What Material is Right for Your Warehouse Floor Coatings?

October 1, 2008

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As a painting and coatings professional since 1983, I have been approached many times concerning the proper floor coating for warehouse floors. Trade journals are loaded with advertisements for different coatings that all promise optimal performance under virtually any conditions, and every one claims to be the best bargain in the business.

The sales success of many coatings relies heavily on the fact that most warehouse managers are not coatings experts. Promises of terrific wear and outstanding appearance often prove sufficient to generate more than a few purchase orders, especially if the advertising also promises professional application and provides a performance warranty.

Without a clear idea of the precise requirements of an application, it is extremely easy to select the wrong coating for the job at hand.

The first step in selecting the right coating for a warehouse floor is to carefully determine what kinds of stresses the coating will be expected to tolerate. Consider the following:

The nature of the materials stored in the warehouse; corrosive liquids, solvents, reagent chemicals, and specialty chemicals often demand a floor finish that can withstand potential spills as well as the abuse dished out by the handling equipment typically used to maneuver containers that hold these kinds of materials.

The aesthetic expectations of the facility; a warehouse that is routinely part of corporate “dog and pony” shows must sparkle for every new visitor, and the floor finish must return to its initial luster upon regular cleaning. The coating must also be able to withstand the rigors of that frequent cleaning without chipping, undo wear, or discoloration.

Finally, the floor coating must retain its essential properties in the face of routine maintenance. Cleaning and scrubbing, power-sweeping, automated buffing, and similar procedures designed to keep the operation in top shape can damage the floor finish unless it is specifically formulated to endure such treatment. Using a different cleaning solution or floor polish can wreck an otherwise perfect finish.

There are several resin systems that form the backbone of industrial floor finishes, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses:

Epoxy: extremely durable coatings composed of two components; a vehicle that contains resin, pigment, and performance modifiers, and a hardener that causes the finish to crosslink to achieve maximum performance. Open to some discoloration, these finishes are typically used where wear resistance, chemical resistance, and impact resistance are important.

Polyurethane: very durable, aesthetically pleasing finish often modified with acrylic resin to achieve superior shine and color retention. More costly than epoxy and almost always requires a primer coat to provide adhesion, but perfect for warehouses perpetually in the corporate spotlight.

Polyester: a virtually indestructible resin system with many variants; provides outstanding performance in every respect, but can prove extremely expensive. This resin family demands complete and exact surface preparation prior to application. In every case, the supplier should provide exact specifications for proper application in order to achieve total performance. Surface preparation is always crucial to coating performance and must be part of any professional application service.

While it is certainly possible to apply any coating using in-house personnel, this is not recommended unless they have extensive experience using the selected resin system. In the end, the premium spent on professional application will pay for itself in terms of coating longevity and performance.

At last, consult other businesses in your area to find out who has provided the best coatings and service in applications similar to yours. There is no better way to determine the level of quality and workmanship that you can expect from a coatings supplier. There are more than a few firms that will have you paying for their beginners’ mistakes, so be certain you are dealing with an experienced company with a long reputation for success.

Questions or comments?

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