Choosing the Right Preparation Method for Your Concrete Floor Coating

reflective concrete coating Coatings can improve the appearance and extend the useful life of your concrete surface and can be a low cost way to make a large improvement to an old and dull area of your building.

If you’re leaving it to the concrete contractor, you can quiz his knowledge by asking him which preparation method should be used.  But, if you are the do-it-yourself type, you may be wondering which method may work best for your building situation and surface.  Or, maybe there’s simply a certain product style you prefer. For example, you can install a stamped overlay which can be used to emulate boulders, pavers, bricks or nearly any other kind of surface.

Whatever the case happens to be, you’ll want to use one of the following in the best way possible, otherwise you’ll find yourself turning a simple coating application into a complex repair job because of a botched concrete surface.

Common Types of Surfaces To Prepare

  • Thin film coatings, which typically describe thicknesses ranging from 5 – 20 mils (1 mil = 1/1000th of an inch)
  • Thick film coatings which typically describe coatings ranging from 20 – 120 mils
  • Aggregate filled toppings, which include thicknesses ranging from 120 – 250 mils
  • Micro toppings, which can vary widely and can benefit from every form of preparation

After you’ve determined which type of or coating you are going to use, then it’s time to make a decision as to what type of surface preparation you will use.  The basic goal of surface preparation is to remove chemicals, oil, grease, curing compounds, and any other contaminants present.  You can determine if your surface is clean by placing a little water on the surface prepared.  If it beads, then some type of contaminant is present and the surface isn’t ready yet.  Here are some of your choices for preparing a surface, and the situations in which they work best:

  1. Diamond grinding.  Basically, you will hold a machine with a cupwheel flat to the surface you are grinding.  You can use any of a variety of handheld machines, or even ones large enough to walk behind.  The process is slow, but environmentally friendly, and it leaves a very smooth surface.  This process works best for thin and thick film concrete coatings and micro toppings.
  2. Shot blasting.  This is the process of using a gun to shoot a concrete surface with steel balls at a high velocity.  This removes the softest, oldest concrete, preparing the underlying surface for a bond.  Shot blasting works well for aggregate filled toppings and micro toppings.
  3. Acid etching.  Many people no longer look at this as a viable method of concrete surface preparation.  But, if you do it right, it works well.  Acid etching works best on thin film coatings and micro toppings.
  4. Scarification.  This process is probably the most violent of all three.  They are most often used in the road construction business, but serve in many other practical situations as well.   Steel or carbide star-shaped cutters are mounted in several rows around a rotating drum.  Between 1/4″ and 2″ of concrete can be removed in a single pass.  This process works best for aggregate filled toppings and micro toppings.
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