Is epoxy better than polyurethane?
This is a common question industrial facilities owners commonly ask when they’re looking for a floor for their work surfaces that’s easy to clean, durable, and aesthetic.
We’ve juxtaposed both rivals and highlighted all their differences, pros, and cons in this article. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have more than enough information to pick the right floor for your facility project.
Epoxy vs Polyurethane Coating System
Generally, epoxy coatings are slightly cheaper than polyurethane coatings. Although, prices may differ depending on the brand.
But when we talk about cost-effectiveness, a polyurethane floor typically lasts twice as long as an epoxy floor. This makes polyurethanes more cost-effective.
Epoxy floors are harder and offer more rigidity than polyurethane floors. The film thickness of epoxies can correct hairline cracks and minor concrete blemishes.
So epoxies are great for floors that carry heavy equipment like forklift trucks. However, more epoxy coating may be needed depending on the kind of desired performance.
Polyurethane floor coating, on the other hand, also offers much better durability and better flexibility.
Epoxies are very resistant to acids but are not too friendly with chemicals in some industries and manufacturing environments. But polyurethane coat provides much better impact resistance, abrasion resistance, and chemical resistance.
This makes them valuable in a wide range of industries, including food processing facilities.
Polyurethanes are also resistant to stains from tires and a wide range and concentrations of chemicals. And they have better scratch resistance, making them ideal for car parks and places with high foot traffic.
Furthermore, in the epoxy vs polyurethane coating system battle, PU systems demonstrate better UV resistance. And this makes polyurethane topcoat a more realistic option than the epoxy topcoat.
Polyurethanes flooring system is a much long-lasting flooring solution than epoxies. Added to their strength, they’re more resistant to extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold). They also cure faster, making it easier to extend their working life by adding newer coatings.
Epoxies on the other side of the debate, take a longer time to cure, are more brittle, plus their UV resistance is low; so they’re less long-lasting.
While it might seem like polyurethanes are winning this battle, don’t hold your breath, yet. Epoxies are suitable for a wider range of applications.
Plus their high-glossy aesthetic effects can add more beauty to your space.
Epoxies are available in more styles, colors, and decorative options; giving designers the power to install floors that are not only functional but look awesome and unique.
And except there’s a special need for PU systems, you’ll most likely get a sparkling epoxy surface that’ll suit your needs.
This makes them find application in large-scale commercial centers like airports; customer-handling points like hotel lobbies; and heavy-duty industries that use heavy equipment.
Like other types of resin flooring, both resin flooring are easy to clean. But polyurethane flooring will withstand harsher cleaning products more than its flooring counterpart.
That said, the epoxy vs polyurethane coatings grand debate just got started.
To get a clearer picture of the different types of epoxy and polyurethane coatings, here’s everything you need to know in more detail.
On the basic level, epoxies are made by mixing epoxy resin and polyamine hardener.
And the resulting epoxies coating bond very well with other flooring types like concrete floor surfaces to create a durable surface with high impact resistance, chemical resistance, UV resistance, etc.
They’re widely known as being surface tolerant, and this is why an epoxy primer can either serve as a topcoat or an intermediate coating. And the chemical resistance of epoxy coatings has made them a favorite on the production floor of any industrial facility seeking protection against chemicals.
However, all epoxy coatings are not the same. There are different types of epoxies formulated for various specific purposes;
1. 100% Solids Epoxy Resin
These epoxy resins can be applied as primers, intermediate coatings, or a topcoat.
You can mix them with different aggregates to resurface your concrete. And they can also be used as a base coat or a binder for mixing color quartz and metallic flakes for color flakes. 100% solid epoxy typically gives off little or no odor and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Although, they’ve got a short pot life (around 20 – 40 minutes) and can’t be recoated till about 6 hours.
2. High Solids Epoxies
High solid epoxy comprises a small amount of epoxy and hardeners that are fast-cure and low-temperature-cure.
And these make them a great choice for short turnaround time projects (thereby boosting productivity) and also suitable for installation in colder months.
High solids epoxies are high-performance that can be used on concrete, steel, and galvanized steel as they offer outstanding protection against acids and alkalis.
3. Cycloaliphatic & Novolac Epoxies
These epoxy floors offer high performance against harsh chemical spills.
This makes them ideal choices for trenches, internal tank linings, pump pads, and other places that are exposed to chemical spills.
4. Water-based Epoxies
Water-based epoxies have little to no odor and low VOC.
But they don’t do a great job resisting chemicals and other solvents 100% solids will take care of. And a water-based epoxy floor will be a good choice for less demanding areas like locker rooms, control rooms, and concrete flooring with light traffic.
5. Polyamide Epoxy Coating
This floor coating is mostly used as a primer and topcoat. They’re more economical and very durable.
However, their performance can’t be compared to those of high solids and 100% solids. So they’re better applied as coats on surfaces with less exposure to chemicals.
These epoxies are great flooring solutions in that they have a great adhesion rate, long pot life, and resist chemicals effectively.
Phenalkamine-cured epoxies are fast-setting and can be coated twice on the same day. They can be applied in low temperatures, and are low viscous; so they can be used for line stripping facilities.
7. Polyester epoxies
These are two-component epoxies with a non-yellowing coating.
It can be used as an anti-graffiti coat as it’s a high-gloss, hard, and tile-like finish with outstanding wash and scrubbable features.
They’re unique in the sense that they can withstand chemical and abrasive pressure.
Polyurethane systems coating is very resistant to sunlight, chemical spills, impact and offers better abrasion resistance abrasion than epoxy coatings.
They’ve also got great gloss retention and color stability as they don’t fade easily. However, in their application, they’re very sensitive to humidity. So it’s best to apply them at times when the humidity is really low–say late morning to afternoon.
Below are some of the common types of polyurethanes;
1. Polyester Polyurethanes
Polyurethanes are made with polyester which gives them a durable finish. They’ve also got an excellent shine and color retention.
And they’re the polyurethanes most resistant to scratch, impact, chemicals, and abrasion.
Their best application will be to be used as finish coating in aircraft hangars, steel surfaces, and high traffic areas that are exposed to chemicals including grease, oil, gas, salt, caustic, and several acids.
Truly, they’re a great CRU (Chemical Resistant Urethane).
2. Moisture Cured Urethane Coating
These coatings can usually handle much higher temperatures than epoxies and two-component urethanes.
They’re one-component that can cure off moisture and humidity and also create a durable finish.
The drawback here is that because of their aromatic composition, they lose their color with time.
3. Acrylic Polyurethanes
Acrylic polyurethanes are made from aliphatic compounds which gives them their stable and durable finish.
However, these polyurethanes are best known for their color retention, high gloss, and their ability to withstand UV radiations.
This makes them suited for exterior steel surfaces.
So that ends the epoxy vs polyurethane debate. Hope you now have enough information to choose the right flooring material for your floor project?
Is epoxy better than polyurethane?
Both are outstanding flooring solutions. But depending on the application, polyurethane coat is better suited to places with heavy traffic, extensive chemical spills, and more sunlight exposure.
And epoxies present a more aesthetic finish and can also be used in spaces with interior residential and commercial centers with high foot traffic.
Can you use polyurethanes like epoxy?
Yes, you can! As a matter of fact, polyurethanes provide more durability and offer a lot of stylish and creative designs.
Which is better epoxy or urethane?
This depends largely on the application. If you desire a more beautiful finish, epoxies are better. And if you prefer a more durable finish, urethane is better.
How long does polyurethane last on concrete?
Polyurethanes last, on average, twice as long as epoxy. So they can last around 10 years on a concrete floor coating where epoxies last 5 years.