Surface Preparation: A Critical Step in Industrial Epoxy Flooring Applications

In our 30+ years in the Epoxy Flooring industry, we know that 80% of all coatings failures can be directly attributed to inadequate surface preparation, affecting coating adhesion. You should expect surface preparation to take up at least 40-50% of the necessary man-hours in a project.

Unlike Surface Technology, Inc., many commercial painting contractors lack the expertise and equipment necessary to prepare the substrate to ensure coating integrity properly. Correct decisions must be made at the outset to gain the best finish quality and prolong a coating system’s service life and adhesion.

If you are investing in a resinous flooring installation in an existing facility, be sure to select a specialist with experience and knowledge – not only with the application of the epoxy paint surface but also in the best practices in surface preparation. Due to economics or other factors, the wrong decisions can lead to rapid deterioration of the coating and the need to start all over again.

Here are just a few of the considerations that Surface Technology, Inc. takes into account when beginning an industrial flooring project:

Inspection of the Existing Substrate

Before we make any product recommendations, we take the time to get to know you and the goals you have for your facility. Ask your industrial flooring contractor to perform a free site visit – as we do for our clients. We’ll determine the parameters for your project, including square footage, substrate condition, and any external environmental constraints.

Before any paint application can begin, the surface must be dry and in sound condition. On tilt-up and poured-in-place concrete, commercial detergents and abrasive blasting may be necessary to prepare the surface. Concrete and mortar must be cured for at least 30 days at 75°F, and the pH of the surface should be between 6 and 9.

surface preparation

Contaminant Removal

Your contractor must thoroughly eliminate all grease, oil, tar, peeling paint, loose coatings, glaze, efflorescence, loose cement, and any buildup of fine particles – also known as laitance.

If moisture is present, the source must be located and the cause corrected before painting. Hardeners, sealers, form release agents, curing compounds, and other concrete treatments must be compatible with the coatings or be removed.

Blast Cleaning

If the inspection determines that blast cleaning is required, ensure your contractor follows proper ASTM protocol. These procedures include brush blasting or sweep blasting, dry blasting, water blasting, water blasting with abrasives, and vacuum blasting with abrasives.

Here is part of a Case Study on a Surface Technology, Inc. project for Paragon Foods:

“With the stage set, two crewmen worked with their Blastrac 14D walk-behind shot blaster to pepper the concrete with Aramsco S-390 steel shot to achieve NACE No. 6/Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) Surface Preparation (SP) 13: Surface Prep of Concrete standard. Others used DeWalt 4- and 7-inch angle grinders to prep edges and doorways. Working on hands and knees, the crew also wielded hammers and chisels to create 45-degree tapers (called chases) around floor drains so the slurry would trowel flush to the drain collars. On larger drains and long stretches of trench drains, the men used a Bosch 11316EVS chipping hammer to create chases.”

Click here to read the complete Case Study.

What is Shotblasting? It is a highly effective method for preparing, stripping, and leveling surfaces in preparation for epoxy coating systems. When performed by experienced professionals, this method provides a roughened surface that improves the adhesion of resinous paint applications.

Cleaning & Final Preparation

The entire area must be thoroughly vacuumed following the proper shot blasting procedure. Depending on the condition of the original flooring, we often clean the whole area with various commercial solvents or detergents, followed by a complete wash-down. In some cases, multiple applications of these cleaning solutions and thorough rinsing may be necessary.

Another careful inspection of the facility’s floor must be performed to locate any loose concrete or leftover contaminants such as curing compounds, form release agents, etc. Hand tools and on-the-ground manual scraping is often required to eliminate any areas that could inhibit proper adhesion of the final epoxy surface.

There can be no gloss to the surface, so in some cases, it will be necessary to abrade the concrete further to ensure there is a uniform “tooth” to enable maximum bonding between the surface and the newly applied resinous paint.

Your contractor must have the knowledge necessary to determine if acid etching is required, using solutions of Muriatic or Phosphoric acids. They must monitor the proper level of bubbling that indicates an adequately cleaned surface. If no bubbling occurs, the surface is contaminated with grease, oil, or a concrete treatment that interferes with proper etching. According to ASTM standards, they must understand how to remove the contamination with a suitable cleaner and then re-etch the surface. They must then thoroughly rinse the surface and completely remove the acid/water mixture after each rinse.

The final surface should have a texture similar to medium grit sandpaper.

It may be necessary to repeat this step several times if a suitable texture is not achieved with one etching. Ensure that the contractor brings the pH of the surface to neutral the proper alkali cleaners and flush with clean water to achieve a sound, clean surface.

Final Thoughts

  • Ensure that the contractor you choose for an industrial flooring project has the specific expertise necessary in selecting materials, applying the final surface, and the complexities of surface preparation.
  • Be wary of any commercial painting service that boasts that their products don’t require thorough surface preparation.
  • Don’t let others at your facility pressure you to “hurry up” the flooring project due to logistics and costs. This can lead to the wrong decisions in surface preparation – and possible deterioration such as coating cracking, detaching itself from the substrate, bubbles, or other particles in the coating. These issues may not appear immediately, and the floor might look appropriate upon completion. However, after a few months, when your facility is in full operation, you might begin seeing problems appear – requiring another shutdown and re-doing the project.

The Surface Technology Difference

Surface Technology, Inc. is a proven leader in the planning, surface preparation, and installation of high-performance industrial flooring, coating, and lining systems throughout North America. Our clients have included industry leaders in Food & Beverage Processing, Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, Cannabis Cultivation, Chemical Processing, Aviation/Aerospace, Electronics Manufacturing, and much more. Click here to read some of our Customer Testimonials. We are fully qualified to handle industrial floor coatings in Divisions 7 and 9 of the CSI MasterFormat® list. Surface Technology is bonded up to $2 million.

  • People: SAFETY FIRST – Zero lost time to accidents in over fifteen years. Dedicated Polymer Flooring Professionals averaging more than twenty years of field experience – the highest in the industry!
  • Process: LEAN/SIX SIGMA continuous improvement process. State-of-the-art surface preparation, installation equipment, and techniques. Single point of contact responsibility.
  • Products: UNIVERSAL PRODUCT OPTIONS from all premium manufacturers. STI specifies the best available product(s) for the application. Single source warranty covering materials and labor. Learn about our Quick Turnaround — we offer around-the-clock service during planned shutdowns.
  • Results: CUSTOM DESIGNED, SPECIFIED, AND INSTALLED to exacting standards of craftsmanship. Outstanding long-term performance and value. Reduced operating and maintenance costs. Improved employee morale and productivity.

Click here to schedule an initial consultation with our industrial floor coating experts. We’ll review your requirements, inspect your current flooring, and customize a total flooring solution that maximizes operational efficiency and minimizes downtime.