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Epoxy? Really? Which One?

What to know when someone tells you they have an Epoxy Coating for your floor.

Epoxy is not a paint. Let me say that again - Epoxy is not a paint!

Epoxy is a synthetic resin characterized by having a very reactive molecule. The molecule has a triangular configuration consisting of an oxygen atom bonded to adjoining and bonded carbon atoms. This is known as a cross-linked polymer and they are sometimes referred to as the Oxirane Group. Simply, this means they are reactive to a large number of curing agents.

The standard Epoxy is based on Bisphenol-A and Epichiorohydrin as raw materials with anhydride catalysts. All this polymer chemistry stuff can be complicated especially when it comes to thermosetting resins. I'm going to skip most of the really technical jargon with regards to reactions and catalysts that form Epoxy resins.

Epoxy resins are generally fairly costly. They have endless combinations of mechanical and electrical properties and are extremely important to many industries. The main uses of  epoxy's are laminating adhesives, coatings, and electrical part encapsulation.

Our focus here is Floor Coatings. A practice that some companies have chosen is to add a very small amount of an expensive, better known, and better performing resin to a less expensive and poorer performing resin. They then use the name of the first resin in the coating name or product description.

You confused yet? I get that way sometimes with all this and I have had classes in material science. Polymer science is complicated, extensive, and a good thing for companies trying to cover their tracks about product honesty.

There is a simple saying, " if you can clean it up with water, it's not Epoxy". This is true for the most part. But here is how companies can get around the truth just a bit. By using a polyamide curing agent an epoxy can be made water-emulsifiable for use in water based paints. But we still can call it "Epoxy". We can modify the Epoxy even further by adding Bromine to the molecule to make it flame-resistant. So, now you have a product that is introduced as a "flame resistant epoxy coating". Not a true Epoxy coating but you can call it an "Epoxy Paint" without being an all-out lie. There are so many combinations that it is impossible to keep up with the naming and true physical states of all coating resins.  

There are probably 1200-1600 coating manufacturers in the United States. Maybe a few less with the down turn in the economy. The number of combinations of coatings could number in the hundreds, maybe thousands. You can not base your selection on properties of the base generic resin. You can be mislead if you do so. Instead you must match your requirements to the testing and performance datafor the specific coating. The performance data should be available for each coating from the manufacturer based on standard industry tests and evaluations. If it's not, don't buy the product until the proper information is provided.

A list of standard ASTM,  ASME, Federal and Military tests will follow in the coming days so you can be armed with the knowledge to ask your coating supplier what kind of coating product you are actually buying.


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