Concrete Floors, Epoxies
This is a new angle for epoxies. They have been used for years on concrete floors in factories, hotel lobbies and other commercial settings because of their adhesive properties, hardness and resistance to chemicals.
by John Strieder
, owner of Concrete Graphix in Camarillo, Calif., gets tired of adding the same old colors to his concrete, he turns to tinted epoxy to jazz up his work. “I’ve opened up the book to anything now,” he says. “The sky’s the limit.”
To put the finishing touch on a concrete portrait of a hummingbird, Tubbs spread glittered epoxy on the stone bird’s belly, giving it a shiny, natural look.
This is a new angle for epoxies. They have been used for years on concrete floors in factories, hotel lobbies and other commercial settings because of their adhesive properties, hardness and resistance to chemicals. Tubbs himself has laid epoxy at the Irvine Spectrum shopping center, a Fatburger restaurant, a Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store, and to seal stamped stone on the shower walls of a house. “It’s such a strong cover,” he says. “It gives so much shine.”
But epoxies have rarely been celebrated for their artistic qualities — until now. Innovations that improve their performance have combined with a growing interest in their decorative capabilities to create a kind of renaissance for this industrial stalwart.
The standard epoxy is a two-component system — it cures as the result of a reaction between two mixed substances. There are “single-component epoxies” on the market, such as those that use alkyd technology, but they typically deteriorate much quicker than two-part coatings.
Epoxies stand up well when compared to their competitors. They have several times the wear resistance of standard acrylics. They are more resistant to oil, gasoline and other abrasive spills than garage-floor paint. And they adhere to concrete better than many urethanes.
Thanks to recent innovations, some new epoxies are sporting faster cure times, more light stability and more flexibility, says Jim Essig, Western technical director for Crossfield Products Corp. “Epoxies are getting much more technically advanced to meet requirements from the marketplace.”
The past five years have also witnessed a shift in home and garage decor from the monolithic gray concrete floor to the flair of decorative epoxy, Essig says. “Everybody is more interested in aesthetics now than they used to be.”
The residential market is growing, agrees Darryl Manuel, president of Vexcon Chemicals Inc., which introduced its PowerCoat Epoxy System in 1995. But the commercial side remains crucial, he says, noting that epoxies cost three or four times as much per square foot as acrylics. “The market has been commercial because that’s where epoxy is valuable versus other types of things,” he says. “The commercial people are going to pay for it. They don’t want to be shutting down the store to fix their floors.”
Still, Key Resin president Bob Cain says advances in aesthetics are stimulating the boom. “There is a whole host of ways that you can achieve decorative effects with epoxies you just couldn’t do a few years ago,” he says. “Garage floor coating is an unbelievably expanding market right now. People want the garage to be part of the home, really.”
And thin-film epoxies can achieve uniquely stunning results because they have the strength to hold both the chips and aggregate, he says. “Epoxy is what makes it all possible. Urethane is great as a seal coat, but it does not have the thickness or integrity to glue everything together the way epoxy does.”
Mike Duarte, technical director for Versatile Building Products Inc., says demand for epoxies in homes is mainly driven by contractors and consumers looking for innovative, unique effects.
Customers in the residential market want glossy surfaces, Duarte says, and in his opinion, nothing delivers better than epoxies. A contractor can simply flood the floor and get a full film build, high sheen and a level surface in one coat, he says. “You can’t really hide pockmarks with acrylics or urethane.”
Using an expensive industrial-strength coating on a garage floor is overkill, Duarte acknowledges. But because labor and travel time account for much of the cost of a job, buying a better sealer doesn’t raise the price much. And it can save the contractor a second trip, he adds. “You don’t want to be out resealing somebody’s house in two years. You don’t want a callback either. You don’t want the sealer wearing off within the warranty.”