The two most commonly applied epoxy flooring systems are Roller applied epoxy and Self Leveling Epoxy. Many people who are new to the industry struggle to understand the differences. A common reason for this struggle because the person selling the epoxy may have his own personal interest to recommend either the one or the other solution. So in this article I explain the key differences broken down by their features.
Self Leveling Floors tend to leave a perfectly smooth finish where surface uneveness and imperfections are not visible. Meanwhile roller applied epoxies tend to leave a slightly rougher texture also known as the orange peel effect. Roller applied epoxies have a smaller thickness which explains why you cannot get a perfectly smooth surface. These differences are depicted in the pictures below
Product Consumption & Costs
Roller applied epoxies will consume much less product which also means a much lower total cost for the product. For example a primer & 2 coat roller system would come out to about 600 gr/m2. This should result in a thickness of approximately 400 microns. Compare this consumption with a self leveling floor where in order to get a good result you would need to apply a minimum thickness of 1.5 – 2 mm. At that thickness you would need about 2kg/m2 and also add a significant amount of quartz sand.
Furthermore the actual coating used in roller applied epoxy tends to cost less compared to self leveling coatings as they tend to have less resin in their composition. So overall your product consumption cost could come out to about 4-5 times higher when applying self leveling.
Ease of Application
Roller applied epoxies are definitely easer to apply. They are DIY friendly as you can work with a roller similar to painting a wall in your house. Although proper back rolling is important in order to get a nice result. Self Leveling is more complex and can seem overwhelming for a new contractor or a hobbyist. The job will be much messier as you need a far larger quantity of product to work with (see my comment above regarding consumption). For example when my team applies self leveling epoxy floors, we need to mix a new pack of 15kg for every 7 sqaure metres! This can get very messy very quickly if you do not have an organised team laying out the epoxy.
Also with self leveling epoxy you need to have members of your staff with a spiked roller and spiked shoes to inspect the surface for bubbles after applying.
Most importantly however is the cost of fixing the problem if the final surface has defects. With roller applied epoxy, you can just apply another thin coat on top, at a consumption of 250 gr/m2 and more or less save face. With self leveling Epoxy a recoat would require that you do the entire surface again at a 2mm thickness if you want to achieve a smooth finish, leading to a very significant recoat cost. (This is why you need to factor in such costs when pricing your projects!)
One area that actually makes self leveling epoxy easier to apply than roller applied epoxies is dealing with little dents in the substrate. If you apply a roller applied epoxy over a floor with many little dents and holes, the defects will be still visible after the application. With self leveling most of these defects can be eliminated (providing that they are not too deep). In fact whenever I deal with old worn out floors that have taken many dents and hits to the concrete, I only offer the option of applying a self leveling epoxy to the customer.
Watch the videos below to understand how to apply the two different types of epoxy systems.
Functionality is one of the most important aspects to consider. Basically you need to ask yourself what are you trying to achieve with this epoxy floor, and what your end goal is.
Self Leveling epoxy floors tend to have better long term resistance to wear and tear since they are thicker coatings. Another advantage of such coatings is they are easier to clean because of their smooth surface. In fact Self Leveling floors are often specified in food and pharmaceutical manufacturing because of the various antibacterial requirements involved. (Have a look here to understand other industries where epoxies are applied)
Roller applied floors come with the advantage that the slightly orange peel texture can create a desired anti-slip effect to protect people from slipping. However if you are working in a floor that is exposed to oils and chemicals all the time we advise that you apply a floor that has been installed with anti slip quartz.
In this article I have laid out quite a few differences between the two systems. If you are new to epoxy and you are still trying to figure things out, I advise that you work with some roller applied epoxies to get the hang of things. For more experienced applicators, we definitely pride ourselves on delivering beautiful self leveling floors.
In our online course we have an entire module where we go deep and explain the differences between the various systems available. You can learn more about the course and join here.
Finally please let me know what you think of the article by leaving a comment below!
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