Epoxy School Blog


Resin flooring specification - avoiding headaches with the right flooring brand

Today’s post continues the series I wrote for my decorative resin flooring brand, Floorchef, which was aimed at helping architects, interior designers and other specifiers avoid common flooring specification headaches.

In the first couple of posts, I armed you with some important questions on the right flooring technology and gave a few pointers on marketing awareness to make sure you chose the right resin flooring path.

The next step from here is to hone in on the right brand within that branch of resin flooring. To avoid setting yourself up for some big headaches down the track, you should focus on finding the answer to this one basic question: “Is there a resin flooring brand that specialises in my kind of project?”

Decorative for decorative, industrial for industrial

Specialise is the key word here. If your project involves a decorative floor, your primary aim should be to identify the brands that do it particularly well. It’s no different to other goods and services really. Just as you wouldn’t head out to your local fish and chip shop if you wanted a fine dining experience, you wouldn’t use an industrial brand for a decorative floor, or a decorative brand for an industrial floor. In the world of floor coatings and flooring brands, the contrasts really can be that stark!

An industrial floor in a processing facility - an example of a floor that requires specialist products from the right flooring brand.

Specialists live and breathe what they do!

Many flooring brands will promote themselves across the widest possible range of applications and use a scattering of jobs in these fields to “prove” their suitability, but, is it their core business? Is it their passion? Is it what they’ve spent countless hours developing and optimising their products for, or is it just another application where the results might be considered good enough? Specialists are experts for a reason and by choosing to work with the right resin flooring brand, you’ll get a whole host of benefits besides just the quality of the end product.

Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Epoxy flooring examples - decorative resin flooring in residential kitchens

Today’s post continues the series on completed epoxy flooring examples, which I started to give readers a better visual idea of the work I write about in my blog.

Below you’ll find another short video from my decorative resin flooring brand, Floorchef – this time featuring just some of the beautiful floors we’ve installed in residential kitchens.

As always, I’d love to know what you think about the floors and I’d be only too happy to answer any questions you might have. Thank you again for your feedback!


Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Surface preparation - hard concrete, soft concrete and grinding disc selection

In this blog I’ve regularly touched on the importance of getting surface preparation right, however haven’t really honed in on the finer points of this task for solvent-free, two-pack epoxies.

Regular readers will know that, at the very least, you’ve got to be looking to remove the top layer of laitance and surface contamination – but, what’s the best way of doing that and how do you know you’re doing it well?

I’ll start of by saying that while there are other effective means of preparation, the average epoxy contractor in the residential, retail and commercial fields should be able to tackle most jobs with only a diamond grinder at their disposal. While this may sound like good news in a way, just putting any old grinder with any old discs onto concrete unfortunately does not guarantee a successful outcome. The performance of your grinder and the quality of your surface preparation is largely controlled by two concepts you need to develop a basic understanding of: “hard” and “softconcrete.

Grinding hard concrete

To explain these terms and the impact they have, I’ll cite some material published by Floorex – a specialist surface preparation company I’ve had a bit do with over the years and always respected for the educational approach they bring to their field. They describe hard concrete as follows –

When we talk about hardness (to grind) it really is all about the kind of dust that is produced during the process. Hard concrete tends to produce ultra fine, talcum powder fine dust. This dust is very un-abrasive; it does not wear the matrix of the diamond segment sufficiently. The result is that the diamond grit soon becomes hardly exposed so it grinds even finer, powdery dust; the segment ceases to grind, and the segments may even get hot and glaze over.

They go on to list some handy rules of thumb you should keep in mind when dealing with this type of concrete –

  • Use diamond tooling with a soft bond and/or less segments for hard concrete and increase the weight on the diamond tooling. Using coarser grit diamond may increase the dust size and keep the tooling working.
  • Equally important; do not use tooling for hard concrete on soft concrete; they will almost certainly wear out incredibly fast.
  • If you turn down the vacuum so there is plenty of dust under the machine, this will help the diamonds to be exposed. Careful addition of sand may also help. Don’t overdo sand, it could cause premature wear!
  • Watch out for the situation where there is a hard-to-grind top layer, and a soft layer below. You can wear out discs fast and you think that because the top is hard, the discs should last. If this occurs, use the soft bond only to, or nearly to the soft layer, then grind the soft layer completely separately with hard bond discs.
  • Lastly inspect your tooling. If there is hardly any diamond exposed out of the matrix, and/or the tooling is getting hot, stop and change to a softer bond, or less segments.

Even a large grinder like this one still needs the right diamond tooling.

Grinding soft concrete

On the other side of the coin, soft concrete is a very different proposition to hard concrete because of the extremely abrasive dust it generates and Floorex offer the following words of advice –

Grinding soft concrete requires “hard bond” discs that resist the metal matrix being eroded away. The sandy, gritty, abrasive dust will erode many discs abnormally fast, so be certain that you are using the right disc. More than any other time, grinding soft concrete is when contractors fail be aware of the signs of rapid grinding and fast wear to stop work and rectify the problem.

With the main threat of soft concrete clearly being excessive wear, the rules of thumb they provide are understandably focussed on awareness and preservation –

  • If the disc begins to grind super well, stop! You are almost certainly are going to wear your diamond tooling too fast. A good operator inspects his tooling regularly for unusually high diamond exposure. This means that when you run your finger over the surface the diamond grit is sticking out a lot. The diamond grit will be falling out of the matrix before you have had a chance to wear them out.
  • Use diamond tooling with a hard bond and/or more segments.
  • Be certain to use the machine weights to reduce the weight of the machine on the tooling.
  • In addition, a vacuum that will extract as much dust away as quickly as possible will greatly improve the life of the tooling. If there is a lot of dust rolling between the floor and segments it will cause excessive wear.

More words of grinding wisdom

With the main topics of hard and soft concrete covered, I’ll finish off by throwing in some general words of wisdom Floorex have for contractors on grinding and disc selection.

Perhaps the biggest message they try to get across is that every slab is different and you can’t fall into the trap of thinking that one disc will be good enough for every job you do. Even the “best” or “biggest” machine won’t get satisfactory results if incorrect discs are used and you’ll benefit greatly if you’re willing to go through a little trial and error at the start of a project.

The other point they make is a personal favourite of mine because I see big similarities with the use of cheap resins. In this case, contractors tempted by the lower price of budget discs will have to put up with discs that work over a relatively narrow band of hardness and have less concentration of diamond grit in them.

Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Resin flooring specification - avoiding headaches with marketing awareness

Today’s post continues the series I wrote for my decorative resin flooring brand, Floorchef, which was aimed at helping architects, interior designers and other specifiers avoid common flooring specification headaches.

If you know what type of resin flooring technology you need (as discussed in this previous post), there are a few points I’d like to tag on about on marketing that can save you some big headaches.

“Oils aint oils” when it comes to resin flooring

Firstly, we might be talking about resin flooring here, but the famous “oils aint oils” line could never be more appropriate. Many are lured by the charms of a cheaper price, but in the world of resin flooring there’s generally good reason why some products cost a fraction of others in the market. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing something that costs 50% more, but lasts four times longer, as “too expensive”.

Test results can be seductive

Secondly, you can be swamped with confusing numbers based on all sorts of test results. While these help paint the picture of what certain products are capable of, don’t let them blind you to what you really need. For example, a resin floor with 95MPa compression strength may sound mighty impressive, but is it really necessary for a department store? In reality it’s a big overkill considering most concrete compression strengths are less than 45MPa anyway. Don’t fall into the trap of making decisions based only on a set of theoretical numbers and always try to balance out the selection process by seeking examples of the product in service.

An example of a resin floor that would require supreme test results to be selected with confidence.

Bold claims need to be qualified

Finally, spread your research across a number of suppliers for a balanced view. Unfortunately you can run into some big promises and empty marketing ploys every so often. Once again, keeping your needs in mind as a fixed reference point will help avoid being swept away by such tactics. To illustrate my point, I saw one company promoting their resin flooring technology as “10 times stronger” than any other. While this sort of thing sounds fantastic on the surface, I’d recommend asking the suppliers to qualify these claims and having a think about what they actually mean for the success of your project.

Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Epoxy flooring examples - decorative resin flooring in retail outlets

Today’s post continues the series on completed epoxy flooring examples, which I started to give readers a better visual idea of the work I write about in my blog.

Below you’ll find another short video from my decorative resin flooring brand, Floorchef – this time featuring a selection of eye-catching designs we’ve installed in shops, stores and other retail outlets.

As always, I’d love to know what you think about the floors and I’d be only too happy to answer any questions you might have. Thank you again for your feedback!


Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Resin flooring specification - avoiding headaches with the right technology

I’ve always believed a thriving resin flooring industry is possible only if we can educate the general flooring market, and I’ve written a lot of material in the past aimed at doing just that.

In the upcoming posts I’ll re-visit a series of short articles I put together for my decorative resin flooring brand, Floorchef, which was aimed at helping architects, interior designers and other specifiers avoid common headaches associated with flooring specification.

What is the right resin flooring technology?

Here’s a great tip for avoiding resin flooring headaches: do some homework on what type of resin flooring technology suits your needs best before you even think about getting a quote. Despite some marketing claims, there’s no single product that’s right for every flooring project!

Installing the ideal resin floor isn’t just about putting down something that looks great, although that’s obviously a big part. You also need to understand what’s required in a number of not-so-obvious areas before you can find the right solution.

Some starting-point resin flooring questions

  • Will I need a thick or a thin floor coating? For instance, does my floor need to be re-built to a certain height, have drainage built in or cope with hot/cold liquids (thick); or, is it simply a matter of applying a thin film on top of a perfectly flat concrete slab to make it look better?
  • What condition is my concrete in? Is it weak and powdery? Will moisture in the concrete be an issue?
  • Am I after a decorative resin floor with a bit of “wow factor” or will plain colour do?
  • What time of year will work begin? Are conditions expected to be hot, cold, wet or dry?
  • How long can I afford to be off the floor? Can I handle an average turnaround of a few days or do things need to happen quicker, e.g. overnight?
  • Is the surrounding environment sensitive? Will solvents or any other hazards pose an unacceptable risk?
  • What traffic will the floor receive? Will slip resistance be required?

A moisture meter recording levels of moisture not suitable for all types of resin flooring.

The right resin floor should now be getting clearer!

Only after you’ve sifted through questions like these will you start to form a clearer picture of which resin flooring road you should be taking. Will the technology be an epoxy, polyurethane, polyurea, polyaspartic or MMA? Once again, perhaps the key message when it comes to resin flooring technology is that every type has advantages and disadvantages, and thinking one can do it all will only set you up for some major headaches.

Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Epoxy flooring examples - decorative resin floors in bedrooms and bathrooms

My posts are all about sharing epoxy know how and what I believe are the keys to success, however it was brought to my attention recently that I don’t show enough completed work!

Where does the combination of good products, proper training/education and all the other stuff I talk about lead to? What results are possible? Well, I suppose it’s time I painted you a better picture!

With a big percentage of my content aimed at epoxy flooring, I’ve put together a collection of short videos showcasing some of the jobs completed by Floorchef – a decorative resin flooring brand I started in 2011.

We’ll start with some residential floors in bedrooms and bathrooms, but I’ll post a different one every second week or so just to break things up and give you more examples of the epoxy flooring projects I’ve been involved with.

I’d love to know what you think of the floors you see and, of course, I’d be only too happy to answer any questions you might have. Thank you again for your feedback!


Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Epoxy opinion - test results, warranties and other damaging grey areas

The limited training opportunities raised in my last post makes it hard enough for fresh talent to enter our industry, but unfortunately that’s only half the battle.

Contractors just starting out also need to navigate through the tricky “smoke and mirror” landscape of the coatings world and, not surprisingly, only very few of them make it through. I’ve seen the same story unfold time and time again – new contractors emerge with hope and enthusiasm, only to quickly fizzle out because they are hit with half truths and empty promises at every turn. Failed jobs follow failed jobs and confidence levels plummet. In the end they have no choice but to pack up and exit, another victim of a ruthless industry that appears too willing to make a sale rather than help find a solution.

While all that sounds rather dark and gloomy, I honestly believe the prognosis for anyone starting a career in coatings is pretty bleak. With no recognised best practices, training or practical assessment, there are so many traps to fall into and so many people prepared to lead them into the fire. Just for a moment, consider the following three examples – all massive personal gripes of mine – and the impact they have on a contractor trying to find their feet.

Misleading test results

The nature of the work we do sees very few applications performed in ideal conditions with ideal preparation and ideal application. With this is mind, what do test results actually mean when it comes to performance in the field? More importantly, do the differences between these perfect test results and actual results ever get explained to a contractor who mightn’t know any better?

All of this dawned on me one day while conducting tensile adhesion tests and thinking about the relevance of the results I was getting. As usual the test conditions were very close to ideal – I was able to solvent wipe and abrasive blast every square inch of the metal substrate to class 2.5, apply the small patch of product carefully and allow it to cure without extreme temperatures, rain etc. Yes, the results I got were impressive, but would it be like that in the field? Could a contractor reasonably expect the same results? What would happen if the mix ratio was out or some solvent was added to help application in cool conditions? Would it still be good enough to do this job or that job?

The problem I feel is that these types of questions aren’t being addressed well enough by the industry as a whole and, in many cases I’ve heard, inflated test results are actually being used as selling tools to “prove” certain products are better than others; as if nothing else entered the equation. Very few manufacturers seem willing to explore what these test results mean on a project by project basis and it’s a big trap for naive contractors who have no choice but to take everything on face value.

A marine coating with excellent test results failing to perform in a field application.

Ignored product limitations

It’s a similar scenario when it comes to product limitations. The truth is every product out there has certain strengths and weaknesses, however I’m not sure every manufacture is willing to admit it. I call it the “she’ll be right” or “that’s just the way it is” mentality and can give you a couple of examples to demonstrate how this catches contractors out.

The first involves a polyaspartic coating and I’ve heard similar stories a few times now. For those unfamiliar with the technology, polyaspartics have emerged as a very popular choice for applications requiring a quick turnaround due to their combination of speed, tolerance of low temperatures, high solids content and high build capabilities, among other things. They can, however, be unforgiving when it comes to additional coats and contractors have to work within strict re-coat windows to avoid intercoat adhesion problems. Unfortunately this wasn’t communicated to the contractor at the time and the “she’ll be right” answer given to the question of whether another coat could be applied several weeks later resulted in sections peeling off the floor.

In the second example, a contractor had only been in his business for less than a year when he was sold pigment pots to use in a clear product for a run of solid-colour floors. When he reported back to his supplier with colour separation problems he was told “that’s just the way it is” and that’s where the matter ended. He was never educated on why the problem can occur in the first place and never told that he’d be better off using a tintable floor coating rather than pigmenting a clear. As it turned out, the supplier didn’t have a tintable rollcoat to offer and that probably explains why he wasn’t too keen on suggesting one at the time!

Empty warranties

The third area where new contractors can be extremely vulnerable is perhaps the biggest grey area in our industry – warranties.

It’s no secret that consumers like assurances and some manufacturers pounce on this by offering extended warranties that sound great on the surface, however contain so much fine print that you can almost guarantee whatever goes wrong won’t be their problem. A few humdingers stick out in my memory here, such as a fire fighting water tank atop a city high-rise that needed to be completely drained every year when such a task was virtually impossible, and, the extended warranty happily offered on the driven pylons of a bridge that could never be inspected anyway.

The specific danger for inexperienced contractors with complicated and confusing warranties is not fully understanding what they could be liable for in the event of a failure. With the water-tight nature of these documents, it’s often the companies that get to walk away unscathed while the unsuspecting contractor is pulled into the firing line.

As a final comment I just want to say the purpose of this post wasn’t to call out anyone in particular with regards to these practices, but rather to acknowledge they exist and highlight the damage they can cause to the most vulnerable members of our industry. If we are to grow and improve as an industry, we need to be able to attract and nurture new talent rather than slam the door in their face, so to speak. It’s a tough enough business as it is and not being open and honest in the three areas I’ve mentioned only makes it tougher!

Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Epoxy opinion - should resin flooring become a trade?

There’s always been a gaping hole in the resin flooring industry and I think the time has come to fix it - the time has come to make resin flooring a proper trade!

As radical as it may sound, this isn’t a completely new concept. In fact, I’ve already been a part of several interesting discussions on LinkedIn in recent times where formal training and the idea of a resin flooring body have been raised – and with good reason from where I sit.

Right now in Australia, the federal government has identified flooring finishers as a major area of skill shortage based on industry growth forecasts. I’ve also read similar articles from other countries about the emerging popularity of resin flooring and the opportunities arising as a result. While this is exciting news, I can’t help but wonder what happens if we don’t prepare ourselves and get on top of the inevitable growing pains.

For instance, will the increased demand entice unskilled, unlicensed workers to simply walk off the streets and start doing resin floors? I certainly hope not because in some ways it feels like our industry is already in a damaging race to the bottom. For resin flooring to reach its potential and become a genuine mainstream flooring alternative to tiles, carpet, timber and vinyl, this type of scenario must be avoided. It needs to get serious about the way it attracts and develops talent, among other things. In short, I believe it needs to become a trade; a profession we can all be proud of.

A resin flooring profession

So, what does a “profession” actually look like in our language? Well, I feel we should be aiming to create an industry with the following -

  1. An internationally recognised and accepted best practices standard for resin flooring.
  2. An international body that promotes the adoption of the standards and drives the professional conduct of all stakeholders – manufacturers, specifiers and contractors.
  3. A recognised training program and practical assessment based on the extension of the standards.
  4. Where applicable, a government-recognised qualification or trade license connected to the training program and practical assessment.

At the moment it obviously looks nothing like this. If contractors get any practical training at all it’s through splintered courses in other trades or from their employers that are often self-taught and keen to hold onto their IP. It feels all very murky and unstructured on every level. We desperately need to tighten things up and establish a recognised trade so that we’re no longer hiding in the shadows of the wider flooring industry.

Driven by the people

When I first started thinking about how a resin flooring trade could get off the ground, I must admit the enormity of it all made my head spin. It just seemed like an impossible task! With some preliminary research now under my belt, I think the most encouraging thing I’ve come to realise is that we’re not the first to have this dilemma. Other industries have got to the same point in the same haphazard way, but then evolved into proud professions with standalone qualifications and a real presence.

I strongly believe we can do the same and tentative meetings with our national licensing authority, national training body, a registered national training provider, and even the president of a rival flooring organisation, have only confirmed that view. In fact, the take-home message I got from all those discussions was that reforms like these were very doable if the industry as a whole felt the need. From what I sense, we’re very close to that point. We have a global landscape crying out for a better way and a great opportunity to do something about it under one, united banner.

Proper floor training, like this timber program, is an important part of a flooring trade.

Your thoughts on a resin flooring trade

At the end of the day these are only my thoughts on where the resin flooring industry is placed right now and, as I just mentioned, it takes many more thinking the same way to get real change happening. So, I want to pass it over to you. What are your thoughts on resin flooring becoming a proper trade? Do you think there’s a need? If you have concerns, let’s hear them. If you like the concept and would support it then put your hand up.

There is only one condition of your comment: please leave egos and agendas at the door. It is hoped this post prompts an open, productive discussion about ways we can improve our industry and it won’t work if people are made to feel uncomfortable voicing their opinion or it gets hijacked for personal gain.

Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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Decorative epoxies - the problem with white glossy floors

For as long as I’ve been doing decorative epoxies there’s been strong demand for pure white floors, particularly from homeowners. But, are they really a good flooring choice?

Now, I can certainly understand why the pristine white floor you see in glossy magazine spreads would capture the imagination of a lot of people. Those photos can certainly look amazing! However, after many years of doing them and seeing them done, I also realise that similar results are by no means guaranteed and these types of floors have a considerable downside.

The main problems with glossy white floors

The following are four major issues that make me think twice about proceeding with a white floor -

  1. Defects - glossy white floors, more than any other, will show up defects in the final film. Of course measures can be taken to ensure the surface is meticulously prepared, high-quality application tools are used, and the floor is sealed off to prevent bugs and dust landing on the floor, however in reality perfection is very hard to achieve. All you need is a small dip, a few bubbles or a stuck insect and the dream of a glossy white floor can turn into a nightmare because most floor owners will have visions of a white mirror across the whole floor.
  2. Cost - installing a glossy white floor will generally require more coats or a very thick single coat, which means more product and a higher cost. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, white needs greater thickness to fully block out the surface underneath, and secondly, extra build is required to level out any unevenness and deliver a flawlessly flat finish.
  3. Finish - speaking of flawlessly flat finish, perhaps the biggest hurdle for anyone chasing a glossy white floor is the fact that even with everything else falling into place during application, not all resins can actually deliver it. Just any old epoxy binder isn’t going to form a beautifully smooth, glossy finish regardless of how thick it’s applied and specialist decorative epoxies are the only hope.
  4. Maintenance - no dirt is white and glossy white floors have a great knack of showing up even the slightest hint of everyday dust. Scuffing and yellowing also tend to take on an extra dimension when they have a white canvas to work with. All in all, those with a white floor can find cleaning becomes a full time job.

With all those points in mind, you can start to see why I’m a little cautious when people ask for the perfect white floor.

A more forgiving white floor

So, if white floors aren’t necessarily the way to go, what do I recommend instead? I think the best thing contractors can do in these situations is to try to offer their client the same type of look/feel, but with a few small changes to make the floor more forgiving and drag the odds back in their favour.

A good option here is the use of metallic effect pigments in combination with off-white colours – something like a shimmering pearl finish will add an extra dimension to the floor, help draw attention away from the surface itself, and, at the end of the day, appear very close to white when side by side with most décor. If the client isn’t sold on that sort of tweaking and insists on plain white as the colour, then I’ll turn my attention to the gloss levels and see if something less than a mirror is acceptable. The use of sacrificial polishes (or even clear non-slip topcoats) to create a semi-gloss look will be a massive help in concealing imperfections and dirt while at the same time providing improved scratch and scuff resistance.

A good alternative to glossy white floors that uses a light grey colour and subtle metallic effects.

Education is the key

Although it may sound like it, I am by no means suggesting that beautiful glossy white floors are impossible. They certainly can be done. What I do want to stress, however, is that they aren’t easy and it takes high-quality preparation, application and decorative epoxies to do it, as well as a hint of plain good luck in some cases.

For contractors thinking about taking on such work, I highly recommend you educate your clients about the possible issues that can arise before you start and don’t sell yourself short when it comes time to quote because they can’t be done cheaply. The biggest problem with white floors is that expectations rarely match reality and to avoid disappointment you need to make sure you’re both completely on the same page.

Take care and talk to you later,

Jack

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