Industrial Flooring Glossary

by Tania Wannenburg
Industrial flooring glossary Jnl 6 16

We identify and define a glossary of terms and phrases commonly used in the industrial flooring industry.

There are several key terms or phrases that are commonly used in the industrial flooring industry. We have turned to the experts to identify and define these terms in a glossary format, in order to cover everything you ever wanted to or needed to know about this flooring in a quick and effective format that makes it easy to understand this flooring sector with all its different markets.


Abrasion resistant – The ability to resist abrasion. A material with a high abrasion resistance will suffer minimal loss of material when subjected to abrasive actions such as rubbing, scratching etc.

Acid brick systems – These differ from typical commercial bricks in several ways but the most significant physical differences are in the low absorption rates and variety of physical shapes available. Acid bricks are available in a multitude of special shapes to ensure complex and sometimes very large shapes can be lined in a manner maximising chemical and abrasion resistance.

Adhesion – The property that causes one material to stick to another. Adhesion is affected by the condition of the surface to be coated and by the closeness of contact, as well as by the molecular forces of the unlike substances. As such, the surface should allow a certain amount of penetration, should be chemically clean and not too smooth, hard or non-porous for good adhesion.

Antistatic flooring systems – An anti-Static system is used to provide protection against damage caused by the build-up of static electricity. Static electricity can damage electronic components and electronic instrumentation. Static electricity can also provide a spark which can result in a fire where flammable liquids are handled.


Bitumen – A black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons obtained naturally or as a residue from petroleum distillation. It is used for road surfacing and roofing for waterproofing.

Broadcast system – Similar to trowelling, broadcast applications use a liquid resin and aggregate component. However, unlike trowelling, the two are applied separately in alternating layers.


Carbon fibre structural strengthening – Carbon based, high strength and high modulus FRP (Fibre-Reinforced Plastic/Polymer) in sheet form or laminate form.

Cementitious floors – Having the properties of cement; being made of cement.

Chemical resistance – Resistance to softening, bleaching or discolouration from common chemicals that may be spilled on the floor. Chemical resistance is most dependent on the composition of the product, the existence and chemistry of the surface coating and the susceptibility of the seams to fail if a chemical spill occurs.

Coatings – A generic term for a material evenly applied to a surface in a uniform adherent layer to fulfil a protective or functional purpose.

Colour stable polyurethane coating – A polyurethane system that is UV stable and won’t discolour when exposed to the elements.

Composite cements – Mixtures of Portland cement with other reactive material which take part in the hydration process, such as fly ash or ground slag; also known as blended cements or combination cements.

Compressive strength – The ability of a material, such as concrete, to withstand loads. Compressive strength is carried out on a 50 mm cement mortar test specimen. The test specimen is subjected to a compressive load (usually from a hydraulic machine) until failure. This loading sequence must take no less than 20 seconds and no more than 80 seconds.

Concrete sealer – Sealers are normally a finish coating used to protect concrete floors from traffic and surface cleaning and should not be used when the slab is intended as a substrate for resilient flooring. Sealers are designed to prevent water and dirt from getting into the concrete from the surface and render the concrete less porous. Sealers may interfere with the bond adhesives, and a bond test should always be run.

Conductive floors – A floor designed to carry off built-up static electricity and reduce the risk of explosion in potentially explosive environments.

Curing – Process during which a chemical reaction (such as polymerization) or physical action (such as evaporation) takes place, resulting in a harder, tougher, or more stable linkage (such as an adhesive bond) or substance (such as concrete). Some curing processes require maintenance of a certain temperature and/or humidity level, others require a certain pressure.


Dry shake floor hardeners – These come in mineral aggregate and metallic varieties. The selection of a dry shake hardener is dependent on the specific solution intended for the particular application. Floor hardeners provide a dense, tough surface capable of withstanding the abrasion and impact loading seen by floor slabs in a wide range of commercial, industrial and manufacturing facilities. Dry shake hardeners provide 2 to 8 times the abrasion resistance of plain, cured concrete. Most manufacturers offer hardeners in a range of colours.


Electrostatic dissipative flooring system – ESD flooring helps control static discharges in mission-critical environments, like clean rooms and computer rooms.

Epoxy flooring system – Multiple chemical components are needed to develop the end product epoxy. Epoxies are often available to consumers as two-component systems, comprising an epoxy resin and a hardener. More complex, industrial systems can include multiple resins and other components.

Epoxy grout – Epoxy grout consists of epoxy resin, epoxy hardener and sand/aggregates. In fact, there are various types of resin used in the construction industry such as epoxy, polyester, polyurethane etc. Though epoxy grout appears to imply the presence of cement material by its name, it does not contain any cement at all. On the other hand, epoxy hardener serves to initiate the hardening process of epoxy grout. It is commonly used for repairing hairline cracks and cavities in concrete structures and can be adopted as a primer or bonding agent.

Epoxy mortar screeding compound – An epoxy system used to strengthen sub bases.

Exposed aggregate – Exposed aggregate concrete can almost be compared to a piece of granite or marble transformed by polishing: A plain, unremarkable surface has been stripped away to reveal the exceptional beauty lying beneath. With concrete, that beauty is in the form of decorative aggregate, either natural or manufactured.


Flexural strength – Flexural strength is defined as the maximum stress at the outermost fibre on either the compression or tension side of the specimen.


Hand trowelled – A flat-bladed hand tool for levelling, spreading, or shaping substances such as cement or mortar.

Hard wearing – Resilient, durable and tough.


Joint repair – A polysulphide joint sealant used to seal day joints, movement joints and expansion joints.

Joint sealing – An impervious substance used to fill joints or cracks in concrete or mortar, or to exclude water and solid matter from any joints.

Joints – Joints allow one concrete element to move independently of other parts of the building or structure. Joints also let concrete shrink as it dries; preventing what’s called internal restraint. Internal restraint is created when one part of a slab shrinks more than another, or shrinks in a different direction.


Low maintenance – Requires very little time, money, or effort to keep in good condition.


Mechanical resistance – A specialist resin coating system that can withstand a high degree of mechanical wear from foot traffic to heavy industrial machinery.

Methyl-methacrylate – MMA is an organic compound. This colourless liquid, the methyl ester of methacrylic acid (MAA) is a monomer produced on a large scale for the production of poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA). The principal application, consuming approximately 75% of the MMA, is the manufacture of polymethyl methacrylate acrylic plastics (PMMA). Methyl methacrylate is also used for the production of the co-polymer methyl methacrylate-butadiene-styrene (MBS), used as a modifier for PVC. MMA resin can fully cure in just one to two hours, minimising downtime. Although MMAs have a unique odour, the odour is harmless and can be minimised during installation with proper ventilation.

Moisture barrier system – Significantly reducing the water absorption into dry surfaces, allowing moisture to migrate out of protected areas and avoiding moisture build-up and dampness. It provides positive and negative water repellency against dampness and ground water as well as hydrostatic pressure.

Monolithic Finish – Placed in one continuous pour without construction joints.

Mortars – This is a material used in masonry construction to fill the gaps between the bricks and blocks used in construction. Mortar is a mixture of sand, a binder such as cement or lime, and water and is applied as a paste which then sets hard.


Non-shrink cementitious grout – A hydraulic cement grout that produces a big volume that, when hardened under stipulated test conditions, is greater than or equal to the original installed volume; often used as a transfer medium between load-bearing members.


Pigmented silica aggregate surface hardener – A decorative quartz aggregate system that also serves as an epoxy screed to strengthen the surface.

Polyaspartic flooring – Polyaspartic polyurea is a concrete floor coating and sealer. This material, according to its proponents, can be applied at nearly any temperature, bonds easily to nearly any concrete surface, cures to full strength within half an hour, is flexible enough to bridge small cracks, can withstand high temperatures when cured, and has superior stain and UV resistance.

Polyurea flooring – All polyureas are two-part systems, meaning that a resin has to be mixed with a catalyst to create the curing reaction that hardens the material. Polyurea has been used very successfully for corrosion-resistant coatings and repair materials, a type of plastic that is used to make various products and especially to make a clear liquid that is spread on a surface (such as a wooden floor) and that becomes hard when it dries.

Powerfloated – A power-floated concrete floor is one that is finished using a power trowel to level and harden the floor’s surface. Power floating is generally done on large concrete surfaces that are expected to see heavy usage, such as office building floors or retail space. A power trowel (also known as a “power float”, “helicopter” or “trowel machine” or “whirlybird”) is a piece of light construction equipment used by construction companies and contractors, to apply a smooth finish to concrete slabs.

Primers – The word ‘primer’ means ‘first’ and in this case it is the first coat to be applied to the timber, steel or other surface to be coated. The primer is the most important coat of paint a substrate receives. The final paint system is totally dependent on the primer during its job. The primer will only be able to perform well if the surface preparation has been done well.


Rake trowelled – A methodology of installation for polyurethane concrete systems using a rake trowel.

Rapid cure – Accelerated curing is any method by which high early age strength is achieved in concrete. These techniques are especially useful in the prefabrication industry, wherein high early age strength enables the removal of the formwork within 24 hours, thereby reducing the cycle time, resulting in cost-saving benefits.

Reinforcing steel treatment – Anti-corrosive coatings or migrating corrosion inhibitors should be proposed for the treatment of reinforcing steel to prevent corrosion.

Resin binder – The binder (or resin) is the film-forming element of a coating or adhesive. It provides adhesion to a substrate, binds pigments and extenders together, and determines important properties such as durability, flexibility and gloss.

Resin flooring – A resin floor is a hard wearing plastic surface, created by mixing together a selection of ingredients to initiate a fast and controlled chemical reaction. The chemical reaction creates a highly durable finish, ideal for the heaviest use environments.


Screeds – A layer of well compacted material, commonly a mixture of cement and fine aggregate, that is applied to a base at the appropriate thickness and that has a surface suitable for receiving a floor finish. Screeds and toppings are commonly used as a means of providing smooth flat floors in residential, commercial and industrial buildings.

Sealer – Any finishing material that is applied with the primary purpose of stopping the absorption of succeeding coats.

Seamless flooring – Fluid or trowel-applied floor surfaces that do not contain aggregates. Seamless floor systems are generally epoxy or urethane-based, meaning that they include multiple components that are mixed on-site and applied to the substrate in multiple steps. Once cured, the poured system forms a monolithic surface without joints or areas for dirt and bacteria to accumulate, ensuring that floors remain safe and hygienic with minimal maintenance.

Self-smoothing – These are often referred to as ‘self-levelling screeds’ and can be used as a levelling screed or a wearing screed. They are defined as ‘screed that is mixed to a fluid consistency, that can be transported by pump to the area where it is to be laid and which will flow sufficiently to give the required accuracy of level and surface regularity’. Pumpable self-smoothing screeds are proprietary materials and comprise of two main types: cementitious and calcium sulphate.

Solvent free – Coatings that are manufactured with minimal use of solvents.


Tank/Tower linings – An acrylic duplex coating system specifically designed for steel protection.

Thermal resistance – The heat flow through a building construction depends on the temperature difference across it, the conductivity of the materials used and the thickness of the materials. Of course the temperature difference is an external factor. The thickness and the conductivity are properties of the material. A greater thickness means less heat flow and so does a lower conductivity. Together these parameters form the thermal resistance of the construction. The thermal resistance is proportional to the thickness of a layer of the construction and inversely proportional to its conductivity. A construction layer with a high thermal resistance (e.g. rock wool), is a good insulator; one with a low thermal resistance (e.g. concrete) is a bad insulator.

Thermal shock – Most often, thermal shock happens when facilities that usually remain at room temperature are cleaned using very hot water or steam to remove stubborn blood, grease and other chemical contaminants. This immediate change will cause the floor finish to expand or contract at a different rate to the substrate, leading to cracks, bubbling, peeling or delamination. Cementitious polyurethane systems are much better equipped to deal with thermal shock than epoxies or MMAs, having a coefficient of thermal shock that is similar to that of concrete.

Thin-set concrete floor – Thin-set cementitious self-levelling floors are being used to provide a level surface, either as an underlayment or as the finished product with a certain pigment in for aesthetics.

Tile lining systems – Mostly used for acid lining in harsh environments where the surface is subject to chemical exposure.

Trowels – These help smooth concrete surfaces for their finish coats before being left to dry. Hand-trowelling is common for smaller slabs, or power trowels are often preferred for large slabs. There are varying types of trowels for specific concrete work.


Vapour permeable – A water based system that allows a controlled release of water through the resin system thus preventing osmotic blistering.


Water based epoxy coating – Water Based Epoxy is a two component, amine-cured, epoxy coating which will demonstrate the physical properties of solvent-borne epoxies, but in a water-reducible formula. Dust and residue formation is a problem with unprotected concrete floors and cement toppings. It displays excellent penetrating properties which consolidates the concrete substrate. At the same time, water based epoxy produces a surface coating/film that will exhibit outstanding water- and chemical-resistance, excellent resistance to acids, solvents, oils, and gasoline and a superior combination of impact, abrasion, and scuff-resistance. Most importantly, water based epoxy offers the performance characteristics mentioned above in a water-reducible formulation.

We encourage you to keep this feature for future reference as a handy tool when trying to gain deeper insight into the industrial flooring industry.

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