The ins and outs of floor coatings, hues, shades and tones

by Tania Wannenburg
The ins and outs of floor coatings, hues, shades and tones

Floor coatings continue to evolve to provide sophisticated, high performance and aesthetically pleasing solutions.A few decades ago, floor coatings were relatively basic substances. Today, they have become high performance, sophisticated and multi-purpose flooring elements available in virtually every shade, hue and tone. Whether you need to protect a flooring material or add performance benefits such as chemical resistance, non-skid or easy maintenance, you will find something on the market to meet your needs.

Concrete coating considerations
The term ‘coating’ broadly refers to any type of overlay, paint or epoxy-aggregate system that can be applied to cured concrete. While many of these coatings are ideal for residential and commercial applications, some suppliers have gone above and beyond to develop heat-resistant, self-cleaning and waterproofing industrial solutions that are ideal for factories, laboratories and showrooms, for example.

Surface enhancement such as dust proofing, as well as concrete or cement screeds, are typically done in factories, garages, industrial units and warehousing, but they can also be used in other types of commercial and residential settings. Some of the advantages include being able to treat new or old floors and it’s often a permanent as well as an economical treatment.

All concrete materials are inherently porous and need some type of coating to protect them from impacts and abrasions, as well as to ensure that they don’t give off dust as a result of the everyday wear and tear that they endure. When selecting a concrete coating, there are a few things that need to be considered, namely:

Aesthetics: There is a large variety of aesthetics and textures available for concrete floors. The aesthetic needs of the client, coupled with the performance characteristics that are required, should be carefully weighed to get the desired look and feel.

Site limitations: If you are working on a tight deadline or the space where you need to install a concrete coating is occupied, then some solvent-based coatings might be off the table because of the odour that they emit during installation. Certain epoxies can only be applied at specific temperatures, so consider site limitations and installation parameters when selecting a coating.

Maintenance expectations: Many clients will assume that a concrete coating will last forever without periodic maintenance. Be sure to consult with the manufacturer regarding maintenance requirements of the floor coating so the clients’ expectations can be managed and they can make provision for the necessary maintenance needs of the floor coating.

Budget: While virtually any performance requirement or aesthetic need can be fulfilled in today’s marketplace, it can come at a price. Less expensive floor coatings may be less durable than their more pricey counterparts, but you get what you pay for.

Performance considerations: The four major types of impact and abuse that concrete flooring are generally subjected to are thermal shock, abrasion, impact and chemical exposure. These types of abuse will dictate the type of floor coating that you specify. If different types of impact and abuse are to be expected, then they should be ranked in order of priority so that you can determine the type of material and the applied thickness of the coating. Request professional assistance to understand material properties, application procedures as well as the test methods that were used to determine the technical data of the product.

Wood floor coatings
Today’s modern wood floor coating technology protects wood flooring from wet spills, dirt and wear, while simultaneously giving it the desired colour and sheen. There are a variety of stains, top coats and surface finishes that serve as a protective coating and are available in high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin and matte. The main types of wood floor finishes are as follows:

•    Oil-based urethane: This finish requires adequate ventilation and it whiter timbers may yellows with age. It is a popular type of surface finish for those looking for a natural look, but being an oiled finish there is a maintenance program.
•    Water-based urethane: These dry quickly and are easy to maintain with floor cleaner and water. They do not yellow over time and they have less odour during application than their oil-based counterparts.
•    Solvent sealer: This finish emits a strong odour (some which can last for days) and should be applied by a professional.
•    Wax: This finish is fast drying, affordable and can last a very long time when proper maintenance is applied.
•    Hard Wax Oil: This is a fast drying, fast curing finish with fantastic durability and easy maintenance. It is easy to apply, and can be used as DIY or by professionals. They are Low VOC with some 0% VOC.

There are pro’s and cons to all sealers and finishes so one needs to select the best finish for themselves.

•    Water based sealers come in different strengths from domestic to commercial. This sealer keeps your timber floor light and natural and reduces oxidization of the wood to a minimum. The PRO here is no maintenance only cleaning. When the floor shows signs of wear one can simply buff and add another coat down the line however if one neglects the floor it may have to be sanded back to bare wood and re-coated.
•    Solvent Sealers are also good and also has no maintenance but these sealer darken or bring out the richness in the wood. These sealers allow the timber to oxidise so the flooring will darken in time. If you don’t want the floor to darken or yellow then water based is the best option.
•    Oil based sealers. Generally only one coat of oil is applied at the start and then it is up to the home owner to maintain once or twice a year with a coat of maintenance oil which is easy to rub into the floor. The philosophy of an oiled finish is that if one sticks to the maintenance regime then the floor gets better and better with age and every time one maintains it will make scratches invisible and this floor should never ever have to be sanded again in its life, however if one get s lazy and does not maintain then one may need to sand back to bare wood and start again.
•    Wax, today we have modern waxes as a floor finish, very similar to oil when it comes to maintaining and etc the main difference is the gloss factor as when you buff after re-waxing one would get a sheen whereas the oil is pretty matt and natural.

Properties of wood floor finishes

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.abe.co.za, www.basf.com, www.floorworx.co.za, www.rubiomonocoat.com , www.concretenetwork.com, www.woodfloorsonline.com, www.howstuffworks.com and www.facilitiesnet.com for the information contained in this article.

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