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Choosing the Right Paint for Your Factory Floor

Deep red Flortex Professional in a factory setting

It is well known that there are hundreds of suppliers selling hundreds of different types of paint from hundreds of manufactures. So, for the business owner, finance director or maintenance manager, this becomes a lottery as to which manufacturer you should use and what type of paint you should buy.

There is hardly a person or company that has not experienced a failure of either a floor paint or screed and as a consequence, have wasted so much time, effort, and money.  A cheap paint may appear more enticing but when factoring in the inconvenience and cost caused by production downtime, it pays to make a wise and educated decision so as not to end in failure and frustration.

So, for your confidence and encouragement, this article is written by the owner of Polycote UK, a company known and respected for their professionalism and knowledge gained from over 30 years of hands-on practical experience, installing floor paints and screeds in almost every type of industry, nationwide.

So, to this end, we hope this step-by-step guide will be of great help to you in arriving at the best paint solution – for your own specific needs.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Floor Paint

Before any supplier can ‘arrive’ at the correct paint solution for your specific needs, they need to know the answers to all the following questions.  Only then, can they provide you with a long-term solution.

The list shown here will serve as a simple index as we will delve into each question individually.  Whilst there are obviously hundreds of different case scenarios, we will try to provide answers that will at least help provide an overview of all aspects and type of substrate. Some of the points may not be relevant to you in which you can ignore the question, hence why we have numbered this index to enable you to find a specific point relevant to your needs.

  1. Why do you want to paint / repaint the floor?
  2. What type of substrate do you have?
  3. Is the floor new or old?
  4. Is the substrate strong and sound, or is it weak and porous?
  5. Is there a DPM (Damp Proof Membrane)?
  6. Do you have any oil, grease or chemical contamination?
  7. Has the floor been previously painted with a floor paint or sealer?
  8. What amount and type of traffic will the floor be subjected to?
  9. Will the floor need any specific chemical resistance?
  10. Do you want to apply the floor yourself or do you require labour?
  11. How much time can you spare to complete the work?
  12. What temperature will the area be at the time of application?
  13. Cost or Investment?

1. Why do you want to paint / repaint your floor?

To the average customer, these questions might sound a bit unnecessary BUT it is important and crucial we ask the questions.  If I as a supplier do not know exactly WHY you want to paint the floor, then it is impossible to intelligently meet your needs and expectations.

So, the most common reasons for wanting to paint the floor are:

a) Stop the dust.

b) Waterproof the floor.

c) For chemical resistance to prevent oil penetration or chemical attack.

d) For purely aesthetic reasons, such as a showroom.

e) For safety / slip-resistant reasons.

f) To protect the substrate from impact damage.

g) To help prevent wear and tear and prolong the life of the concrete.

h) To stop rising damp.

If it is a case of repainting the floor, all of the above questions are still relevant, but these further questions are even MORE crucial, because if we do not know why the existing coating has ‘failed’, then it is impossible to intelligently offer a solution!

If its simply a case of the fact that the original floor was a good quality floor, has all stuck solidly for the last 20 years and is simply a case of becoming tired and worn, then that is simple.  However, if it is a case that the floor is peeling, lifting, flaking and/or bubbling, then these are the most common points we would like you to consider / do:

  1. Peel a piece of paint off the floor, turn it over a look at the back. What do you see?

a) It is covered in dust/concrete particles?

This shows that the paint has adhered 100% to the surface of the substrate, but unfortunately the substrate has failed /delaminated from the surface, which in turn is why the paint has ‘come away’ from the substrate.

This can be for two main reasons:

  • The quality of the substrate is poor/weak and needs strengthening.
  • The surface was not prepared sufficiently by removing the loose particles/laitance from the surface prior to the application of the paint.

b) The piece of paint has come off the floor and the back side is ‘as clean as a whistle’.

For there to be no evidence of the substrate stuck to the back of the sample simply and bluntly proves zero adhesion to the substrate and it is most important that you find out why!

  • Was the floor sealed and therefore preventing any penetration and/or adhesion to the substrate?
    • Pour some water onto the bare concrete, from where you have just taken your sample. If the water, simply sits as a blob on the surface of the concrete this would strongly suggest a clear sealer has been used and is causing the ‘barrier’.
    • Concrete is naturally porous and therefore if the water penetrates the surface (seen by the concrete becoming darker) then this shows it has not necessarily been sealed. You may then have to consider…
  • The presence of some other ‘external influence’ that is causing zero adhesion, such as waxes, oils, and silicone’s. There are obviously many and varied types, and you are best to find out what ‘they’ might be.

However, and in fact, whilst it is always best to KNOW what product is causing the paint not to stick, and the whole purpose of this article is promoting the need to be intelligent, when all is said and done and whatever the reason, you will need to ‘cut through’ this barrier.  So just by way of a suggestion, the use of a chemical acid treatment or better still to mechanically abrade the surface will help you remove the surface and expose the porosity of the concrete.  Just remember that whatever is on the surface, this may well have penetrated the substrate and you may need to remove more than just the very top surface! Very simply, if you don’t get ‘past’ this barrier and re-expose the pores, you will more than likely continue to get delamination and failure!

c) There is clearly dampness within the concrete.

This shows that the floor was either wet at the time of application and therefore the paint did not adhere.  This can be that the floor was cleaned by washing and then not left to dry sufficiently prior to the application of the paint.

Or…, there is an underlying issue with ring damp, caused simply by one of two reasons, zero DPM or a damaged/failed DPM.

If damp is the reason for failure, particularly rising damp, then it is imperative that the floor is sealed with one or two coats of a liquid DPM, such as Polycote DPM Primer.

d) There is the presence of oil.

Oil is both a serious and dreadful problem when trying to paint a floor.  The main reason for this is that there are very, very few products that will remain stuck to an oil contaminated floor.  The reason for this is actually very simple.  Firstly, the oil penetrates down into the concrete. You work hard and clean the floor thoroughly, returning it back to its former glory, and you are very pleased with the result.  You then paint the floor and wham, after what is only a fairly short space of time the floor begins to lift and peel.

The reason why we stated it as a ‘dreadful’ problem is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to get all the oil out from within the concrete, thus you have a never-ending problem!!!

However, all is not lost because there IS a way out – Polycote OT Primer!  This highly advanced twin pack epoxy has been professionally formulated to adhere to oil contaminated floors and has been proven in some of the worst and almost unbelievable situations.

2. What type of substrate do you have?

This question is really a ‘two-pronged’ question; firstly, the type of material whether it be concrete, wood, etc, and secondly, the strength or ‘state’ of the substrate, whether it is soft or hard, rusty or clean, whatever!

For instance:

Concrete:  Is it very porous or is it very hard?

Metal:        Is the surface rusty or clean?

Tiled:         Ceramic, quarry, terrazzo, or vinyl?

Important!  We would like to make this point absolutely clear…

… if the first coat doesn’t stick, no matter how much you pay for any subsequent coating or screed, it will fail.  The topcoat can only be any good if the first coat (this includes any existing paint) has truly adhered to the substrate.

Therefore, please remember that it is crucially important to ensure you apply a product specifically designed for or compatible with your substrate.

3. Is the floor new or old?

If the floor is old, then this surely raises all of the questions as listed.  However, one of the biggest causes of failures is when people think a ‘new’ floor is perfect to paint.  Unfortunately, 99 times out of 100, this is far from the truth!

New laid and untreated floors are extremely porous and attract every bit of contamination possible, especially when vehicles and trucks have been driven over them during construction.  Rubber from tyres as well as oil drips and spills. Plaster, paint and over spray from other trades. And the biggest problem of all – dust and surface laitance.  Remember the smoother the floor, the finer the particle and this is very simply why every factory experience terrible and on-going dust issues.

Even with brand new and well power floated floors, we would NEVER, as a professional contractor paint such floors without first preparing them professional mechanical equipment such as vacuum assisted diamond grinders or shotblasters.  In the right hands, these machines will not cause ‘damage’ but will do what is absolutely necessary to achieve a long lasting and successful installation.  We can PROVE the difference very easily by showing our warehouse.  This was used for its first 24 years as an HGV workshop and was impregnated with all sorts of ‘stuff’ and had worn and peeling paint everywhere.  In fact, it was painted every 3 months for 24 years.  We came in, shotblasted what was left off the floor, primed with OT Primer on the old, original concrete, shotblasted the new extension floor to remove the laitance and primed with WD Primer and top coated with Flortex Professional.  At the time of writing (21 years later), these floors have never been repainted and are still going strong!!

4. Is the substrate strong and sound, or is it weak and porous?

Even if the substrate is sound and strong, it is always advisable to ‘key’ the substrate using suitable mechanical equipment, if at all possible, to ensure a good adhesion.  However, if it is weak and porous, often in such circumstances, no matter how much you remove from the surface, whatever is left is still weak/poor.   Obviously, each matter needs to be considered on an individual basis, but the only real way to be able to achieve success on such a substrate is to ‘flood’ the floor with a suitable low viscosity pure epoxy.  The ‘pure’ epoxy is not water or solvent based and cures only by chemical reaction.  Therefore, it can be applied thickly, enough to be able to penetrate well into the substrate and fully cure ‘within’ the substrate, thus almost turning the existing concrete into ‘a form of’ an epoxy screed.  However, as I have made clear above, each situation needs to be carefully considered and all comments given here are in good faith and as advisory.  Whilst we do not wish to cast doubt upon the above comments, it must remain the customers responsibility and decision as to how they might wish to proceed.

We sincerely hope this is acceptable and understood.

5. Is there a DPM (Damp Proof Membrane)?

If your floor has rising damp, due to a damaged/poorly installed DPM or more commonly, no damp proof membrane, particularly on older buildings), rising damp is a major reason why floor paints and screeds fail.

Now just as a further point, you may not know whether there is a DPM or not and it is well worth trying to establish the fact BEFORE any such failure. The main reason that the rising water is only coming up fairly slowly and as it does so, it evaporates and therefore leaves no real evidence.  Of course, it might become apparent if a roll of carpet has been stored directly onto the concrete and when moved shows signs of mold, or maybe cardboard boxes, where the cardboard has become rippled and weak.

So, two of the most common ways to test the area(s) in question for the presence of

Damp are as follows:

  • simply tape a sheet of plastic to the floor and leave for a few days. The plastic will cause the floor to sweat and will help draw any dampness within the concrete to the surface.
  • lay down a rubber car mat and again, leave for a few days to see if any dampness is evident.

If indeed the floor does show signs of dampness, then you are strongly advised to use a primer such as Polycote DPM Primer, a twin pack epoxy resin primer formulated specifically to adhere to surfaces where rising water may be present.  However, please note that such primers are not suitable where water is ‘running’ into the area as the resin will not have time to cure before being affect by such water.

Finally, we would like to make it clear that these two methods are only advisory and by no means a foolproof method.  However, they will certainly give a very good indication.

6. Do you have any oil, grease, or chemical contamination?

All surface contamination such as a build-up of oil or grease should be removed before the application of any paint or screed. This can be accomplished with suitable machinery or with the aid of chemical degreasers such as Polycote Degrease IT.

However, with thinner chemicals such as oil, this penetrates down into the pores of the concrete and after you have thoroughly cleaned the surface, the oil within the substrate then rises up back up to the surface by capillary attraction and now your floor is oily again.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about this as it will happen over and over again.

The problem when applying a paint even directly after the surface has been cleaned is because the paint is impervious and can therefore make the floor ‘sweat’ which draws up the oil under the paint and hey-presto, you have a failure!  And an expensive one!

If you have the evidence of oil, we strongly advise and oil tolerant primer such as Polycote OT Primer, that has been professionally formulated to be able to bind up to 15% oil into itself whist curing and thus adhere strongly to the substrate in question.

7. Has the floor been previously painted with a floor paint or sealer?

If the floor has been previously painted with a floor paint or sealer, please make absolutely sure that any paint left on the surface (prior to your new paint or screed) has fully adhered to the surface.

If you have any flaking or peeling paint, then it is absolutely vital you remove all the existing paint, down the hard substrate.  This is mostly achieved with the use of vacuum assisted machinery such as diamond grinders and/or shot blasters.

This further note may sound a little rudimentary but please remember that if you apply a coating or screed over an existing paint that has not adhered well to the surface, you might as well paint over a sheet of A4 paper and wonder why your new paint is lifting!

You simply MUST remove all loose, flaking, peeling material if you want a success long lasting job.

8. What amount and type of traffic will the floor be subjected to?

Obviously, the type and amount of traffic that the floor will be subjected to will determine the type of coating used.

Single pack floor paints can be very good but for areas of heavy wear and tear, twin pack epoxies will last far longer. Furthermore, due to the fact that they can cure to an impervious finish, they are also far more waterproof and/or chemical resistant and also, far easier to keep clean. Floor coatings such as Flortex Professional are strongly advised for areas such as factories and warehouses with the constant trafficking of heavy forklifts and pallet trucks.

For areas that need to withstand vehicular traffic such as cars and trucks, particularly in garages and manufacturing facilities, standard paint will not withstand hot car tyres, etc and therefore twin pack epoxy floor paint such as Flortex Professional remains the number one choice for long term success.

9. Will the floor need any specific chemical resistance?

For the most part, a good quality paint, certainly a twin pack epoxy or polyurethane paint has a very reasonable chemical resistance that is suitable to withstand most ‘normal’ chemicals.  However, it is always advisable to make a list of the chemicals used in the area and the percentages of concentration such as 50% sulphuric or 10% acetic or 30% caustic, for instance.  Furthermore, do you have a particular cocktail of chemicals as such mixes can completely change the characteristics and/or volatility as this also need to be made very clear to any manufacturer.

Another point to consider is the amount allowed to come into contact with the coating. Submersion is a whole different matter from occasional splashing or spillages as is the amount of time the coating is left in contact with the paint. How long do you expect to leave it before cleaning it up as this can also have a completely differing number of effects on paint.

It is strongly advised that all these points should be noted and discussed with any supplier or manufacturer before any purchase is made and/or any application is carried out.

10. Do you want to apply the floor yourself or do you require labour?

If you wish to carry out the work yourselves, it is highly advisable that you speak to companies such as Polycote UK, who not only specialise in the supply of floor paints and coatings, but who also have a full application team to carry out the preparation and application of the products.

With full support from a team of professional applicators happy to help throughout the application, from your initial inquiry as to the right product, the best type of preparation needed along with the provision of the machinery itself, the correct methods of application and right through to the point of completion, you will be assured of a company that is as interested and committed to success, as you are!

Obviously, if you are looking for the labour element as well, it is important that you find a company with a proven track record.  The fact that companies such as Polycote UK who have been in the trade for over 30 years, is far more important than so called guarantees and warranties that in most cases are not worth the paper they are written on! The sheer passage of time is a true testament to the professionalism, longevity and reliability of both products and service alike.

11. How much time can you spare to complete the work?

This is a very important question. Don’t forget that you will need to clear the area prior to the arrival of the preparation team.  The methods of preparation, such as diamond grinding and/or shot blasting can then expose poor areas of concrete that need repairing prior to the application of the floor paint. Then there is the floor painting itself which in most cases would need two coats and this being finally ‘topped’ off with the curing time of the final coat before subjecting it to traffic.

Whilst this might all sound daunting, you can rest assured that there are products available that can cure very fast and be subjected to heavy traffic is as little 20 minutes.  There are coatings available that can be applied in temperatures as low as minus 40°C and still be ready for traffic in as little as 1.5 hours.

Obviously, standard products are sufficient for most applications.  However, Polycote UK can tailor both their products and services around your own specific timing parameters should such a need arise.

12. What temperature will the area be at the time of application?

In most situations, paints are applied in ambient temperatures of between 10-25°C.

However, there are times when the application area is influenced adversely by weather or operations.  Some areas being very cold, such as cold storage facilities down to minus 40°C, food factories, often running between 2-8°C, through to bakeries with ovens running in excess of 80°C and smelting plants with operating temperatures of 200°C. Polycote can manufacture products that will can both cure and withstand the extremes in all of these areas and will be more than happy to discuss your specific requirements with you.

Cold conditions:

It is worth noting that the colder the temperature, the longer the curing time of the coating will be, and it is in these situations when extra fast hardening resins can be used to help speed up the curing process/times.  However, please also note that the use of extra fast hardeners will mean a shorter pot life once mixed so this does need careful consideration.

Hot conditions:

There are times when products need to be applied in hot conditions and it is therefore very important to acquaint yourself with the manufacturers data sheet, which will state the pot life of the materials once mixed.

In hot temperatures, it is often a great help if the manufacture can be asked to produce smaller unit sizes, which helps enable the operatives to be able to apply before the curing process gets to the point where application is no longer possible.

13. Cost or Investment?

Our advice for is: try not to look at painting the floor as a ‘cost’ but more as an ‘investment’!

To coat the floors not only strengthens the concrete but seals and protects from contamination.  A sealed floor rather than a porous surface makes cleaning routines far quicker and easier, thereby saving time, effort, and money.  A painted floor makes the entire environment a far brighter and happier place to work, which has been proven to raise the morale of the employees as well as the productivity!

Furthermore, it has also been proven that a well presented and well-marked out factory/warehouse has massive safety benefits, thereby helping to reduce accidents and consequential disruption to the business.

Finally, by investing in a high-quality paint, lasts far longer and therefore reduces the need for frequent recoating.

When considering all of the above points, a good quality paint is truly an investment whereas a cheap, poor job always ends in a far greater cost!

Here are a few ‘sayings that we hope may encourage and help you to make a right decision:

“It is always cheaper to do the job right, the first time.”  Philip B. Crosby

“It’s hard enough to do it the first time, so do it once and do it right!”  S. Britchford

“Cost is more important than quality, but quality is the best way to reduce cost.”  Genichi Taguchi

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Why You Should Paint Your Factory Floor

What is the best industrial floor paint to use?

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Concrete Floor Sealer

A Comprehensive Guide to Different Types of Concrete Floor Sealers

So why wait? Transform your floors and working environments today and reap the rewards that extend far beyond simple aesthetics. If you are genuinely looking for a long term solution, then ring Polycote now on 01234 846400 and speak to one or our advisors who, very simply, can tell you exactly WHAT you should use and WHY!

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