You look at a picture like the one below, and you tell yourself wouldn’t it be great to be getting results like that for every single flooring project. And yet every day applicators all over the world are applying thousands of square metres in epoxy self leveling but the results do not always look that great.
Problems are aplenty, from defects in the surface, trowel marks, bubbles and trapped debris just to name a few.
I’ve applied hundreds of self leveling epoxies in my career, and have had my fair share of screw-ups. Even today after so many years, I am still learning on every single project. So in this article, I want to share with you 7 things I have learnt to be true about self leveling epoxy floors
Truth #1 – If you want a smooth finish like the one in the picture, you need a flat floor substrate to start with. I know it sounds contradicting. The product is meant to be “self leveling” therefore shouldn’t it level an uneven floor?
Unfortunately that is not the case. If you want to level an uneven floor you can try using a cementitious self leveling compound, but resin floors don’t work that way. A thin floor of a few millimeters will not smoothen out an uneven surface. And don’t even think of just adding more product to fill in the gaps. Your consumption (and costs!) could spiral out of control with no results to show for.
Truth #2 – Do not skimp (or cheat) on the required product quantity or thickness. I am seeing applicators doing 1mm floors and selling them as self-leveling. If you want a great level finish you need at least 2mm, but ideally you should go for 3 mm. The thinner the floor the higher the likelihood of waviness and trowel marks everywhere
Truth #3 – Use clean tools! One of those hidden dangers is when applicators use dirty tools like the one below.
Do not use notched trowels… whose notches seem to be disappearing. And do not use spiked shoes that seem to have lumps of debris attached to each spike. Don’t just assume that the epoxy will magically close and fill up any problem with the floor cause by the tools displacing the epoxy. Clean tools = clean job. Make it a habit of cleaning those tools thoroughly after using them
Truth #4 – Make sure the surface is sealed properly! Bubbles are always in issue with self leveling floors, and do not assume that a spiked roller will solve all your problems . You want to be preventing bubbles the outset. Make sure the surface has been well primed and sealed (preferably with two coats).
Truth #5 – Make sure that the substrate profile is leveling friendly. If you try applying epoxy on a glossy surface good luck in getting a level finish. The epoxy will have troubles settling properly as the surface tension of the substrate will not be sufficient in getting the product to even out properly. My tip is sprinkle some light quartz sand (0.1-0.3mm) on the primer so that the profile is a bit rough and gritty. I always seem to get a better finish this way.
Truth #6 – Take care of your environment. Make the working area as sterile and dust free as possible. Close all windows, shake of all dust off the shelves. Vacuum clean the place, wipe down with solvent. Make sure workers are wearing clean clothes. There is nothing more annoying than some trapped debris on a smooth floor. Do not allow random people (including the customer!) to walk around. They carry with them dust and debris everywhere they go.
Truth #7 – Do not apply self leveling floors in cold temperatures. The slab and the room must be warm enough to allow the product to flow. a cold winter today can wreak havoc on your flooring plans. My dropoff point is 15 degrees celsius. When temperatures drop below this point, the product starts becoming too thixotropic to work with. The relationship between temperature and epoxy thixotropy is not linear, it is actually exponential!
So what are your thoughts? Did I miss anything? Feel free to comment below. And if you want to learn more about self leveling floors watch this video here!