• Jeffrey Smedley

How To Prevent A Coating From Failing

Many floor failures can be attributed to inadequate or cheap materials which, can cause a significant negative impact on facility operations and safety. Understanding the reasons or triggers for premature floor failure can prevent such instances from occurring.

Poor Surface Preparation

Most floor topping failures can be attributed to inadequate surface preparation. Therefore, it is imperative that the resinous flooring expert fully understands how to prepare a substrate so that it is structurally sound, clean, and saturated surface dry (SSD). Without proper surface preparation, the odds of failure of the flooring system are increased exponentially and often lead to repairs, added expense, lost production time, and will ultimately compromise the integrity of the structure.

The main purpose of surface preparation is to remove surface laitance from the concrete substrate, to create a surface profile and porosity, so that the polymer flooring system adheres. To determine the degree of abrasion required consult the ICRI guidelines for the flooring system to be installed. In addition to project specific requirements, there are a many other factors for determining the proper surface preparation method such as: amount and type of surface damage, reinforcing steel damage and its bond with the concrete, and vibration or construction loads. It cannot be overstated that having access and expertise with each of these various surface preparation methods is a necessity if you are trying to get the best quality floor which, is why it is imperative that a highly trained resinous flooring expert oversees all surface preparation operations.

For more information on surface preparation please consult my blogs on “How to know if you have the right surface profile" and "Selecting Surface Preparation Methods."

Choosing The Wrong Material

With so many options to choose from, selecting a fit-for-purpose flooring solution that can withstand the operational demands is imperative. In addition, there are stringent health, safety, and hygiene standards as well as budget constraints that must be considered.

Cementitious urethane systems are an increasingly popular choice for many facilities. A typical urethane comes in mortar form combining cement and water-based technologies that exhibit a high cross-linked density, making them ideal for abusive environments subject to prolonged chemical attack. Urethane resin systems exhibit a thermal coefficient of expansion, which is similar to that of concrete. This offers excellent benefits when installed subject to thermal shock and thermal cycling as it prevents the material from cracking when subject to large temperature swings. Cementitious urethane resin flooring solutions are non-porous, preventing bacteria and mold spores from surviving in joints or cracks typical of alternative flooring systems such as tiles or acid bricks. They are also low odor as well as non-toxic and non-hazardous.

Methyl methacrylate (MMA) systems offer certain performance advantages compared to alternative resin materials, most notably their ability to cure at an incredible speed and be installed at extremely low temperatures. MMA resin can fully cure in just one to two hours, making it an ideal choice for operational facilities looking to minimize downtime and disruption as well as fast-track new-build construction projects. MMA resin material demonstrates a high level of resistance to a range of acids and alkalis. Although MMAs have a unique odor during installation, it is harmless and can be minimized during installation with proper ventilation.

Epoxies are typically trowel or roller-applied, two or three component systems that are available in a wide variety of colors. Epoxies can also be broadcast with aggregates to deliver a slip-resistant finish. Epoxies offer limited resistance to organic acids however, they offer no resistance to thermal shock making them more susceptible to cracking and debonding in more rigorous environments. Epoxy resin surfaces are a good choice for non-processing zones of a facilities such as packaging, maintenance and staff break-out areas as well as corridors, lobbies and office spaces, which are not subject to the same high protection demands.

Inadequate Hygiene Control

Seams, joints, grout lines, and cracks in the surface of the floor are a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi, molds, mildew, and pests. All of these hazards pose a threat to indoor environmental air quality, as well as any consumable goods being prepared or processed on the premises. Seamless resin flooring minimizes the risk of microbiological contamination, providing a monolithic, hygienic surface that is free from the cracks or crevices where dirt, dust, bacteria, and pests can propagate. The addition of antimicrobial additives designed to inhibit bacterial growth will provide an added level of protection. Additives, which are homogeneously distributed throughout the resin material, can destroy up to 99.9% of surface bacteria between wash cycles. Unlike many antimicrobial alternatives, this protection remains active for the lifetime of the floor, even if worn or damaged, offering facility managers’ a long-term, long-lasting hygiene solution.

To learn more check out my blog post "Importance of Flooring for Food Processing Plant Hygiene."

Insufficient Chemical Resistance

The organic acids, alkalis, and salts as well as hot oils, blood, sugars, lubricants and fats that can be a part of your facility operations will invariably end up on the floor and risk corroding the surface if it is not suitably protected. It is important to ensure the flooring material that you are considering has a sufficient level of resistance to the substances used in your workplace. The best way to do that is to get a highly experienced resinous flooring expert and to review the manufacturer's’ specifications. You will also want to make sure the resinous flooring expert is aware of the nature of the exposure meaning whether it is immersive, intermittent spillage, or infrequent contact. Additionally, you will want to consider the temperature of the chemical contaminants or harmful substances. For example, grease is fairly inert at room temperature but highly corrosive when heated to high temperatures.

Poor Thermal Shock Resistance

So what is thermal shock? Well, all flooring material expands and contracts with changes in temperatures. Only when it occurs at a rate significantly different than that of concrete substrate underneath, though, does it lead to delamination, cracks, bubbles, and other deterioration. Thermal shock resistant flooring and coatings expand and contract at a rate very similar to that of the concrete slab below, helping to ensure that your seamless, resinous floor functions exactly as it should. Most facility floors need to be able to endure the punishing cleaning and wash down process that can involve very hot water, or even steam, in order to remove blood, grease, and other unruly chemical contaminants from the surface. The problem is the majority of plants are at ambient room temperature and therefore during cleaning and wash down processes become subject to thermal shock as the floor is suddenly exposed to temperatures in excess of 180 degrees C. Hard floors based on epoxy, vinyl ester, or MMA chemistry are not equipped to deal with thermal shock conditions and as a result can crack or delaminate when exposed to extreme temperature swings, weakening the surface and invariably leading to the early onset of floor failure. The best solution is to consult with a resinous flooring expert to ensure the flooring material has adequate thermal shock resistance.

Excessive Moisture Transmission

Another common cause of floor failure is excessive moisture vapor transmission through the underlying concrete slab. Left untreated prior to floor coating, this can lead to blistering or debonding of the topcoat. Although all concrete retains a degree of moisture that is not all you need to be concerned about. It is critical to determine the level of moisture transmission the slab may be subject to, particularly if it is low grade or located close to high water tables. If cyclical moisture levels are too high, there are a number of ways to treat the concrete substrate including applying a damp proof membrane prior to application of resin materials.

To learn more about this subject check out my blog on "hydrostatic pressure."

Failure To Identify Joints

The weakest links in a typical floor are the expansion and control joints, as well as termination points located around drains and doorways. These construction details should be identified, by the resinous flooring expert, prior to installation to prevent undercutting, cracking, or debonding of the flooring material to the substrate. Expansion and control joints are best saw cut after the floor surface is in place. Termination points should be keyed to prevent lifting and undercutting.


High-Performance Systems Corp.

A leader in protective flooring since 1988

436 Lincoln Blvd. 
Middlesex, NJ 08846


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