May 11, 2023
When one thinks of an epoxy floor, an impermeable, sealed system is what typically comes to mind. The epoxy flooring system bonds to the concrete slab sealing any moisture and soluble ions (salts) into the concrete. Breathable epoxy flooring systems are different, as they are permeable and permit moisture to move through the slab and the coating. Why is this important? This quick read is about to explain.
Traditional Epoxy Floors
Epoxy floors are known to be long lasting and durable. As durable as epoxy floors are, the combination of moisture and salts found in concrete substrates can be problematic.
Epoxy flooring systems trap moisture and salt below the surface and can only tolerate certain levels. If the levels in the slab exceed those thresholds, they can cause blistering and adhesion failures.
The flooring industry typically combats issues with moisture and salts by using moisture mitigating primers before installing an epoxy floor. If the moisture and salt levels exceed that option, using a cementitious urethane-based flooring system would be the next choice.
In some cases, these solutions are excessive for the needs, timeline and/or budget of the project. These situations are where a breathable epoxy system could be the perfect solution.
Breathable Epoxy Floors
Breathable epoxy works as a protective coating that enhances the look of concrete and offers wear resistance, dust prevention, and easy maintenance. These systems are a cost-effective solution for concrete with high moisture and salts.
Breathable epoxy flooring systems were specifically designed to provide additional protection to concrete floors that surpass the moisture and salt content thresholds of most epoxy coatings. A breathable coating allows excess moisture from the slab to pass through it as opposed to trapping it beneath the surface. This reduces the risk of osmotic blistering or adhesion failures from excess salts and moisture.
While breathable epoxy floors offer many of the same features as other protective epoxy flooring systems, there is a tradeoff in the amount of wear resistance including impact and abrasion resistance. Let’s look at our breathable epoxy system, Vent-E, in more detail.
Vent-E is a pigmented, breathable epoxy flooring system featuring high permeability throughout the entire coating. This quick curing, water-based system is applied in two coats with a nominal cured thickness of 10-12 mils. Vent-E is available in nine solid colors and has a semi-gloss finish.
Features and Benefits of Vent-E:
- Breathable – Moisture can pass through the concrete slab and coating, alleviating the risk of unsightly blisters and adhesion failures
- Protective Coating – Protects against dirt, spills, and dust — increases stain, wear, and chemical resistance
- Quick Cure – Faster return to service: 4 –6 hours for foot traffic
- Slip Resistance – Dry environments: no additives required; Wet environments: additives required (Dur-A- Grit #54)
- Easy Maintenance – Easy to maintain and keep clean
- Sustainable – Water-based product; Ultralow VOCs; CA 01350 compliant (CDPH V1.12-2017); Eligible for LEED® credits
Vent-E is best suited for areas where the strength of concrete floors is sufficient, but perhaps the aesthetics of the bare concrete are not appealing, maybe it has stains, or the concrete is too dusty, perhaps it is hard to clean or properly sanitize, these are all the perfect conditions for choosing Vent-E.
Vent-E is an ideal solution for light traffic / light use areas — any parts of the building that do not have heavy equipment or machinery abusing it. It is a thin mil system and does not provide as much impact or abrasion resistance typically needed in those type of environments.
Common Use Sites:
- Light Manufacturing
- Dry Goods Manufacturing
- Tool Rooms
- Storage Areas
- Warehouse Spaces
- Maintenance Areas
Is Breathable Epoxy the Right Choice for Flooring in Your Facility?
As stated before, Vent-E is a cost-effective epoxy solution for concrete floors that require a protective coating and are high in moisture and salts. Vent-E features many of the same benefits as impermeable epoxy flooring options. It is easy to install, and the quick curing formulation provides a faster return to service than other epoxy systems. You may be asking, “Why wouldn’t I always choose Vent-E?” Remember the tradeoffs? They may determine that this is not the right system for your space.
There are several questions you can ask to determine if Vent-E is the right solution for your space. Let’s take the following scenario and review some of the questions.
In this scenario an epoxy system has been specified, but after the flooring contractor performed an in-situ moisture test, it was discovered that the moisture is past 75% RH and that is too high for the specified floor. Ways to address this include using a moisture mitigating primer such as Dur-A-Glaze MVP 3, switching to another chemistry such as cementitious urethane, Poly-Crete, or installing a breathable epoxy like Vent-E.
What is your budget? Budgeting will always play a role in whether an epoxy system will work for your project. Provided the relative humidity is under 99%, a moisture mitigating primer or switching to Poly-Crete are both viable options. However, either of these options will increase time, labor, and material costs. If budget is a concern, and Vent-E fits the criteria for the space, switching to Vent-E would be the recommended action. It installs easily and cures quickly. There will be a savings on material and labor costs.
How much and what types of traffic will your facility see? If the facility is going to use heavy equipment or vehicle traffic, or there is a risk of heavy tools dropping on the floor, Vent-E is not a viable option. In these conditions, you’ll want to stick with a robust epoxy system with a moisture mitigating primer or switch to Poly-Crete.
What type of texture do you need? Texture plays into slip resistance. Is the area going to be constantly wet? If so, you will probably be better served choosing a system with a more aggressive texture and want to stay with an epoxy system with a moisture mitigating primer or Poly-Crete. If the space is mainly dry, Vent-E with additives, could be an option. In this situation samples should be ordered and tested.
Are design and aesthetics important? Vent-E is available in nine solid colors. If you are looking for a more decorative floor like colored quartz or chip floors, then epoxy with a moisture mitigating primer or our Hybri-Flex line (which has a Poly-Crete base) should be considered.
Do you need special considerations for chemical resistance, impact or abrasion resistance, thermal shock resistance, etc.? If the area that the flooring is being installed in uses aggressive chemicals or requires high impact or abrasion resistance, or needs thermal shock resistance, then Vent-E is not a fit. Again, an epoxy with a moisture mitigating primer or a Poly-Crete system would be the required solution. Depending on what chemicals, being used, you may even need to consider our Accelera line.
The easiest way to determine if breathable epoxy flooring systems are right for you is to contact your local Dur-A-Flex territory sales manager. They are happy to discuss the criteria for your application and assist you in determining the right flooring for you.
Breathable epoxy flooring systems, such as Vent-E, are designed for use in areas that cannot be coated with traditional epoxy flooring systems due to high moisture and salts. Vent-E is an epoxy solution that increases the variety of spaces that can be protected with epoxy floors without increasing costs.
Author: Jes Grant
Jes Grant is the content development manager for Dur-A-Flex. She has over 15 years of experience creating content for various technical industries, and has been featured in several publications for her writing and design work.