Flakes and Aggregates
Before we get started on the types of coating systems, let’s talk about aggregates. Coatings are typically enhanced with various types of aggregates. They allow us to create thicker, stronger, higher-build coatings. Some of the common aggregates that are used include decorative flake, quartz, and silica. These aggregates can benefit the coating system in several ways.
Saturating a coating with an aggregate significantly thickens the coating, giving it what we call a “lift”. Picture a glass of water that is half-full – now add ice until the water level reaches the top of the glass. This is the effect you get when you saturate a coating with an aggregate.
Aggregates also help the coating vent trapped air as the material is curing. As the material begins to gel, air escaping from the concrete can no longer escape. When no aggregate is present, this escaping air will create blisters and bubbles in the coating. The aggregate creates tiny passageways which act as vents, allowing the air to escape.
One of the most popular types of epoxy flooring is the Flake Floor. A coat of epoxy is applied to the floor, and while it is still wet, a decorative flake is broadcast into the material. The most common type of decorative flake is essentially a vinyl paint chip, available in a wide variety of colors and blends. There are solid colors, brindle flakes, and even glow-in-the-dark and blacklight-sensitive options. There is also a natural mica flake, which can be used by itself or blended with the vinyl flake to create a faux-granite look.
Random Broadcast Flake
A random broadcast typically consists of a light-medium spread of decorative flake. This gives the floor some color and contrast and helps conceal imperfections in the coating and the underlying concrete. It hides dirt and debris, making the floor appear cleaner that it may actually be. It also helps to conceal smudges, scratches, and other signs of wear and tear from normal use. Depending on how heavy the broadcast is, it may also provide some texture.
With a full-broadcast or “full-flake” floor, the decorative flake is broadcast to rejection. The wet epoxy coat is completely saturated with flake, giving the floor a robust body and rich color. As the material cures, the flake becomes permanently interlocked into the epoxy, increasing the strength and durability of the floor. This floor will be stronger, thicker, and more durable than a random broadcast.
Typically, this type of coating will receive a topcoat of epoxy or polyaspartic urethane. They have an orange peel texture when finished, which has several benefits including anti-slip property. If less texture or no-texture is desired, an intermediate grout coat can be applied to fill in some of the texture before the final topcoat is applied.
In our opinion, this type of coating is the best system, and best value, for a residential garage floor. It offers the most bang for the buck as far as performance and appearance.
The “Shop Floor”
The term “Shop Floor” is commonly used to describe a system that uses silica/sand as an aggregate. Typically, a basecoat of epoxy is applied to the floor surface and fully-saturated with a manufactured sand product. This broadcast of sand gives the coating a lift and increases the compressive strength of the floor.
Once fully cured, a topcoat of epoxy, polyaspartic urethane, or other material is applied to reduce the texture left by the sand and to seal and protect the surface. If a smoother surface is desired, an intermediate grout coat can be applied to fill in and level the texture before the final topcoat is applied. The increased strength and durability of these systems make them an excellent choice for shops and warehouses.
A basecoat of epoxy is fully-saturated with decorative, manufactured Quartz. If a second lift is required, this process is repeated. Finally, it can be topped with a clear coat of polyurea/polyaspartic urethane or other suitable material.
Quartz Floors have many applications – you have most likely seen a quartz floor in public restrooms or locker rooms. They also make excellent garage floors but are typically more expensive than a flake floor. Quartz floors are incredibly strong and durable, and they offer great slip-resistance for wet areas. For the typical residential garage floor, they are not as cost-effective as a good flake floor system.
“Neat Coats” or “Rolled Coats”
A neat coat is a solid coat of material with no aggregate present. They are smooth and glossy and can offer a very clean, modern look. It can consist of as little as one coat of material, but additional coats can be used to add thickness, fix imperfections, and create a smoother finish.
It is very common for painters and builders to do this type of floor, using materials from paint supply stores. It is also the number one type of floor that customers ask us to replace, because it has failed, or is badly damaged from wear and tear. In our experience, smooth, glossy surfaces show every scratch, smudge, and blemish. They look great the day they are installed, and it is downhill from there. Remember all the advantages of aggregates that we’ve already discussed – this type of floor lacks all of them.
Metallic epoxy floors have no aggregate but contain a fine metallic powder that serves as the pigment. They have a cool, artistic look about them. Each one is unique – the material and pigment move with the contour of the concrete, and they can be manipulated with solvents, leaf-blowers, and other methods to agitate the metallic pigment.
They are typically more expensive than other types of floors. To properly do a metallic coating, the surface needs to be as sealed, smooth, and clean as possible, before applying the metallic coat. Any defects, debris, or contamination will show in the finish. Anything that agitates the material while it is curing, will also show. For instance, if an insect lands in the material…
Metallic floors are also more of an art-form than other types of coatings. What the finished product will look like has more to do with the applicator than anything else. If you are considering a metallic floor, you should find an applicator whose work appeals to you and hire them.