One of the most wonderful and inconvenient truths about design is that when it’s done well, it mostly goes unnoticed. There’s a whole podcast dedicated to design named after this idea, called “99% Invisible”. The reason for this is that great design is so intuitive, so seamless, that users will take advantage of the design’s functionality without stopping to consider why it’s working so well. Conversely, bad design is very noticeable. This is the reason most people don’t stop to consider flooring; it’s so universal, and so well done, that you just walk on it without wondering (though you might remark on a particularly beautiful floor). Readers of this blog will know a bit about epoxy flooring systems; but what exactly is epoxy, and what makes it so well suited as a flooring solution? Let’s make this invisible element a bit more noticeable.
We’ll often tout epoxy as a flooring system, but it could be more accurately described as a floor coating; you can’t just pour epoxy into a void and expect the floor to pop out. Epoxies are polymers, a class of complex molecule that includes plastic and DNA, or pre-polymers, molecules which readily react to form polymers. In their basic form, epoxies are highly reactive, but they don’t provide many of the advantages we would look for in a flooring system; they aren’t particularly heat resistant, and they don’t stand up well to chemicals or blunt force. Why would we use them, then?
The answer lies in an epoxy’s inherent reactivity. We use hardeners, generally amines, in order to reinforce the epoxy and create the strong, stable, resistant flooring systems employed in buildings everywhere. Epoxies can be readily mixed with colours in order to produce detailed patterns on any floor. The flexibility of epoxy is its main advantage; not only can it be coloured in a myriad of different ways, it can also be laid over old concrete in order to produce a startling new flooring.
In fact, concrete is the best surface to coat with epoxy, because it’s natural porousness allows the epoxy coating to adhere readily. Before the epoxy coating is applied, the substrate must be well prepared, as unevenness or dirt can affect the appearance of the epoxy. Once the substrate is adequately prepared, the epoxy coating can be applied; there are a lot of precautions that need to be taken when you do this, because epoxy is so reactive. The moisture and temperature of the building need to be just right, and there can’t be any contaminants on the substrate or in the surrounding area.
The reactivity of epoxies means they can be imbued with all kinds of different traits, which means there’s epoxy flooring for industries of all shapes and sizes. No matter what you’re looking for in your flooring, it’s likely that an epoxy system can do the trick, and while all the chemistry that goes into it will remain invisible to passersby, they’ll be sure to notice the beautiful floors you’ve had installed!