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Should I use a polyurethane or epoxy coating on concrete?

By Krystal Nanan | Published: November 8, 2019 | Last updated: January 31, 2022

There is no shortage of options when it comes to concrete floor coatings, which are generally used to protect concrete floors from excessive wear and damage. Two of the most popular types of floor coatings, epoxy and polyurethane, may seem similar on the surface. However, these two materials have unique properties that lend themselves to various applications.

Epoxy floor coatings are comprised of two distinct compounds: an epoxy resin and a polyamine hardener. When mixed together, these two materials combine via a chemical reaction, which creates crosslinking of the elements. The final cured product is a rigid plastic coating material that bonds well to most substrates.

Epoxy floors are generally harder than their polyurethane counterparts and possess higher compressive and impact strengths. These attributes make epoxy-covered floors better suited for heavy-duty industrial use, such as in:

  • Warehouses
  • Storage facilities
  • Logistic centers
  • Areas subjected to frequent forklift traffic

Another desirable property of epoxy floor coatings is their chemical resistance to products such as bleach, battery acid, oil, grease, cleaners, etc. This characteristic makes epoxy floors ideal for chemical plants and the automotive industry.

Polyurethane floor coatings are made from groups of polymers connected to a chemical compound group known as carbides. These floor coatings are softer and more elastic than epoxy coatings. This attribute makes polyurethane coatings more resistant to scratches and dents due to their ability to absorb impact forces.

Another benefit of polyurethane’s elasticity is its increased resistance to freezing temperatures. Unlike epoxy coatings, which are unable to withstand temperatures below 30°F (-1°C), polyurethane coatings maintain their shape and properties when subjected to sub-zero temperatures.

While epoxies are resistant to aggressive chemicals such as sulfuric acid, polyurethane coatings exhibit superior chemical resistance to lactic acids. This makes polyurethane-coated floors ideal for food and beverage industries that process dairy-based products.

Some of the most common applications of polyurethane coatings include:

  • Car parking lots and garages
  • Areas with heavy foot traffic (shopping malls, airports, hospitals)
  • Refrigerators and freezing chambers

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Written by Krystal Nanan | Civil Engineer

Krystal Nanan
Krystal is a civil engineer and project manager with an MSc in Construction Engineering and Management. Her experience includes the project management of major infrastructure projects, construction supervision, and the design of various infrastructure elements including roadway, pavement, traffic safety elements and drainage. Krystal is also a published author with the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C.

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