is that these factories tend to have controlled enviroments with closed doors, regulated temperatures, and no windows causing a draft.
I once worked in a warehouse where forklifts kept on wizzing by right next to the flooring site generating dust. The also had a bunch of doors open. We swept and vacuumed the floor twice but more dust kept on coming in.
A Good Working Relationship with the Customer
In my quest for perfect epoxy floors, I have realised that the customer can play a very important role. The customer needs to have full trust in you and your team. They have the right to ask questions and show concern for the work. But from my experience whenever I have had to deal with one of those micro-managing and controlling customers something tends to go wrong with the floor.
Problem customers tend to obsess about one aspect of the floor, and seem to be completely oblivious to other 20 factors that are more serious. I once had a customer bust my balls about when am I going to seal two cracks in the floor. That was the only thing he cared about.
The fact that the floor was in a crappy oily state full of humidity did not seem to bother him. All he worried about those cracks!
Pro Tip: The best relationships are with customers that are willing to pay full price. Customers that are looking for the cheapest solution tend to be nightmares to work with. They never appreciate the work or your efforts. Perfect Epoxy Floors require customers that are willing to pay for them.
If a contractor gets the project for a good price he is less likely to skimp on materials and on labour costs. He will deliver great work.
A good working relationship also means that all the staff in the company is on board. I have experienced this problem in factories where there tends to be a lack of discipline and hierarchy among the staff. There are times where employees decide to randomly walk on the flooring site because the need something or it is a convenient shortcut rather than walking around the flooring site.
Then there are companies where if the boss says nobody walks on the floor, all 200 employees seem to respect that decision.
If you are going to work with companies, company culture among the staff will play a huge role in the success of your flooring project. I have worked with companies that always seemed to have internal drama and politics going on. Some people will even take it on external contractors. There is a strange feeling when you are working on a site and you can sense that some members of your clients staff don’t want you to be there.
A Realistic Time Schedule
Perfect epoxy floors require time. If you want a quick turnaround, I can deliver a floor for you, but it will not be perfect.
Applying an Epoxy Floor requires time. Perfect floors require time in properly grinding and preparing the surface. Then I want to clean the surface. I will put down the primer and wait for it to dry. If necessary I will add a second coat of primer. I may add another layer to fill in all the cracks. I may then need to sand the cracks. Only when I feel ready will I put down the final coats.
Floors that require a quick turnaround means that we will skip certain aspects. Skipping also means sacrificing perfection.
This is an all too common occurrence. Customers who pressure you to finish quickly, and then complain that the floor is not perfect.
Very rarely will you manage to have all 5 of the above conditions. You might have great weather but the customer is in a hurry. Or, you might have a great working relationship with the customer but the floor substrate is a total mess. Ultimately you need to decide if you want to take on the project.
In any case, if none or just one of the above conditions is present you are better off walking away from the project. The chances of the project going wrong is way too high.