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 . You would need to apply a minimum thickness of 2 mm for a good result. At that thickness you would need a at least 2kg/m2 and also add a significant amount of quartz sand.
Furthermore the actual epoxy coating used in roller applied epoxy tends to cost less compared to self leveling coatings. Self Leveling epoxy coatings tend to contain 100% solids and no VOCs.
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 an epoxy 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 mix a new pack of 15kg for every 7 square metres! This can get very messy very quickly if you do not have an organised team laying out the epoxy.
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.
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. This would lead to 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 is when 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.
Self Leveling epoxy floors tend to have better long term resistance to wear and tear since they are thicker coatings. They are also 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 have the advantage that a textured finish can give a desired anti-slip effect.
In this article I have laid out quite a few differences between the two systems. If you are new to epoxy start with roller applied epoxies.
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!