Industrial flooring systems are not created equal, and although epoxy and polyurethane floor coatings are often referred to as the same product, they have different characteristics and benefits.  

Both may produce a durable, smooth and seamless floor, but they perform differently. The selection of a fit-for-purpose solution is therefore determined by the specific service requirements and operating conditions of each application. 

Same but different 

Although polyurethane and the epoxy flooring systems are both resin-based, they differ in their molecular structure, which affects how the molecules fuse together during the curing process. In simple terms, polyurethanes have a higher cross-link density than epoxies.  

These flooring products are available in thin-build coatings as well as thicker screed types, with gloss, matt or slip-resistant finishes. Self-levelling and smoothing options are also available in some of the products. 

Key considerations 

Before selecting the industrial flooring for your application, consider the following: 

  • Substrate type. 
  • Type of trafficking such as heavily laden pallet trolleys and forklift trucks. 
  • Point loading. 
  • Abrasion resistance. 
  • Heat or chemical resistance properties. 
  • Physical impacts. 

Costs 

In general, polyurethane floor coatings are more costly than epoxy. However, cost is relative to the requirements of the specific project and the appropriate choice of flooring in industrial applications. 

Product comparison 

In general, epoxy flooring is harder, whereas polyurethane flooring is more flexible. Let’s look at both options in more depth: 

 Epoxy floor coating Polyurethane floor coating 
Description An attractive, glossy finished floor that is extremely dense, with high durability and compressive strength. A matt or gloss finish with excellent chemical resistance. It is softer and more “elastic” or flexible than epoxy floor coatings, offering superior wear, scratch, abrasion and impact resistance. 
Best suited for Areas that experience the use of forklifts, heavy traffic and loads, and in heavy-duty industries such as machinery manufacturing, warehouses, workshops, logistics centres, production facilities and packaging lines. Chemical processing, fabrication workshops and food and beverage processing plants and food preparation areas, such as commercial and institutional kitchens. Also suitable for multi-storey carparks. 
Acid resistance Chemically resistant surface, including battery acid. Suited to chemical handling and processing industries such as battery manufacturing. Resistant to organic acid, i.e., lactic acids and other fruit acids, inorganic acids and alkalis. Suited to food producers and processing plants. 
Heat resistance Naturally more rigid and able to move, with a concrete substrate when exposed to heat fluctuations.  Operating temperature range: Up to +65oC, unless modified for high temperatures. Especially well suited to areas where thermal shock is expected, such as bakeries, commercial refrigeration facilities and areas that are steam-cleaned such as breweries and abattoirs.  Operating temperature range: -15oC to +120oC.  
Slip resistance Can be broadcast with a quartz aggregate, to create a slip-resistant floor. Can be broadcast with graded silica aggregate to provide a slip-resistant finish. 
Installation May yellow when exposed to direct sunlight and should not be installed externally or adjacent to large glass shopfronts, unless an ultraviolet (UV)-resistant sealer is applied. More sensitive to condensation, floor moisture or extremely high humidity, which can result in bubbles, blisters, pinholes, wrinkles and/or debonding issues. 
 Longer pot life for ease of application. Fast curing but requires experienced applicators due to shorter pot life. 

Issue: Choosing a fit-for-purpose floor covering for industrial applications. 
Solution: Understanding the characteristics and benefits of epoxy vs polyurethane floor coatings ensures the right kind of material for the facility and/or intended purpose. 

A variety of different options are available for both epoxy and polyurethane flooring systems. Determining the right solution requires careful consideration of the specific requirements of an application area, to ensure that the final floor covering is neither over- nor under-engineered for the required performance.  

For assistance with your next project, speak to a reputable product manufacturer for advice, technical information and bespoke methods and materials specifications.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://allthingsflooring.com, www.mapei.com and www.tal.co.za for the information in this editorial. 

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