Applying warehouse floor coatings requires planning and expertise before, during and after the actual product application. Failures in surface analysis and preparation, product selection, application technique, dry time and maintenance procedures can, and do, cause coatings to fail. 

Product Choice

Contact a professional coatings applier early in your project’s planning stages. Your applier will be able to assess your project’s needs, compare them to the known strengths and weaknesses of available products, and recommend an appropriate system. If your floor will be subject to forklift traffic, a professional will recommend an epoxy or urethane, not an acrylic. If you need to hose down your floor (especially if there is any chance that workers or other personnel may end up walking on it while wet), you will need a slip-resistant elastomeric. The amount and type of cleaning your floor will need to support and the environmental conditions involved in its application will also factor into the choice of products and procedures. 

Surface Analysis

Understanding your current floor is crucial. Your substrate needs to be properly cured and its pH levels and moisture levels analyzed. A professional will:

(1) determine the presence and nature of any sealer, curing compounds and hardeners present, most commonly by running an acid test on your substrate 

(2) run an anhydrous calcium chloride test to determine the level of water vapor pressure present (Your system will withstand 3.0 to 3.5 lbs of pressure at best.) 

(3) determine whether your surface has impurities in or on its surface (laitance) 

(4) choose a profiling method that will remove them 

(5) analyze the ambient conditions of your space, since the range of air temperature and humidity present will affect drying time, curing time and the overall stability and quality of your finish 

(6) inspect the surface for cracks, divots and other flaws 

Surface Preparation

Failures in this step account for many, if not most, instances of floor coating failure. A professional applier will clean your surface thoroughly (and, if necessary, repeatedly) to remove grease and other contaminants that will prevent your new coating system from adhering.

Once your surface is clean, your applier will create a profile by using chemical agents (etching) or mechanical means. Etching, or applying a thin coat of acid (often a 30% solution of hydrochloric acid), presents safety and other environmental concerns, but can work well on small projects as long as they require a thin coating that can be supported by a shallow profile.

Mechanical means, including shot-blasting, water-jetting, sand-blasting and grinding, roughen the surface more deeply, providing support for a thicker covering. Some surfaces may require a termination point near drains or other thresholds in your project. One way to achieve this is by creating “deep key cuts using a portable power saw and masonry blade. 

Application

Once the surface is ready, a professional applier won’t wait too long to get your sealer in place. A profiled surface is vulnerable to damage from traffic and the environment. Removing an old sealant and allowing ambient humidity or other contaminants to get at or into your substrate can cause failure in your final coating.

Your applier will apply sealant first, and then fill any structural cracks or divots. (The sealant will keep the filler in its place, instead of letting it filter into the substrate.) Once the sealant is in place, the professional will apply a compatible intermediate coating and then a finish coating, mixing all components carefully and accurately, and, if required, allowing the mix some induction time so its components can fully combine.

The applier will choose the right tools for your product; a squeegee, roller (porcupine), or trowel may be the best applicator and prevent outgassing (which occurs when air or other vapor bubbles are trapped in a coating and can produce pinholes or other flaws that affect the look and performance of your coating). 

Drying Time

An experienced professional understands the set-up, drying and curing times required for each individual product in your coating system, and for the system as a whole. Haste here can truly make waste, since improper curing can compromise the products and systems. Be sure to understand and follow your professional’s recommendations as dry time is a vital step in the longevity of any coating.

Maintenance

The best job can be marred or destroyed over time by under- or over-zealous cleaning and other maintenance. Be sure to follow your professional appliers’ recommendations regarding cleaning and other maintenance procedures. Using very hot water or harsh chemicals for cleaning can eat away many acrylic and other finishes that could have performed well for years if handled less severely. Failure to clean quickly and adequately can trap dirt and other abrasives which will also contribute to coating failure.

Combining your professional’s recommendations with your own diligence and care can help you avoid the time and expense of redoing a failed floor coating and provide you with a successful, sturdy flooring surface for a number of years to come.

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