Epoxy floor coatings, made from a mixture of resin and hardener that becomes firm and rigid once cured, come in three major types: water based, solvent based, and solid epoxy. Solid epoxy floor coatings cure — the technical term for the process of drying and hardening over time — faster but prove difficult to handle and typically require professional installation. Water based epoxy floor coatings, on the other hand, cure at slower speeds but eliminate most or all of the harmful fumes contained in the epoxy compound. Solvent based epoxy coatings are highly popular due to the variety of colors available and the highly adhesive nature of the epoxy. This type, however, releases harmful fumes which can cause health problems and lung damage if inhaled.
Known as a thermosetting polymer, epoxy is made from a mixture of a resin known as epoxide and a hardening agent known as polyamine, thus giving it the name "epoxy." Thermosetting refers to the heat created from mixing the resin and hardener together, which causes the hardening action. The durability and smooth, decorative appearance created when the epoxy dries makes it a popular choice for concrete floors such as those found in garages.
When applying an epoxy floor coating, the worker should wear a proper mask and other equipment to keep from breathing in the harmful fumes. For the most durable finish, a solvent based epoxy or solid epoxy is the best choice. The solvent based epoxy gives a wider choice of colors, but this may not be as important depending on the area. Water based epoxy floor coatings are the safest and, though the drying time is slower, are a good choice to avoid harmful fumes.
It's important for workers to avoid applying epoxy floor coatings onto wood, metal, or areas that receive a lot of water. An outside concrete patio, for example, that constantly has puddles of water sitting on it should not receive an epoxy coating. Special types of epoxy exist for the owner who needs a little extra protection for his floors.
These include heat resistant coatings and heavy duty protective coatings. While epoxy coatings have these qualities in general, certain brands may be created to provide an extra durable protective coating or to hold up to certain temperatures. The manufacturer or supplier will know what specific properties the epoxy has and whether or not it will be the best fit for a homeowner's current home repair project.