The next step in floor protection

Polyurethane-elastomer floor coatings protect against water damage and can be used to re-seal damaged flooring structures

By Ron Whipple, Marketing Director, SWD Urethane Co., Mesa, Arizona

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As Mark Twain once said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Well now industrial plant personnel can combat the elements, at least as far as flooring is concerned, thanks to newly developed polyurethane-elastomer coating technology that protects against water damage.

Water and related weather damage to flooring is almost guaranteed to be dangerous and expensive, whether the flooring in question is concrete, wood or other materials. Such problems often lead to structural failures, not to mention business interruptions, inconvenience and legal actions.
  
When you have a flooring problem, especially one caused by moisture, the big question is: “How bad will it be?” Operators of commercial enterprises such as manufacturing plants face not only the cost of repair, but the loss of production and shipments. In many cases, flooring problems caused by moisture can be catastrophic, resulting in personal injuries and business closings.

Today’s polyurethane-elastomer hard coating products can eliminate these problems, not only through moisture- and weatherproofing, but also by protecting against corrosion and wear and tear. In addition, polyurethane-elastomer coatings can be used to re-seal flooring structures that are already damaged.

 Polyurethane foams can be applied in multiple adjoining  sections, which appear to be seamless.

The basic formula

Polyurethane-elastomer is actually a urethane-based formulation that offers the protective properties of polyurethane and the resiliency of an elastomeric. In the form of a liquid spray coating, it is especially useful for protecting industrial plant floors, adding years of service to surfaces that would otherwise suffer from wear and corrosion. Polyurethane elastomer coatings seal and protect concrete, fiberglass, wood, metal and other surfaces, and are available in a selection of colors and non-skid walk surfaces.
  
In addition, polyurethane-elastomers enhance artistic choices for using coated surfaces in new ways, either exposed or with decorative coverings. These hard coatings are especially durable because they are 100% solid and can be applied in thicknesses that will survive for years. Like polyurethane foams, they are monolithic, so the material can be applied in multiple adjoining sections, which appear to be seamless.
  
Newly developed two-component systems, composed of isocyanate and custom-formulated polyol, combine to produce extra-hard polymer products, which accommodate a wide range of applications.
  
Special polyurethane chemistry, which incorporates cross-linked polymers, catalysts, blowing agents, pigments and proprietary components with high exothermic and rapid-reaction processes, are incorporated into these systems, which are designed to handle demanding industrial applications. These coating systems set up in seconds on floors with a Shore A hardness of 90, and high 1635 tensile strength for traffic, within 30 seconds of application.

Long-term durability

Polyurethane is a polymer that contains one or more urethane groups. It is made by mixing the ingredient chemicals (isocyanate and polyol) in the desired proportions to react and form a polymer with specific characteristics. Polyurethane coating materials differ in composition and catalytic activity, allowing for improved strength and adhesive characteristics. The specific physical-mechanical properties may be tailored to meet individual customer needs.
  
The durability of polyurethane-elastomer coatings is the result of physical properties, such as high tensile strength and high resistance to chemical and abrasive damage. These materials also offer high thermal stability at temperatures ranging from -15 to 350 F, so they can withstand a wide range of internal or external temperatures.
  
While polyurethanes may be more expensive upfront, the longevity of the material translates into cost-effective operations, lower maintenance and fewer replacements over the long term. In general, polyurethane floor coatings are cost-competitive with comparable epoxy coatings.
In addition, polyurethane-elastomer coatings provide a virtually airtight enclosure, thereby ensuring long life and an efficient method of resealing damaged floors.
  
For example, a newly developed, one-component, urethane acrylic emulsion is designed to spread on the most difficult polyurethane-elastomeric-coated surfaces. Used as a floor coating, it seals and protects surfaces against the elements and aids in prevention of  wear and tear. Like other polyurethane coatings, it may be applied using a brush, roller, airless spray or airbrush. Also, the coating features no solvents or VOCs, so it is environmentally friendly. Low-odor characteristics make it readily usable indoors.
  
However, the use of polyurethanes with different properties presents disadvantages. For example, polynol-based polyurethanes are more expensive and are usually difficult to handle. They are used to develop polyurethane coatings with superior tensile, abrasion, flexing and oil-resistance properties. Thus, they are used for the most demanding flooring applications.

Applying polyurethane

Polyurethane-elastomer coatings are relatively easy to apply. They can be sprayed on using commercially available equipment. They adhere to surfaces such as wood, fiberglass, metal and concrete quickly. They are fast-drying and can be pigmented to enhance appearance and improve light stability. In addition, they may be sprayed on irregular surfaces as well as vertical and horizontal surfaces without incurring problems, such as drips or runs.
  
“In the past, a contractor may have been forced to waterproof a balcony or other flooring surface by hot-mopping it,” explains Lee Matson of Nevada Spray Foam, Las Vegas, Nev. “A hot mop is basically just oil and paper. The oil evaporates and the surface becomes permeable, so water will penetrate.” That, however, is the technology of yesterday.

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